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SKIL Glossary

Here you will find a glossary of terms used throughout the SKIL Tutorial. For a list of other links see SKIL Links.


An abstract is a brief summary of the contents of a book, article or other document. Abstracts can save you time by helping you identify the best sources on your topic. However, abstracts are not always written by the authors, therefore, you should not quote from abstracts in your papers.


Scully, Malcolm G. (Jun 1, 2001). "Taking the pulse of the Kalamazoo." Chronicle of Higher Education 47, no. 38, 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.



A blog (short for Weblog), is a type of journal available publically on the Web. Blogs began as personal journals of an individual, with daily postings. Today, however, blogs are created for various topics, such as campaign blogs, media blogs, tech blogs, etc. Blogs are no longer restricted to a single author and serve as dynamic discussion communities.



George Boole (1815 - 1864) was an English mathematician who helped establish the modern field of mathematics called symbolic logic. Boolean logic uses words called operators. The three main operators are: AND, OR and NOT. Computers actually use a type of Boolean logic in their electronic circuits, but where this logic is most useful to your research needs is that databases can use Boolean's logic to locate items from your search.

The shaded areas in the following diagrams represent the results you would receive from doing a search using the Boolean operators AND or OR in the same database:

using OR retrieves a large number of items:
Three overlapping circles of computer, history and mathematics with the entire circles shaded in orange.

using AND narrows the number
of items returned:
Three overlapping circles of computer, history and mathematics with the area where all three intersect shaded orange.

using NOT refines a search by
allowing you to exclude a term:



A browser is a software application that provides a graphical interface to information on the Web. A browser displays pages written in HTML – Hypertext Markup Language. This neat invention makes it possible for you to click on links to jump to other pages.

The most popular browser is probably Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE), however more modern browsers such as Mozilla, Firefox, and Opera provide more features such as tabbed pages, built-in popup blockers and accessibility tools. Apple's Safari browser is gaining popularity as well. Regardless of which browser you choose, you can access the same information and can configure the software to match your personal preferences.

Each browser interprets some HTML elements in its own way, so the same page might display differently, depending on which browser you use.


Call Number

A call number is like an address: it tells where the resource is located in the library. Each book, bound journal, video, etc. has a unique call number.

The Library of Congress Classification System and the Dewey Decimal Classification System are two main classification systems that use combinations of letters and numbers to formulate the call number.



Citations, in the research world, identify published information in order to locate that item again. Citations of articles include the author, title, magazine or journal name, volume and issue number, and page numbers. Citations of Web documents also include a URL and the date the information was accessed.

The list of the sources you used when researching your paper is called a bibliography. These sources are listed in citation format and follow an established style, such as MLA (Modern Language Association), APA (American Psychological Association) or Chicago Manual of Style. The bibliography allows others who read your work to verify facts or research the same information more easily.


Coordinate Libraries

The Coordinate Libraries are those administered by the Medical, Business, and Law Schools, plus the Hoover Institution and Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC); however, they work very closely with the Stanford University Libraries to provide services and resources for all of the Stanford community. Use your Stanford ID to access services and check out materials from these libraries.


Country Code

Sometimes you will see a two letter country code, representing the country name, at the end of the URL, instead of the three letter organization code. Most URLs in the United States do not use the .us country code. Some country codes are:


- Australia


- Chile


- Brazil


- Germany


- Canada


- Egypt


- Switzerland


- Japan


- Mexico


- Netherlands


- New Zealand


- United Kingdom


The Dewey Decimal System

In 1876 the American librarian Melvil Dewey (1851 - 1931) published "A Classification and Subject Index for Cataloging and Arranging the Books and Pamphlets of a Library." In it he outlined a new system of arranging the contents of a library, a system that today we call the Dewey Decimal System. Dewey's system is based on the division of all knowledge into 10 groups. These 10 main groups are then in turn subdivided again and again to create even more specific subject groups within each of the main subject headings.



An E-journal, or electronic journal, is a journal that can be accessed via the Web. Just like print journals, e-journals are usually published by scholarly organizations. Some e-journals present the electronic content of print journals, whereas others are solely published electronically.



Zine is the name for a small press publication or alternative newsletter. An e-zine is an online magazine or an electronic version of a print magazine. E-zines represent one of the best things about the Web – that anyone can publish. E-zines can be independently created or they can be sponsored by major publishing companies. E-zines can be liberal or conservative, weekly or monthly, professional or recreational.

