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Getting Library Help @ Mulford: Glossary

Glossary of Information Management Terms

Like all disciplines, information management has terminology that might be new to you. It also has familiar terms that might have unfamiliar meanings. This glossary will help you grasp the vocabulary of information management. Access to some of these resources is restricted is restricted to those who are on campus, registered with the University Libraries.

Abstract (1) - a non-evaluative summary of a work (article, chapter, book, etc.); see also structured abstract; compare with an annotation.

Abstract (2) - an index that includes abstracts for the indexed items, for example, Biological Abstracts.

Accession number - a unique number assigned to a record in a particular resource; in the health sciences community, one of the most well-known accession numbers is the PubMed ID (PMID).

Annotation - an evaluative summary of a work; compare with an abstract.

Alerts – searches that are run in a database and results emailed automatically; commonly used by researches to see what’s new in their research area. Databases that have an alerts feature include PubMed and the EBSCO databases.

Authentication – the process of making sure that a person is allowed to access a resource before allowing them access; this is required for remote access to licensed resources and usually involves entering one’s name and ID number/barcode

Bibliographic citation - see citation

Bibliographic citation manager - a software package consisting of a database designed to handle bibliographic citations; usually these packages include features to import citations from online catalogs and databases and to link with a word processor to cite and format references; some commonly used bibliographic citation managers include ProCite, EndNote, and Reference Manager. [Instructional Materials]

Bibliography - a free-standing list of references that have something in common, usually a subject or author. It may be annotated. It is usually not associated with a paper or article, although bibliographies and reference lists are commonly confused. Contrast with a reference list.

Biological Abstracts/BIOSIS Reviews - a resource that indexes the life sciences literature, focusing on the life sciences and pre-clinical medicine, with about a 33% journal-title overlap with MEDLINE. [Instructional Materials -- Connect]

Blog – short for web log, a web site used to point readers to interesting and useful web sites, and often allow readers to comment on the posts. A blog may focus on a particular topic or area; personal blogs may be more like an online diary. The Mulford Health Science Library has a blog [Connect] that is used for announcements and new or cool resources.

Boolean operators - also called "logical operators" or just "operators", these are system commands that allow search sets or search terms to be combined to create narrower or broader results. There is one commonly used operator (AND) and two less commonly used one (OR and NOT):

  • AND - the most commonly used operator; narrows a search by retrieving just those records that have the combined sets in common
  • OR - broadens a search by retrieving records that occur in any of the combined sets; commonly used between synonyms
  • NOT – excludes items in the latter set from those in the former set; note that the order of sets makes a difference: s1 not s2 isn’t the same as s2 not s1. Be careful when using NOT in a search; it is very easy to exclude relevant references

For information on using Boolean operators in a particular online system, consult Reference Assistance or online help.

Browser - software that provides graphical access to the World Wide Web; the most commonly used browsers are Netscape, Internet Explorer, and Firefox.

Catalog – see online catalog

CINAHL - the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature is the most commonly used resource used to access the nursing and allied health literature; indexes journal article, books, book chapters, dissertations, research instruments, and more. [Instructional Materials -- Connect]

Citation - an abbreviated representation of a source; contains enough information for someone to obtain an copy of the source, such as author(s), title, source, publisher, year of publication, page numbers, etc. There are many citation formats for citation consistency; details about citation format can be found in the appropriate style manual.

Cite - to make reference to a work; not to be confused with sight or site; see also citation.

Cited references - the references cited by a given work. Science Citation Index and its sister citation indexes are used to search cited references. Other databases, such as CINAHL and PsycINFO include cited references as well.

Clipboard – how records are stored in PubMed

Collection - a grouping of library resources, often organized by use, physical location, or resource type. Common collections include reference, reserve, and special collections.

Database - an online tool used to identify articles (or book chapters, dissertations, etc.) on a topic, written by a particular author, in a particular journal, etc.; an electronic version of print index or abstract

Digital object identifier (doi) - a unique, persistent, managed, international public identifier that is assigned by a publisher when an article is accepted for publication; because this identifier is persistent, it will not change like URLs sometimes do, making it easier to link to online articles.

Electronic reserves - a collection of often-used online resources such as textbooks, slides, and articles put in this collection by faculty members or the library. Hardcopies of items may be on reserve.

Evidence-based practice - commonly called "evidence-based medicine" or "evidence-based health care," this is the practice of using evidence from the research literature to complement professional education, clinical expertise, and patient preferences when making clinical decisions. [see -- EBP LibGuide]

Firefox - see browser

Folder – how records are stored.

Holdings – items that a library or group of libraries owns (such as books and print journals) and those resources to which it has access (like online books or online journals); “journal holdings” refers to the time period of a journal title that a library has.

Index - a resource that provides access to units within a larger source, such as articles within a journal or chapters within a book; commonly refers to specifically to print indexes (online indexes are called databases); abstracting sources like Biological Abstracts may also be referred to as indexes, though they are better defined as abstracts.

Index Medicus - the print counterpart of MEDLINE; the Mulford Health Sciences Library has Index Medicus (with some title changes) back to 1880. The abridged Index Medicus is available in PubMed by limiting to search subset "Core clinical journals." 

