Glossary of Library Research Terminology
These terms were selected to meet the needs of first year students in the RS101 library research methods class. In nearly all cases our definitions reflect common useage, but in a very few cases we supply local definitions that match the way we use the terms in class.
Abstract. Summary of a work. Typically two to five sentences. Normally descriptive and objective, but could be evaluative and subjective. Many databases include searchable abstracts of periodical articles.
Adjacency operator. See Proximity search operators.
After hours book drop/return. Depository/Receptacle near the front door of Turpin Library, accessible from the outside of the building, used for return of borrowed materials when the library is closed. Not to be confused with the book return slot in the circulation desk.
Applied research. See Pure vs applied research.
Archives. Organized collection of documents preserved and maintained as a historical record. The focus of an archive is almost always on unique or rare unpublished materials in any format or medium (manuscripts, photos, etc.) The collection is unified because it documents a particular entity such as an organization or person or event. Archival collections held by Turpin Library are described here.
Article. An essay which is part of a larger work such as an article in a journal or encyclopedia.
Audio-Visual media. See Media.
Barcode number. Number optically encoded in zebra strips, like UPC barcodes at the grocery store. Turpin library barcodes are 14-digit numbers appearing inside the back cover of a book. Although staff use these numbers to check-out and renew items, you do not need to know a barcode number to renew an item yourself online.
Bibliographic citation. See citation.
Bibliographic record. See record.
- a list of everything written by C. S. Lewis, sorted by date
- a list of works about C. S. Lewis, listed in order of importance
- a list of everything you cited in the paper your wrote about C. S. Lewis, sorted by author.
Boolean operators. See Logical search operators.
Borrowing. See Check-out.
Browsing vs Searching. Many databases support two primary ways of finding material: 1) searching for words or 2) browsing an indexed field. Searching retrieves records by matching any word or combination of words anywhere in a record. Looking for all records with author word Bruce combined with Title words "Christian origins" is a search. Browsing is fundamentally different. It is a two step process. Ordinarily you supply a word or words you expect to match the start of a field (e.g., the first two or three words of a title). The database then displays a sorted list with the closest match at the start of the list. Then you pick one or more specific entries from the list, and matching records are displayed.
Call number. A call number is a location code, like an address. BS1756 .I15 1990 and ATLA 1985-0347 are two examples. A call number is often also an indication of subject matter and a way of storing similar items together in the same area. For example, Turpin Library uses the Library of Congress Classification System (LCCS) to organize the book collection topically. Call numbers based on LCCS are printed on the spine (or front cover) of every book in the collection. Books are sorted and shelved based on the call numbers. So the call number is both a subject/topic code and an address indicating where a book can be found. However, Turpin Library uses a different scheme for microfiche. Letter number codes designate the location of microfiche. These are also call numbers, but they are not based on LCCS and they give no indication of subject matter. See also brief definition of LCCS, or detail on LCCS.
Catalog. A list or database of items, often an inventory of one or more collections or repositories. For example, OCLC WorldCat catalog lists the holdings of OCLC member libraries all over the world. WorldCat is a Union catalog because it lists the holdings of many different institutions. Aland, Kurzgefasste Liste der griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments, is a printed catalog of Greek NT manuscripts.
Charge to a borrower's account. To charge a loan is to record the loan of an item to a borrower. This does not mean billing a person. It has nothing to do with money. Because of possible misunderstanding, avoid use of this term. Use instead Check-out.
Check-out. To record the loan of an item to a borrower. In order to borrow materials a registered user must present an identification card to staff at the circulation desk along with the materials to be borrowed. See also Circulation.
Circulation. Circulation is the process of borrowing and returning library materials. Most items the library owns are publicly accessible and anyone may use these items in the building without borrowing or checking-out the items. In addition, the library allows registered users in good standing to borrow most items, take those items from the building, and return them by the due date. Loans must be properly recorded against the borrower's account before materials can be removed from the building. Some materials, such as reference books and periodicals, are non-circulating; the library does not allow them to be taken from the building. A very small number of restricted access items are available for use in the building but they must be checked-out (charged against the user's account) to use in-house. These restricted access items never leave the building. See also Hold.
Circulation Desk. The main service point in the library. The circulation desk is the place to borrow or return regular books and course reserve materials, pay fines, pickup holds, and ask for help. See map here.
Citation. A formal, properly formatted reference to a work. A footnote or a bibliographic entry. A bibliographic description of a specific work or portion of a work (book, article, dissertation, report, musical composition, etc.) which identifies the work well enough that another person can find it. DTS formats citations according to Turabian style standards.
Citation index. Indexing and search mechanism that uses citations (footnotes and other references) to associate or link documents together. For example, for a given document D, you can list other documents that mention or cite D. You are probably more familiar with the concept in Internet search engines that let you search for "pages that link to this page."