Here's another thing to keep in mind: magazine is to journal as e-zine is to e-journal. An e-journal runs in academic circles and is more scholarly than an e-zine.



Citations for books and articles provide basic information such as the author of the work, its title, publisher and so on. Each of these types of information is called a field and can be used to search a particular part of the record. For example, when you use an author search you are searching only the author field; a title search searches only the title field. However, a keyword search allows you to search all the fields at the same time.

Each of the fields provides important information. Some of the fields comment on the publishing history of the item, such as when and where it was published, the edition, and whether it is part of a series. Other fields describe the physical characteristics, such as size, number of pages and whether illustrations are included. Yet other fields describe the content through subject headings or content notes.

1 - The Author Field displays the author's name in a "last, first" format.
2 - The Title Field displays the full title of the piece.
3 - The Subject Heading field displays LC subjects attributed to the resource.


Flash or Thumb Drive

Replacing the Floppy disc, a flash, thumb, or keychain drive can store a much larger amount of data, from eight megabytes to four gigabytes. About the size of a thumb (hence the name), the drives are very durable and can withstand being tossed into a pocket or purse.

The drive can plug into virtually any computer with a USB port, which is located on the front of newer PCs. The user can then click and drag files from the drive to the computer and vice-versa.



Short for File Transfer Protocol, FTP is a tried and true method for transfering files over the Internet. FTP Servers can be installed on any computer, and can be accessed over the Internet or a Local Area Network. While there is a wide range of popular FTP Clients, Internet Explorer 5 or later (Windows/MacOS) can also browse FTP's.



The complete electronic text of an article is called the full-text. Some databases provide entire articles online (though not always with images). What if there are photos or graphs with the article that you want to see? To find images originally published with the article, you may need to get the print copy from the library.

Some databases provide full content. Full content is the electronic version of the entire article including graphs, charts, pictures and text. Often the database will distinguish what it is providing by labeling it as text or text with graphics.



What the library holds or owns is called holdings. Frequently, the term is used to show which volumes or issues the library has of a particular periodical or multi-volume set.

When looking at a periodical record in Socrates, be sure to look at the Long record to view the holdings.


Information Literacy/ICT Literacy

More information can be found here.

Intelligent Agents

The term intelligent agents is really an umbrella description for a body of research and development into software and/or hardware that emphasizes artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to perform information filtering and other autonomous tasks for users.

Intelligent agents may come in various shapes and forms such as knowbots, softbots, taskbots, personal agents, shop-bots, information agents, etc. For example, an information agent might analyze its owner's surfing patterns and crawl the web in search of information that might be of interest to him or her. Shop-bots are currently already available and will search the web for the best prices on items such as books, or CDs.

As intelligent agents become more advanced and prevalent in society, there will inevitably arise some interesting ethical and social aspects to their use. If you relinquish some responsibility to an intelligent agent, you will need to be aware of the authority that you are transferring to them. Imagine if your shop-bot had purchased the entire six seasons worth of the X-Files on DVD because it was a good price – but you don't even own a DVD player!



The part of the database that allows the user to interact with the contents. Think of it first as the packaging, which gives it the overall appearance. This includes the graphics but also consists of the features which allow the user access to the information, such as search commands, the fields available for searching, the limits and the helps.



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.

Besides being a network of computers, the Internet is also a set of protocols that allow you to communicate with people, move files between computers, and find and share information.


Internet Service Provider

You might not realize it but you're using an Internet Service Provider right now. ISPs are organizations that provide connections to part of the Internet. If you're connected to SKIL from Stanford University, then Stanford is acting as the ISP.

In the outside world there are literally thousands of service providers – from the big daddies like AOL and SBC Yahoo! to smaller local providers. While they all will allow you access to the Internet, the key word here is service. Some providers will give you a lot of help in answering your questions, fixing things quickly when they break, and generally assisting you in having a pleasing Internet experience... others might not be so helpful. Shop around when looking for a provider.


Library Catalog

The library catalog is a database that identifies what the library owns or has access to, and where the resources are located within the library by indicating the call number. The library catalog lists titles of books, journals, government documents, videos, musical scores, etc. You cannot search for articles in the catalog.

Stanford's online catalog, Socrates, will reflect what is available in any of the many libraries on campus.


