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Library Jargon: Glossary

Brief definitions of the jargon used in library research.


A - K

AVAudio-Visual –refers to audio cassettes, video cassettes, CD’s, DVD’s, streaming videos, and any other recording that is either audio or visual or both. Other A/V materials include(d) filmstrips, slides, LP’s, flannel graphs, overhead transparencies and other teaching aides that are(were) visual or aural in nature.

Abstract An abstract is a summary of the important points of a text. In the context of library research “Abstracts” generally refers to periodical indexing tools that provide a citation to an article as well as an abstract, that is a summary of the article. For instance New Testament Abstracts, ERIC and America: History & Life are all abstracting services that can be referred to as “Abstracts”.

Advanced SearchDevelop your own search criteria on a fill-in form. Words or phrases may be combined, expanded or restricted through Boolean operators such as "and", "or", "not" as well as the application of additional filtering options like publication date, language, material type. See also Basic Search.

Annual a work published once a year, every year designed to bring up-to-date a major work of reference like an encyclopedia.

APAAmerican Psychological Association. In the context of writing college term papers, APA refers to the style manual prepared by this association for publications in this field and is used by many in the social sciences including Business.

Archive a place where public documents and historic documents are kept for posterity.

ArticleA literary composition making up parts of a journal, magazine, encyclopedia, or other collection, but treating a specific topic distinctly and independently. In the context of library research particularly when indexes/abstracts are being discussed, the use of the term “articles” is generally referring to those found in journals and magazines.

Audio/Sound resources in an aural medium such as musical, spoken, books on tape, LP’s, CD’s, audio cassettes, and sound files like MP3 generally exclusive of visuals such as VHS, DVD’s and streaming.

Authentication A security process that typically employs usernames and passwords to validate the identity of users before allowing them access to certain information. Using library databases from off campus often requires authentication.

Basic Search The usual default search option for most online search engines. It provides for a single search string with minimal limiting options. See also Advanced Search.

Bibliographic information The systematic description and history of books, their authorship, printing, publication, editions, etc.; information about books and other published materials. The information provided by libraries in their catalogs describing their collections.

Bibliographic research Research of or pertaining to the written word.

BibliographyA list of the books, articles or other literary compositions of a particular author, printer, or country, or of those dealing with any particular theme; the literature of a subject. An alphabetic listing of all sources used in a research paper; distinct from Reference List, and NOTES.

Binary logic used in set theory to study sets. See Boolean logic

Booka set of pages fastened along one side and encased between protective covers. The term “books” is often used to refer to all the resources contained in a library even though many of those items are not actually books, like audio/visual materials, periodicals, and realia.

Boolean logic The use of AND, OR and NOT applied to retrieving documents from an online database. Any variable that can have a logical value of true or false; works with logical rather than numeric relationships. Named for Dr. George Boole who was a mathematician that developed a notational system for algebraic manipulation of sets which included the use of AND, OR, and NOT as logical operators.

AND = “both”; “all of these”; each record retrieved must contain all of the search terms.

OR = “either”; “any of these”; each record retrieved must contain at least one of the search terms.

NOT = “no”; eliminates records with the term indicated.

Browser A software program that retrieves and displays content from the World Wide Web. Some examples of browsers are Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and Microsoft Edge.

Call Number the address of an item indicating it’s location within the library. The call number is comprised of the Dewey Decimal number, the Cutter number and often a date or a volume number or even a copy number. Each Dewey Decimal number represents a specific area of knowledge. The Cutter number, a letter/number/letter combination below the Dewey Decimal number, further identifies the work by the author's surname and the title.

Chat see Instant Messaging

Chicago style A style manual produced by the University of Chicago for the preparation of dissertations.  See also Turabian.

Circulation Clerk library employees (usually students) whose primary responsibility is to work at the circulation desk assist patrons by checking materials in and out and collecting fines and fees.