Citation indexing is old. In the 1870s Frank Shepard devised a means of tracking legal precedent now named for him. To shepardize a case is to identify other cases and authorities that have discussed the case being shepardized. This will tell you, for example, if the case has been overturned or sustained. In 1961 Garfield applied this idea to scientific journal articles and created the Science Citation Index. Many citations indexes have been developed since then. Counseling majors at DTS will recognize this citation indexing function in the PsycINFO database, for example.
Why would you want to use a citation index? Suppose the only source you have for your paper is an old article. You can't find anything else on the topic. Wouldn't it be nice to have a list of all the other articles that have interacted with the one article you have? Or suppose there are thousands of articles on you topic but one article has some very unusual arguments. Wouldn't it be nice to have a list of all the other articles that have interacted with the one article?
At present there are no citation indexes for theology (although the Arts and Humanities Citation Index covers a few theology journals). Would someone out there please fill this pressing need?
Classification of documents. Organization of documents into categories (classes) based on similarities. Usually this means grouping documents on the same subject together. The classification system may be a hierarchical outline (specific topics subsumed under more general topics) or enumerative (just listing the classes in alphabetical or random order, for example) or in rare cases a semantic network (lots of topics linked to other topics with no discernable hierarchy or start or end). Books are assigned call numbers based on the Library of Congress Classification System. The Yahoo.com directory uses a classification system.
Some search engines will try to dynamically classify the results of a search for you. For example, if you search for a broad topic like religion, the search engine might match on that word, examine the documents, notice many are about Christianity, many are about Islam, many are about spirituality (whatever the religion) and then give you the option of picking just one of those groups. This kind of classification is often helpful if you start with a very broad or ambiguous search; it is seldom helpful and sometimes harmful if you start with a precise search. There are many ways to display the organized structure. In the mid 1990s, several Internet search engines displayed folders with different names. Today (2006) many search engines display the classes as a graph or map: one topic is a big circle in this corner of the screen, another topic is a small square over there.
Collection. In the narrow sense, a collection is any discrete group of documents cataloged and stored or accessed together. In the broad sense, the entire library collection as a whole consists of all the information resources owned or licensed by the library (and is synonymous with library holdings). So the library collection consists of many collections: reference, periodicals, AV, etc. "Special collections" refers to rare books and archives. "Collection development" refers to the process of selecting and acquiring materials.
Controlled vocabulary database. A database in which standardized or authorized terminology is used to describe documents and index the database. Standardization is meant to guarantee a name or concept is always expressed in a single consistent way. This lessens problems caused by variant spelling (e.g., Koran or Quran or Qur'an) and variant forms (e.g., J Smith vs John Smith) and synonyms (e.g., anger vs wrath). See also Cross reference. See also Thesaurus.
Copyright. Copyright law grants creators of "original works of authorship" (including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works) the exclusive right to reproduce and sell their works. Details at copyright office. See also copyright expiration and fair use.
Course Reserves. Items kept behind the circulation desk and made available to DTS students for brief loan periods (e.g. 2 hour or overnight). This promotes sharing of very high demand resources by controlling access to those resources. Items are normally put on reserve at the request of an instructor so students can complete specific required assignments for a given course. Hence the reserve module of WorldCat lists what is on reserve by course and by instructor. Advice: the loan period is typically measured in hours, so return borrowed reserve items directly to circulation staff for immediate discharge to avoid overdue fines. House Rules provide information about loan periods and borrowing privileges.
Cross reference. Pointer or link from an entry in an index to one or more other entries in the index. Links between synonyms and antonyms. In a controlled vocabulary database, names and topics use standardized terminology. A cross reference may point from a non-standard (variant) form to a standardized form. For example, a cross reference might point from "CALVIN, JOHN" (incorrect form) to "CALVIN, JEAN 1509-1564" (correct form). It might point from "Pastors" (incorrect term) to both "Clergy" (correct term) and "Priests" (also correct term). Cross references may also link standard terms to other standard terms in a hierarchy of broader, narrower and related terms. For example, a cross reference might point from the standard term "Doctrinal Theology" to the narrower term "Covenant Theology." Both terms are used in the database. This hierarchical network of terms may be governed by a thesaurus which lists all the standardized terms with definitions and cross references.
Database. Information or data stored on a computer and organized and indexed for quick and flexible searching and retrieval. Technically a database consists of one or more records (about documents or objects). Examples of databases available at Turpin Library include WorldCat, the ATLA religion database, the TLG database of ancient Greek documents, and Accordance bible study resources. Many are listed here.
Descriptor. See Subject headings.
Discovery vs validation phase of research. Often (not always) there are two phases of the research process: 1) an initial discovery phase of research, during which the researcher defines a problem and hypothesizes a solution to that problem, and 2) the subsequent validation phase of research during which the hypothesis is rigorously, systematically, and formally tested. See also research.
Document. A recorded intellectual work. It can be any size and use any format or technology. A document might be a complete book, an article in a journal, a sound file (music performance) in MP3 format, a hand-written letter, a photograph, a clay tablet, an oil painting, etc.
