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English as an Additional Language: Glossary of Library Terms

Basic Library Terminology

Abstract: A brief paragraph describing the content of a book or article; useful for discovering keywords.

Almanac: A book collecting a wide range of information in condensed form for quick informational purposes.

Article: A written work found in a magazine, academic (scholarly) journal or encyclopedia.

Bibliographic record: The description of a book or article in a library catalogue or online database, including subject headings and, (in the case of books), its shelf number.

Bibliography: List of sources (books and articles) referred to in your paper. Can also refer to a published list of books and articles on a given topic, which can be very useful for your own research.

Boolean Operators:  The search terms AND, OR and NOT which you can use when searching in a catalogue or database. For example, "Canada AND history AND fur trade".

Call Number: The combination of letters and numbers on a book label that indicate where it should be shelved; also known as a Classification Number.

Chapter: A written work found within a book.

Citation: Information about the source (book or article) you are referring to or quoting from in your paper, and which you need to record with either an in-text citation (e.g., Smith 1985), a footnote or an endnote. Check with your instructor if you are unsure which Style Manual you need to use for your assignments (see below).

Citing: Documenting your sources of information in your paper to show your instructor where you found your information.

Classification Number: The combination of letters and numbers on a book label that indicate where it should be shelved; also known as a Call Number.

Common knowledge: Everyday knowledge or information which most people know, and which may be found in many sources. Generally, you do not need to cite sources for this kind of information. For example, the Earth is the third planet from the Sun; Canada fought in World War I as a Dominion of Great Britain; John A. MacDonald was Canada's first prime minister. 

Database: A collection of data or articles to which the Library subscribes, and which may be accessed through the Library's website.

Dictionary: A book containing brief definitions of words, concepts, people or events.

Discipline: A field of study, something you would study at university, e.g., psychology, history, biology. 

Encyclopedia: A reference work (usually made up of 2 or more volumes) containing sometimes lengthy articles on a wide range of topics; many Encyclopedias will be about concepts in a particular discipline.

HoldingsThe books, journals and magazines owned, stored and made available in the Library.

Index: An alphabetized list of topics or persons described in a book or academic (scholarly) journal, with page numbers indicating where this information may be found.

Issue: When referring to a magazine or academic (scholarly) journal title, a single publication of that title, e.g., the October issue, or Volume 20, issue #4. 

Journal: An academic (scholarly) periodical containing scholarly (peer reviewed) articles; usually published by an academic society or a university press; are a type of serial or periodical.

Keyword(s): Terms used to describe or search for a book or article

Library catalogue: The online, searchable list of books and journals owned by the library; accepts searches for title, author, subject, or other keywords.

Peer Review: The process by which an article in an academic (scholarly) journal is read, corrected and either approved or rejected by respected scholars in a relevant field.

Periodical: Another term for magazine, serial or journal.

Plagiarism: The inappropriate use of wording (including phrases, sentences and paragraphs) written by other authors and presented in your paper as if you wrote them. This is considered a serious form of academic misconduct. (See Avoiding Plagiarism tab, this guide).  

Primary source: Original sources of information that have not been interpreted by others -- letters, diaries, autobiographies, newspaper accounts, speeches, interviews, field notes, works of art.

Quotation: Original wording by another author, which must be enclosed in quotation marks (" ") or indented, and which need to be documented (including page number) in your in-text citation or footnotes.

Reference list: The books or articles (arranged alphabetically by author's last name) you cited in your paper listed at the end of your paper.

Scholarly Source: An article in an academic journal or a book chapter that has been published following peer review.

Secondary sources: Books or articles which combine, interpret and refer to the works of others (including primary sources) to gain new perspectives on a given topic. Most non-fiction books in the Library will be secondary sources. 

Serial: Another term for magazine, periodical or academic (scholarly) journal.

Style manual: Guidelines for formatting your paper, documenting (citing) your sources and arranging your reference list. The most common examples are the APA, Chicago and MLA styles.

Subject Heading: Terms used in a library catalogue or database to describe a given topic or concept. As opposed to keywords, which can be different from book to book depending on how authors use them, a subject heading is a formal, agreed-upon and established term that is supposed to apply to all books or articles on a given topic, regardless of the terms an author uses. 

Synonym: Alternative word with a similar or related meaning to the term you are searching for.

Tertiary Sources: A consolidation of (or guide to) primary and secondary sources, such as almanacs, indexes, dictionaries or encyclopedias.

URL: Acronym for Uniform Resource Identifier, the name given to website addresses, e.g., 


Glossary of Library Terms

  1. Abstract – a brief summary of a book or article. Quickly reading an abstract will help you decide if you would like to get the full article or book.
  2. Bibliography – a list of books, articles, and other materials that are cited by the source you are looking at. Also known as a works cited list, or a references list.
  3. Call Number – Each book in our library has a call number–a series of numbers and letters that help you locate the book. When searching for a book in the library’s catalog, remember to write down or print out the call number. Call numbers are organized by subject, so books on the same topic will be shelved next to one another.
  4. Catalog – the online system that lists all of the books, media, and other materials in our library’s collection. To search the catalog see our homepage.
  5. Citation – brief information about a source, such as a book or article. It usually lists the author, title of the book (or name of the magazine, journal or newspaper), title of the article (if applicable), publication date or year, pages numbers (if applicable), and publisher (if applicable).
  6. Database – a collection of articles from newspapers, magazines, and journals. To search for articles in Cofrin Library’s databases, see 
  7. Full-Text – When searching in the library’s database for articles, you will often see a link that says “full text” (sometimes marked as PDF Full Text or HTML Full Text). This means that the article is available online in the database. Clicking on the “full text” link will take you to the article where you can read it on your computer, print it out, download it, or email it to yourself. If the article is not available in “full text,” you can click on Access Online.
  8. Peer Reviewed – A scholarly material based on original research. It is often a scholarly journal article. Not a magazine or newspaper article. It is a material that is written by an expert in a field (e.g., doctor, scientist, professor). Generally, peer reviewed materials are fairly lengthy and text-heavy. Peer Reviewed materials always cite their sources, so you will usually see a bibliography with it. Sometimes, peer reviewed materials are referred to as: scholarlyacademic, or refereed.
  9. Stacks – This is the area where the books are shelved. In Cofrin Library, the book stacks are on the 5th and 6th floors of the library. Books with call numbers A-P are shelved on the 6th floor. Books with call numbers Q-Z are shelved on the 5th floor.

Databases Terms of Use