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Glossary of Library and Internet Terms

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If you do not find the term you're looking for, see Best Picks for additional glossaries.


Abstract - A short summary of the contents of a book, a portion of a book, or a journal or magazine article. Some computerized indexes have abstracts as well as citations. The term is also used to refer to a source which lists citations to items by subject and gives a brief summary of the item. An abstract is useful for determining if an article really suits one's needs before printing or photocopying the article.

Adobe Reader - Stand-alone program or Web browser plug-in from Adobe that lets you view a PDF (Portable Document Format) file in its original format and appearance. Adobe Reader is available free and can be downloaded from Adobe Systems Inc. at http://www.adobe.com.

ASCII - (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) - A world-wide standard for the most basic format for transferring text files between programs. Sometimes referred to as unformatted text. ASCII text does not include formatting and therefore can be exchanged and read by most computer systems.

Asynchronous Communication - Electronic communication involving messages that are sent and received at different times. E-mail is an example of asynchronous communication.


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Bandwidth - Transmission capacity of a network connection; in other words, how much "stuff" you can send through a connection. Usually measured in bits-per-second (bps). A full page of English text is about 16,000 bits. A fast modem can move about 15,000 bits in one second. Full motion full screen video would require roughly 10,000 bits-per-second, depending on compression.

Baud - In common usage, the speed rate of a modem usually measured in how many bits it can send or receive per second. The term is named after J.M.E. Baudot, the inventor of the Baudot telegraph code.

Bibliography - List of citations or references pertaining to a particular subject for books, periodical articles or other materials. Bibliographies, sometimes referred to as "works cited," are often found at the end of a book or an article and list the sources used in the research project.

Bit (Binary Digit) - A single digit number in base-2; in other words, either a 1 or a zero. The smallest unit of computerized data. Bandwidth is usually measured in bits-per-second.

Boolean Operators - Words such as AND, OR, NOT that are used to combine search terms to broaden or narrow a search.

Bound Periodicals - Issues of a periodical that have been gathered and bound with a hard cover to resemble a book. In the Alvin Sherman Library, bound volumes and loose issues of periodicals are shelved together. They are shelved alphabetically by the title of the periodical on the second floor of the library.

Browser - A computer application for navigating the World Wide Web. Browsers display formatted pages and graphics, and allow users to click on hyperlinks to navigate from one Web page to another. They can also present multimedia information including sound and video that may require a browser plug-in. The most popular graphical Web browsers are Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer.


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Call Number - A combination of numbers (Dewey) or numbers and letters (Library of Congress) assigned to a book to identify its subject content and used to place books in their proper places on a shelf.

Case Sensitive - Capital letters (upper case) retrieve only upper case. Most search tools are not case sensitive or only respond to initial capitals, as in proper names. It is always safe to key all lower case (no capitals) in search engines because lower case will always retrieve both upper and lower case.

Catalog - A collection of records providing information on the books, journals, and other materials in the library, as well as location information for those items. Traditional card catalogs where this information was kept on a small card, have been replaced by online catalogs, allowing users to retrieve records based on title, author, subject heading, keyword, call number and/or other access points.

CD-ROM (Compact Disc-Read Only Memory) - A laser disc on which information is stored and read via a computer.

CD-ROM Database - A computer technology which allows information to be stored on a compact disc and accessed through a microcomputer. NOTE: CD-ROM databases at NSU include those which provide access to periodical article citations, full text, and statistical data. The library has some CD-ROM databases such as PEP Archive, FC Search, etc. These can be accessed only from within the Alvin Sherman Library.

Citation - A reference to a source of information. Citations should include sufficient information for a reader to locate a copy of the item. Pertinent information might include the author, title, and source (year, volume number, issue number, page number(s), etc. Databases are electronic indexes of citations to books, articles, etc.

Cyberspace - The Internet; more loosely, the virtual space found in the online world of the Internet. The term was coined by author William Gibson in his novel Neuromancer.


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Database - A collection of information arranged into individual records to be searched by computer. Electronic indexes such as ERIC, ABI/Inform, PsycINFO, etc., are referred to as databases.