Edition. A distinct version of a document. Most documents appear in only one version, one edition. However, some documents are revised and reissued. When the intellectual content of the work changes, the edition designation should change also, to indicate the revision. Publishers usually designate editions by numbers (first edition, second edition).
Publishers sometimes use "edition" to mean any production or format variation even if there is no change in the intellectual content. For example, paperback and hardback editions of a book may have identical wording and pagination, but still be considered different editions by a publisher.
Sometimes there are minor variations between different printings of what is called the same edition. This can be accidental or intentional.
In the case of electronic resources, there may be no edition statement (or even a publication date), so state date of access if you cite an electronic resource to approximate both a publication date and an edition statement.
Ejournal. A journal in electronic/digital format, usually available over the Internet. Most have a paper counterpart or historical antecedent. For example, Bibliotheca Sacra, the seminary journal, is available in both paper and electronic versions. Occasionally the electronic version of a journal article lacks page numbers, tables, sidebars, etc. Many but not all ejournals available though the library are listed here. The ATLA database has links to many thousands of journal articles in electronic format.
Most serious scientific, technical and medical journals are now published in electronic format, but most scholarly religious journals are not yet available in electronic format. This is true for two main reasons. First, there is little money (profit) in religious publishing. Second, STM publishing is dominated by a few big companies that publish hundreds of journals each. So just a few publishers were able to change the STM industry quickly. Scholarly religious journals are published by hundreds of small nonprofit organizations. Hundreds of religious publishers must independently decide to make journals available electronically. This is a very slow process.
Endnote. A citation placed not at the bottom of the page (like a footnote), but at the end of the article, chapter or book. Also, the brand name of citation management software that can help you format footnotes and bibliographies correctly.
Fair use. Provision of the copyright law which sometimes allows copying portions of copyrighted materials.
False coordination. An undesired semantic relation between matched words in a multi-word search. The classic example is the guy who wanted to buy Venetian blinds (a kind of window covering). He searched for Venetian AND blind. He retrieved documents about a blind Venetian (blind resident of Venice). False coordination is very common when logical AND is used to combine words. False coordination is less common when multi-word phrases and proximity operators are used to combine words. Even when words are syntactically related the way we want, they may still fail to be semantically related the way we want. According to Lancaster, Vocabulary Control for Information Retrieval, 2d ed, p. 142-46, false coordination means there is NO relation between the two concepts in the document, while "incorrect term relationship" means there is a relation but of the wrong kind. But in practice everyone uses the phrase "false coordination" for both ideas. See also Search precision and recall.
A long digression on the origin of this term follows. I believe the expression "false drop" was used in the 1940s (perhaps long before) by researchers who used index cards to encode, organize, and retrieve notes. Holes were cut in fixed positions around the periphery of every card. Each hole/position corresponded to a predefined topic. To index a journal article, for example, the researcher would write the citation on the card and then notch the edge of the card at one or more of the holes. If the card represented a document about topic A, then the card was notched in position A. In order to retrieve cards about topic A, a rod/needle was inserted through hole A in a tray of indexed cards. The rod passed through all the cards. Then the rod was raised. Notched cards (relevant cards) would drop by gravity. A false drop was an irrelevant card that dropped when the rod was raised. Boolean "and" was performed by doing this twice. This was an entirely manual system. The edge-notched card technique is described in Jahoda, Information Storage and Retrieval Systems for Individual Researchers, p. 63-78. Aren't you glad we have computers now?
There is more to the story. On the Internet there is a wide spread and different (I think corrupted) account of the way the index card system worked. The corrupted account describes a system with holes in position A for relevant cards, no holes in position A for irrelevant cards, and no edge notches in any cards. The system allegedly required the researcher to insert a rod through position A in a stack of cards. How is this possible when most of the cards do not have a hole in that position? This seems impossible to me. Perhaps this story is based on a different real system from the 1950s: big mechanical card sorting devices that sorted Hollerith punch cards. In that system, the relevant cards were punched in position A and the irrelevant cards were not punched in A. A complex sorting machine separated the desired cards. There was no hand-inserted rod. The cards had 12 rows of 80 columns, for a possible 960 holes on each card. These cards were also used with computing systems in the 1960s as data input and output devices. I suspect someone remembered this punch card mechanical sort system and confused it with the older edge-notched manual system to create the bogus description. Why am I telling you all of this? I mean to make a point about research. Be cautious about relying on sources, especially Internet sources of unknown authority. Do not assume that a story that is repeated by many sources is true. The first rule of research is this: check primary sources yourself to the extent you reasonably can.
Festschrift. Book of essays by many different people who wish to honor the person to whom the book is dedicated. (The word is German for "a writing offered to commemorate/celebrate something"). In scholarly parlance, the name of the honored person is sometimes substituted for the title of the book. Thus you may see a reference to something like "Fs Peter Smith, p. 193", meaning the festschrift dedicated to Peter Smith. Often a search for the honoree (Peter Smith in this example) as subject will retrieve the record for the book and give you the correct book title, editor, etc.