Circulation Desk the place in the library from which all materials are checked in/out including Reserve materials.  Contact information:  800-568-6248 ext. 3420 or 661-259-3540 ext. 3420.

Citation a reference to a book, passage, article, etc., where certain information may be found.  A citation to a book contains the author, title of the work, publisher, date and page numbers.  A citation to an article contains the author, title of the article, journal title, volume, issue, date, and page numbers.  Citations to online resources generally also require information about the electronic source like the name of the database or provider, the URL and the date accessed.  The form of the citation (position of data, punctuation, location within the document, etc) depends on the style being used (APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian, CSE, etc).

Controlled Vocabulary a collection of standardized headings which consists of all preferred terms that will provide direct access to records; unused terms will be cross-referenced to the preferred ones.  Library of Congress Subject Headings is a controlled vocabulary.

Copyright one of four types of intellectual property protected by federal law in the U.S. giving copyright owners the exclusive right to duplication (reproduction), distribution, derivation, display, and public performance (directly, digitally or by telecommunications). Many other countries also have copyright laws.  See Copyright for Higher Education for more information. 

Course Reserves – Reserved materials consist of books, DVD’s, or any other items a professor wishes to make available to an entire class for a whole semester or a portion of the semester. These select materials are located behind the circulation desk and have unique circulation requirements.  Go to Course Reserves on the Library’s Website for more details on policy and procedure for using this service.

Credo An online reference library that provides access to softcopy reference books including encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesauri and books of quotations.

CSE Council of Science Editors (formerly Conference of Biology Editors (CBE)). In the context of writing term papers, CSE refers the style manual used in preparation of research papers intended for publication in the field of Biology and other sciences.

Cutter number an alphanumeric system devised by C. A. Cutter to represent personal names.  It is used by libraries to subdivide works within the same class by the author's surname and the title of the work.  For example, the Cutter number for John MacArthur’s book entitled “The Book on Leadership” is M118b.  M118 is the numeric value given to the name MacArthur and “b” represents the first word of the title "Book" (“A”, “An” and “The” in any language are never considered when they are the first word in a title).

DatabaseA collection of information stored in an electronic format that can be searched by a computer. (search engine). Databases available through libraries most frequently provide indexing, abstracting and the full text of ebooks and journal articles.

Default used in computing to refer to a preselected option adopted by the computer when no alternative is specified by the user.

Descriptor A word that describes the subject of an article or book and used in many computer databases.

Dewey Decimal Classification System (DDC)a hierarchical structure of classifying all areas of knowledge utilizing a numerical notation with the broadest classes represented by 000 to 900. For more information on the DDC and how it works go to About the Library on the library web site and select Library Arrangement.

Dissertation An extended written treatment of a subject (like a book) submitted by a graduate student as a requirement for a doctorate.

Document Delivery A service that retrieves or photocopies information sources for library users. Some libraries restrict document delivery services to distance education students, faculty members, or graduate students.

Download To transfer information from one computer or system on a network to another computer or storage device.

eBook a book whose text is available in an electronic format for reading on a hand-held electronic device or on a computer screen; (occas.) a book whose text is available only or primarily on the Internet.  [a proprietary name in the United States and (in the plural) in the United Kingdom.]

Editor A person or group responsible for compiling the writings of others into a single information source.

eIndexelectronic indexes; indexes that are in electronic form like an online database.

eJournalelectronic magazines, journals, newspapers available through the public Internet as distinct from those obtained through subscription online databases.  This distinction per the library Web site is not necessarily universally recognized.

Encyclopedia A work containing information on all branches of knowledge or treating comprehensively a particular branch of knowledge (such as history or chemistry). Often has entries or articles arranged alphabetically.

Endnotesconsecutively numbered abbreviated citations placed at the end of each chapter of a research paper instead of footnotes or parenthetical references.  Endnotes are listed numerically in the back matter under the heading NOTES.