Information commons – physical space, resources, and services provided jointly by a library and the computer support department, providing one-stop help for information needs and computer problems. See Carlson Library’s information commons.

Information management - skills and techniques used to identify gaps in one's knowledge, select and use appropriate resources to find quality information to fill those knowledge gaps. This is also referred to as "information literacy" or "life-long learning."

Interlibrary loan – also called interlibrary services, interlibrary loan is a library service that will get material (books, dissertations, articles, etc.) that you need that we don’t have at UT from a library that has it. [Health Science Campus –- Main Campus]

Internet - a world-wide network of computer networks. "Internet" is a proper noun, so it is always capitalized. Do not confuse with "intranet," which is a restricted-access network based on Internet protocols. See also World Wide Web.

Internet Explorer - see browser

ISBN – International Standard Book Number; a unique identifying number for a book; used by book stores as well as libraries; if a book is available in paperback and hardback, the paperback ISBN will be different than the hardback, even though the contents are the same

ISSN – International Standard Serial Number; a unique identifying number for a journal; an online version of a journal may have a different ISSN number than the print version

Journal - a scholarly periodical that publishes articles in segments called issues; issues make up volumes. In the University Libraries, journal issues can be current (unbound), bound, and online. Contrast with magazine; see also online journal.

Keyword search - see word search

Knowledgebase - A database designed for retrieving directly applicable knowledge, commonly used to describe clinical resources such as UpToDate [Connect].

Levels of evidence – in evidence-based practice, not all information is created equal. For example, generally speaking, research studies provide stronger evidence than does an opinion piece; and a randomized control trial provides stronger evidence than a cohort study. The comparative strength of evidence is described in terms of levels of evidence. For more information about the levels of evidence and how they relate to clinical queries, see Duke University Medical Center and UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries Introduction to Evidence Based Medicine Types of Questions and Studies page.

License – legal document that determines how a resource (usually an online resource) can be used, such as who can have access, whether off-campus access is allowed, how many people can access it at any one time, etc.

Magazine – a non-scholarly periodical, such as Time, BusinessWeek, or Rolling Stone; usually magazines are on shiny paper, have photographs, and have articles that do NOT have reference lists. Contrast with journal

Medical informatics - use of computers in the practice of medicine, ranging from clinical systems, information resources, telemedicine, etc.

Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) - the main controlled vocabulary used in the U.S. National Library of Medicine databases, including MEDLINE. MeSH is highly structured and lends itself to very powerful search techniques.

MEDLINE - the premier medical database in the U.S., produced by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The database is made available through many vendors with many interfaces - EBSCOhost, Ovid, PubMed, SilverPlatter - but the data underlying these is the same. It covers 1966 to the present. The version of MEDLINE primarily supported by the Library is PubMed. [Instructional Materials -- Connect]

Monograph - a resource that is not part of a series; books are commonly monographs; compare with a serial.

OhioLINK - the statewide network of academic and research libraries in Ohio, including college, university, and community college libraries. OhioLINK provides access to a number of databases, online journals, and the OhioLINK Central Catalog. For more information, see the OhioLINK Web site.

OhioLINK Catalog - a catalog containing the combined holdings of all OhioLINK libraries; it includes an online borrowing features for registered users of OhioLINK libraries. [Instructional Materials -- Connect]

Online catalog - an electronic resource that provides access to materials within a single library's or group of libraries' collections, comparable to a card catalog but far more powerful. Online catalogs typically include books, journal titles, and audiovisuals. Occasionally, they will index book chapters, but they never index journal articles; databases index articles.

Online journal - a journal that provides the full-text of articles available in electronic form, most commonly on the Web. Most online journals have a print counterpart, but some are available only online. [Instructional Materials]

Open access – a trend in scholarly publishing in response to increasing journal subscription prices, open access is a publishing model of immediate online access to published articles, free of charge. For more information on open access, see Peter Stuber’s (of Earlham College) Open Access Overview

PDF - (Portable Document Format) a commonly used and preferred file format for online journals; when the file is printed, it looks just like the article in the print journal.

Peer review – a process by which experts review an article manuscript to determine if it should be published in a particular journal; usually the reviewers do not know who the authors are, and the authors don’t know who the reviewers are. The quality of articles published in journals that use peer-review (called peer-review journals, of course) are perceived to be of higher quality that those published in a journal that does not use peer review.

Periodicals – materials that come out periodically, such as journals, magazines, and newspapers

PICO - In evidence-based practice, the acronym PICO stands for Patient/Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome; it is used as a guide for developing a clinical question that can be answered by the published literature.

PREMEDLINE - see Index Medicus

Presentation software - software that assists in the creation of 35-mm slides, overheads, and electronic presentations; PowerPoint is one of the most commonly used presentation software packages.

