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First Gen Students

A guide to the library and other resources for first generation students.

Common Library & University Terms

There's a lot of jargon in colleges and universities; this page has a list of commonly used words and phrases that you might encounter! This are tailored to Salisbury University. Of course, please don't hesitate to ask us. 

Looking for something specific? Use the keyboard shortcut ctrl+f (cmd+f for Macs) to type in the word you're looking for.

Is what you're looking for not here? Try the Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science, or SU's Academic Advising Glossary.


Abstract: A (brief!) summary of an article or book

Academic advising: A process which helps students to identify their career and life goals; it also assists in the development of an educational plan to help students meet these goals (Salisbury's Academic Advising Center)

Archives: Records and resources often kept for historical value; they also document evidence of past events.

Article: A written resource on a certain topic of subject; can have one or more authors; typically published in a Journal, Magazine, or Newspaper


Boolean operators: An expression used to define searches in databases or search engines; uses the words "AND", "OR", "NOT"


Call number: A combination of numbers and letters that provide a unique description and "address" of an item in a library's collection; items are arranged on the shelf by call number
Example: QA76.9.I52 L87 2016b

Catalog: A database listing and describing books, journal articles, magazines, newspapers, and any other materials held by SU Libraries; you can search by Author, Title, Keyword, or Subject

Check out: Taking materials out of the library for a certain loan period using your GullCard (which doubles as a library card); you can use the Meescan self-checkout stations or go to the first floor service desk

Circulation: The service point where library materials are checked in and out of the library; at SU Libraries, it's part of the first floor service desk

Citation: In the literary sense, any written or spoken reference to an authority or precedent or to the verbatim words of another speaker or writer; in library usage, a written reference to a specific work or portion of a work (book, article, dissertation, report, musical composition, etc.) produced by a particular author, editor, composer, etc., clearly identifying the document in which the work is to be found
Citation format can vary from field to field, but at minimum includes author, title, and publication date

Citation manager: Software designed to help researchers collect citations or references quickly and easily, cite them properly, organize them, and potentially share with others
Examples: ProQuest RefWorks, Zotero

Class standing: Classification based on the number of credits students have earned at the beginning of a semester
Freshman: 0-29 credits
Sophomore: 30-59 credits
Junior: 60-89 credits
Senior: 90 or more credits

Course reserves: Library materials that typically have a shorter loan period (one hour, three hours, overnight, three days, etc) for a certain period of time at the request of an instructor to ensure all students in a course have an opportunity to use them
Check out course reserve materials at the first floor service desk in SU Libraries!

Credit hours: Units earned for the successful completion of each course


Database: Collection of information resources such as journal articles, books, magazines, and newspapers that can be searched to retrieve information

Declaring a major: Choosing a field of study/academic discipline here at SU; students are required to declare after completing 45 credit hours

Digital Object Identifier (DOI): A shorter, permanent link to a certain resource; they are usually journal articles

Drop/Add period: The period of time through which students can make adjustments to their schedules; it is the first week of classes for courses that meet for 2+ days a week; it extends to the second week for classes that meet once a week
Courses dropped during this period are not on your permanent academic record


ebook or electronic book: Digital version of a traditional print book that can be read on devices like computers, laptops, tablets, or smartphones

Elective: A course that isn't required but you might choose to take; you still earn credit hours upon successful completion


Full text: An entire electronic text of a single work; sometimes you may come across articles that are only an abstract, which is why we specify full text


Google Scholar: An arm of Google that searches (mainly) scholarly works; it can be really useful for research that isn't just one discipline 
Google ranks search results by relevance using an algorithm that examines the full text, authors, the publication where the article appeared, and how many times the work has been cited 

Government documents: Publications of the U.S. federal government (SU also has some state and local sources); can include transcripts of hearings, the text of bills, resolutions, reports, statutes, charters, treaties, statistics, etc
Gov Docs use SuDocs numbers instead of call numbers

