Glossary of Library Terms

The Purpose of This Glossary

This glossary is designed to introduce you to words commonly used in a university library setting.


Abstract — A brief summary of a journal article or book’s content. Abstracts help you decide if the content is useful for your needs.

Academic Source — A scholarly magazine article, journal article, book chapter, conference proceeding or white paper, written in a specialized field or subject area, for a clear purpose, to develop knowledge in that field.

Aggregator Database — A database that indexes collections of scholarly information from other databases and makes them searchable to users. EBSCO and ProQuest are 2 of the biggest aggregators, indexing content from thousands of publishers.

APA Style — APA stands for American Psychological Association. It is a referencing style associated with the social sciences: psychology and behavioral science, education, sociology, anthropology, business, economics, political science and criminal justice.

Annotated bibliography — A bibliography that incudes explanation or notes next to each reference entry.

Anthology — A collection of stories, plays, or poems.

Atlas — A book of maps.

Academic Article — A research document usually published in a magazine or journal. Often peer-reviewed, written with a technical language, and has a clear structure, with headings eg: Abstract, Literature Review, Methodology, Results, Conclusion, Bibliography.

Author — A writer of a book, essay, story, play, poem or other works. Sometimes authorship is attributed to an organization or institution.

Autobiography — An account of one's life written by oneself. See also biography.


Bibliography — A list of all the sources that used or referenced in a person’s work (eg: essay, assignment, research paper, article, etc). Source types may be books, articles, conference papers, websites, social media accounts, images, videos, etc. May include items not specifically cited, but were still important background reading to the creator of the work. The list of references is usually found at the end of their work on a separate page.

Biography — An account of a person's life, written by another.

Boolean Operators — The words AND, OR, NOT are Boolean Operators and they can be used when searching databases and search engines in order to improve the results. AND narrows a search, OR broadens a search, NOT eliminates the terms that follow it.

Borrow — To issue or check out library materials.

Broad Term — Represents the discipline or subject area of your key concept or topic.


Call Number — A unique location code or shelf number that appears on the spine of a book.

Catalog — A catalog contains records, with detailed descriptions and location information, of the materials in a library collection. In this Library, the catalog can be accessed online from the Library website.

Citation — A brief description of a source used in a work. Typically written in-text, next to a direct quote or paraphrased statement, and includes the author and year of publication. All citation entries should follow the same standard referencing style in a document (Either APA or MLA at GUST).

Common Knowledge — Information that can be found in numerous places, is widely known and is not disputed. It does not need to be cited or referenced. EG: The Amazon is the world’s largest tropical rainforest.

Copyright — The legal right granted to an author, editor, composer, playwright, publisher, or distributor to exclusive publication, production, sale, or distribution of a literary, musical, dramatic, or artistic work. This legal right will limit what can be copied or quoted from any published work. Click here for our Library’s copyright policy.


Database — A collection of data organised in such a way that makes them easily searchable.

Direct Quote — A direct quote is when you use someone else’s words (word for word, no paraphrasing). Make sure you indicate to your reader that they are not your own words by using quotation marks and including the in text citation according to a standard referencing style (Either APA or MLA at GUST).

DOI — The method of identifying online material such as journal articles, books and reports. It provides a persistent link to the electronic form of the document and is made up of letters and numbers. It is unique like a digital finger print. Can be sent as a link and used in reference lists and bibliographies.

Document Delivery — GUST Faculty are able to request journal articles and other research support materials if they are not available in this Library’s print or online resources. Send an email to the Library Team to request this service.


Edition — Some books are revised and republished, particularly reference books. The new version may be called a "revised" or "second" edition. Subsequent editions are numbered sequentially. The latest edition is the most current, but older editions may contain useful information deleted from later editions.

EDS — EBSCO Discovery Service. This is an aggregator tool that searches across all EBSCO databases that GUST subscribes to. You can search EDS from the Library homepage.


Full-text — Online databases have varying availability of their content. Sometimes they provide only abstracts or citations for e-books and articles. Full text means that the entire contents are available and searchable.

Field — A subdivision of a record. Every magazine article, journal article, video, and book has a set of fields. For example, Author, Title, Subject, Publisher, etc.

Fine — A fee charged for keeping a book or other library materials longer than the time allowed.

Footnote — A note placed at the bottom of a page to let the reader know the source of information or quotation. A footnote is used to direct a reader elsewhere for additional information.


