Abstract: The abstract of an article is a brief summary of its contents. Abstracts can save you time by helping you identify the best articles on your topic.

Author(s): Scully, Malcolm G
Title: Taking the pulse of the Kalamazoo
Source: Chronicle of Higher Education 47, no. 38 (Jun 1, 2001): p. B16

Abstract: Scully discusses the work by Jay C. Means, Charles F. Ides, and their colleagues at Western Michigan University to reclaim the Kalamazoo River. They are monitoring how contaminants flow through the river's watershed and are using sophisticated genetic techniques to study the effects of the contaminants on the organisms--including humans--that live in and around the river.

Bibliography: A bibliography is a list of the sources an author used when writing a book, article or essay. It is found at the end of written works. Bibliographies point to more sources about the topic.

Boolean: Boolean logic uses words called operators. The three main operators are: AND, OR and NOT. Databases use Boolean logic to locate only those items that match your search.

The blue areas in the following diagrams represent the number of hits you would receive from doing a search using the Boolean operators AND or OR in the same database.

 Using AND narrows the number of items returned:

Using OR retrieves a large number of items:

Citation: citations identify published information so others who read your work can verify facts or research the same information more easily. Citations often include the author, article title, journal title, page numbers and publication information. Citations of Web documents also include a URL and the day the information was accessed.

Database: A database provides a way of organizing information so that you can easily find what you are looking for. A journal index is the most common type of database in an academic library. Each article citation in a database is composed of individual pieces of information called fields.  

Fields: Fields include basic citation information, such as the author, title, etc. Some databases include fields for subject headings, abstracts, and other information, as well. When you do a search in a database, you may search in a specific a field. For example, when you use an author search you are searching only the author field. Keyword searches give you the option of searching all the fields at the same time.

Full text: The complete electronic text of an article is called the full text. Some databases, like JSTOR and ProQuest, provide entire articles online.

Internet: The Internet is a global network, connecting many smaller individual networks. For example, a computer in your room is connected to another computer on campus. All the departments on campus are then connected to a larger network in your state. The statewide network is connected to regional, national and international networks.

Library of Congress Classification System: Many academic libraries use the Library of Congress Classification System which is divided into 21 branches of knowledge represented by letters:

A - General works
B - Philosophy, Psychology, Religion
C - Auxiliary sciences of history
D - World History (general)
E-F - History (Americas)
G - Geography, Anthropology, Recreation
H - Social sciences
J - Political science
K - Law
L - Education

M - Music
N - Fine arts
P - Language and literature
Q - Science
R - Medicine
S - Agriculture
T - Technology
U - Military science
V - Naval science
Z - Bibliography; Library Science, Information Resources

Each branch is divided into more specific topics represented by combinations of letters and numbers. For example, the book Teleworking has the call number
HD 2336.3 B523 1995:

H - Social sciences and business
HD - Economic history and conditions
2321 - 4730 - Industry
2331 - 2336 - Household Industry
2336.3 - Telecommuting

Nesting: Nesting keeps concepts that are alike together and tells a search engine to search the terms in the parentheses first. Use parentheses to group concepts when you use two or more Boolean operators. alcohol AND (adolescents OR teenagers) This search will retrieve records on alcohol and adolescents, as well as items on alcohol and teenagers.

Periodicals: Publications which are issued at least twice a year, including journals, magazines, and newspapers are called periodicals. "Current periodicals" are those which have recently arrived. In the O'Malley Library they are on open shelves on the fourth floor. "Bound periodicals" are back issues that are shelved in the Cardinal Hayes Pavilion.

Popular and scholarly sources: Many of the assignments for your courses may ask you to use specific sources or types of sources such as popular magazine articles or scholarly or professional journal articles. There are some basic ways that you can identify these types of periodicals.

Type of Source

Popular Magazines

Trade Journals  

Scholarly Journals


The Economist, Psychology Today, Time, National Geographic

Advertising Age, The CPA Journal, Billboard, American Libraries

Journal of the History of Ideas, College English, Antiquity, Science


For the general public; use language understood by the average reader

For those in a particular trade or industry

For students, scholars, researchers; uses specialized vocabulary of the discipline


May report research as news items,feature stories, editorials and opinion pieces

Reports on problems or issues in a particular industry

Reports original research, theory; may include an abstract


Highly visual, a lot of advertising, color, photos, short articles with no bibliographies or references

Visual, contains advertising, color, photos,

Little or no advertising, has tables & charts, high concentration of print, lengthy articles, bibliographies & references


Author may not be named, frequently a staff writer, not a subject expert

Staff writers, freelance authors

Authors are specialists, articles are signed, & credentials such as degrees, university affiliation are often given.

Truncation: Truncation is like a wildcard. Added to the stem of a word, it will find that stem plus anything that comes after it. The symbol used to truncate a word depends upon the index, database, or Web search engine you are using.
psychol? will return records on psychology, psychological, psychologist.
? is used as the truncation symbol, for example, in the JASPERcat online catalog.
environ*  will return records on environment, environments, environmental.
* is used as the truncation symbol in ProQuest Research Library and EBSCOhost Academic Search Premier.

Web: The Web is only one part of the Internet. It is a collection of information of miscellaneous documents, articles, opinions, stories, art, sounds and animations stored on Web servers, that you can access with a Web browser.

 Terms and definitions based in part on Searchpath at