GullNet: Online self-service system where students register for classes, drop/add or withdraw from classes, sign up for advising appointments, and check on their academic progress


Interlibrary loan (ILL): A process to borrow a book from another library across the world, when SU Libraries either doesn't have it or it is currently unavailable; an ILL request can be filled out online

International Standard Book Number (ISBN): A unique 10-digit standard number assigned to a specific edition of a book


Journal: A periodical devoted to disseminating original research and commentary within a certain discipline or field of study; they publish journal articles and are usually published on a regular basis

Journal article: An article published in a journal that is usually written by the person who conducted research; they are longer than magazine or newspaper articles, and almost always include citations at the end


Keyword: A significant word or phrase that can be found in a resource title, subject headings, contents, abstract, or full text of a record in a catalog or database


Library guides / LibGuides: Tailored websites created and organized by a librarian or library professional on a broad range of topics and courses (you're using one right now!)

Limiter/limiters: A way to limit your search results in databases - they can be something like a drop-down menu or checkbox, usually on the left side; it's very similar to using limiters while online shopping (limiting to a certain color or brand, for instance)


Magazine: Popular interest periodical containing nonscholarly articles written on a variety of topics
Examples: Vogue, Sports Illustrated, or Vanity Fair

Major: Academic discipline in which you earn a degree; includes a set of required courses

MakerLab: SU Libraries' maker space, where you can collaborate on and explore different technologies such as 3D printing

Minor: Academic discipline that can add to your degree; they are typically much less than a major and require at least 18 credits

MyClasses: Salisbury University's course management system, where you can access information about and for your classes


Office hours: Times that your professor is available to meet with you for any questions or concerns you have

Open access: Content made freely and universally available via the Internet; it increases access to scholarly materials and allows the authors to maintain their copyright 


Peer review: A process in which a new book, article, or other resource is submitted to a publisher and subsequently reviewed by other experts in the field; it is usually an anonymous process and can take at least a few months

Peer-reviewed article (also referred to as scholarly): An article that has gone through the peer reviewing publishing process and has been deemed scholarly by the author's peers

Periodical: Typically a magazine or newspaper that is published on a regular basis (monthly, quarterly, annually)

Permalink: A web address that will consistently point to a specific information source such as an ebook, an article, a record in the catalog, a video, or a database

Prerequisites: Standard requirement that must be completed before registering for another course

Primary sources: Document or record that contains firsthand information or original data on a topic
Examples: articles reporting original research or thought, memoirs, letters, journals, photographs, drawings, posters, film footage, interviews, government documents, public records, eyewitness accounts, newspaper clippings, etc. 


Research Help Desk: Located on the first floor, at the service desk; where you can get help for any sort of research question
Question examples: How do I find a scholarly article? How do I find a book on a certain topic? 

Research paper: A common assignment for college-level classes where you must write about a topic; often, you must find multiple sources to cite within the paper and back up your points; it can vary from class to class


Secondary sources: Journal articles, books, commentary, etc. that explain or analyze primary sources. 
Example: A biography on the portrayal of someone's life

Self check-out (Meescan): SU Libraries' self-help kiosks to check out books; you need your GullCard and the Meescan app
Video Tutorial on using Meescan

Stacks: Rows of book shelves where SU materials are stored; most of them are on the third floor

Style manual: A guide with a set of rules (punctuation, quotations, capitalization, etc.) for composition, which includes format and manner of citing sources
Examples: APA Style Manual, MLA handbook, The Chicago Manual of Style

Subject heading: Controlled vocabulary that is used to take guesswork out of searching by using a single term to describe a subject
Example: By searching the term "heart attack", it can map to the more medical term "myocardial infarction" 


Transcript: Official record of a student's academic performance; maintained by the Office of the Registrar


URL: Uniform Resource Locator for the unique location/address of a resource on the World Wide Web

credit to Bristol Community College for the library lingo idea and definitions