Dewey Decimal Classification System - System used to organize books, audio, videos, and other materials in a library's collection. According to the system, each item is assigned a call number based upon the item's subject. Items are then shelved in call number order. The Dewey system is used primarily in public and school libraries. In the Alvin Sherman Library, it is used for the popular, children's and young adult collections. For more see Dewey Decimal Classification System.

Directory Search Engine - see Hierarchical/Directory Search Engine

Distance & Instructional Library Services (DILS) - A department of the Alvin Sherman Library that provides services to NSU distance students. DILS provides instruction and documentation on research methods, database searching, document delivery, etc.

Document Delivery - A service provided to NSU distance students only whereby books, journals, theses, etc. are delivered to students. There are no charges for this service except for the return postage for books. For details and request forms see Document Delivery.

Domain - Hierarchical scheme for indicating logical and sometimes geographical location of a Web page from the network. In the US, common domains are .edu (education), .gov (government), .net (network related), .com (commercial), .org (non-profit and research organizations). Outside the US, domains indicate country: .ca (Canada), .uk (United Kingdom), .au (Australia), .jp (Japan), etc.

Download - Transfer of data from a server to an individual computer's hard disk. You can use your browser or an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program to download files to your computer. When you retrieve your e-mail, you are downloading the messages to your computer.


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Email (electronic mail) - Message, usually text, transmitted over the Internet and sent from one person to one or more others. Mailing lists and/or listservs allow users to send to multiple addressees.

Email Address - An electronic mail address. Email addresses are in the form of: user@domain (for example: library@nsu.nova.edu).

Encyclopedia - A single or multi-volume reference work that provides general background on either a wide range of topics or a more specialized discipline. General encyclopedias include Encyclopedia Britannica and World Book Encyclopedia; specialized encyclopedias include Encyclopedia of Advertising, Encyclopedia of Banking and Finance, Encyclopedia of Bioethics, etc. Many encyclopedias provide bibliographic reverences and make good starting places for research.


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Field - A part of a record used for a particular category of data; e.g., the title field displays the title for each record in a database; other fields include author, subject, call number, circulation status, etc.

Field Searching - Ability to limit a search by requiring a word or phrase to appear in a specific field of a document (e.g. title, url, link).

Flash -

Frames - HTML technology whereby a browser window is broken down into several smaller components or frames, each of which can load different HTML pages.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol) - Internet tool to transfer files via the Internet from one computer or server to another. FTP can be used to download or upload files between a remote computer/server and an individual work station (e.g. email, file download).

Full Image or Full Content - Full image or full content is an exact replica of a printed page. In the case of a journal article, this means that the text and any graphics or supplemental material, such as tables and charts are available.

Full Text - Refers to the electronic representation of a document that includes the complete text of the original document (often a book or article). Depending on the file type, full text may or may not include images and tabular information. HTML files provide the complete text and may include graphs, tables, images from the original. The original formatting and page numeration is often lost in HTML versions. PDF files provide a visual replica, or scanned copy, of the material as it was originally published in print and therefore preserve all formatting, page numeration, and original images/charts/graphs/etc.


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Glossary - An alphabetical list of words, limited to a special area of knowledge, with their definitions.

Government Documents/Publications - Materials published by governmental agencies including local, state, and national governments. May also refer to materials published by international organizations such as the United Nations. Government documents provide all types of information and statistics ranging from broad, general information to focused, contemporary information. They may be published in print, microform and/or online.


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Holdings - A term used to indicate the items owned by a library.

Hierarchical/Directory Search Engine - Internet search tool that organizes indexed Web pages by topics, subtopics, etc. This type of search engine allows one to follow hyperlinks ( or "mouse walk") through subject menus until the desired level of specificity is found. Yahoo is an example of this type of .

Hit - A single record that is retrieved by a search in an online database or Web server.

Home Page - Main page of a Web site. A Web site containing only one page is also called a home page. NSU's home page is http://www.nova.edu. The home page of the Alvin Sherman Library is http://www.nova.edu/library/main.

Hotlink - See Hyperlink.

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) - A computer code that allows you to create pages on the Internet. In practical terms, HTML is a collection of platform-independent styles (indicated by markup tags) that define the various components of World Wide Web documents. The tags of electronic text tell browsers how to format and display text and images on screen.