Full-text vs full-image database. Many bibliographic databases provide information about documents (e.g., author, title . . . other metadata) but do not provide online access to the documents themselves; you have to go to the bookshelf to get the books, for example. But some databases provide online access to the complete documents (so you can read the books or articles online). These documents may be available as text or as images (or both).
A full-text database provides online access to the text (all the words) of documents. Typically the database record includes bibliographic info and a link to the document itself. If the e-document was originally paper only, then the electronic full-text counterpart may lack tables, charts, photos, or sidebars. It may convert footnotes to endnotes, and may fail to retain original pagination. Normally you can search all the words in all documents in a full-text database, so you can find references to very obscure things.
A full-image database provides online access to graphic images (as if a digital camera had made pictures of the pages of an ink-and-paper journal article, for example). Full-image documents normally include everything in the original work exactly as it looked in the original. They retain original pagination. They are big files and download slowly. You cannot select a paragraph in a full-image document and paste it into a paper you are writing.
Sometimes "full-text" is used to mean "complete document" so you might see a database of MP3 sound files (e.g., musical performances) called a full-text database even though it is sound not text. Sound odd? Meanings evolve. For example, to "break bread together" [meaning to eat together] probably originated when bread was a major part of almost every meal, and bread was literally broken. But now "break bread together" means eat together even if there is no bread at all in the meal. So now we have full-text databases with no text.
Fuzzy matching. Approximate matching. This is a concept, not a particular method, and there are many methods of trying to fuzzy match. The oldest I know is Soundex (ca 1918). The Soundex system uses phonetic spelling and encoding to match terms. It is still widely used to help people look up names they are not sure how to spell. Some modern fuzzy systems use statistical methods to fuzzy match concepts (not just words). Words and phrases that often appear near each other in many documents may share meaning. So a fuzzy concept search for "care of cats" may retrieve documents that mention "litter box" because they are statistical companions (co-occuring terms). This is a fuzzy match because it is only approximate. It is a concept match because different words are used. Fuzzy concept matching is not implemented on any of the software we currently use in the library. Much development work is being done on fuzzy matching, and you may see it in systems you use in the future. See also Query by example.
Gatekeeper. Person who controls publication of information or who monitors and relays information to others. Editors, publishers and peer review referees perform a gate keeping function when they decide to publish or not publish submitted manuscripts. This is usually a useful quality control mechanism.
Grouping and nesting. Many retrieval systems allow the searcher to use parentheses to group terms and specify the order in which search operators are to be executed. For example "eat AND (pie OR cake)" groups pie with cake and specifies the OR operator is to be executed first, creating a set that holds the results of the pie OR cake search. Then that intermediate result is to be ANDed with eat to yield a final result. Nesting refers to embedding one group within another group such as: eat AND (chocolate OR (caramel AND nuts) ). In this example, "(caramel AND nuts)" is nested inside another set of parentheses.
Hold. To place a hold is to claim an item for future use. When an item is currently on loan, the library permits faculty and students to reserve the item by placing a hold on it. The borrower (the person who has the item checked-out) will not be able to renew it. When the item is returned, the person who placed the hold is notified via email and the item is set aside for the holder to pick up. Holds may not be placed on items in some special collections such as the academic course reserve collection. WorldCat allows an eligible library user to place a hold without staff assistance. Do not confuse items on hold with items on academic course reserve. See also Please return if not needed.
Holdings. Library holdings for a particular title/work = the volumes and copies of that title owned by the library (e.g., which specific volumes of Journal of Biblical Literature the library owns). Library holdings in general = the entire library collection.
Index. A finding aid. An access tool. A listing of the contents of a single document (e.g., index at the back of a book), of a collection (e.g., index to archival manuscripts in a museum), or of a vast body of documents (e.g., index of journal articles about the Bible), organized so as to provide access to the documents by subject, author, date, etc. Many print bibliographies are indexes. So are many databases.
Information Cocoon. A protective barrier that limits a person's information sources to only those sources, topics, and viewpoints that reinforce what the person believes and values. This is similar to a filter bubble, but an information cocoon is the result of a cacooned person's voluntary, conscious self-restriction of access information, while a filter bubble is not voluntary, not conscious, and not a self-restriction, but is created by search engines and information agents that exclude (filter out) certain sources, topics and viewpoints without being told to do so.
Intellectual property. WIPO defines it as follows: "Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce. Intellectual property is divided into two categories: Industrial property, which includes inventions (patents), trademarks, industrial designs, and geographic indications of source; and Copyright, which includes literary and artistic works such as novels, poems and plays, films, musical works, artistic works such as drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures, and architectural designs. Rights related to copyright include those of performing artists in their performances, producers of phonograms in their recordings, and those of broadcasters in their radio and television programs." World Intellectual Property Organization .
Interlibrary loan. Sharing (lending/borrowing) materials between libraries. Turpin Library loans materials to libraries all over the US. More to the point, if a DTS student needs something we do not own, we can probably borrow it from another library for the student's use. Read about ILL for DTS students here. See also TexShare borrowing privileges.
