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Library Terminology: Home


Libraries and librarians use language and terms that are relevant to the discipline but like many subject areas the terminology is not well known or understood by non-library people. The glossary below lists and defines many of the most used terms in libraries. 

Glossary of Library Terms

Abstract: Brief description of an article’s contents, usually including enough information to help you decide if the article will be useful to your research.

Advanced Search: Screen that allows you to narrow a search by providing information such as keywords, author, title, or publication date (field limiters). 

Annotation: A critical description of a resource

APA format: Standardized method of formatting papers and reference citations based on American Psychological Association guidelines. It is often used in social and behavioral sciences.

Article: A nonfiction report or essay usually published in a magazine, journal, or newspaper.

Bibliographic Citation: All necessary information to uniquely identify a particular publication. Typically includes author, title, journal or publisher, date, and pages.

Bibliography: Alphabetical listing of resources used by an author in researching and writing a paper, located at the end of an article, chapter, or book. The purpose of a bibliography is to help the reader locate the listed resources, so standard citation information is included for each source. Depending on the paper format, this type of list might also be called "References" or "Works Cited."

Boolean operators: Words (“and” “or" “not”) that are used to connect keywords in searches and help narrow the results (named after nineteenth-century British mathematician Goorge Boole).

Citation: Information about a resource that helps you find it, usually including title, author, periodical title, and publication date.

Database: A collection of information that is organized so you can search the contents by keywords to retrieve information.

Descriptor: A term used to describe the subject of a resource. Descriptors aregenerally used in a database.

Document Delivery: The free service to provide books, journal articles etc. between the ASU campuses.

Electronic Book or e-book: A book which is available full text online. The library has subscriptions to several e-book services including Ebrary, Netlibrary, and Safari, which contain access to hundreds of e-books. E-books can be found by searching the library catalog.

Electronic Journal or e-journal: A scholarly journal that can be accessed online and will usually contain the full text of each article. The library has subscriptions to thousands of e-journals.

Full-text: Entire contents of an article, as opposed to just a citation or abstract.

Hold: Process that allows you to request a book that is checked be saved or held for you when the other person returns it.

Interlibrary Loan: A system whereby a user of one library can borrow books or receive copies or links to documents that are owned by another library.

Keyword: Word that describes a topic or is closely associated with it. Choosing effective keywords for database searches helps you retrieve sources that are most relevant to your topic.

Journal Title Lookup: Use this field to search ASU Libraries journals when you already know the name or title of the journal you need. 

Library Guide: Resource collections created by ASU librarians to support specific courses or programs. Go to the ASU Library Guides page to find the searchable list.

Limiters: (or field limiters) A way to narrow a database search by specifying such information as keywords, author, title, or publication date.

Magazine: (or popular magazine) Publication produced at regular intervals that is usually financed by advertising revenue and purchase price. The purpose is to inform a general audience. Examples include Time, Newsweek, and Scientific American.

MLA format: Standardized method of formatting papers and reference citations based on Modern Language Association guidelines. It is often used in language and literature fields.

Peer-reviewed Journal Article: (scholarly, refereed, or juried) Article that has been evaluated by experts in the field who judge whether or not the article should be published in the journal. When searching in some research databases such as Academic Search Premier, you can limit your search to peer-reviewed articles only. Ulrich's Periodicals Directory can help you find out if a publication is peer-reviewed.

Periodical: Publication produced on a regular schedule, such as a daily newspaper, monthly magazine, or quarterly journal.

Primary Source: First-hand accounts, original works, or original research.

Recall: Process of requesting an item checked out by another user so that you can check it out.

Refereed Journal Article: Journal article that has gone through a review process conducted by experts prior to publication.

Research Database: Searchable collection of articles and article citations from newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals, and trade publications. A frequently used research database available through ASU Libraries is Academic Search Premier.

Reserves: Materials set aside by an instructor for use during the semester. May also include heavily used items with broad interest such as citation manuals. Ask at the Information Desk.

Scholarly Journal: (peer-reviewed, refereed, or juried) Publication containing articles written by scholars in a particular field to report such things as discoveries, theories, or results of new research. They are often published by universities and do not usually contain advertisements. Examples include Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Popular Film and Television, and Political Research Quarterly.

Search engine: A computer program that retrieves information from the Web based on search terms or phrases. Examples of search engines are Google and Yahoo.

Search Strategy: Methodology for focusing your research on a particular topic; the plan or steps taken to locate research materials. In a database,the search strategy consists of formulating keywords and concepts that will make your search results more appropriate.

Secondary Source: Sources that are often based on primary sources, and include reviews, criticism, editorials, and analysis.

Stacks: Bookshelves containing the materials of the library.

Subject Librarian: ASU librarians who serve as contacts between the ASU Libraries and a particular academic field or group. Subject librarians are particularly knowledgeable about library resources in the areas they support. Use the subject librarian list to find contact information for the ASU librarian in your field of study.

Trade publication: Publication that provides practical information for those working in a particular field. They are usually published by professional organizations and include content such as industry trends and new product information. Examples include Variety, The Police Chief, and The American Nurse.

Truncation: In a keyword search, use of a symbol such as an asterisk (*) to replace word endings so the search will retrieve all forms of the word. For example, using the keyword "pollut*" would return results containing "pollute," "pollutes," and "pollution." The symbols used vary among databases, so check the help guidelines before you search.

Subject Guide

Bee Gallegos
Specialties: Children's & Young Adult Literature, Tests & Assessments, Library Science, Citation Styles
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