Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Research Guides: Glossary

Glossary of Research Terms

Abstract journal
An abstract is a brief summary of the topics covered in an article or book. An abstract journal is a journal that provides only abstracts of articles and other documents published in a specific field. If students need the full text of the article, they should consult the original source.

Accuracy
Accuracy refers to the correctness of the information in a source. Accuracy is one of the important criteria in judging the reliability of a source on the internet or elsewhere. The accuracy of statements may be verified by consulting other sources that provide the same information. 

Advanced search
A combination of phrase searches, Boolean operators, truncation, wild card, and multiple keywords to locate items or records within a database, search engine, or catalog. Advanced searching is used to narrow down or broaden topics for search purposes. The Virtual Library provides an advanced search feature.

Almanac
An annual publication that contains useful facts and statistical information about a wide variety of topics ranging from political developments to weather patterns.

Authority
Refers to the author or organization's credentials, such as professional or academic experience, to report information on a particular topic. Resources that are written on a topic by an expert in the field are considered authoritative. Authority is one of the criteria that should be used when evaluating sources.

Bias
Personal beliefs, opinions, or attitudes exhibited by an individual or group that prevent objectivity about a particular topic. Bias is often displayed to slant or influence another.  Resources with bias emphasize personal beliefs and opinions on a topic rather than facts. Bias also indicates the degree of objectivity of an author, organization, or source. While most sources contain some degree of bias, students may overcome this obstacle by seeking sources that represent many points of view.

Bibliography
A list of citations for a paper, article or report on a particular topic.

Bibliographic record
A record that describes an item in the library collection. A bibliographic record includes the item’s call number, author, title, publication information, paging, subject headings, etc.

Bibliographic instruction (BI)
Bibliographic instruction (BI) refers to programs designed to teach students how to use library resources. BI can take the form of librarian-led workshops that provide instruction in conducting research or using APA citation style. BI often takes place in collaboration with instructors to best meet the needs of students.

Boolean operators
The three basic Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) link concepts in database searching. Using Boolean operators is a strategy of advanced searching to limit or broaden results. Using AND or NOT narrows the number of results, while using OR yields more results.

Call number
Call numbers are comprised of a combination of letters and numbers that directly corresponds to a bibliographic item’s subject/topic, author and year of publication. Call numbers are located on the spine label of print material. Call numbers correspond to an organizational system used to identify and physically house bibliographic items. The call number provides a physical address for a material on the Library's shelves. Bryant & Stratton College libraries use Library of Congress Classification System call numbers. 

Copyright
Legal protection that gives the creator of an original work the exclusive right to publish and distribute that work. Copyright is in effect for a certain amount of time. Once the copyright period expires, the work enters the public domain. 

Credibility
When an author or source appears worthy of trust or belief, they are considered credible. Factors in credibility may include authority or expertise, but credibility is also apparent by the tone and presentation of the source itself. Credibility, along with accuracy, authority, and currency, is one of the important criteria in evaluating sources.

Currency
Relates to whether or not a resource is up-to-date or published in recent years. To determine how up-to-date an information source is, locate the copyright, publication, or most recent update of information. Some subject fields are developing rapidly and therefore currency is highly important. Technology and medical resources generally have to be very recent in order to ensure accuracy. Other fields, such as history, are relatively stable and older information retains much of its value. 

Database
An electronic collection of records that may be searched in multiple ways, such as keyword, title, subject, author. Databases may contain full-text resources and/or citations. Also called research database or periodical database.

Database vendor
Also known as aggregators, database vendors, information providers are companies who obtain, organize and make available collections of digitized content. Database vendors provide searching tips for users to easily access and retrieve content.  Databases can be available for free or through paid subscriptions. For example, PubMed is a free biomedical literature research database provided by the US government, and EBSCOhost Academic Search Premier is a subscription database provided by EBSCOhost. EBSCOhost is a database vendor providing multiple databases.

Deep web (also known as invisible web)
Any information available on the world wide web that is not accessible using general search engines such as Google is considered part of the deep (or invisible) web. This information includes highly specialized documents as well as materials that are password-protected by search databases, private corporations, etc. The number of documents available in the deep web is much greater than the amount of content retrievable via conventional search engines (the "surface Web"), with over half of the "hidden" content residing in topic-specific searchable databases.

