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Glossary of Research Terms


A  B  C  D  E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z

A

ABSTRACT: a summary of an article or book. When you search a database, your results will include citations, and they will often also provide an abstract. By reading through the abstract, you can decide whether the information in the article is relevant to your research or if it takes an approach that might be related to your topic but does not help to develop your thesis. By reading the abstract, you can decide whether your research will be furthered with a particular title.

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY: a list of sources on a topic that is accompanied by a brief description of each entry. Unlike a regular bibliography, which merely provides a list of citations, an annotated bibliography describes how each source in the bibliography pertains to the subject being researched. Generally, annotated bibliographies offer fewer than three sentences that describe each entry, explaining how the resource relates to the topic at hand. Professors may require annotated bibliographies when you are working on a research paper because they demonstrate that you have found sufficient resources to write your papers. Although you do not need to have read each resource by the time you write your annotated bibliography, you should have a generally idea of how the source will further your research.

ALMANAC: a collection of facts about a region. Almanacs often record temperatures, moon phases, tidal levels, times of the sunrise and sunset, and other information pertaining to a specific topic or geographical location. Specialized almanacs will contain statistics that are related to that particular topic. Alamanacs are usuallly reference books.

APA STYLE: a set of guidelines used to format in-text citations and bibliographies. APA style is used most often in the social sciences. Information on APA style can be found here.

ARTICLE: a piece of writing that coveys information about a specific topic. Articles can be published in newspapers, magazines, journals, online, or elsewhere. Not all articles are considered “scholarly” (or peer-reviewed, juried, or refereed). While newspaper or magazine articles may be considered as valid sources in certain contexts, some research may require the use of peer-reviewed articles. Ask your professor if you should focus on peer-reviewed articles or if other kinds of source material will be sufficient if you are unsure of what you will need. See PEER-REVIEWED ARTICLE for more information on this specific type of research material.

ATLAS: a collection of maps. While most general atlases show the geography of a physical region of the world, some subject-specific atlases use the term “atlas” metaphorically to provide an overview of places related to that subject. A literary atlas, for instance, might provide maps of authors’ homes or locations in an author’s novels. Most altases are used as reference books.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY: a description of a person’s life that has been written by that person. The author of an autobiography is also the subject of an autobiography.

B

BIBLIOGRAPHY: a list of sources that were used in research. You can use bibliographies that follow articles to find additional research material. Some reference books are called “bibliographies” because they contain lists of articles that have been written on a specific topic. You can search those bibliographies to discover the names of articles that would be relevant to your research. When you write a research paper, you should keep note of the publication information of your sources for your own bibliography. Most bibliographies explain where the researcher found information in the form of a citation; with this list of citations, readers can find the original source if they choose. Thus, an entry for a book in a bibliography should include the author’s name, the title of source, the city of publication, the name of the publisher, and the date of edition. An entry for a journal article should contain the author’s name, the title of the article, the title of the journal, the volume and issue number of the journal, the date of publication, and the page number. For articles that were accessed through a database, you will need the information above along with the date that the article was accessed, and you may also need the electronic address or the name of the database that you used to find the article, depending on the style of your bibliography. For more on how to construct a bibliography, see CITATION GUIDELINES.

BIOGRAPHY: a description of the life of a person, usually a notable figure. Biographies may discuss the entire life of a noted person, or they might focus on the career of an expert or luminary in his or her field. They are often instrumental in finding background information on an author or key figure in history.

BLOG: a diary or log that is published online. Most blogs have not been fact-checked and contain information that probably would not be considered “authoritative” by professors or scholars. However, blogs can be used to help determine the popular responses to current events or modern culture.

BOOK: an edited publication that often provides in-depth analysis of a topic and is much lengthier and wider in scope than an article.

BOOLEAN OPERATOR: a word that can be added to a search to widen or narrow a results list. A Boolean operator allows you to search for two concepts in conjunction with each other. The most common Boolean operator is “AND.” If you use the term “AND” in between keywords, your search will be narrowed; you will find results that contain both words. For instance, if you search for “Pacific Northwest AND trees,” your results list will include sources that focus on trees in the Pacific Northwest. If you use the word “OR,” you will widen your search. For example, a search for “aliens OR UFOs” will show you results for that include either word. The expression “AND NOT” will limit your results by excluding a concept. Thus, a search for “aliens OR UFOs AND NOT Roswell” should give you a list that eliminates resources on Roswell from your search. Boolean operators may not always work as you intended, but they can help you to find relevant results.

C

CATALOG (SEE LIBRARY CATALOG)

CIRCULATING MATERIAL: Material in the library that can be checked out.

