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Library Glossary

how to find, connect, use




ABSTRACT: (1) A short summary of an ARTICLE in a scholarly JOURNAL. It usually appears at the beginning of the article. (2) A printed or electronic INDEX to journal, magazine, newspaper, articles that not only provides a CITATION to the articles, but also a brief summary of each article. (3) A summary of a paper presented at a conference. The full text of the paper is not always published. (See also Indexes)

AGGREGATORS: Vendors of databases. 

ALMANAC: A publication that provides data, facts, figures, statistics and tables for different subjects.

ALERTS: A research profile/strategy that you may preset to have table of contents or lists of article citations e-mailed directly to you.

ARCHIVE: A non-circulating collection preserved for historical purposes. Materials are in a variety of formats including rare books, manuscripts, personal papers, organizational records, photographs, films, posters, and memorabilia.

ARTICLE: A (brief) essay or research report on a subject. Articles can appear in MAGAZINEs, JOURNALs, newspapers, full text online databases, or other sources such as encyclopedias.

ASK A LIBRARIAN: The choices of reference services from the BC Libraries that includes the ability to receive help from a librarian via live, online chat from your office, home, or dorm room.

ATLAS: A bound volume of maps, charts, plates or tables illustrating any subject.

AUTHOR :The writer of a book or ARTICLE. Usually this is a person (or several people), but it can also be a government agency, a symposium, a company, or other group that does not necessarily give the name(s) of the people who actually wrote the work. Such an author is referred to as a Corporate Author. Examples of corporate authors are: American Chemical Society, U.S. Department of Commerce, or Boston College.


BAR CODE: A small white label with closely spaced black stripes that can be read by a computer. Bar codes on books and your EagleOne Card are used to CHARGE OUT books from the library.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: (1) A group of CITATIONS used to research a topic. These are gathered together at the end of the article, book, or paper, usually arranged alphabetically by AUTHOR. (2) A publication that consists only of a list of books, ARTICLEs and other works on a particular topic. Sometimes bibliographies are annotated, that is, they include brief ABSTRACTS summarizing the important features of the works. Bibliographies of both types can be very valuable in locating information on a subject.

BIOGRAPHY: A book or an article about a person.

BLOG: An online discussion forum.

BOSTON LIBRARY CONSORTIUM: The Boston Library Consortium, BLC, is a cooperative association composed of sixteen academic and research libraries. The Consortium allows BLC community members access to the catalogs and collections of the member libraries.

BOUND PERIODICAL: Several consecutive issues of a JOURNAL, MAGAZINE or newspaper, are placed together between two hardcovers so they resemble a book. These may be shelved with the print collection, in the stacks.


CALL NUMBER: The unique group of letters and numbers given to each item in the library according to its subject matter. A label with the call number is usually located on the spine or cover of the item and indicates where the item is shelved.

CD-ROM: Compact Disk Read-Only-Memory is computer software which can hold large amounts of data including images and sound.

CITATION: Basic information about a specific source of information. A citation for a book will include the Author, Title, and Place of publication, Publisher, and Year of publication. A citation for an article in the Periodical will add the title of the periodical, volume number, pages and date. A bibliography is a group of citations.

CITATION STYLES: A particular method of documenting references. Some disciplines or academic departments require writers to use a specific style such as the Modern Language Association or American Psychological Association. There are handbooks for specific styles at the Reference Desk.

CONFERENCE PAPERS / PROCEEDINGS: Research presentations from conferences and professional meetings that are published.

CONTENT EVALUATION: Analysis of the content of an article, book, journal, website, film, or other media. Analysis may cover the relevancy of the material, the point of view of the author, the expertise of the author, depth of the material, intended audience, and location of the work within its genre.

COPYRIGHT: Protection of intellectual property for a certain period of time.

COVERAGE: The years, viewpoints, and content material covers.

CRITICAL THINKING: The mental processes of conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information.

CURRENCY: How up to date material is.

