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Library Research Tutorial Glossary

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Abstract: a summary of a larger work, such as an article, book, or dissertation, included with citation information in many databases.

Adjacency: a term relating to the searching of an electronic database. When using adjacency in a search, you are forcing the words together to produce narrower search results. For example, if searching "Carolina(w)Tar Heels," you are stipulating that the words MUST be next to each other, rather than anywhere in the document.

Audio-visual: a feature of the UNC online catalog, limiting the type of materials retrieved to media. These are audiotapes, CDs, videotapes, DVDs, and films.

Boolean Searching: a method of searching in electronic databases by combing words or concepts together. There are three Boolean operators - AND, OR, and NOT - that are used to broaden or narrow keyword searches. Click here to see a diagram explaining how to use AND, OR, and NOT in Boolean searching.

Call Number: a unique alphanumeric code assigned to each item in the library. Most of UNC's libraries use Library of Congress's call numbers. Some material is still classified according to thee Dewey system; please contact circulation if you need one of these works. Click here for help on reading a Library of Congress call number.

Card Catalog: an alphabetical listing of materials in a library, made with a separate card for each item.

Circulation: the library department responsible for checking out and reshelving books, maintaining information on books that have been checked out, and tracing lost materials.

Citation: information about a publication (book, journal article, video, etc.) that allows someone to identify and locate that publication. Citations for books usually contain the author's name, the book's title, place of publication and date of publication. Citations for journal articles usually include the author and title of the article, the title of the journal, the volume number, page numbers and date of publication.

Controlled Vocabulary: a set of official descriptors assigned to a particular entry in a database, illustrating the relationship between synonyms and preferred usage terms. Using controlled vocabulary to search will provide you with more focused results. Examples of controlled vocabulary include Library of Congress Subject Headings, MESH terms, and ERIC descriptors.

Database: a collection of related electronic records in a standardized format, searchable in a variety of ways, such as title, author, subject, and keyword. Common examples of databases are the library catalog and citation indexes.

Dissertation: a lengthy, written study of a specialized subject, specifically submitted for a doctorate. Dissertations are located on the eighth floor of Davis Library.

E Indexes and Databases: online tools that index, abstract, or provide electronic access to articles, books, dissertations and other types of content. Many of these databases offer limited full text.

E-Journals: online, full-text journals to which the library subscribes. They can be found at, or by clicking on "E journals" at the top of the library home page.

Field: A part of a record used for a particular category of data. For instance, the title field displays the title for each record in the online catalog.

Folios: oversized volumes that have their own shelving areas. In Davis Library, folios are usually shelved in the southwest corner of the stacks on the appropriate floor, where they are arranged in call number order. Ask any librarian if you are unsure of how to find a folio in the stacks.

Government Document: any publication produced by a federal, state, or local government agency. Federal documents may be arranged and classified by their SuDoc number, or by the identification number assigned by the publishing agency. Most government documents are located in the basement of Davis Library.

Index: a list of citations to journal articles and/or books arranged by subject, author, or title. Indexes may be in print format, electronic format, or both.

Information Commons: a collection of computers dedicated to online research on the first floor of Davis Library. These terminals can access the library's electronic resources, including the online catalog, E Indexes and Databases, E Journals, and the World Wide Web. Software such as Microsoft Word is not available on these computers. Additional software and CD ROMs are available in the Reference Department.

Internet: a system of interconnected networks that electronically links computers from around the world.

Keyword: any word in an item's record. In an electronic index or database, keywords can be combined together using the Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT.

Keyword Searching: a way to search an index or database by searching for particular words in titles, names, subject headings, abstracts and any other information available in publication records. This kind of searching allow you to combine keywords by using the Boolean operators AND, OR and NOT. Keyword searching is more flexible than subject searching because it allows the searcher to select his or her own words or phrases for the search.

Manuscript: unpublished written documents, such as diaries or letters, or an author's original copy of a work. These are usually rare materials and archived in a special part of the library. Manuscripts for the Academic Affairs Libraries are located in Wilson Library.