Ephemera – that which is popular for a short time only; transitory. From the Greek meaning “for a day”, used to refer to insects, like the Mayfly, that only live for one day.  However, within a library context, the term refers to any transitory written or printed matter not meant to be retained or preserved.  Large academic and national libraries and museums collect, organize, and preserve ephemera as history.

eReferenceelectronic reference books (full-text) as found in Oxford Reference, xRefer and other databases.

EssayA composition of moderate length on any subject where coverage of the topic is not complete or is limited in range.

Field search A set of one or more characters in a record, which together represent a single item of information.  When searching in an online environment, these fields can be designated by the user in order to narrow the focus of the search.  For example, in a bibliographic record the title, author and subject fields contain the title of a work, the author of the work and the subject heading assign to the work respectively.  Examples of fields on a Web site include the URL, domain, site field, page title, country, file format, date last modified, image and language.

Find Journal  an online journal link resolver that allows the user to link from an abstract or citation in an online index to the library's periodical holdings list of full-text and print journals.  From there, one may link directly to the journal, the article or to the print holdings record in the library catalog. In the event the library does not have the journal in question, Find Journal also provides a link to the interlibrary loan service.

FootnotesA citation, note or comment inserted at the foot of the text.  Footnotes become the bibliography at the end of the work.

Full Text the complete text of a document contained in an online database; often refers to an article that is available in an online indexing tool.

Hard Copy the traditional published form of a literary composition printed on paper such as a book or periodical in contrast to the electronic (full-text) version of the same material.

Holdthe means by which patrons may put themselves on a waiting list for an item that is checked out.  When the item is returned it is held at the circulation desk for the person on the waiting list.

HTML Hypertext Markup Language. The computer language used to create documents on the World Wide Web so that they are readable by Web browsers.

Hyperlink Typically, a text or graphic element in a Web page that opens another document or page on the Web when it is clicked. Textual links are conventionally underlined and displayed in a different color than other text on a Web page. Also referred to simply as a "link."

Icon A small symbol on a computer screen that represents a computer operation or data file.

Image/Video – generally speaking refers to visual materials exclusive of sound such as pictures; filmstrips, slides, photographs, .jpg files; .gif files; MPG files, AVG files.  However, in the context of the library Web site refers to databases that index visual files that may also contain sound such as videos, DVD’s, image files, photos, charts, drawings, etc.

ILL see Interlibrary Loan.

Indexa reference list, usually alphabetical, with an indication of where the items can be found.  In the context of the library, an index is a research tool that provides information about where research resources can be found like articles, books, theses/dissertations, reviews, position papers, etc.  Strictly speaking an index only provides a citation to the item.  Many online indexing tools (see eIndex) will also provide an abstract and often even the full-text of the article.  Christian Periodical Index and Guide to Social Science & Religion are indexes in the strict sense of the word in that they do not provide full-text or even abstracts.

Instant Messaging An Internet-based service allowing real-time, text communication between two or more users. Instant messaging is also known as chat, especially when more than two people are communicating.

Interlibrary Loan (ILL) a voluntary system of sharing materials between libraries.  ILL provides access to items not currently available in our own library collection or not available in full-text through our online databases.  Details on the library’s ILL policy and procedures are available on the library’s Web site under Library Services.

Internet A worldwide network of computer networks that allows for the transmission and exchange of files. The World Wide Web is part of the Internet.

Internet Directory See Subject Directory

ISBNInternational Standard Book Number.  A standard numbering system used to provide unique numbers to a physical manifestation of a work.

ISSNInternational Standard Serial Number. A standard numbering system used to provide unique numbers assigned to a specific title of a serially published work.

Joint Author a person who collaborates with one or more other persons to produce a work.

Journala periodical containing articles on a particular subject.  Distinct from magazines in that they contain scholarly articles and/or are intended to disseminate information on current research and development in a specific field.