Index — A back-of-the-book index is an alphabetical detailed list of the names, places, and subjects discussed in a book and the page numbers they are each mentioned on.

ISBN — This is an abbreviation for International Standard Book Number. A unique 10 or 13-digit number that is given to every book or edition of a book before publication to identify the publisher, the title, the edition, and volume number. The ISBN is usually printed on the reverse side of the title page of a book.

Issue — All the copies of a specific title published on/near the same date. A subscription entitles the subscriber to receive one copy of each issue.


Journal Article — An academic research paper published in a journal publication. Often peer-reviewed.

Journal Publication — A collection of academic journal papers published regularly throughout the year; devoted to a specific field or subfield of knowledge. Can be print or electronic.


Keyword — A descriptive word or phrase used to describe the main concepts or terms of your topic which you identify and use to search Library databases and search engines. Items are tagged with keywords that become searchable for users.


Library Database — A library database is an organized collection of academic sources that allow a user to search for a particular topic, article, or item in a variety of ways (e.g. keyword, subject, author, title, year). We have 25 top international databases at GUST.


MLA Style — MLA stands for Modern Language Association. It is a referencing style associated with the humanities: languages, literature, philosophy, religion and the arts.


Narrow Term — Specific subdivision or example of another term.


Paraphrase — To rewrite or retell someone else’s words or ideas in your own words.

Peer-review — This is when a team of experts in the same field investigate the quality of someone’s academic research, to ensure the information is reliable and accurate. They will often check and verify the data, the experiment design, and in the findings, and also verify whether the author has any bias, agenda or affiliations.

Periodicals — Journals or magazines which are published at regular intervals.

Phrase Searching — Instructing the database or search engine to find multiple words together by using quotation marks around the keywords.

Plagiarism — An unacceptable practice of using other people's work or ideas without acknowledgement and passing them off as your own. An academic offence that has serious consequences. Read more about plagiarism here.

Popular Source — Information that is published for the general public, rather than scholars. They can be research oriented, special interest or agenda-driven. EG: TIME, Business Week, Washington Post.

Publication Date — The year in which a book or periodical is published. The publication date is usually found on the back of the title page of a print book (verso) or on the cover of a print periodical, in the item's Library record or in the case of online resources, in the database that holds it. This is usually an essential part of a citation and reference entry.


Reserve Section — The Reserve Section of the Library is where course-associated materials are located, which instructors require or recommend. The collection includes books, articles, CDs, etc. Reserve items circulate for a shorter period of time to allow access to all who need them.

Reference Book — A book such as a dictionary, encyclopedia or directory that contains specific facts, data, or other brief bits of information. Most hard copy reference books may not be borrowed. Many online dictionaries and encyclopedia links can be accessed via LibGuides.

Reference List — The full bibliographic information for each source cited in a text. A source has to be referenced when it has been quoted directly or indirectly (paraphrasing).

Related Term — A descriptor word or phrase that closely relates to another term conceptually. EG: Global Warming = Climate Change. Not always a synonym.

Renew — To extend the loan period of a book.


Scope — What your research paper or assignment is going to cover or focus on; what is being analyzed or explored, what information will be included; defines the parameters and purpose of your study or work. EG: a specific time period, a specific location, a specific population type or number of participants, what specific characteristics are you looking at. Be wary of having a scope that is too broad or too narrow.

Self-check out machine — You can borrow or renew your books using the self-service machine opposite the information desk. Use your GUST ID and CID or ask a Librarian to assist you.

Search String — A search string consists of the keywords you want to enter into a database or search engine. May include Boolean Operators.

Secondary Source — Information that describes, interprets, evaluates, comments on or analyzes the information from a primary source. EG: A literature review that cites the data from an experiment, a movie review on IMDb, an encyclopedia, or a documentary.

Synonym — A word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same thing as another word.


Thesis — A long essay, or dissertation, involving personal research, written by a candidate for a university degree. A thesis statement is a a theory that someone wants to discuss or prove.

Title — The name of a book, essay, story, play, poem, picture, statue, piece of music, film, etc.

Truncation — Asearch technique in which a keyword ending of a root word is replaced by a symbol. Useful to broaden your results especially when database searching eg: child* will retrieve child, children, childhood.


URL — The address of a web page, EG:


Verso — The reverse side of the title page of a book.


Withdrawn — Items that are no longer in the Library collection.