Library of Congress Classification System

The Library of Congress (LC) Classification System divides knowledge into 21 branches represented by letters:

 - General works
 - Philosophy, Psychology, Religion
 - Auxiliary sciences of history
 - History (General) and History of Europe
 - History (Americas)
 - Geography, Anthropology, Recreation
 - Social sciences
 - Political science
 - Law
 - Education
 - Music
 - Visual arts
 - Language and literature
 - Science
 - Medicine
 - Agriculture
 - Technology
 - Military science
 - Naval science
 - Bibliography; library science, information resources (general)


Each branch is divided into more specific topics represented by combinations of letters and numbers. Used by many academic libraries, LC keeps materials on the same topic together, making it easier to browse, whether virtually in the catalog or physically within the library.


Library of Congress Subject Headings

Library of Congress Subject Headings are standardized words or phrases used to group materials on the same topic together. The system was orginally established by the Library of Congress in 1898 and utilizes a controlled vocabulary for finding material by subject in any library catalog that uses this system. Most academic libraries use Library of Congress Subject Headings, also known as LCSH.


Metasearch Engine

Think of a metasearch engine as the middleman between you and a large group of search engines. Metasearch engines interpret your search, gather results and report back to you with the recommended Web pages. While they are not always perfect, they can make searching for information on the Web easier.

Unlike search engines, metasearch engines do not have their own database of Web pages. Instead, they transmit your search to a group of search engines simultaneously. Metasearch engines interpret the search you enter into a format that each search engine will understand. They retrieve results from the search engines and create a single list of sites. Some of the more advanced ones are able to eliminate duplicate pages and compile the results. Others rank sites to give you ones that best match your terms or they may organize the results into categories.


Microtext (including Microfilm)

Microtext includes microfilm, microfiche, microprint or microcard. These mediums are too small to be read without magnification and must be read on special machines. The content of the material in a microtext format is the same as, for example, a print journal; only the format is changed.

Newspapers are usually preserved in a microfilm format because the print copy disintegrates over time. Other collections are in a microform format either because they take less space or because it was the only format in which to obtain the information.


Natural Language Processing

Why can't we just ask computers our questions? Well, in order to do this, the computer must recognize what language we are using and then interpret what we say into a question it understands. It must then find the answer and phrase the response in our language. Natural language processing, or NLP, is an area of artificial intelligence research that is attempting to do just that.

The goals of natural language programming are to create a system that can understand and speak human language as well as a human. When we are able to use our language to speak with computers, that breakthrough will revolutionize the way we use computers. In the meantime, grammar checkers in word processing software and phone systems that understand simple words and phrases already make our work with computers easier.



Advanced researchers often look for comprehensive information about a topic – rather than just taking five articles that look pretty good. They can use a technique called nesting which lets them do many searches at once.

For example:

(community or communities) and (Internet or Web or online)

This one keyword search in a periodical index would find articles that had one of the following combinations:

community and Internet
community and Web
community and online
communities and Internet
communities and Web
communities and online

Constructing these searches may take a little longer, but it will save you from creating many searches and remembering what combinations you have already tried.


Newsgroups and Listservs

Newsgroups are places on the Internet where people exchange stories, information and even news. They often have addresses like: rec.pets.stupid-cat-stories (the rec. stands for recreational), or on a more serious note, soc.culture.middle-east (to discuss social issues.) Newsgroups let you browse their email-like postings in a leisurely manner, as well as post your own messages.

Listservs are similar to newsgroups in that there's one on almost any topic, but they work a little differently. A listserv is a software program that distributes email to all the people subscribed to the list. By subscribing to a listserv, you can post messages that will be sent to everybody else subscribed to the list. Or, you can lurk for awhile to get a feel for the type of information that is posted by list participants.



Paging is the act of retrieving material from the shelves for you. At Stanford, material can be paged from SAL 1&2 (or you can get it yourself) but it must be paged from SAL 3 and SAL Newark. Paging is also done for material in Special Collections, Miller Library of Marine Biology and the Hoover Library.



Periodical refers to material published on a regular basis. This includes popular magazines, scholarly journals, and newspapers.

The best way to find a periodical article is to start with a periodical index. If the database you use does not include full text, use Socrates, Stanford's online catalog, to search for the journal. Search by periodical title; Socrates does not search by article title or article author. When Socrates retrieves the periodical title, verify that the volume you need is available. To determine the periodical location, note the call number and the library.


