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Preparing for university

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Glossary

Less than 500 words

One thing that may be new to you when studying at university is the terminology used in libraries.  Much of it is common sense; and some of it you will have heard already at school or college.  We know that often people are afraid to ask because they think they're asking a stupid question so we've compiled this glossary.

Abstract
This is a summary of what a journal article is about.  It serves the same purpose as the blurb on the back of a book.  Some databases only provide access to abstracts.  When writing a reference list you should not be including articles where you have only seen the abstract, you need to have seen the full-text of the article.  On Library Search (our resource discovery tool) it is also known as citation / citation only.

Bibliography
This is a list of everything you have read for an assignment/piece of work, whether or not you have referred to it or cited it in your work.  Largely asked for in school or college work; less so in university work.  Not to be confused with references or reference list.

Boolean logic
This is the collective name for the connectorwords AND, OR and NOT when used in a database or search engine.  Combining words using these connectors will either increase or reduce the number of results you get depending on how you use them. 

  • AND will look for all documents containing one word AND another in a search e.g.  Hereford AND Worcester (both words in all documents).
  • OR will look for all documents containing one word OR another in a search e.g.  Hereford OR Worcester (either word in all documents).
  • NOT will look for all documents containing one word but NOT the other e.g.  Worcester NOT Hereford (all documents with Worcester only in).

Classmark number
This is the number you will find on the spine of all non-fiction books which tells you where to find them on the shelf.

Database
An online repository of information, a bit like a library catalogue.  In terms of libraries they're usually subject specific.  SportsDiscus, Medline and JSTOR are examples of databases.  Sometimes they will just give you information on abstracts, often they give full text access to articles.  Access to databases is paid for by university libraries and can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.  Because they are paid for they provide more credible information than just searching Google.  Google is a search engine - it is not a database.

Dewey Decimal System
The method of grouping non-fiction books by subject.  It was designed by Melville Dewey in the late 1800s and is perhaps the world's most widely used classification system.   Follow the link for an explanation of the 10 main subject areas. Often referred to as just Dewey, Dewey order, classmark or shelfmark.

Due Date
The date a book is due to be returned by.

Editor
If a book is written by a team of authors - perhaps they write a chapter each on a slightly different subject - that team is usually led by an editor.  This person will have final say on what goes in, what gets left out, what order the chapters are arranged in etc.  It is important to understand their role for referencing purposes.  For example if John Smith edits a book but you quote/cite something from chapter three which was written by Davey Jones; your citation would read "Quote" Jones (year).  The author is always credited not the editor.  You will however need to mention the editor in your reference list, because without it the reader wouldn't know which book Davey Jones' chapter three was part of.  Not to be confused with an author.  An author writes a book/article etc. The contents are their own ideas.

Evaluate
When you evaluate something you're asking questions about its worth.  In terms of a resource like a book or article you're asking "Who wrote it?  Who did they write it for?  Is what they're saying believable?  Is there any other evidence that supports what they're saying?  Is this freely available or has it been paid for?"  In a nutshell to evaluate means to: Establish the VALUe And Test the Evidence.

Issue
When a book is borrowed it is 'issued' to a borrower/user.  i.e. 'When is my book due back?'  'It's due 3 weeks after date of issue'.  Or part of a journal.  Or the polite word for a problem, 'this student has an issue with returning her short loan item, can you take a look at her account'.

Item
This is the collective term for books, journals, journal articles, CDs DVDs: anything a borrower might have on loan.  This is preferred to books i.e. 'How many items have I got out?'

Journal
An academic publication that comes out on a regular basis, made up of a collection of articles, written by different authors.  They might come out Weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly or at more or less frequent intervals.  Also known as periodical, serial.  Vogue, Nursing Times and the Harvard Business Review are all journals. 

Library catalogue
The database that tells you about all of the items you can find in a library.  Also known as the OPAC - online public access catalogue or by its brand name - in the case of University of Worcester and Worcestershire County Council it's Capita.

Library account
A borrower's personal account that tells you what items they have on loan, any fines or reservations.  Can be checked by the borrower or a member of staff.

Monograph
A publication of essay or book length on a single subject.  The opposite of a journal.  Largely written by academics.

Plagiarise
To do this is to use someone else's words or ideas without crediting them.  This may be done accidentally in which case you should seek advice from a university librarian about how to improve your referencing skills.  However it may be done deliberately which is commonly known as cheating.  Did you know that many universities now use software which will scan your assignments for signs of plagiarism?  Some of this software can even detect whether you've got someone to write your assignments for you!  Remember, if in doubt, ask for help.

Reference
When used in the phrase reference only this is a library item that cannot be borrowed.  It can only be used in the library.  Examples include journals,encyclopedias and phone directories.

References
All assignments will need a reference list.  This is a list of items that you have referred to in your work.  It will be arranged in alphabetical order by the author's surname, there are a many different referencing styles, the University of Worcester uses five referencing styles which differ depending upon which subject the student is studying.  Not to be confused with bibliography. 

Reservation
Placing a request on a book that someone else has borrowed so that they cannot renew it.  When finding an item on the catalogue that is on loan to someone else placing a reservation will give other users priority access to it once it's returned.

Resource
Any source of information that may help you with your studies.  Books, journals, maps, DVDs, articles (whether online or in hard copy) are all forms of resources.

Thesaurus
A type of dictionary that lists alternative words for a given term.

Verified
When you check information to ensure it is correct or true you verify it.  When referencing information taken from the internet it is important that it is verified.  This will mean asking questions like: Where is this information from?  Is this website reliable?  Who is the author, have they published other items?  Has anyone else referenced/cited them before?