ISBN. International Standard Book Number. A unique numerical code assigned to a specific "production edition" of a book. Any production variation could count as a separate edition. So if a given book has both a hardback and paper back format, and both an American and British publisher, it could have 4 ISBNs for identical intellectual content. There are hundreds of ISBNs for the NIV Bible (e.g., Large print, red letter, leather cover, etc). ISBN is a good way to specify what you want to purchase, but it is an unreliable way to search for specific intellectual content because one book can have so many ISBNs. Older books lack ISBNs. ISBNs are sometimes assigned to nonbook materials. Detailed information here.
ISSN. International Standard Serial Number. A unique numeric code assigned to the specific title of a serial/journal. A single issue of a journal can have an ISBN for the single issue as well as the ISSN for the journal as a whole.
Journal vs magazine. A journal is a periodical containing articles written by scholars for other scholars. A magazine typically contains nontechnical articles written by journalists for the general public. However, many magazines contain moderately technical articles written by experts for a narrow or specialized audience. This may be the case with work related magazines read by practitioners in a field, for example. So it is sometimes hard to tell if a publication is a journal or a magazine, but you must make the distinction when you write footnotes in your papers because magazines and journals are cited differently according to Turabian. Peer review is the key distinguishing feature of a journal. (It is debatable whether a periodical that does not use peer review can be called a journal, but there are some theological periodicals often considered journals that use editorial review but not peer review per se). Technical material written for a scholarly audience is another good indicator of a journal. Journal articles almost always cite other technical literature (e.g., in footnotes) and interact with that literature. Magazines rarely do so. Journal pagination normally runs consecutively from the beginning of the first issue of a volume to the end of the last issue of the volume. So there is only one page one in a complete annual volume. Magazine pagination normally starts over with every issue. So a complete annual volume of a monthly magazine has twelve page ones. Thus you must include the issue number and date when you cite a magazine. Journals are often quarterly, especially in the humanities. Magazines are often monthly.
A digression on the history of the use of term follows. I suspect the word keyword was first popularized when KWIC (Key Word in Context) concordances became wide–spread in the 1950's. Keyword meant any non-stopword. (Stopwords are allegedly useless words no one would every want to search for like "of", "the", and "so.") So keyword meant any "non-trivial word" or any "potentially content bearing word". Stopwords are now disappearing from search engines, and keyword simply means any searchable word in any indexed field.
Lemma. Dictionary headword. Form of a word listed at the beginning of a dictionary entry. Sometimes the lemma is the root/stem; sometimes not. The lemma for the word "is" is "to be" and it will match "be," "am," "is," "was," "were," "been," etc. The Greek New Testament and Hebrew Old Testament are available as lemmatized databases, allowing you to search by lemma so you do not have to compensate for word inflection.
Lending. See Check-out.
Library of Congress Classification Schedule. A topical classification system used to organize collections so items on the same topic are stored in the same general location. Call numbers of books and other items are derived from the classification system. LCCS is both hierarchical and enumerative. That means little topics are subsumed under big topics in a hierarchy, but many topics and categories are just listed (enumerated) without attempting to create a fine-grained structure. A large portion of the seminary collection falls in the BL-BX range. See also Details on LCCS.
Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). Thesaurus of standardized subject headings used by most academic libraries, including Turpin. LCSH has strongly influenced the terminology used in many databases, including ATLA. See also Controlled vocabulary database.
License restrictions. Terms of a contract which limit use of a resource. Vendors sell the library access to databases and other resources. Those vendors impose restrictions on who may use the resources and under what conditions. For example, contracts typically allow the library to provide access to current DTS faculty, students, and staff, but prohibit us from offering access to alumni or the general public. See also login.
Logical search operators. Most search engines support the logical operators AND, OR, NOT. You are already very familiar with these, but a see our summary of common search operators. Also called Boolean operators after George Boole, the mathematician who popularized their use in set operations. See also Proximity search operators.
Login. Authentication + authorization. The process of identifying an individual, usually based on an account ID and password, and then determining if that person is authorized to use a specific resource like a database. Read about your ID and password . See also License restrictions. See also EZProxy.
Media. Plural of medium. 1) Various physical substances or carrier agents on which documents are recorded, e.g., paper, video tape, CD-ROM, magnetic disk, microforms, clay tablets, etc. 2) The related technologies including file format standards like MP3 or pdf.
Metadata. Information that describes a document or other entity. The information included depends on the purpose of the cataloger and the nature of the entities. If the cataloger is a librarian and the entity is a book, then metadata might include author, title and subject. If the cataloger is a botanist and the entity is a flower, then the metadata might include color, size, genus and species. See also Full-text vs full-image database.
Microform. Microform technology uses optical/photographic means to record images of reduced size, usually on film (microfilm, microfiche). This is a good way to reproduce and preserve old or rare materials. Turpin library has microform copies of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, old books, theses, and certain archival materials. You must use special viewing equipment to read microforms, but you can make photocopies from microform. Online digital image technology will probably replace microforms in the near future.