Keywordan online searching option that retrieves every record containing each search term found anywhere in the record.  Although many database search engines apply keyword to the entire full-text of every document, some will limit their keyword search to a combination of specific fields like author, title, descriptor and abstract rather than the entire text.

Last updated May 2024.

Glossary: L - Z

L- Z

Left anchored – sometimes represented as “starts with”, is a term used in online searching (usually limited to a Title field search) which searches the title field reading the terms from left to right exactly as written.  This is distinct from a Title keyword search which looks for all the terms anywhere in the title field regardless of position.

Library Catalog an index of bibliographic information for all the resources contained in or otherwise provided by a library.

Library of Congress Classification System – a hierarchical structure of classifying all areas of knowledge utilizing an alpha/numeric notation with the broadest classes represented by A-Z.  See Library of Congress Classification Outline for a complete outline of this system.

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) – a standard controlled vocabulary of subject terms that includes a list of unacceptable terms and references to narrower, broader and related terms.  Because many libraries and even many providers of bibliographic databases around the world use the LCSH in cataloging their records, researchers are able to find related resources more easily.  Not to be confused with the Library of Congress Classification System. Use the LCSH Online <>.

Limits or Limiters Options used in online searching that restrict your results to only information resources meeting certain criteria. Limiting options vary by database, but common options include limiting results to scholarly publications, to a specific language, to a specific publication date or date range, or to a specific type of format (e.g. book, article, thesis, review, etc.)

Link see Hyperlink

Link Resolver a software package that connects citations in one database to the full-text document in another database. “Find Journal” utilizes a link resolver program.

LPsLong-Playing phonograph record made of vinyl.

Magazine A periodical containing articles on a variety of topics written to provide information to a broad audience, to entertain, to sell products and/or to promote a viewpoint. (See also Periodical)

Manuscript writings (including musical scores, maps, etc.) made by hand, typescripts, and inscriptions on clay tablets, stone, vellum, paper, etc.

MARC records MAchine Readable Cataloging - a standard format for the encoding and representation of bibliographic information in machine-readable form.  Most libraries and many bibliographic database providers create their digital records in MARC format enabling them to be easily uploaded/downloaded between databases as well as easily searched by the end user.

Medium format of non-book resources available in a library (e.g. video recording, sound recording, globe, projected graphic, microform)

Microfiche flat pieces of film, approximately 4 X 6 inches, containing microphotographs of the pages of a book, periodical, catalog, etc.

Microfilm rolls of 16mm or 35mm microphotographs of the pages of a book, periodical, catalog, etc.

Microformany microphotographic information storage medium, such as microfiche and microfilm requiring magnification in order to produce a readable image.

MLAModern Language Association.  In the context of writing term papers, MLA is used to refer to the style manual prepared by this association for publications in this field and is used by many in the humanities.

MonographA bibliographic resource that is complete in one part or is intended to be completed within a finite number of parts; A book.  A detailed written study of a single specialized topic (distinguished from general studies in which the topic is dealt with as part of a wider subject).

Multimedia Any information resource that presents information using more than one media (print, picture, audio, or video).

Name/Title Search a Basic search option that retrieves all the resources by a particular author along with the titles of each work by that author held by the library.

Newspaper A publication containing information about varied topics that are pertinent to general information, a geographic area, or a specific subject matter (e.g., business, culture, education). Often published daily. See also Periodical

NOTES a references cited list containing the full bibliographic details, placed at the end of the paper in numbered order corresponding to their respective endnotes.

Online Articles the full-text of an article found in an online index or database.

Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC)  A database that lists and describes the items held by a library, such as books, ebooks, journals, government documents, audiovisual and other materials. Catalogs can typically be searched in a variety of ways, such as by keyword, title, author, or subject.

Open Access Published research including peer-reviewed and non peer-reviewed journals, books, images, conference papers, theses, etc. made available free of cost. Barriers to copying or reuse are often also reduced or removed through the use of an open license.