CURRENT AWARENESS or ALERTS: A research profile/strategy that you may pre-set to have table of contents or lists of article citations e-mailed directly to you.


DATABASE: A collection of organized information. The online catalog in a library is a database of the library's holdings. Expanded Academic ASAP and the General BusinessFile ASAP are examples of electronic databases.

DIRECTORY: An alphabetical or classified list, such as names and addresses.

DISSERTATIONS: Doctorate level dissertations are sources of original research, and they can usually be found at the university at which they were completed.


EDITION or REVISION: The copy or version of a title. Some titles are updated or revised on a periodic basis to include updated material.

ELECTRONIC JOURNAL: A journal, or version of a journal that is produced online.

ENCYCLOPEDIA: A book or multi-volume set containing articles on a range of subjects. An encyclopedia may be general and multidisciplinary, or subject specific and comprehensive.


FAIR USE: Legally sound use of or paid use of copyrighted material.

FULLTEXT: The complete work in either print, electronic, or microfilm format.


GIF: The Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) to view graphics or images on the web.

GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS: Publications originating in, or printed with the authority of the U.S. Government, state and local governments, international government and international organizations.  You can use databases and Holmes to access government documents.  For additional help, please consult the Government Documents librarian or a member of the reference staff.


HOLDINGS: Often this term applies just to the issues of a NEWSPAPER, MAGAZINE or JOURNAL or another type of a PERIODICAL owned by Boston College Libraries, but it can also refer to all the materials (books, periodicals, government documents, media, electronic databases) Boston College Libraries have. In Holmes, one can find out whether the libraries own a certain periodical title, what years they have, and the format in which the periodical title is found: microfilm, microfiche, or electronic format, or bound.

HOLMES ONE SEARCH: the search tool that unifies the Libraries' systems (library catalog, databases, digital collections, statistical data) into a single search interface.


INDEXES: Indexes provide subject, author, and/or title indexing to a particular set of periodicals and gives a full citation for each article. The citation includes the title of the periodical, date, volume, pages, as well as the author and title of the article. Some indexes include ABSTRACTS. Boston College Libraries have a wide array of indexes and abstracts in printed and electronic formats. From the Boston College Libraries Homepage, you can click on Online Databases to get a description of electronic Indexes and Abstracts in your related area of research. Please ask a reference department staff for assistance.

INTERNET: The Internet is a huge network of hundreds of thousands of computers. The networks connect different types of computers and use a common set of protocols so that different types of computers can communicate with each other. Access to the resources of BC Libraries and a myriad of information scattered around the globe can be accessed through the Internet. Reference Librarians can provide you assistance with using the Internet for research and other library related projects. Other departments on campus such as the INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY can provide you with more Internet information

INTERLIBRARY LOAN: (ILL) is a service which will obtain a book or a copy of an ARTICLE for you from another library, if none of the Boston College Libraries owns the material. There usually is no charge for this service. Forms are available in the ILL Office on the main floor of O'Neill Library. Requests can also be sent electronically via the Libraries' web page.


JOURNAL: A publication that contains scholarly ARTICLES written either by professors, researchers, or experts in a subject area. An ABSTRACT and a BIBLIOGRAPHY usually appear with each ARTICLE.


KENNY COTTLE (K-C): Off-site location for Library collections located on the Newton campus. Items at this location can be retreived through Holmes.

KEYWORDS: A list of terms that identify the main concepts in a text.


LIBRARY CATALOG: A log or register of all the owned by a particular library. Holmes is the Boston College Libraries online catalog.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM: The method used by the Library of Congress to organize its materials.  See example.

LISTSERV: An online e-mail mailing list of specific members.


MAGAZINE: A PERIODICAL intended for the general public rather than for scholars. Examples are Newsweek, Time, and Business Week.

MICROFORMS: Books, ARTICLES or other items that are printed in reduced scale on transparent plastic. Those that are in long rolls are called microfilm, while those that are on small rectangular sheets are called microfiche. Each of these requires special machines to be viewed and copied.