Monograph. A nonfiction scholarly book. Technically, one long nonfiction composition on one topic/issue. So most scholarly books are monographs, but books of essays and volumes of journal articles are NOT monographs.
Natural language interface. Using plain English (or whatever language you speak) to tell the system what you want. Most search engines require the searcher to use special syntax and operators to express a search statement the machine understands (for example: pray$ near4 group$). Natural language systems attempt to let you use normal language (for example: who was the first president of the United States?) Often the searcher has no control over a natural language system and therefore has no way to help the system when it performs poorly.
Nesting. See Grouping and nesting.
OPAC. Online Public Access Catalog. Often used in reference to a library catalog.
Operator. See Search operator.
Original research. See Primary research.
Partial word matching. See Truncation search operator.
Pattern matching. Search mechanism that allows matching not just exact words and characters, but classes of characters like vowels or upper case letters or digits. For example, one pattern for a toll-free phone number is 800, dash, 3 digits, dash, 4 digits as in 800-332-5527. One example of a pattern matching function is "grep" which is implemented on the TLG Workplace software you can use to search the TLG Greek corpus. This is an advanced search technique. See also Truncation search operator. See also Stemming.
Password/PIN. See Login.
Peer reviewed journal. A periodical which only publishes articles that have been approved/recommended by referees. When authors submit articles to the journal, the editor asks one or more referees (experts in the field) to evaluate the article, make suggestions to the author, and recommend whether to publish the article. This is a blind review; the referee does not know who the author is. A referee need not agree with an article to recommend publication. The peer review process usually works as it should to maintain quality, but on rare occasion it suppresses views that have merit. Apart from peer review, editors may reject articles that do not fit the mission of the publication (e.g., wrong topic, wrong language) or are patently below standard. See also journal vs magazine.
Periodical. A regular serial. A publication issued in successive consecutive parts at regular intervals (e.g., weekly, quarterly) with no planned end. Journals, magazines, and newspapers are periodicals. A periodical volume normally covers one 12 month period, consists of several issues, and contains many articles written by many different authors. Some consider annuals (and proceedings and transactions) to be periodicals but others refuse to call themperiodicals because they are published so infrequently.
Plagiarism. In a narrow legal sense, plagiarism is falsely taking credit for the words of another: putting forth words (e.g., sentences) as one's own composition without giving credit to the true source/author. In a broader ethical sense, it is taking credit for ideas: putting forth ideas as one's own without giving credit to the true source/person. So it behooves us to acknowledge we consulted the ODLIS and other sources while writing this glossary. See the DTS student handbook for rules that apply to student papers.
Please return if not needed. Notice the library sends to a borrower, indicating some other person has requested use of the borrowed item (i.e, placed a hold on it). This is not a mandatory recall. The borrower is free to keep the item until the normal due date, but the borrower is urged to return the item if no longer needed. Contrast Recall of a loan.
Precision. See Search precision and recall.
Primary research. Original research. Advanced research. Primary research is an attempt to create new/original/novel knowledge, to contribute to the cumulative knowledge of humanity. The knowledge is not just new to the researcher; it is new to the world. The researcher teaches others. Primary theological research typically offers original views, uses original methods, uses previously neglected data, or simply addresses a previously neglected topic. Primary research involves publication and subsequent peer review to assess the value of the research. This is the way a contribution is made and human knowledge advances. See also Research and Secondary research.
Primary source. Fundamental basic evidence. Raw data. In historical research, a primary source is typically an eyewitness account recorded at or about the time of the event, an original document composed near the time of the event that tells us about the time (but maybe not about the specific event), or physical evidence from the time (like an archaeological artifact or a photo of the event). In scientific research, the first recorded measurements and observations for a given experiment are primary source material. The Greek and Hebrew texts of the Bible are the primary sources for biblical studies. (Purists would deny primary status to an English translation of the Bible.) Primary does not mean true or authoritative. A primary source like an eyewitness account can be wrong. One source can be primary for one purpose but secondary for another purpose. For example, Isaac Newton's commentary on Revelation is a primary source for a biographical and historical study of Newton, but it is a secondary source for biblical studies or Christian theology. The Dead Sea Scrolls are primary sources for what some Jews believed in the first century, and are thus important background for understanding the New Testament in historical context. But the Dead Sea Scrolls are not primary sources for Christian theology per se. See also Secondary source.
Proximity search operators. Many search engines support proximity operators. Proximity operators specify how far apart matching words can be. They may also specify word order. Details vary considerably system to system. Proximity operators tend to be more precise than logical operators, and more appropriate for full-text searching. See our summary of common search operators.
Pure vs applied research. It is best to think of both of these as kinds of primary or original research (although the pure vs applied distinction can also be made for secondary research). Applied research begins with a specific practical need and attempts to produce knowledge that can be used to meet that need (such as linguistic research that would form the basis for software that could automatically adapt a Bible translation to a new dialect, or social science research that would form the basis for a new means of attracting unchurched people to church meetings). Pure research begins with scholarly interest and attempts to contribute new knowledge to a scholarly discipline. The goal is to advance understanding. The research topic is selected not because some specific practical problem needs to be solved, but because the researcher thinks he sees a way to contribute to the discipline. The topic may or may not have great theoretical significance. There may or may not be an obvious practical application. Pure research is also called fundamental or basic research. See also research.
