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Information Literacy Glossary

A glossary of commonly used words and phrases in information literacy

Glossary of Library Terms

Access Point: Particular way of looking up information in an access tool, for example, author, title, subject

Access Tools: Reference sources that lead to materials in which the information needed can be found, for example, databases, indexes, and catalogs

Citation: Entry composed of elements needed to locate a source of information, and sometimes referred to as a bibliographic citation.

Course Reserves: Materials that instructors set aside for the students in a class to read, including but not limited to books, dvds, and articles.

Database: Organized collection of information in electronic form, often used to refer to a computerized index (systematic guide to the contents of an information source, particularly periodicals), which often includes the full text of cited items. Libraries subscribe to databases in much the same way that they subscribe to journals and often limit access to their users. A database is a type of access tool and might be referred to as a subscription or fee-based database in contract to a free database or a web site.

Data Set: A collection of data taken from a single source or intended for a single project.

Field: Part of a record used for specific information about the source, for example, author, title, and subject. Fields allow users to find sources of information by using specific access points, such as author, title, or subject, in searching access tools.

Information Environment: The aggregate of individuals, organizations, and systems that collect, process, disseminate, or act on information.

Information Life Cycle: The stages through which information passes, typically characterized as creation or collection, processing, dissemination, use, storage, and disposition, to include destruction and deletion.

Information Literacy: A collection of skills that demonstrate an individual can recognize when and what information is needed then to critically and reliably search for, retrieve, analyze, and use that information.

Internet: Network of computer networks throughout the world

Keyword Search: Provides results based upon simple match between search term and word(s) appearing anywhere in the record for an information source.

Monograph: Single-volume books providing in-depth research into a single subject or part of a subject. Monographs are geared toward an academic audience and are intended to contribute to a broader body of knowledge in an academic discipline. These books are also sometimes referred to as scholarly monographs.

Peer-Reviewed: A process of review by others in the field to evaluate the validity and veracity of the information.

Periodical: Publication that appears on a regular basis, of which newspapers, magazines, and journals are types.

Popular Source/Magazine: Periodical intended for general readership.

Primary Source: Information that is created as close to the original event or phenomenon as it is possible to be. For example, a photograph or video of an event is a primary source. Data from an experiment is a primary source.

Record: Entry in an access tool that provides the information needed to identify a source

Scholarly Source/Journal: (refereed/peer-reviewed) Periodical that contains scholarly information or reports of research. When articles submitted for publication are read by other experts in the field, a journal is labeled as refereed or peer-reviewed. 

Search Engine/Subject Directory: Search mechanism for locating information on the World Wide Web with the former providing results based on computer-matched terms and the latter providing results based upon the human assignment of subject terms to web sites. 

Secondary Source: Information about or interpreting/analyzing a primary source, such as articles or books written about a previous, original, study. 

Style Manual: Guide to formatting citations of external sources in both the text and in the bibliography of a paper. Most common citation styles are APA, MLA, and Chicago Manual of Style, though others exist, especially for specific disciplines, such as Chemistry.

Subject Search: Provides results based upon a match between the search term and the subject(s)/descriptor(s) assigned to a particular information source. 

Tertiary Source: Information that summarizes or synthesizes the research in secondary sources. For example, textbooks and reference books are tertiary sources.

World Wide Web: Hypertext linking of information on the Internet

Sources Used

Empire State University. (2023, June 13). Research skills tutorial.

List, C. (1993). An introduction to information research. Kendall Hunt Pub Co.


National Institute of Standards and Technology. (n.d.) Computer security resource center glossary.

Thomas D. Greenley Library. (2023). Information literacy glossary. Farmingdale State College.