NEW ENGLAND DEPOSIT LIBRARY (NEDL): Off-site location for Library collections. Items at this location can be retreived through Holmes requests.

NEWTON RESOURCE CENTER: Off-site location for Library collections located on the Newton campus. Items at this location can be retreived through Holmes requests.




PATENT: Legal protection of an invention giving the inventor exclusive rights to develop and sell the invention for profit for a given period of time.

PDF: A portable document format originally developed by Adobe for viewing files.

PERIODICAL: A publication that appears on a continuous and predictable schedule. Examples include newspapers (daily or weekly), MAGAZINEs, and JOURNALs.

PLAGIARISM: The B.C. Academic Catalog defines plagiarism as the "…deliberate act of taking the words, ideas, data, illustrative material, or statements of someone else, without full and proper acknowledgement, and presenting them as one's own."

POPULAR JOURNAL: Popular journals are not academically oriented. Examples are Vogue, People Magazine, Ebony, etc.




REFERENCE DESK: A place where librarians give you directions, answer your questions, and show you how to find and use materials. There is a reference desk in the main lobby of the library. It is staffed most hours that the Library is open.

RESEARCH GUIDE: A list of books, databases, and other resources for a specific subject. Each guide is compiled by a librarian with expertise in the subject.

RESERVE DESK: A place where professors put material required for class use. Because of the high usage of the material, the print versions are limited to circulating for two hours, or overnight in some cases. Many articles are being placed online, and can be searched in Holmes in the Course Reserves Catalog.

REMOTE ACCESS: Communication by one or more users, devices, or workstations with a distant computer system.


SCHOLARLY JOURNAL: A scholarly journal includes articles that are research oriented, and are either written or reviewed by experts in the field. They always cite their sources, through the use of footnotes or bibliographies. Some scholarly journals are published by professional organizations, such as JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.

SERIAL: Publications that are issued in successive parts, usually at regular intervals. Examples include PERIODICALs, JOURNALs, MAGAZINEs, newspapers, annual reports, annual reviews, and some conference proceedings.

SPECIAL COLLECTIONS: A research collection of note in a specialized subject area.

STACKS: A series of bookcases or sections of shelving arranged in rows or ranges to hold the library’s books, PERIODICALs, GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS, etc. At O’Neill Library the reference shelves and current PERIODICAL shelves are on the third floor. At Boston College, as in most American libraries, the STACKS are "open," that is, you may retrieve books directly from the STACKS. You do not need to ask a librarian to get the books for you.

STACKS may also designate a section of the library where the principal circulating book collection is kept. At O'Neill Library the older or bound PERIODICALs are also kept in these stacks. Refer to the library map for the location of the STACKS by subject CALL NUMBERS.

SUBJECT HEADINGS (Library of Congress): Terms used by the Library of Congress to divide knowledge into related subject areas, and by libraries to arrange books on the shelves. These terms are published in four large red volumes, often called "LCSH." Copies are located at the REFERENCE DESK. These terms are used to perform a "subject" search in Holmes, WorldCat and some other databases.

SUBJECT LIBRARIANS: Subject Librarians are librarians who specialize in specific subject areas and disciplines. They are responsible for collecting materials in their subject areas, and for providing in depth consultations to researchers.


THESAURUS: A "controlled vocabulary" or collection of synonyms, related terms, narrower terms, broader terms that convey a given meaning.

TRADEMARK: A legal protection that helps businesses distinguish their products and services from one another.


UNIFORM RESOURCE LOCATOR (URL): A unique address for locating resources on the INTERNET, such as files, newsgroups, web sites and each page of a web site. Example:


VENN DIAGRAM: An illustration using circles that stand alone or overlap to show logical relationships between concepts or ideas.


WEB 2.0: The Social Networking phenomenon (FaceBook, IM, Blogs UTube, FLICKR, etc., etc.) are referred to as Web 2.0 generation.