Oversized Books See Q (Oversized Books)

Parenthetical cite an abbreviated citation within a research paper using only the authors’ name and date of publication set off by parenthesis.  Parenthetical citations are then placed in a Reference List at the end of the paper. See also endnotes and footnotes).

Parody using a work to comment on itself often with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect.

PDF – An abbreviation for Portable Document Format, a file format developed by Adobe that allows files to be transmitted from one computer to another while retaining their original appearance both in electronic and printed forms.

Peer Reviewed Peer review is a process by which articles or books submitted for publication are evaluated by other experts in the field (the writer's professional peers) before being published. The peer-review process helps to ensure the quality and validity of published information. Peer-reviewed journals are sometimes also called refereed journals or scholarly journals. See also Refereed and Scholarly Journals.

Periodical works published at regular intervals (e.g. magazines, newspapers, journals).  See also Serials.

Periodical Holdings List – indicates which periodical titles are held by the library as well as inclusive dates and format availability. For all periodical titles available through the TMU library go to library Web site and select Find Journals or from the Discovery catalog results page select "Resources" and then "Find Journals" from the drop down menu. From this page you can find the magazines, journals & newspapers available through the Powell Library. You can also search to see if the library has the full-text of a specific article from one of the databases.

Plagiarism the act of taking and using as one's own the thoughts, writings, or inventions of another.

Portal in the context of the library’s Web site refers to Web sites that are gateways to a variety of selected Web sites as distinct from search engines which find Web sites based on specified search criteria or subject directories which provide a list of Web sites arranged by subject.

Primary Source An original record of events, such as a diary, a newspaper article, a public record, or scientific documentation.

Print Holdings a list of periodicals in print (hard-copy) available in the library.

Proxy Server An Internet server that acts as a “go-between” for a computer on a local network (secure system) and the open Web. Often checks authentication of user to determine “right of access” to the secure environment. Can also act as a firewall.

Q (Oversized Books) books too large to fit on the shelves in the main collection;  generally shelved in a separate location.

Realia an artifact or naturally occurring entity as opposed to a replica (i.e. object, toy, game).

Recall A request for the return of library material before the due date.

Refereed Journals articles are reviewed by the editors of a journal before being approved for publication within the journal. See also Peer Reviewed and Scholarly Journals

Reference 1. A service that helps people find needed information. 2. Reference materials are tools crammed full of information and are intended to be referred to for quick answers, facts, dates, persons, places, events, etc.. Examples include encyclopedias, indexes, handbooks, directories, etc. For more details see Reference Resources. 3. A citation to a work is also known as a reference.

Reference List The full bibliographical details for parenthetically cited works arranged alphabetically by authors.

Relevance Ranking a programmed algorithm applied to online search engines which results in displaying first the retrieved records that are most likely to be relevant to the search query and decreasing in order of likely relevance.  Among the more commonly used ranking criteria are: term frequency (the number of times the term occurs in the document), document frequency (the number of documents containing the term), proximity of query words, variant word forms (stemming), and document length.

Remote access the use of electronic resources via computer networks when the user is not directly connected to the network.  All subscription databases are accessible to the TMU community when logged onto a computer that is not physically located on campus or directly logged into the MasterNet network.

Scholarly Journals periodicals containing articles whose purpose is to report original research or experimentation by scholars to other scholars of the world. See also Peer Reviewed and Refereed.

SCILNETSanta Clarita Interlibrary Network.  A cooperative network of libraries in the Santa Clarita Valley whose purpose is to permit sharing of resources among members.  See the SCILNET bookmark available on the Reference desk for more information including a list of participating libraries.

Search Engineenables searching of the public Internet by keyword as distinct from Subject Directories and Web Portals.

Search Statement Words entered into the search box of a database or search engine when looking for information. Words relating to an information source's author, editor, title, subject heading or keyword serve as search terms. Search terms can be combined by using Boolean operators and can also be used with limits/limiters.