Dictionary
An alphabetical listing of words, terms, and phrases. The dictionary is used for quick reference and is available in print and electronic formats. Each entry contains correct spellings, meaning, pronunciations, and origins, and in some dictionaries synonyms, antonyms and homonyms are provided. There are specialized dictionaries for other languages and subject-specific content. An example of a general dictionary is Merriam-Webster. Black’s Law Dictionary is a subject dictionary.

Directory

A reference resource organized for easy retrieval of information. Many directories list important or frequently used names, addresses, phone numbers, and other relevant contact information. An example of a directory is a phonebook. Reference USA is a subscription database used by Bryant & Stratton College that contains a directory feature.

Domain

A website's URL or address that indicates what kind of resource it is (edu, higher education; org, professional organization; gov, federal or state government). The domain can be helpful in deciding if the resource is authoritative.

Editorial
An article in a newspaper or other publication that is highly opinionated in nature and promotes a particular point of view. 

Electronic book (or eBook)
The digital media equivalent to a printed book. eBooks are available through the Bryant & Stratton College Virtual Library. 

Electronic journal
A scholarly journal available online or in a computerized format, which can be accessed through a database. Some electronic journals are available online and in print. 

Electronic magazine
An electronic magazine, unlike an electronic journal, is intended for a popular audience rather than a scholarly one. 

Encyclopedia
A reference work, categorized as general or subject specific, which provides background information and facts on a given topic. An example of a general encyclopedia would be the Encyclopedia Americana, and a subject specific encyclopedia would be Taber’s Medical Encyclopedia.

Evaluation of internet sites
Examining internet websites by using a specific set of criteria when seeking reliable information. The user should evaluate using the following criteria: the authors and their expertise, the organization responsible for hosting the site, and the currency and relevance of content. 

Evaluation of information
The process used to decide if an information resource is credible, accurate, written by an expert, current, and unbiased. 

Fair use
Fair use provides an exception to copyright law and allows some use of resources without requesting permission from the original author. Fair use allows educators and journalists to use information in their professional responsibilities.

Freedom of information act
A law that gives people the right to access information from the federal government.

Full text
The entire contents of an article or other resources are available online. Some databases include only a summary of an article's content.  

Google/Google Scholar
Google is the most popular general web search engine. Google Scholar is a free service launched by Google that allows users to search the internet for scholarly literature across many disciplines. Generally, Google Scholar is a better choice for scholarly research, since materials for a more popular audience have been filtered out. The direct link to Google Scholar is at https://scholar.google.com/. 

Government document
An official publication produced by a federal or state government agency. Documents may include reports, statistics, or articles and are usually considered authoritative and reliable sources. Government information is often available through websites with .gov in the URL. 

Handbook
A concise, ready reference item. The content centers on a specific subject area or topic of interest. Handbooks are often used to assist in a specific task, such as searching for jobs (Occupational Outlook Handbook) or learning about a particular profession (Administrative assistant's and secretary's handbook). 

Hyperlink (link)
Highlighted text or icons which are embedded within a document, typically activated by clicking, to connect you to another web page or another part of the same document, location, or file. When you click on a hyperlink, also called link, the computer will transfer the you to the selected site. Text links are usually underlined on the screen. 

Image searching
Image searching is a way to search for images, including photographs, diagrams, charts, etc. Images may be found through general search engines as well as image-specific search engines, such as Google Image. The Virtual Library also has an image search feature through advanced searching. Copyrighted images must be cited properly.

Index
A guide to the contents of a book usually often found in the back of the book. The index is a tool to find specific information by looking for keywords about the topic.

Information literacy (IL)
Information literacy refers to skills including knowing what information you need, where to find it, how to evaluate it, and how to synthesize it in your writing. Knowing how to properly cite, or give credit to, your sources is a key element of information literacy. Information literacy are crucial lifelong learning skills.

Intellectual property
Legally protected creations of the human mind. Intellectual property may include written works, artistic creations and patents. Copyright is an aspect of intellectual property laws.

