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SWITCH Libraries' Information Literacy Tutorial: Glossary

This tutorial is for use by the community of library users within the SWITCH Library Consortium.

Glossary Terms

  • Abstract: A brief summary of an article. The abstract for a scholarly article will summarize the authors' research purpose, methods, and conclusions.
  • Bibliography: A bibliography is a list of sources about a single topic. Each book listed in the bibliography is identified by its author, title, publisher, place of publication, and date of publication. Articles from newspapers, journals, and magazines include the title of article, the authors, the journal or magazine title, volume, issue number, date of publication, and the page range of the article. Each discipline has its own style for creating bibliography entries, e.g. MLA, APA.
  • Browser: A software application for retrieving, presenting, and traversing information resources on the World Wide Web. Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome are examples of browsers.
  • Call Number: The letters and numbers assigned to a book to give it a unique location in the library. Library of Congress call numbers are used to organize books in many large academic libraries. Dewey Decimal call numbers are typically used in public libraries and smaller academic libraries.
  • Catalog (TOPCAT): The library catalog contains a record for each item in a library collection -- this includes books, journals, magazines, DVDs, CDs, music scores, and others.
  • Citation: The citation information given in a bibliography or reference list about a particular item. The citation may include the item's title, place of publication, publisher, volume, page range, and date. Refer to a style manual to learn how to format citations for your coursework.
  • Database: A collection of information, usually electronic. Scholarly databases index (or organize) published articles and provide the means for searching and retrieving articles online. Academic Search Premier is an example of a database.
  • Digital Object Identifier (DOI): A string of characters used to uniquely identify an object, often an electronic document such as an article or a book.
  • Keywords: Important words from your research topic or research question. Keywords are more flexible than phrases or sentences for searching. The more keywords you incorporate into a search, the fewer search results you will get.
  • Interlibrary Loan (ILL): A library service that allows you to request books and articles not owned by your school's library.
  • Internet: A global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) to serve billions of users worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business, and government networks of a local to global scope that are linked by a broad array of electronic and optical networking technologies.
  • Open Access: Scholarly publications that can be freely accessed by the general public online.
  • Peer Review (Refereed): Articles published in peer reviewed journals that have been reviewed and edited by a board of expert editors. Peer reviewed articles are considered scholarly sources of information.
  • Plagiarism: Using another's words, ideas, or other original work without giving proper credit (usually through citation).
  • Primary Source: Primary source is used to describe several different types of sources. In the Sciences, a primary source is an original research article. In the Humanities, a primary source could be the text of a novel or it could be an artifact like a map or a diary.
  • Scholarly Source: Scholarly sources are different from news sources because rather than reporting an event, scholarly sources ask and answer questions through some form of analysis. Scholarly sources are written by experts -- people who know a lot about their subject. Scholarly sources also refer to other sources in a works cited or references list to show where the information came from originally.
  • Search Engine: An application that searches for, and retrieves, data based on some criteria, especially one that searches the Internet for documents containing specified words. Google and Bing are examples of search engines.
  • Stacks: The stacks (or mainstacks) is the place in the library where you can retrieve books found in the general collection.
  • Stop Words (Keywords to Avoid): Stop words are those small, frequently used words that are so common they are meaningless in a search. Because they are typically ignored by search engines and databases and decrease the quality of search results, it's best to simply not use them.
  • URL: The "address" of any particular web page or other element of content on the Internet. The URL includes a Domain Name which is a unique name consisting of a string of alphanumeric characters and dashes separated by periods, that maps to IP numbers. The Top Level Domain (TLD) or Extension identifies an organization, group, or purpose for the site.
  • Works Cited: A list of sources you have cited in your paper.
  • World Wide Web (WWW): the network of pages of images, texts and sounds on the Internet which can be viewed using browser software. The WWW is a small segment of the much larger Internet.

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The contents of this page is based on a work at and used with attribution to the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.