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Research and Writing (RaW): Library Terms

Guiding you through the process of finding information - from knowing that you need certain locating, evaluating, and effectively using said information.


  • Abstract: A brief summary of a book or article.
  • Annotation: A short description or evaluation of a document. In many cases, annotations are required for your bibliography. Annotations are used to evaluate and fully describe each cited work.  
  • Article: A written work either found in a periodical or in a collected work such as an encyclopedia.
  • Bibliographic Record: A description of a book, journal or other library materials. It should include the item's title, author, publication information, subject headings, and a brief description.
  • Bibliography: A list of sources used to research a topic. It may be published as a book, a journal article or pamphlet. A bibliography may include citations of books, journal articles, web sites, etc.
  • Boolean Operators: AND, OR, NOT -- these words are used to better define a search, by either including or excluding words, which produces more focused and relevant results. 


  • Catalog: A comprehensive list of the resources in a collection or library.
  • Check Out: To borrow library materials for a pre-determined period of time.
  • Citation: A standardized description of a particular item, which helps you and others to better find it. Citations reference a specific source, published or unpublished, that is used at any point in your work. Citations are used to give credit when you use the ideas or words of others.
  • Citation style: A standardized system for citing materials used when writing books or papers. Citation styles are often created by professional organizations such the Modern Language Association (MLA) or publishers such as the University of Chicago Press (Chicago Manual of Style). 
  • Circulating: Items that can be checked out at the library. Some materials, such as those in Reference and the Closed Collection, are non-circulating.
  • Cite: The act of indicating the source of information. Authors cite their sources for two important reasons:
    • To give credit to the originator of an idea or research they wish to discuss
    • To allow readers to locate the source of the information and read it in context
  • Collection: A specific group of library materials, which may have its own standards and guidelines. For example, students may borrow books from the General Collection for a period of 28 days, but can only borrow books from the Hawaiian Pacific Collection for a period of 14 days. The collections are grouped together and located at different locations within the Library.
  • Controlled Vocabulary: A set of established terms used in indexes, catalogs, and databases that provides detailed access to records. Library of Congress subject headings are one example of a controlled vocabulary.
  • Copyright: The right to publish and sell a work. It is granted to an author, composer, artist, and so forth by a government. The date of copyright usually appears on the reverse side of the book's title page.
  • Course Reserve: A selection of specific books, articles or other material set aside by instructors for use by students in specific classes. More information here.


  • Database: An organized collection of information, typically accessed electronically. Databases consist of records, which in turn consist of fields.
  • Database Vendor: The company that provides access to a particular database (e.g. EBSCOHost, Gale, ProQuest).
  • Dissertation: Original, independent research written and completed when obtaining a Doctorate.
  • Due Date: The date/time that an item borrowed from the library must be returned.
  • Ebooks: Books available in an electronic format which can be accessed and read via your computer or handheld device.
  • Edition: Indicates how many times the item, typically a book, has been updated. A revised or new edition usually indicates that the text has been changed or new materials added.
  • Fair Use: Conditions under which copying is not an infringement of U.S. copyright law.
  • Full-text: The entire item, generally found in either HTML or PDF format.


  • Guide: We tend to use this word to indicate a Libguide, which is essentially a mini-website. Libguides have boxes and tabs (called 'pages'). We use guides for a range of topics, generally to assist you with research.
  • Hold: When you place a hold on an item, you essentially "reserve" it and specify a pick-up location so you can check it out.
  • Index: A systematically arranged list giving enough information for each item to be found. Periodical indexes list articles in magazines, journals, and newspapers. An index of a book lists names and subjects with page references to where they can be found in the book.
  • Information: Facts provided or learned about something or someone.
  • Information Literacy: A crucial skill in the pursuit of knowledge. It involves recognizing when information is needed and being able to efficiently locate, accurately evaluate, effectively use, and clearly communicate information in various formats.
  • Institutional Repository: An online archive of scholarly materials generated within an academic institution, for the purpose of making this work available in open access. Dspace is our IR.
  • Inter-Library Loan: A system of agreements between libraries by which they will share their parts of their collections. If a patron wishes to have a book or article that is not available in his/her library, a librarian may arrange to borrow this item from another library. Email for more information.
  • Intra-System Loan: The borrowing of a book from another UH campus, or getting a copy of an article in UH Mānoa’s journal collection.
  • Issue: A uniquely numbered or dated edition of a periodical. One issue is part of a larger volume.


  • Journal: A professional or academic periodical usually issued monthly or quarterly which contains scholarly articles, reports, research, and/or papers.
  • Keyword: Significant words that appear anywhere in the bibliographic record for an item. The main concepts in your research question (with their synonyms) are keywords you should use when searching.
  • Keyword Searching: This is how you typically search for things online. You think of key/important words or phrases, then type them in to execute your search. This is a great way to start your search.
  • Librarian: A library professional who has obtained a Master's degree in Library and Information Science and who assists others with access to information. 
  • Library Catalog: An index and inventory of our library's book and journal holdings. The online library catalog tracks whether an item has been borrowed or is available for loan, and offers a "request" option to hold books or request that they be sent to another pickup location. Students and faculty can check their account to see when the items they borrowed need to be returned.
  • Library of Congress Classification System: What we use to arrange books on our shelves. The system is made up of letters and numbers which divides knowledge into subject areas. More information here.
  • Magazine: A periodical for general reading, containing articles on various subjects by different authors.
  • Metadata: Data about data. In the library world, an example of metadata is the bibliographic citation (author, title, abstract, etc), for a specific journal article.


  • Natural Language Search: A means of searching an electronic database using terms generated by the searcher, rather than controlled vocabulary.
  • Non-Circulating: Library materials that cannot leave the library (e.g. reference materials, Inouye collection, etc.).
  • Peer-Review: Evaluation of a work by experts in the same field. The peer-review process is used to ensure quality, accuracy and rigor before publication.
  • Periodical: A publication that is released on a continuous and predictable schedule (e.g. newspapers, magazines, academic journals, etc.).
  • Phrase Searching: Searching for two or more words as an exact phrase by using "quotes" around the words. This means that results must contain an instance of the words in its exact order. Databases will typically search for a string of words using the AND as a connector (global warming causes = global AND warming AND causes), but this will also yield items that contain information about global and warming but not "global warming".
  • Plagiarism: The use of another person's words, ideas, or research without crediting the source.
  • Primary Source: Raw data; report of original research, discoveries, or ideas.


  • Ready Reference: The most frequently used library materials; these are located at the Reference Desk.
  • Reference: The non-circulating materials of a library which provide basic information about a topic. Reference books are a good place to start your research and can only be used while in the library.
  • Reference Desk: Located near the entrance of the Library, this service desk is where you can get assistance in using the library and to learn research strategies.
  • Renew: Extending the due date for an item checked-out to you. Most renewals can be done by checking into your account or by calling the Reference Desk at 956-2703.
  • Research: The systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.
  • Stacks: An informal term used to refer to the areas of the library where materials are shelved.
  • Subject Heading: A standardized word or phrase describing a topic or concept. Also called controlled vocabulary.
  • Subject Search: When you do a Subject search, you are utilizing Subject Headings, which are how the database describes/groups/organizes each item. Databases may identify these differently, as "Subject", "Subject Terms", or "Subject Headings".


  • Truncation: This technique enables you to broaden your search by including variant word endings and spellings. When searching, place the truncation symbol at the end of the root word (e.g. child* = child, childs, children, childrens, childhood).
  • Volume: A consecutive sequence of issues of a periodical.
  • Wildcard: Wildcards allow you to substitute a symbol for one letter of a word (e.g. wom?n = woman, women).