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) - The communication standards, or protocol, used by browsers and servers to move HTML documents across the Web.

Hyperlink - Link built into a Web page, often as highlighted text or an image, that provides the URL for another Web page or location. When a user clicks on a hyperlink with a mouse, the browser connects or "links" to that Web page or location. Also referred to as a "hotlink".


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ILL: See Interlibrary Loan.

Index - An alphabetical list of topics with references to where those topics may be found in a book, periodical, newspaper, etc. Indexes may be found in individual books, may be a set of volumes themselves or they may be on CD-ROM or online, i.e. New York Times Index, Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature, etc. All indexes will provide article citations and some also provide abstracts and/or full text.

Interlibrary Loan (ILL) - A lending and borrowing service which provides access to materials owned by other libraries. Library patrons can request books, articles, or other materials, through ILL at their local public library or through the NSU Libraries. ILL services are provided by the Alvin Sherman Library to NSU local students as well as registered Broward County patrons. For details and request forms see Interlibrary Loan. NSU distance students should see Document Delivery.

Internet - An international network made up of many computer networks. Information travels over the Internet via a variety of protocols.

Internet Service Provider (ISP) - A person or company providing access to the Internet.

IP Address - A unique 32-bit Internet address consisting of four numbers, separated by dots and sometimes called a "dotted quad." Every server connected to the Internet has an IP number. Examples of IP numbers are: "" and "".

IP Validation - Method of ensuring that users attempting to access an online resource, such as a database, are coming from a computer or IP address that has permission to use the resource. Most of the databases that the NSU Libraries subscribe to require that users access from an NSU IP, either by using a computer on campus or by accessing via the library's authentication system.


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Journals - Specialized, scholarly publications written by professors, scholars, and experts for researchers and professionals; examples include American Economic Review, Journal of the American Medical Association, Journal of Psychology, etc. Journal articles are based upon research and usually have extensive footnotes and a bibliography. Journals are often refereed or peer reviewed. Use databases to identify and locate journal articles.


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Keywords - The main concepts or ideas covered in a book, article, or other document. Keywords can be used as terms when searching a database for a particular topic.

Keyword Searching - Refers to the instructions given to the computer to search for words in multiple fields of a record, i.e. author, subject or title fields.


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Library of Congress (LC) Classification System - System using a combination of letters and numbers to indicate the subject content of library materials and to organize materials in a library's collections. Items are shelved by the call numbers of the LC classification system. Originally devised for the U.S. Library of Congress, it is widely used by research and academic libraries to organize their collections. In the Alvin Sherman Library, the LC System is used for most of the collections, including most circulating books, reference collection, etc. For more see LC Classification System.

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) - A list of standard subject headings created by the Library of Congress and used throughout the United States by most academic libraries. Subject headings from this list are assigned to books and other materials. The corresponding call numbers are used to locate materials in the library.

Listserv -An electronic mailing list devoted to a specific issue or topic. Participants subscribe via a central service which forwards messages to all subscribers. Listservs may have a moderator who manages information flow.


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Magazines - Commercial publications intended for a general, popular audience. They usually have short, simply written articles for laymen and non-professionals. Examples include Reader's Digest, Time, Sports Illustrated, Economist, Scientific American, etc. Magazine articles usually do not contain footnotes or bibliographies. NOTE: Magazines may not be appropriate choices for scholarly research, particularly at the graduate level. Use databases to identify and locate magazine articles.

Media - Include films, video cassettes, CDS, etc. that require the use of special listening or viewing equipment.

Metasearch engine - A type of Internet search tool that searches two or more search engines with a single search. Although this method allows one to search multiple search engines at once, some of the more advanced search features of the individual search engines may be unavailable. Examples of metasearch engines include: Vivisimo (http://www.vivisimo.com) and Surfwax (http://www.surfwax.com).

Menu - A list of choices. Menus are often used in library catalogs or databases.

Microfiche - Miniaturized information stored on plastic film in the shape of a card. Users view and print microfiche on a machine called a reader-printer or microforms machine.