CITATION: a reference to a source. In research papers, the author will often include an in-text citation that explains where s/he found a fact, statistic, thesis, argument, or theory. The in-text citation rarely provides complete bibliographic information. It may often consist of a page number, the author’s name, and/or a date. At the end of a paper, complete bibliographic information is found in the bibliography, which consists of a list of entries that include the name of the author, the title of the publication, the date, and, if applicable, the city and publisher, the title, volume, and issue number of the journal, and/or a link to the electronic record. For more information on in-text citations and bibliographies, see CITATION GUIDELINES. Because citations are references to sources, they are often found when searching databases. After conducting a search, you will have a list of results, and each result is a citation of a source. When you click on the link, you will find the complete the bibliographic information. It is necessary for you to make note of that information, even you can access the full text of an article immediately. You will need the information to write your own bibliography, and, if there is not a full text link, you will also need that information to find your article.

CITATION GUIDELINES: Instructions on how to cite your sources and write a bibliography. There are many different forms of citing sources. Most common are the MLA and APA styles. Generally, MLA style is used in the humanities while APA is used in the social sciences. You should ask your instructor which style is preferred for your class. It can be confusing to write a bibliography, so do not hesitate to ask for help; it is far better to ask a question about documenting your sources than to plagiarize.  For guidelines on the MLA style, click here. For the APA style, click here. You can also find information on citation guides by consulting the Writing Center.

COASTLINE: the name of the system of shared library catalogs in Coos County. Southwestern Oregon Community College shares its resources with the public libraries in Coos County, and all of the materials available at the various branches is listed in Coastline, which can be searched online. To access Coastline, click here.

COURSE RESERVE: material that an instructor of a class has put on reserve at the library so all students have access to it. Course reserves usually have a short check-out time, such as 2 hours or one day, because they need to be available to every student in the class. To access a material that your instructor has put on reserve, please come by the desk.

D

DATABASE: a collection of articles from a selected list of sources that usually include journals, magazines, and/or newspapers. Databases contain hundreds of thousands of articles; thus, they need to be well-searched to find relevant information. Often, keywords are entered into a search box, and a list of “related” or “preferred” terms may appear in sidebars or at the top of a result list. Databases will provide a citation of an article, and they may also offer an abstract and/or a link to the full text of the article itself. Because databases allow you to search several journals at once, they can be an invaluable resource in finding current information on a topic. Databases frequently have unique interfaces and search capabilities, and it may take time to learn how to use a database to your best advantage. For basic tips on how to search databases, click here.

DEEP WEB (SEE INVISIBLE WEB)

DICTIONARY: a reference source that provides the definitions of words and concepts. Standard dictionaries contain primarily definitions of words, but specialized dictionaries will include alphabetized entries that explain concepts and terms within the context of a specific field. Dictionaries may provide overviews of topics, and some of them include biographies of people who have greatly contributed to the field of study. They can be used by beginners or experts for clarification and explanation.

DIRECTORY: a list that explains where things are located or can be reached. A common type of directory is a phone directory, which offers contact information for businesses and/or residences. Directories may be specialized so that they include information only about a certain kind of business. Web directories are created to help people find pages on specific topics; they generally are arranged by topic and provide links to web sites. Directories are usually reference resources.

DVD: a format for movies, videos, computer programs, and other visual material

E

E-BOOK: a book that has been digitized and is available online. Because e-books usually exist in print and online versions, they are different from websites. The content in e-books has gone through an editorial process that helps to establish and verify its information.

E-JOURNAL: a journal that is published electronically. Often, e-journals are digitized versions of print journals. Because they are copies of print versions, they are not like websites, and many e-journals feature peer-reviewed articles that would be useful for scholarship.

ENCYCLOPEDIA: a reference material that is often published in several volumes to provide general information about a subject. Specialized encyclopedias provide overviews and clarification about specific topics, and entries may vary from a paragraph to a few pages, depending on the complexity of the topic and the scope of the encyclopedia. Encyclopedias may be organized topically or alphabetically.

END NOTES: End notes are often used in place of footnotes. While footnotes appear at the bottom of the page, end notes will appear at the end of an article. End notes may provide bibliographic information, such as an explanation of where a researcher found facts, ideas, or statistics, or they might elaborate on a point made by the author within the article. End notes usually contain more information than what would be found in an in-text citation. Most articles today use end notes instead of footnotes. Check citation guides for more details on how to format and write end notes for your research papers.

F

FOOTNOTES (SEE END NOTES)

FULL TEXT: Shorthand expression for the “full text of an entire article.” Databases provide access to many full text articles, which means that you can read the entire work by clicking on a appropriate link. Sometimes, the full text appears in HTML while other times it is in a PDF format. The latter will look more like a “Xerox” of the article while HTML will look more like a web page. It is possible to search only for full text articles while using a database. Although you may miss some very good sources by using this method, it often saves times and ensures that the article you decide to read will be readily available.