Media: materials such as VHS, DVDs, films, audiotapes and CDs, that require special equipment to be used.

MESH: an acronym for "medical subject headings." This controlled vocabulary system is determined by the National Library of Medicine, and is used for indexing articles, cataloging materials, and searching MESH-indexed databases.

Microforms: documents that are reduced in size and available in either microfiche or microfilm. There is a large microform collection on the second floor of Davis Library.

Monograph: a scholarly writing, usually of essay or book length on a narrow subject.

Nesting: in boolean searching, a set of search terms arranged sequentially within a larger set; the order in which terms are set may determine the nature of the retrieved results. An example of nesting is: (humans and (genetic engineering or cloning)).

Online Catalog: an online database containing records of the materials owned by the libraries. Most, but not all materials are included in UNC's online catalog, so you may need to refer to the card catalog.

Peer Review: the process by which articles are chosen to be included in a refereed journal. An editorial board consisting of experts in the same field as the author review the article and decide if it is authoritative enough for publication.

Periodical: a magazine, journal, newsletter, or newspaper produced on a regular basis. This term is sometimes used interchangeably with "serial."

PDF (Portable Document Format): a file format that has captured all the elements of a printed document as an electronic image that you can view, navigate, print, or forward to someone else. PDFs can be read by any computer (Macintosh, Windows or UNIX) without platform conflicts.

Popular Magazines: serials that target general audiences with popular or current news stories. Authors are not usually scholars in a specific discipline and do not conduct original research. These articles are not peer-reviewed.

Primary Sources: records of events described or recorded by someone who either participated in or witnessed the events or who got their information from others who did. Examples include newspaper accounts, letters, diaries, notebooks, and interviews.

Proximity: a term related to searching an electronic database. By designating proximity between two terms, you are commanding the system to retrieve documents which contain the terms close to each other. For example, if you search for "cancer(3n)treatment," cancer and treatment must be within 3 words of each other.

Proxy Server: a combination of software and hardware, which acts as an intermediary between a set of users and the Internet, allowing authorized users to access many electronic resources available through the UNC library web pages from home. Users must configure their browser with the address of the proxy server to enable this option.

Record: A collection of related data, arranged in fields and treated as a unit. The complete information for each item in the Online Catalog is considered a record

Reference: the library department which aids patrons in using the library, helps with research problems, and assists in locating information. Davis's reference department provides basic reference works for most disciplines, but departmental libraries may provide a wider range of specialized works. Materials such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, and biography guides are found in reference.

Scholarly/Professional Journal: journals that present in-depth, original research in a specific field. These articles have been reviewed by other scholars in the field for scholastic standards and validity. Professional journals may also contain profession or industry related news.

Secondary Sources: sources that record the words of someone who didn't actually witness or participate in an event, but rather investigated the primary sources. Examples of secondary sources include books and journal articles.

Serials: a publication that is issued in parts, indefinitely over time. Serials include journals, periodicals, magazines, almanacs, annual reports, numbered monographs, and other materials. This term is sometimes used interchangeably with "periodical."

Stacks: the area of the library where books and bound periodicals are shelved. These are items that can be checked out of the library.

Subject Headings: terms, names, or phrases that are assigned to a publication (book, journal article, video, etc.) and used to describe the contents of that publication. They form a standardized set of terms that are consistently used to group materials together.

Tertiary Sources: sources that rely on secondary sources rather than primary sources.

Thesaurus: a book of concepts and terms with their synonyms, often restricted to a specialized field or subject.

Thesis: a written paper elaborating on original research, arguing a specific view. Theses are often written for the completion of an academic degree, usually the Master's degree.

Truncation: a symbol included in the middle or at the end of a word to include possible variations in spelling and alternate endings when searching an electronic database. For example, if searching for information on society, you could enter the phrase "societ?" to search society, society's, societies, and societal. Common truncation symbols include *, ?, and #. It is best to consult the help guide for each database when searching.

World Wide Web: the part of the internet that allows easier navigation of the network by web browsers (such as Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator), graphics and hypertext links between different pages.


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