Search Query see Search Statement.

Secondary Sources Materials such as books and journal articles that analyze primary sources. Secondary sources usually provide evaluation or interpretation of data or evidence found in original research or documents such as historical manuscripts or memoirs.

Serials – the publication of a literary work in successive installments as in a journal, magazine or newspaper.  Includes series, periodicals, annuals, commentaries, yearbooks and the like.

Series A set of literary compositions having certain features in common, published successively or intended to be read in sequence (e.g. a periodical, the publications of a society, etc.)  Also, a succession of books issued by one publisher in a common form and having some similarity of subject or purpose; usually with a general title, such as ‘Society of Biblical Literature Monograph Series’, ‘Christ in the Bible Series’.

Softcopy a resource available as an online digital work (i.e. ebook, ejournal, full-text article).

Stacks Shelves in the library where materials—typically books—are stored. Books in the stacks are normally arranged by call number. May be referred to as “book stacks.”

Starts with see Left Anchored 

Streaming A method of transmitting video files to a computer or mobile device in a continuous flow via an internet connection and played back in real time.

Style Manual a guide to the formatting, mechanics, grammar and punctuation of formal papers such as term papers, theses, and dissertations.  Included are instructions for margins, spacing, headings, treatment of numbers, italics, capitalization, presentation of quotations, citations, bibliographical references and many other issues relating to the general presentation of a scholarly paper.  Commonly used styles in higher education include APA, MLA and Chicago or Turabian

Subject Directory enables searching of the public Internet by subject category

Subject Heading a controlled vocabulary used to denote subjects commonly used in library catalogs like the Library of Congress Subject Headings listing.

Title The name of a book, article, or other information source.

Truncate means to shorten or cut off.  In the context of online searching it refers to using a root word as a search term in conjunction with a prescribed command determined by the search engine (in the case of our OPAC the “?” is the command to truncate).  The search engine will then search for every instance of the root word and every possible variation following.  For example truncating “bank” like this, “bank?” will retrieve records containing: bank, banked, banks, banking or bankruptcy.

Turabianrefers to the style manual written by Kate L. Turabian conforming to the Chicago style entitled “A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations”.  Turabian has become one of the basic styles used by undergraduate and graduate students in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences.  It is the required style for the Bible Department, Biblical Counseling Department and Center for Professional Studies Department of The Master's University and by The Master’s Seminary.

Tutorial – Any period of training; a printed account or explanation of a subject intended for private study.  In the case of the Library’s Research Guides & Tutorials, the site will host training on copyright law and perhaps other topics related to research.

Upload To transfer information from a computer system or a personal computer to another computer system or a larger computer system.

URL universal resource locator; the unique address for a Web page which is used in citing it. A URL consists of the access protocol (http), the domain name (such as, and often the path to a file or resource residing on that server.

USB Drive – A portable device used for storing digital files. A USB drive is plugged into a computer's USB (Universal Serial Bus) port so that files can be transferred between the computer and the device. Also sometimes called "key drive," "thumb drive," or "USB key."

User ID A number or name unique to a particular user of computerized resources. A user ID must often be entered in order to access library resources remotely.

Verso the left-hand page of a book, usually bearing an even page number.  The side of a printed sheet intended to be read second.

Web Sitesa set of interconnected pages on the World Wide Web prepared and maintained as a collection of information by a person or organization.

Wireless The name given to any electronic device that sends messages through space via electric or electromagnetic waves instead of via power cords.

World Wide Web (WWW) Part of the Internet, the World Wide Web is a system of interconnected hypertext documents that can include text, graphics, audio, video, and other media. Also abbreviated as the Web or WWW. Web content is typically accessed using a browser.

Last updated May 2024.

Reference Librarian

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Janet "Miss T." Tillman
Robert L. Powell Library
The Master's University
21726 Placerita Canyon. Rd.
Santa Clarita, CA 91321