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Common Research Terms

A list of common terms associated with research.


Research-Related Terms

a brief summary of an article

access points
methods by which information may be searched (e.g., a library catalog allows for author, title, and subject access points)

Acrobat® Reader
software which permits printing of material maintaining the original formatting

article retrieval
options for obtaining an article found in an index (e.g., hard copy in the library, full text on an online index, microfiche, or inter-library loan)

Boolean logic
Based on the work of mathematician Charles Boole who developed a series of rules and operations that can be used to determine the selection of information from databases. These rules use the operators AND, OR, and NOT.

Boolean search
a search in which Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) are used

a strategy by which one generates ideas about possible research topics

relevant information for an article source: article title, author, periodical, date, volume, page numbers

references that lead from an incorrect or incomplete subject heading to a correct one or lead to related topics for additional information


a collection of records organized by some logical process

document delivery
articles or other text retrieved as hard copy from periodicals or books, faxes, database full-text, Web-based documents

hard copy
a book or periodical not in electronic format


a successful match during a search in a database

a type of document that contains links to other documents


a graphic representation of an object, a concept, or a message

a list of items with information pointing to the location of that item (e.g., an index in a book gives the page number of a needed subject)

keyword search
searches for all articles that contain your search words

search terms generally found in any searchable field (e.g., subject headings, descriptive statements, or abstracts)

limit search
an option that lets you add more words to your search, or limit the citations found in some way (e.g., limit to those with full text)

logical operators
the use of AND, OR, and NOT to join keywords in combinations which tell the database search program how the key words must interact to provide the desired results

in a keyword search, the records the user locates by looking up a specific term or terms

the use of a computer to combine and present text, graphics, audio, and video with links and tools that let the user navigate, interact, create, and communicate


ways in which the user moves about an electronic database or Web site as information is retrieved

networked computer
a configuration of computers linked by cables and interface cards that access the same programs or data at the same time


a computerized source of information (e.g., on a network, CD-ROM, or the Internet)


the act of putting another person's ideas into your own words. Paraphrasing simplifies a selection; it does not necessarily shorten it.


the act of using another person's ideas or expressions in one's writing without acknowledging the source

primary sources

the use of actual historic sources (e.g., government documents, speeches, news footage, eyewitness accounts, and so on)

a request for information from a database


copying exactly as it was written or said, and then giving credit to the author

an evaluation tool which uses a set of criteria and a rating/scoring guide predetermined by the evaluator(s). Rubrics can be used for evaluating presentations, projects, portfolios, and so on.

secondary sources

material written or reported at some point after an event occurred

subject search
search for major headings that contain your search words

the act of cutting down a selection to about one-third of its original length. Its purpose is to shorten a passage without sacrificing its basic meaning.

the process of dropping off letters from a word in a search in order to locate all possible combinations of the term and using a specific character to show truncation (e.g., whal* would locate items about whale, whales, and whaling)

user interface

the ease of use of an electronic resource (e.g., clear menu options, print instructions, ways to modify a search, and so on)

Venn diagram

a visual, graphic representation of the concepts of combining, joining, or rejecting items based on their characteristics or lack of characteristics. Venn diagrams are used to represent the AND, OR, and NOT concepts of Boolean logic.

wild cards
There are two wild card symbols, the * and ?. They work by replacing the characters in words, allowing for more hits in a search.

Credits: Mary McClintock, Librarian, Roseburg High School, Roseburg, Oregon. 14 June 1998.

Resources: Find

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Research Videos listed by Research Step

Online Research Planner (worksheet)

Research Process Reflection (guide)

Research Process Rubric (guide)


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