Query by example/QBE. A search mechanism which attempts to find more documents that are similar to a chosen document. "More documents like this one". There are several different ways to define similarity. At its simplest, similar could mean documents with the same subject heading, for example. Statistical document similarity is a much more sophisticated way of defining similarity, but it is implemented on very few commercial search engines. See Fuzzy matching.
Recall of a loan. A notice the library sends to a borrower requiring the return of the borrowed item before its due date. Immediate return is mandatory. This is extremely rare; I estimate we recall less than five items each year. The library sometimes recalls books in order to put them on course reserves. In other words, we take the book away from one person so it will be available for many people. Not to be confused with Search Recall. See also Please return if not needed.
Record. A unit of information in a database. Here we are only interested in bibliographic records in a computer database. A database record consists of one or more fields. Each record is about one "thing" (entity), and each field is about one specific aspect of the thing. For example, a record might be about one book and might include fields for author, title, publisher, subject, etc. A record might also be about a multivolume set of books, or about a single essay in a single book. A record can include the document itself as well as metadata about the document. See also Metadata. See also Full-text vs full-image database.
Reference works. Quick look up resources designed to provide brief amounts of information about a wide range of issues in a given subject domain such as a encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, statistical compendia, etc. They typically focus on one subject area (e.g., biblical archaeology or famous theologians or worship), consist of many brief articles on facets of that subject, provide a bibliography for each article, and have alphabetical or classified arrangement with indexes and cross references. A reference work is often a very good place to begin research on a topic. Almost any work can sometimes be used for reference purposes (i.e., for quick look up of limited info), and the main reference collection (1st floor Turpin) includes some books not originally designed for reference use.
Relevance of search results. A document is relevant (pertinent, germane, apposite) if it provides the information the searcher wants. However, there are degrees of relevance. Further, students often do not know exactly what they need at the time they search (because they are in a learning process). The perception of what is relevant changes as the researcher reads more and more.
Documents may be considered relevant because they are about the desired subject in a straightforward and objective way. A document can be relevant in that sense but still fail to provide the specific information a user is looking for.
Documents may be considered relevant because they are applicable to the problem at hand even though they are NOT about the originally specified topic. For example, someone looking for information on the ten commandments in Exod 20 may find an article about US constitutional interpretation helpful if the "real" problem in Exod 20 concerns a point of legal hermeneutics addressed in the article. This concept of relevance is very slippery.
Research. Research in the most general sense is simply a search for knowledge or truth. The search process itself may be as simple as informally consulting a friend or as complex as designing and implementing a formal billion dollar scientific study. Formal research is always characterized by careful attention to method, and original research (primary research) is a complex expert investigation. See also Primary research, Secondary research, Pure vs applied research and Discovery vs validation phase of research.
Search engine. Software used to find and retrieve documents/information.
Search operator. Software function or mechanism applied to search terms and used to search for documents. See also logical search operators, proximity search operators, truncation operator, stemming, pattern matching, citation indexing, query by example, and fuzzy matching.
Search precision and recall. Precision and recall are the terms usually used to describe two aspects of search success. Precision refers to accuracy, and recall refers to completeness. Both are percentages. Precision and recall are usually defined as follows. If d = number of documents retrieved in a search, and R = number of relevant documents in the database, and r = number of relevant documents retrieved by the search, then precision of that search = r/d and recall = r/R.
For example, suppose you want a lot of information about the illegal drug cocaine, also called crack and coke. So you search for cocaine OR crack OR coke. You retrieve 10,000 documents. Some are about cocaine. Most are irrelevant, like those about Coca Cola (the soft drink) and cracks (fissures). All together, 1000 of the 10000 are relevant. So search precision is 1000/10000 = 10%. The database actually contains 20000 documents truly on cocaine. Your search retrieved 1000, so the recall is 1000/20000 = 5%.
Precision and recall are inversely related; a high precision search is usually a low recall search; likewise, a high recall search is usually a low precision search. Often you can design a search to be high precision or high recall, but it is usually difficult to execute a perfect search (high precision, high recall).
Search statement. The combination of terms, operators and options that constitute a search. For example "grace OR mercy" is a search statement. This definition assumes the searcher is using a procedural command language with operators to explicitly tell the search engine what to do (in contrast to using a natural language interface).
Searching vs browsing. See Browsing vs searching.
Secondary research. Heuristic research. Learning. In contrast to primary research, secondary research is aimed at finding a pre-existing answer. The researcher learns from others. Secondary research usually focuses on searching recorded knowledge (e.g., published stuff) but also embraces searching un-recorded knowledge (e.g., knowledge possessed by living experts). Most student research papers are secondary research. Primary and secondary research have many features in common. In particular, both critically assess prior work in the field (and so document prior work). Both require the researcher to think for himself. Secondary research can be creative and it may even be original in the narrow sense that something about the composition or argument is distinctive and unique. But secondary research does not make a cumulative contribution to human knowledge; it is not integrated into the "canon" and others do not build on it. See also Research and Primary research.
