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A Research Guide for Beginners

A Guide for New Students

Library Vocab

As you start your college career, you'll soon learn that the university seems to have its own language - terms and concepts that you might have never heard, or are unsure of their meaning. The library is no different, so we at the University Libraries have assembled the following list to help you:


abstract: a brief summary of the points in an article.

article:  a brief work on a topic, usually published as part of a journal, magazine, or newspaper.

author:  the person(s) or organization(s) that wrote or compiled a document.


boolean logic: using the words "and" "or" or "not" to help search the databases\


call number: A combination of numbers and letters that provide a unique description of each item in a library collection. Items are arranged on the bookshelves by call number, so the call number is like an “address” for the book.

catalog:  a database listing and describing the books, audiovisual and other materials held by a library. 

citation: a reference or footnote to an item (such as a book or periodical article), which contains the author, title, date of publication, and any other information needed to locate the item.

course reserves: materials that instructors set aside for the students in a class to read. These items may be borrowed for a short period and may not leave the library.


database: a comprehensive collection of related data organized for convenient access, generally in a computer


full text: a complete electronic copy of a resource viewed on a computer or mobile device


information Desk: the desk by the entrance of building F where you can ask for directions; help with technology; check out books; book study rooms; borrow things like markers or pencils; and access reserves and course reserves

interlibrary loan (ILL): exchange of books or periodical articles between libraries for a brief period.

ISBN (International Standard Book Number): a thirteen-character code given a book so that it can be identified, assigned by the International ISBN Agency upon publication.


journal: a type of periodical which contains signed scholarly articles. Journals are usually published by academic or association presses and include bibliographies.


keyword: a word that is important and relevant to your topic which you use to search the catalog or database for materials


loan period: the length of time library materials may be borrowed.  Loan periods may differ depending on the type of material or status of the borrower.

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH): the list of accepted subject headings used in the library's catalogs. Other libraries (such as Mulford) or collections (such as Government Docs) may use other subject headings.


magazine:  a publication containing popular articles and written in a non-technical style.


peer-review process: the method used by scholarly journals to assure the quality and relevance of the articles they publish.

peer-reviewed article: a scholarly article published in a peer-reviewed journal.

peer-reviewed journal: also called a "refereed" journal. A scholarly journal that used the peer review process to select material for publication.

periodical: materials published at regular intervals (at least 3 times a year) and intended to be continued indefinitely. Examples of periodicals include magazines, journals, and newsletters.

primary sources: a primary source is an object which was written or created during the time under study and which offer an inside view of a particular event. 


reference librarians: reference librarians are specialists in the field of information retrieval. They can help you find things!

reserve materials: a selection of specific books, periodical articles and other materials which faculty have indicated that students must read for a particular course.


secondary sources: books or articles that explain or analyze primary sources. For example, criticism of a literary work.

style manual or style guide: a publication describes the rules for composition, including format and manner of citing sources. There are many different style guides, but the most popular are APA and MLA.

subject heading: subject headings are a vocabulary created to take the guesswork out of searching by using a single term to describe a subject.


thesis: (1) the main idea or argument of a paper. (2) a document prepared as a condition for the award of a degree or diploma.

truncation: use in database searching, the addition of a special symbol (*, #, ?, etc.) to the root of a word to match any record in a database that begins with the letters to the left of the symbol.

From the First Year Experience Libguide from the University of Toledo

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