Interlibrary loan (ILL)
A service which allows students to borrow resources from other libraries. Some of the Bryant & Stratton campus libraries provide this service.

ISBN /ISSN
The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is A unique standard number assigned to identify a specific edition of a book issued by a given publisher. The International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is a unique eight-digit standard number assigned by the International Serials Data System to identify a specific serial title, for example, 0040-781X, identifying the publication Time.

Internet
Also known as the information superhighway, the Internet is an online, worldwide network of interconnected computers. The Internet links computers and devices through fiber optics. The Internet links smaller networks, personal, government, business, and educational institutions.     

Internet site
Also known as a website, internet sites provide a location on the Internet at which an individual or organization provides information to others.  

Internet protocol address (IP Address)
The unique set of numbers assigned to a web page that identifies which server it is on. The series of numbers are followed by a period such as this example: 134.22.512.21

Journal
Describes a specialized periodical published by a professional association or educational institution and whose content is geared toward a professional audience. Journals include articles, reviews, reports, evaluations, and emerging trends. An example of a journal title is CMA (Certified Medical Assistant), written primarily for medical assistants seeking certification.

Keyword
Terms or entries that signify main concepts or significant words in a full text or abstract, book, magazine, or journal article which are used for information retrieval. When creating a keyword search, the query will search title, author and subject fields of a document, abstract, journal article or book. Since keyword searches look for that word only, effective searching incorporates as many synonyms or related words as possible to find the most results about a topic. A good resource to find synonyms is a thesaurus.

Library of Congress Classification
An organizational system, broken into 21 broad categories and numerous subcategories, designed for assigning placement of materials in a library. The initial classification is based on letters and the subdivisions are based on letters and numbers. 

Magazine
Periodicals that are published and distributed or posted electronically on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, annually) and contain articles written by various authors on general or specialized topics. Magazines are typically not peer reviewed. Time, National Geographic, and Consumer Reports are all examples of popular magazines. Trade magazines are published for professionals in a specific industry, business or organization. Trade magazine articles cover industry trends and new products or services. An example is the graphic design program’s Computer Arts magazine.

Meta-search engine
An online searching tool that simultaneously queries several search engines, online indexes and directories and then provides a condensed results list. Dogpile, Ixquick, Yippy are commonly used meta-search engines. 

Narrowing/limiting search
Used to find more relevant or focused information resources on a topic. Narrowing or limiting a search may include restricting the search by dates, adding additional keywords, or using Boolean operators (AND, NOT).

Newspaper
Periodicals published and distributed or posted electronically on a regular basis (daily, weekly). They may be general or subject-specific and typically contain articles written by various authors on topics such as local, state, national and international news, reviews, entertainment, politics, the economy, and travel.  

Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC)
The Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) is a computerized system, or catalog, which organizes all the materials housed by an individual library for access and retrieval. One example is the Bryant & Stratton College library Online Catalog.

Online resources
Web sources used to locate and retrieve electronic information through subscription based databases and free web sites that are available through a network or over the Internet. 

Peer-reviewed journal
A scholarly publication in which articles are reviewed by experts in a field before being accepted for publication. Also sometimes called scholarly or refereed journals.

Periodical
A magazine, journal, newsletter, or newspaper that is published on a regular basis.

Phrase searching
The act of narrowing a search when creating an information query to display documents which only include a particular phrase. Search engines usually require quotation marks to indicate the phrases. 

Popular sources
Publications containing articles written to entertain and inform the general public. Reader’s Digest is an example. Popular sources are not considered scholarly resources.

Primary source
Original works in various formats. Primary works include diaries and journals, speeches, interviews, drawings, letters and first-hand accounts of events. Results of experiments or original research, literary works, autobiographies, original theories, and other materials are also considered primary sources.

Proximity searching
Used to search for keywords that should appear very close together in a database record or search engine on a topic. An example would be searching for someone’s first and last name.

Public domain
A creative work that is not protected by copyright and which may be used freely is in the public domain. Items may be in the public domain due to the following reasons: the term of copyright has expired; the original creator failed to proper copyright guidelines, or the work is by the U.S. Government.