Secondary source. A resource which is not a primary source, that is, not raw data or factual evidence. Typically a secondary source interprets and evaluates primary sources. In theology, almost all books and journals are secondary sources. But any work can be both a primary source for one purpose and a secondary source for another. See Primary source for details. You may hear references to tertiary sources. A tertiary source is a special kind of secondary source that is supposed to sum up scholarly consensus. Encyclopedias are supposed to be tertiary.
Serial. A publication issued in parts over many years and generally intended to be continued indefinitely. A periodical is a serial that is issued in successive consecutive parts on a regular schedule (e.g., monthly or quarterly). See also periodical.
Series. Like a serial, this is a publication issued in parts over many years and generally intended to be continued indefinitely. A monographic series is a series of books on some common general subject area (such as Old Testament studies or Reformation history). Each book has its own title, but the group as a whole has a shared common title, the series title. Often each volume has a unique series number. A series is sometimes indistinguishable from a multi-volume set which has a collective title for the whole set with separate titles for each volume. But you must attempt to make the distinction when you write research papers because sets and series are cited (footnoted) differently. A multi-volume set is usually issued over just a few years and then completed according to plan. A set usually tries to systematically cover every major aspect of some domain. The very organization of the set shows it is complete (e.g. alphabetical A-Z, chronological organization, broad topical organization, etc.) and the first volume often shows an outline of the entire set. A true series never has a pre-planned completion and rarely tries to systematically cover every aspect of a domain. Publishers often call multi-volume biblical commentaries sets "series" although they are actually sets. It is traditional to cite these as series.
Stacks. Area of the library where books are stored on shelves, one shelf stacked above another.
Stemming. Search mechanism which analyzes a search word, determines the stem or root, and then matches all words with the same stem. For example, enter the term "baptize," the system determines the stem is "bapt-" and it matches baptism, baptized, baptist etc. It may also match Anabaptist and rebaptize, depending on how stemming is performed in the particular system. Since English words are mostly inflected with suffixes, stemming is often equivalent to truncating the end of a word. But this is not so in Hebrew, for example, which regularly inflects with prefixes and suffixes and infixes. So stemming can be quite superior to truncation. See also lemma.
Stopword or noise word. Specific words that a system will not search for. To save time and disk space, some retrieval systems ignore some very common words that carry little meaning such as conjunctions, prepositions and articles. The theory is that you do not need to search for "the" or "a" or similar words. But you do. (For example, "a" is necessary in a search for Vitamin A). Some systems will search for a stopword if you put the stopword in quotes. OCLC FirstSearch and EBSCOHost have stopwords.
Subject headings. Terms (words and phrases) assigned to documents to indicate the subject/topic. Descriptors. Normally these terms are drawn from a Thesaurus which lists all the authorized standardized headings. See also Library of Congress Subject Headings. See also Controlled vocabulary Database.
Thesis of a research paper. Main point to be demonstrated. Everything in a well written research paper supports the thesis. Superfluous material is excluded. Scholars working on complex research projects often develop a hypothesis or working thesis during the early discovery phase of research, then refine this idea during the validation phase. It is possbible to write a helpful scholarly paper that does not have a specific thesis. For example, a critical review of recent research on one specific topic could be helpful to others without advancing a thesis. See also Research.
Thesaurus. In the context of database searching, a thesaurus is a list of standardized or officially endorsed terms (subject headings, descriptors) that can be used in a particular controlled vocabulary database, along with definitions and cross references that create a hierarchical network of terms.
Truncation search operator. An operator which allows partial word matches by truncating (cutting off) part of the word, usually the final part. A wild card operator. A character mask operator. Truncation is usually indicated by punctuation such as $, #, +, *, !, and ?. For example, in some systems bapt* matches any word that starts with the four letters "bapt"(such as baptism and baptist), and lab*or matches any word that starts "lab" and ends "or" such as "labor" and "labrador". See summary of common search operators. Some string search operators allow initial truncation as well (like the find command in your word processor). See also Stemming and Pattern match.
URL. Uniform Resource Locator. Web address. Example: http://www.dts.edu
Validation. See Discovery and validation phases of research.
Weight. Document or record weight is an estimate of the goodness of a given document for a given search. Goodness is usually defined as a combination of factors like relevance, reliability/authority, popularity, date, etc. Some systems sort or rank documents by weight in an attempt to show the best documents first.
Wild card or character mask operator. See Truncation search operator.
Work. "Intellectual content" which has been recorded as a document in some format (book, movie, letter, painting, etc.) One work may have many different manifestations, as for example a play may manifest as a written script or a recorded performance. If distinguished from the document, then work = content, and document = physical manifestation of the work.