Microfilm - Miniaturized information stored on film on a reel. Users view and print microfilm on a machine called a reader-printer or microforms machine.

Microform - Either film on a reel (microfilm) or in the shape of a card (microfiche), on which information may be stored. Users view and print microforms on a machine called a reader-printer or microforms machine. In the Alvin Sherman Library, microforms are located in the Microforms Room on the 2nd floor, adjacent to the Reference area.

Monographs - Books; typically give a broad, thorough treatment of a subject, usually from a retrospective point of view.

MP3 - File extension for MPEG, audio layer 3. Layer 3 is one of three coding schemes (layer 1, 2, 3) for the compression of audio signals. Because MP3 files are small, they can be easily transferred across the Internet. Controversy arises when copyrighted songs or music are sold or distributed illegally via the Internet.


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Network - The connection between two or more computers which allows them to share the same software and information.

Newsletter - A brief publication containing news and current events, usually geared toward a particular organization or group with common interests.


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OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog) - A digitized catalog of books, journals, and other materials held in the library. Records are organized by call number and subject headings.


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Peer-Reviewed Journals - See Refereed Journals.

Periodical - Generic term which includes popular magazines, scholarly journals, newspapers, and subject or professional publications. They usually provide in-depth and focused information that provides a current perspective on the topic. Periodicals are published at regular intervals: weekly, monthly, quarterly, but usually more than once a year. They are also referred to as serials.

PDF (Portable Document Format) - Digitized replica or scanned copy of a document as it was originally published. This file type preserves all formatting, page numeration, and original images/charts/graphs/etc. PDF files end with a .pdf extension and can be viewed using Adobe Reader. Adobe Reader is available free and can be downloaded from Adobe Systems Inc. at http://www.adobe.com.

Phrase - More than keyword, searched exactly as typed (all terms required to be in documents, in the order typed). NOTE: Some search engines such as AltaVista and InfoSeek enclose keywords in quotes ("") to form a phrase. FirstSearch uses a w (i.e., human w resources, international w regulations).

Plug-in - A program that adds or enhances a specific feature to a larger program. For example, there are many downloadable plug-ins for Internet browsers including: Adobe Reader, Macromedia Flash Player, Macromedia Shockwave Player, RealPlayer.

A hardware or software module that adds a specific feature or service to a larger system. For example, there are number of plug-ins for the Netscape Navigator browser that enable it to display different types of audio or video messages. Navigator plug-ins are based on MIME file types.

PPP (Point-to-Point Protocol) - Data communication protocol that handles the sending of data packets over dial-up and leased-line connections. NSU students, faculty and staff in Broward County can use PPP access to dial directly to NSU and access the Internet via NSU. See NSU Dial-up Configuration.

Primary Sources - First-hand accounts, original works, or original research, published in either paper or electronic formats. It may be a work of literature or art, contain scientific data, or detail an account of an event.

Popular Journals - Journals that are written for a general audience using common terminology. Articles are easily understandable to the general population.

Protocol - A set of rules and conventions that describes the behavior computers must follow in order to understand each other.


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Query - Request for specific information from a database.

QuickTime - A video and animation system developed by Apple Computer. QuickTime is built into the Macintosh operating system and is used by most Mac applications that include video or animation. PCs can also run files in QuickTime format, but they require a special QuickTime driver. QuickTime supports most encoding formats, including Cinepak, JPEG, and MPEG. QuickTime is competing with a number of other standards, including AVI and ActiveMovie. (Webopedia)


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Record - Collection of related data, arranged in fields and treated as a unit. The information for each book in a library catalog or for each article in a database is a record.

Reference Collection- Refers to the library materials used by reference librarians to help people find information or do research. Examples of reference materials include encyclopedias, In the Alvin Sherman Library, reference books are located on the second floor. They cannot be checked out of the library.

Reference Librarian - Specialists in the field of information retrieval. At the Alvin Sherman Library, all reference librarians have Masters Degrees in Library or Information Science, and many have additional graduate degrees as well. Reference Librarians are available to assist in person, by phone, email and online chat. See Ask A Librarian.