Quotation
A quotation is the precise statement either uttered in speech or copied from a written work. Quotations must be set off by quotation marks and cited in-text with the appropriate page or paragraph number.

Ready reference
Materials commonly used for general information, definitions of terms, or background information on a subject, which include encyclopedias, dictionaries, indexes, almanacs, handbooks, statistical directories, biographical handbooks and other related materials. These materials are usually shelved in a ready reference section. Typically, items are not circulated.

Relevance
Relevance refers to whether or not the content of a source is appropriate for use in research. For instance, a relevant source will provide facts or statements that illuminate a topic or provide support to a thesis. Sometimes only part of a source will prove to be relevant to someone’s research goals. Relevance is one of the criteria used to evaluate sources.

Scholarly journal
A category of periodical that contains scholarly articles written by specialists aimed at other specialists in a particular field. An article in a scholarly journal is usually documented with footnotes and/or a bibliography. For the most part, scholarly journals are published monthly or quarterly and contain little advertising or few, if any, color illustrations. The American Business Law Journal is an example.

Search engine
A specific Internet search tool that uses computer programming, commonly called a spider, to gather information from the internet and index it in its database for later retrieval. A user then utilizes the web search engine to locate and access information by creating a query in the search box. The web search engine then produces a list of pages, or computer files listed on the web, that contain the terms in a query.  Most web search engines allow user to join terms with AND, OR, and NOT to refine queries. One example is Google.

Search strategy
A process used to find the most relevant information on a topic. Students usually choose keywords or subject headings on a topic and then search databases and web for these terms. 

Search terms
Words that are used to locate information resources in a database or search engine.  

Secondary sources
A secondary source is uninvolved in the initial occurrence; often examines, interprets, reflects, or restates the primary, original experience. Some examples include reviews, criticisms, editorials, and analysis. Usually more available than primary sources; however, need to be critically examined for information intent, accuracy, and integrity.

Subject dictionary
A specialized dictionary focuses on terms in a particular subject area. Examples are medical and legal dictionaries.

Subject heading
Precisely assigned terms and phrases used in indexes and library catalogs to organize and locate items on a specific topic. Subject headings describe the subject’s content, often provide materials relevant to that subject, and offer subdivisions of the subject heading and cross references to other related subject headings. 

Subject search
To search for information, a book, a journal article by a topic or idea as opposed to by title or author. Subject searches look for subject headings. Keyword searches search all title, author and author index fields. The Library of Congress has a list of subject headings.

Summary
A summary is a brief statement of the main points of a work. 

Synonyms
Words that have similar meanings. Using synonyms can be helpful in performing keyword searches on a topic.

Thesaurus
A list, in print or electronic form, that provides words along with their synonyms and related words or concepts.   

Truncation
Shortening or cutting off part of a keyword to broaden a search. The keyword is shortened so that it will match all keywords that contain the same root stem. For example, a search for medic* will retrieve information resources that contain “medical, medicine, Medicaid, etc.

Uniform resource locator (URL)
The standard internet address of any resource or page on the World Wide Web. It is the path by which online users can locate a particular page, and usually describes the content of the web page.  A typical URL looks like this: http://www.bryantstratton.edu/

Wikipedia
Wikipedia is a free web-based encyclopedia launched in 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger. With articles written by volunteers, one advantage of Wikipedia is that it contains articles on far more subjects than traditional encyclopedias, often providing unique coverage of topics in popular culture and developments too recent to be covered in any other reference work. However, Wikipedia is not always considered a credible resource and is best used as a starting point for research ideas.

Wild cards
In reference to keyword searching within an online database, catalog or search engine, it refers to typing a special symbol or character, usually an asterisk or question mark, within a word to search for all forms of the word.  Using a wildcard allows the researcher to expand the parameters of the search. For example, a researcher would type wom#n or wom?n to retrieve records containing woman or women, or colo#r or colo?r to retrieve records containing color or colour. 

Links to websites that do not include Bryantstratton.edu in the address are suggested as information helpful for students and faculty. The websites are not affiliated with Bryant & Stratton College.