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Library Definitions  

Last Updated: Feb 5, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
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Library Vocabulary

Every profession has its own professional vocabulary and libraries are no exception.  The Library Definitions guide attempts to explain complex concepts in user friendly language.  It also links to more official sources of definitions of library terms.

Terms and Definitions

Click on the letters below to jump to that section of the alphabet:

A | B | C | D | E | F G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


Abstract - A brief summary or overview of the content of an item (i.e. journal article, book, dissertation, etc.);  often provided in databases along with the article citation;  can help determine if it is worth your time to read the entire document.

ANTPAC/catalog - A searchable list of the books, periodicals, and multi-media  materials in the UCI Libraries' collections; tells what we own and where to find it.

Article Database - A tool that facilitates the discovery of scholarly and popular articles. The database search engine allows you to look for information in specific subject areas. Information is included and retrieved according to specified parameters such as subject area, author, article title, publication type, format, etc.

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Basic vs. Advanced Search - A basic search asks, “Is this word anywhere?” much like a Google search. An advanced search looks for terms in specific places, like the title or the author.  Advanced search allows you to combine terms so that you can look for author and title at the same time.

Bibliography- A bibliography is an alphabetized list of works that an author has directly referenced or consulted to write a book or article.  You can check the bibliography to find other sources of information on your topic.
Boolean - The most common Boolean searches use the word AND to narrow search results or the word OR to broaden the results.  

Call number - A logical system of  letters and numbers that identifies the specific locations of items in the library.

Citation - The basic information needed to locate a particular article, book or other source that provides information. Citations give credit to the sources you used and help you avoid plagiarism.
Collections - The total accumulation of books, electronic resources, journals, multi-media, and other materials purchased by a library to support research and teaching.


E-books- "Electronic Books" come in an electronic format rather than print. They are most often read on personal computers, smart phones, or hand held devises such as Kindles.

Full Text Articles - Journal or newspaper articles that have been fully digitized and therefore, have their entire content available  for retrieval from a database.


ILL (Interlibrary Loan) - A library service that allows students and faculty to  borrow materials that are not owned by your local library (UCI).
Index - See definition for "Article Databases"

Note to Librarians:
Indexes often do not contain full text and usually provide a list of designated subject headings.

(noun) - Book index: An alphabetically arranged list of the personal names, places, and subjects in a written work, with page numbers to refer the reader to the point in the text at which information is found. 

Index (verb) - Refers to the act of generating citations and/or abstacts of literature so that this information can be easily retrieved from a print index or a database.
Interface (front end) - The interface refers to the graphic layout of the screen that you are interacting with.


Journal article - A report and analysis of research on a fairly narrow topic or subject, by researchers/scholars for others in their field, published in an academic journal.

Journal/Periodical - Periodicals can refer to journals, magazines, or newspapers. Journals are devoted to disseminating original research and commentary on current developments in a specific discipline, subdiscipline, or field of study (example: Journal of Clinical Epidemiology), usually published in quarterly, bimonthly, or monthly issues and sold by subscription.


Keywords - Keyword search is the simplest way to search, it's a "quick and dirty" search.  Because of this, the search results will be very broad and less precise.

LCSH/subject headings - Subject headings are like tags, applied in a uniform fashion by trained experts (i.e., librarians!). You know how you can tag photos in Facebook?   All your photos about, say, “New Year’s 2008” are in one place, right? Subject Headings work the same way. All the books about, for example, World War II, would be under “World War, 1939-1945.”

Monograph/book - A monograph is simply another word for a book, usually scholarly, on a single subject.  Monographs or scholarly books are good places to go if you want to know a lot of detail and/or an overview of a subject.  Sometimes a single book chapter can be helpful to your research, so don’t be discouraged by books because of their length.

Next Generation Melvyl - A library catalog for the entire UC-system that shows if a book is "in stock" at another UC Library.  Next-Gen Melvyl also lists books in libraries all over the world, as well as some individual journal articles. Next-Gen Melvyl is a good place to go if you can’t find what you need in Antpac or at UCI, and you can use it to place Inter Llibrary Loan requests.

Popular Press - Can refer to any type of publication – books, magazines and newspapers. These materials are written for a general audience. This means that they are easier to understand than scholarly works, and can help you get a handle on your research topic. They also take much less time to produce, and as such, are more likely to include information about more recent events than scholarly materials are. Examples include newspapers like the LA Times or Orange County Register.  Also includes popular magazines like Time, Newsweek, New Yorker, Vanity Fair etc.


Record - Each item in a library collection or a library database has its own record. The record tells you not only the title, author, date of publication, and other descriptive information, but also whether the item is available and its location.
Reference - This generally refers to the reference desk or reference section of the library.  The reference desk is an "information desk" where people can ask questions or go for help.  The Reference Books section is where people can look at books that are commonly used to find factual information. Reference librarians work at a reference desk. They are trained to hone in on the best source for finding the information you need.
References - References are citations They contain the  basic information needed to locate a particular article, book or other source that provides information. Citations give credit to the sources you used and help you avoid plagiarism.

Scholarly/academic/vetted/peer-review (materials) - Peer-reviewed journal articles are reviewed (or vetted) by scholars or other experts in the field before being published in an academic journal.  However, not all journals are peer-reviewed.
Style manual/citation style - Different subjects/disciplines have different formats for how citations should appear. These formats are explained in style manuals.  Examples of citation styles include APA, MLA, Chicago, and need example of a science citation style.
Subject Guides - The subject librarians maintain online subject guides that direct you to the best resources in your research area including databases, books, and journals. For example, if you have a business question, the business subject guide will provide database recommendations and ways to get started on business topics.


Tags - Tags are short descriptions created by anyone when they want to describe or group digital items like photos or music. Tags are used to organize and retrieve digital materials.
Thesaurus - A traditional thesaurus tells you alternate words that mean approximately the same thing.  A database thesaurus  tells you the specific terms that are used in that database.
Truncation - When searching, it is often a good idea to truncate your term, or shorten it, so that you find words that begin with the same letters but have different endings. For example, if you are looking for information on immigrants and immigration, you can search for “immigra*” The * takes the place of the endings of the word.

UC-eLinks -  UCeLinks will help you connect to the full text of articles in different databases.

Vendor - see definition of Interface.
VPN - UCI Libraries subscribe to a number of expensive databases and other resources. The VPN )Virtual Private Network) allows you to access these resources when you are off-campus and not connected to the campus network.

    Library Terms Sites


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