Refereed / Peer-reviewed Journal - Journal where the quality of the articles is maintained through a review process conducted by experts prior to publication. Articles submitted to a refereed or peer-reviewed journal are examined by one or more people with expertise in the field with which the article deals. The purpose of this is to give some assurance that the information in the article is valid and credible.

Reserve Materials - Specific books, periodical articles, and other materials which faculty members require students to read for a particular course. These materials are set aside for short term use in the library for specific courses. At the Alvin Sherman Library, reserve materials are available at the Circulation Desk.

Results Ranking - The order in which search results appear. Each search tool uses its own unique algorithm. Most use "fuzzy and" combined with factors such as how often your terms occur in documents and whether they occur in title or how near the top of the text. Ranking of the same sort of items is automatic in almost all systems.


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Scholarly Journals - Journals that are written for a specialized audience often using technical jargon. Articles normally include an abstract, a description of methodology, footnotes, and bibliography.

Search Engine - A Web site that indexes (1) either Web pages and allows the searcher to search the indexed Web pages by keyword or (2) finds Web pages by topic. There are many search engines available, and each is different in their scope, methods of searching, and appearance. Common search engines include Google, Yahoo, and Alltheweb.

Secondary Sources - Sources that are often based on primary sources, and include reviews, criticism, editorials, and analysis. Most journal articles are secondary sources which provide analysis, interpretation, or evaluation.

Serial - General term for anything that is published on a regular basis. It can be a publication issued in successive parts, at more or less regular intervals, and to be continued indefinitely. This may be weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually. Magazines, journals, conference proceedings, trade publications, yearbooks, newsletters, and indexes are all serials.

Simple Search Engines - They allow you to type in a single word or phrase and shows you the Web pages that contain that word or phrase.

Stacks - The bookshelves containing the materials of the library.

Subject or Professional Magazines - Fall in between the categories of magazines and journals, with articles written by experts but intended less to advance the field than to report on developments of interest.

Subject Headings - Predetermined topic-based categories or index terms assigned to books, journal articles, or other documents. Subject headings are often used as search terms in the library catalog and databases. In some databases they may also be referred to as descriptors or subject terms. The Alvin Sherman Library uses the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) for indexing library materials.


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Thesaurus - Contains synonyms for commonly used words. The entry words are organized in alphabetic order. A list of synonyms follows each entry as well as possible broader or narrower terms.

Trade Journals - Serials that fall in between the categories of magazines and journals, but their focus includes more industry, product and business information. Articles are written by staff or experts in the field for members of a specific business or organization; examples include Internet World, Flying, Buttons, Popular Mechanics, PC Magazine, etc.

Truncation - In a search, the ability to enter the first part of a keyword, insert a symbol (usually *) , and accept any variant spellings or word endings, from the occurrence of the symbol forward. (e.g., femini* retrieves feminine, feminism, etc.)


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URL (Uniform Resource Locator) - A string of characters that uniquely identifies each page of information on the World Wide Web; a Web address. NOTE: The URL for NSU is http://www.nova.edu.

Username - The computer account name that, combined with your password, allows you to access your computer or email account; also called userID.


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Volume: A grouping of serial issues in chronological order over a specified span of time. Serials are generally one volume per year, but there can be more than one volume number per year, especially with serials published frequently (such as weekly).


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Wildcard Character - A special symbol used in database searching that stands for one or more characters, often an asterisk (*). Example: wom*n will search for woman and women. They are useful when you are unsure of spelling, when there are alternate spellings, or when you only know part of a term. FirstSearch databases have two wildcards. A pound sign (#) represents a single character. Example, wom#n for woman and women. A question mark ? represents from zero to nine additional characters. Example: behavi?r for behavior and behaviour.

World Wide Web (WWW) - A client/server information system that uses the Internet to access computers containing hypertext documents.

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Searchable online dictionary of words, phrases and abbreviations related to computer and Internet technology. Provided by Jupitermedia Corporation.

ODLIS: Online Dictionary of Library and Information Science
Very comprehensive; includes technical jargon for library and information science professionals. Provided by Joan M. Reitz, Western Connecticut State University.


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[an error occurred while processing this directive] Last updated: August 28, 2009