PsycINFO - a database that indexes the psychology literature; same thing as PsycLIT; the print version is called Psychological Abstracts. [Instructional Materials -- Connect]

PubMed - a version of MEDLINE provided by the National Library of Medicine. Originally designed to link the literature to genetic sequence data, it is now freely available on the Web. [Instructional Materials-- Connect]

PubMed In-Process Citations - formerly known as PREMEDLINE, this is a group of citations in PubMed that have not yet been included in MEDLINE. Once a citation has been indexed and added to the MEDLINE database, it is deleted from the In-Process subset. Citations that are in-process are not indexed using MeSH, so search them with a textword search.

Reference collection - a collection of often-used resources such as dictionaries, directories, handbooks, and encyclopedias; these resources can only be used in the library. Contrast with reserve collection.

Reference assistance - library services that helps you find the information you need. The reference staff members can help you figure out what information you need, show you how to use the resource, how to find what's relevant and available, and how to get a copy of the information. [Health Science Campus -- Main Campus]

Reference list - the list of cited references at the end of a source. These citations support statements made within the source. Contrast with bibliography.

Remote access – accessing online resources (books, journals, databases, etc.) from off campus; for licensed resources, users must authenticate before accessing them

Reserve Collection - a collection of often-used resources such as textbooks, slides, and article photocopies put in this collection by faculty members or the library; these resources can be checked out for a limited period of time; also called Reserves. Contrast with reference collection.

RSS – acronym for Real Simple Syndication, RSS is a way of sharing regularly updated news and information using a feed; to view RSS feeds, you need an RSS reader

RSS Reader – software that organizes and displays RSS feeds for ease of reading. A reader may be stand-alone software, a web site like, or a browser plug-in. Some email programs have a built-in RSS reader.

Science Citation Index - a resource that allows searching by cited references and cited author; available both online and in print. There are also citation indices for the social sciences and the arts and humanities. [Instructional Materials -- Connect]

Search engine - a Web tool that consists of a searchable database of Web sites. Search engines are populated and maintained by computer programs, so they tend to contain more sites than directories. A popular search engines are Google. Compare with a Web directory.

Search strategy – how a search for information is structured. For searches in databases, the search strategy including the terms used to search, how terms or search sets are combined, how the search is limited, etc.  A good search strategy can make the difference between finding the information you need easily and spending a lot of time finding nothing. A reference librarian can help you develop a good search strategy.

Serial - a resource that is published in sections over time, such as a journal or a set of books such as Methods in Enzymology. Compare with a monograph.

Set – a single search in a database; complex searches can be developed by combining search sets using Boolean operators

Site - a location on the Internet, such as a Web site; do not confuse with cite or sight

Social Science Citation Index - see Science Citation Index

special collections - a collection of protected materials, such as rare books. Usually access to and use of materials in special collections are restricted.

Stacks – library-talk for shelves; “book stacks” and “journal stacks” are two commonly used phrases in libraries

Stored records – databases and online catalogs usually have a feature that allows one to designate relevant records to be printed, emailed, or exported. Stored records go by a variety of names, such as Folder or Clipboard. In most databases, when you exit a database, the stored records are deleted.

Structured abstract - a descriptive summary commonly used research articles that identifies the main parts of the research study. Common headings used in structured abstracts include Background, Objectives, Design, Setting, Subjects, Methods, Results, Findings, Interpretation, and Conclusion.

Style manual - a handbook that provides information about manuscript preparation and citation format. Examples include the Council of Science Editors Style Manual, the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, and the American Medical Association Manual of Style. Some of these styles have been summarized on the Web

Subject heading search - a technique in online searching using controlled vocabulary to search for a topic. Subject heading searching offers a number of advantages over word searches. Subject heading searching controls for synonyms, variations in spelling, and homonyms. It also provides access to features such as focusing, expanding, and subheadings.

Textword search - see word search

Truncation - a technique in online searching that allows broader retrieval with a textword search. Commonly, right-handed truncation is available. A search for infect$ might retrieve "infect", "infects", "infecting", "infectious", "infected", and so on. Some systems allow internal truncation: wom?n would retrieve "woman" and "women". Truncation symbols and techniques vary among online systems, so consult Reference Assistance or online help for details on a specific online system.

Uniform Resource Location (URL) - an Internet address; usually begins with http://

University Libraries Online Catalog - the University Libraries' online catalog.

Virtual reference – getting help from a reference librarian using email, chat, instant messaging, etc.

Web directory - a Web tool that organizes other Web sites into categories. This categorization is done by humans, so directories tend to contain fewer sites than search engines, but the sites are more information-rich. They can either be general, such as Yahoo!, or subject-specific, such as HardinMD. Compare with a search engine.

Wiki – a web-based resource in which people collaboratively write, edit, correct, and delete information (though some wikis restrict who can do what); the most popular wiki is Wikipedia, a wiki-based online encyclopedia. (Make sure you check with your instructor to see if it is okay to use Wikipedia for course assignments.)

Word search - also called "textword search" or "keyword search"; a technique in online searching where the system retrieves records that contain the entered terms, like a Google search. These types of searches tend to be messier than subject heading searches because they commonly retrieve irrelevant articles and miss relevant records. Truncation and Boolean operators are commonly used with textword searches. Contrast with subject heading searches.

World Wide Web (Web) - the part of the Internet that uses hypertext and graphics.