G

GLOSSARY: a list of definitions and explanations of the usage of words and terms that are related to a specific subject.

GOOGLE: a popular search engine.

H

HTML FULL TEXT (SEE FULL TEXT)

I

INDEX: A guide to locating information on a specific topic. Indexes are often found at the back of a book, so readers can discern where an author discusses a subject within that book. However, indexes are not only found at the back of books. Encyclopedias might devote an entire volume to an index, for instance. There are many websites that provide an index to information on the Internet; they will offer links to a specific subject in order to help the researcher find another website that has information. While many website contain links, a web index or Internet index divides its links by subject and contains primarily or only links to other pages. A reference resource, an index does not offer information on the subject itself but points researchers to locations where such information may be found.

IN-TEXT CITATION: a reference to a source inside the body of a paper. When you quote a source or summarize someone else’s ideas, you should include a citation inside your text that explains where you found that information. Usually, in-text citations are not as detailed as the citations that make up a bibliography. For more information on how to cite sources inside your text or write a bibliography, see the CITATION GUIDELINES.

INVISIBLE WEB: There are many online resources that will NOT be found by using popular search engines. These resources make up the invisible web since search engines do not “see” it. The invisible web contains resources that are often useful for scholarship and research, especially because a lot of the information on the invisible web has been written by experts in their fields. For more links, check out our guide to searching the invisible web.

J

JOURNAL (SEE PERIODICAL)

JURIED ARTICLE (SEE PEER-REVIEWED ARTICLE)

K

KEYWORD: a word which summarizes the major concept of a text. Most people use keywords when searching online or electronic sources. If you use a broad keyword, you are more likely to get several results in your search. You may have to use variations of keywords to find results (i.e., a search for articles on “children” will probably be more effective than a search for “kids.”). You can combine keywords to broaden or narrow your search by using Boolean operators.

L

LIBRARY CATALOG: a list of items available at a certain library. Most library catalogs are online and can be searched by keyword, author’s name, title, or subject heading. The library at Southwestern Oregon Community College’s online catalog is called Coastline. Coastline also contains items that are found at the public libraries in Coos County. To connect to Coastline, click here.

M

MAGAZINE: a publication that usually comes out every week or every month and is available to a large audience. Magazines are aimed toward the general public, rather than to scholars or researchers. Most magazines contain advertisements and are designed to attract readers. The information may include verifiable facts, but magazines such as Time or Newsweek are not necessarily viewed as “scholarly.” They can be used for research purposes, but instructors may not consider them “peer-reviewed” because they are not intended to further research in a specific field but to provide general information.

MLA STYLE: a set of guidelines used to format in-text citations and bibliographies. The MLA style is used most often in the humanities. Information on MLA style can be found here.

MP3: a type of music file.

N

NEWSPAPER: a publication that usually is produced every day and contains articles about international, national, and local events. Newspapers report upon current events, and they are not “scholarly” sources because they do not necessarily analyze events. However, they provide factual information on current events, which may be useful to research. Generally, newspapers attempt to provide objective and balanced reports, although they might include editorials.

O

P

PDF FULL TEXT (SEE FULL TEXT)

PEER-REVIEWED ARTICLE: an article that has been evaluated by scholars or editors for its content. These articles may also be referred to as “scholarly,” “juried,” or “refereed.” Most peer-reviewed articles contain information that has been verified or fact-checked, which gives the article a sense of authority. Peer-reviewed journals are written for scholars and researchers instead of the general public and are often specialized in nature. They contain few (if any) advertisements. The tone of voice is often objective or impersonal, and claims are supported by research. Citations are prevalent, and bibliographies are generally included.

PERIODICAL: a collection of articles on a specific subject. They are regularly or “periodically” published, but each periodical maintains its own publishing schedule (i.e., one periodical may be published every month while another one is published four times a year). Scholarly periodicals are often published by professional associations and are aimed toward researchers who are exploring a specific topic. They usually do not contain advertisements.

PHONE BOOK: a list of contact information for the residents of a specific location. Phone books often have a limited scope and are often divided into three sections: white pages include alphabetical lists of names; yellow pages for categories of businesses; and blue pages for governmental agencies.

PLAGIARISM: the act of using words, expressions, or language from a resource and representing as your own work. Plagiarism can be blatant (i.e., copying sentences, paragraphs, statistics, or tables from one source and pasting them into your paper) or it can be subtle (i.e., paraphrasing or summarizing an article without citing it properly). Whether it is blatant or subtle, plagiarism is dishonest and a form of intellectual theft. It is cheating, even if you merely paraphrase another’s ideas. When conducting research, it’s important to document your sources when summarizing or paraphrasing information or when presenting statistics obtained by a study. For more information on how your sources, visit the Writing Center or check out some resources on bibliographies.