Periodical Index

A periodical index is a guide that points out where articles on certain subjects appear in many different magazines, journals and newspapers.

Periodical indexes used to be available only in printed volumes, but now many indexes are available online from the library.  Some indexes appear only in print for the earlier years, with an electronic format for the latter decades of the 20th century. Besides the standard citation information, some of these newer indexes contain abstracts or the full text of the article online.



A plug-in application is a small piece of software that enhances the capabilities of the larger piece of software into which it is plugged. You can usually download plug-ins for free from the Web and store them locally. Examples of common plug-ins for Web browsers are Real Audio's streaming sound player, Macromedia's Shockwave for Director and Adobe Acrobat.



In the online world, protocols make it possible for different types of computers – Macintosh, PC, UNIX – to communicate with each other. Protocols are standards or rules that enable one computer to understand messages sent from another and then act on those messages.  There are many protocols for communicating on the Internet.  Some common ones are:

Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) – send and receive electronic mail

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) – transfer files between computers

Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) – transmit information on the Web

Telnet Protocol – remotely control Web Servers

Without protocols, computers would have no idea what to do with our email messages or how to display a Web page.



A record, often called bibliographic record in library jargon, is a collection of information elements about each item in a database. For example, Stanford's online catalog, Socrates, has records for resources owned by the libraries, such as books, journals, government documents, DVDs, maps, etc.

The record is comprised of fields, which give individual pieces of information, such as the author, title, publisher, subject heading, contents note, etc.


Search Engine

You've probably used search engines like Google, Yahoo or AltaVista. A search engine is actually a set of programs. One program, called a robot, periodically moves through the Web following links and capturing information about Web pages. Another part of the search engine builds indexes from the words in the documents found by the robot.

Search engines allow users to search, display and organize information found in the index. Some options and interfaces vary between search engines but most of the basic ideas of how to search are the same. However, since each search engine has its own database, the results of a search will vary among search engines.



A Web server delivers up Web pages. Any computer can be turned into a Web server by installing special software and connecting the machine to the Internet.

Most people access the information stored on a Web server by connecting to the Internet through an Internet Service Provider (ISP). By getting a special account on a Web server through your ISP, you can publish your own Web pages for others to view.



The word stacks is merely library jargon for the space with shelves for books, journals and magazines. Stacks can be located anywhere throughout the library, depending on the call number. In Socrates, when a location says stacks, you are in luck because it means the material has not been checked out and should be on the shelf.



SULAIR stands for the Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources.

Stanford University Libraries includes 20 libraries: Green Library (the Humanities and Social Sciences library), plus research libraries in Art, East Asian Studies, Education, Music, and the various Sciences.

Academic Information Resources includes Academic Computing that provides major technology services and operations that support the University's core mission of learning and teaching.


URL: Uniform Resoruce Locator

The URL identifies the computer, directory and file where an item is located and the type of protocol needed to read that item.


Web or WWW

The World Wide Web Consortium defines the Web as "the universe of network-accessible information, an embodiment of human knowledge."

Actually, the Internet is the skeleton, the structure, the backbone, the network of computer networks. The Web is actually only one protocol of the Internet. It is the collection of information including documents, articles, opinions, stories, art images, sounds and animations stored on Web servers.

Information on the Web is just as likely to be located on a computer next door as it is on a computer on the other side of the planet.


Web Page Parts

header: the top part of a Web document.  You can usually find the title of the page and the URL here.

title bar: contains the title that the Web designer named the page. You can use this title when citing a Web document in your papers.

toolbar: place where you find the buttons to navigate the Web.  In your browser you can change the page you will get when clicking on the home button (the one with the house).

URL or location: spot where the Web address for the page you are viewing will appear.  This information is vital if you plan to cite Web documents in your papers.

body: area where the text or content of a Web page will be found.

footer:  located at the bottom of the page, it usually contains information about the page author or the sponsor.  You may also find copyright information and the date the page was last updated.



The term webliography is often misused; however, according to the OED, the Oxford Online Dictionary, a webliography is:

"A list of electronic works or documents, esp. those relating to a particular topic or referred to in a scholarly work. The term is applied both to listings in print and online (esp. web sites with hypertext links to the cited sources)."


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