Q

R

REFEREED ARTICLE (SEE PEER-REVIEWED ARTICLE)

REFERENCE MATERIAL: a source that contains general data about a topic. Reference books are not usually read from cover to cover; instead, they are used to “look up” information about a specific concept, idea, topic, or term. They provide overviews of fields as well as specific data, but they do not generally offer deep analysis of a subject. Because reference resources do not present a thesis, they are more useful for locating facts or clarifying a topic than for discovering ideas. They are excellent starting points for research, particularly if they include bibliographies or guides to other resources. Reference books are not circulating, which means that you cannot check them out of the library. Usually, the expression “Ref” is printed before the call number to denote that they are reference materials.

REVIEW: An evaluation of a book or source. Databases often contain reviews, and reviews can help you to determine whether a book would be appropriate for your research. However, reviews are not considered a “source” by most instructors since they explain the merits of a book rather than presenting information about the topic itself.

REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE: an overview of what has been written on a specific topic. Many research papers begin with a “review of the literature,” where the author explains what research has already been conducted in order to explain how his or her paper fits into that body of work.

S

SCHOLARLY ARTICLE (SEE PEER-REVIEWED ARTICLE)

SEARCH ENGINE: A tool that allows you to search a website, catalog, or the internet.

STREAMING VIDEO/AUDIO: a web resource that can be seen or heard by downloading files from a site in a continuous “stream” so you don’t have to wait for the entire file to download before you can start viewing. However, you might find pauses in the “stream” if your connection or computer are working slowly.

SUBJECT HEADING: a set of terms used by the Library of Congress to classify documents. For instance, the subject heading for World War II is “World War, 1939-1945.” Unless you know the exact wording of a subject heading, it is probably best to search by keyword. Once you find an appropriate title, you can click on “find similar items” or “full record” to see the subject headings. By clicking on the subject headings, you will directed to sources that have been categorized in that field, which can be a good way to find more relevant works.

T

THESAURUS: a list of synonyms for particular words. Unlike a dictionary or a glossary, a thesaurus will not define a word or term; rather, it will provide another word that can be used in its stead. When working with a thesaurus, it’s important to remember that words are not interchangeable in every context. Make sure you are familiar with a word and its connotations before using it in a paper. When searching a database or catalog, a thesaurus may be used to point you to a term that is “preferred” by that database. The preferred term may show up as a subject list, or there may a link to a thesaurus for advanced searching.

U

URL: a web address that begins with “http://www.” and ends with a “.com,” “.org,” “.edu,” “.net” or “.tv.” “URL” stands for “uniform resource locator.”

V

VHS: a format for movies, videos, and other visual material

W

WEBSITE: a connected group of pages published on the Internet. Websites have their own address or URL (uniform resource locator) that will begin with the letters “http://www” and will end with tags like “.com” or “.edu” which often indicate the type of organization that has built the site. Personal or commercial sites usually end with “.com” while non-profit organizations end with “.org” and educational institutions use “.edu” to indicate their academic position. Government sites end with “.gov” and the “.net” tag often indicates networks or associations. Researchers can use those tags to help determine whether a site is useful to their work. For instance, a business site may publish information in a way that helps its image while a non-profit site may take a very different approach to that same data. Because there are no publishing standards that control the content of the web, it is crucial that researchers understand who has published data that they wish to use. Websites often contain false or erroneous information, and it’s important to read them with a critical eye. For more on how to evaluate websites, click here.

WIKI: a web site that can be edited by any reader. Wikis offer the opportunity to share knowledge and information, but they are not usually considered “authoritative” or “scholarly.” Because people can invent facts or pass off ideas as facts on a wiki, they contain a lot of suspect information. Although some larger wikis (like Wikipedia) make the effort to verify information or cite sources, these sites are still not considered reliable or trustworthy. If you find information on a wiki, you should verify that data by checking it against the information in another source, such as an encyclopedia, dictionary, or index.

WIKIPEDIA: Wikipedia is an online resource that is written by its users. Thus, anyone who has access to a computer can write or edit an article on wikipedia. Because people can interject their opinions or rumors into seemingly factual articles, the information in wikipedia may be highly suspect. Professors may not consider entries in wikipedia to be accurate. Wikipedia articles also are not considered to be scholarly because the author may not be an expert in their field; their theories or data have not been verified. While wikipedia may be a good starting point, you should find another resource that confirms any information found on wikipedia to guarantee its accuracy, and you can use that other resource in your papers.

X

Y

YAHOO: a popular search engine.

Z



Published Jul 16, 2009 (Updated Jul 23, 2009)


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