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The Research Process

This guide details the research process in six steps with an additional page that defines common library jargon. Click on the boxes below to get started.

Common library terms

Research Terms

  • Abstract: a brief summary at the beginning of an article or text

  • Accession Number: a unique identifier for each record in a database

  • Annotation / Annotated Bibliography: a bibliography that lists your sources as well as a brief statement about why the source is necessary

  • AOK OneSearch: the general name for the set of basic searches on the library homepage

  • Boolean Operators: "and," "or," "not" - terms used to combine search words in most databases and catalogs

  • Citation: standard publication information that can follow different styles (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago)

  • Database [in libraries]: a large collection of citations and sources that are organized for rapid search and retrieval; some are general whereas others have only specific disciplines (e.g., Academic Search Complete vs. PsycInfo)

  • Finding Aid: descriptive guide for archival collections that includes information about the creator of the materials, formats included, dates covered, and how the materials are arranged

  • Methods: standard procedures and processes for conducting verifiable research. Methods are discipline dependent: methods in chemistry research are different from methods in physics or psychology research. 

  • Results: Information created or gathered from a research program or systematic inquiry. Successful scientists will publish the results of an experiment, social scientists will publish the results of a poll.  

  • Subject Headings: standardized terms that describe library materials and aid in searching (also called index terms or descriptors)

  • Subject Librarian: a specialist that provides research assistance for their discipline(s); available for individual sessions or online chat


Material, Collection, and Department Terms

  • Call number: a unique set of letters and/or numbers that organize library materials on the shelf; we use a system called Library of Congress (or LC)

  • Campus ID: 1) a physical card that allows you to check out library materials and pay for printing (a.k.a. red card); 2) the unique set of letters and numbers that is tied to your UMBC account (e.g., AA11122)

  • catalogUSMAI: the combined library catalog for the libraries of the University of Maryland campuses and affiliated campuses; you can search and request books from other campuses in this system

  • Check Out Desk: the 1st floor desk where you can check out books, DVDs/etc., laptops, and headphones; open at all hours that the library is open

  • Course Reserves: materials such as books, articles, or DVDs that are used by specific courses (but available for anyone to check out); physical materials have shortened loan periods and online materials require a username and password to access

  • Digital Media Lab: a creation space on the 2nd floor that features a sound isolation booth, recording room with green screen, and A/V equipment loans/software

  • General Stacks: the collection of books located on floors 3-7 (includes folio/oversize books)

  • Hold: a request placed on an item that is currently checked out or from another USMAI campus; you receive an email once the item has arrived at UMBC

  • Interlibrary Loan / ILLiad: the system for borrowing materials, primarily print or microform, from libraries outside the USMAI

  • ISBN: a unique identifier for books that make it easy to find in a catalog or online; acronym for International Standard Book Number

  • ISSN: a unique identifier for a serial publication; acronym for International Standard Serial Number

  • Media Collection: the selection of DVDs and CDs on the 2nd floor that loan for seven days; VHS and LP materials are a closed collection and can be accessed by emailing the Media department

  • Recall: a request for a patron to return a checked-out item to the library within two weeks

  • Reference Collection: the encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, atlases, etc., located on the 1st floor or online

  • Renewal: an action that extends the due date for material already checked out, usually for the same period of time originally granted (some materials have limits)

  • Serials: materials published on a regular basis (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) with no set end date; common types include magazines, newspapers, journals, proceedings and are sometimes called periodicals

  • Special Collections: a department that houses original, rare, unique, fragile, and archival materials such as photographs and manuscipts

  • University Archives: materials documenting the history of the UMBC campus, faculty, staff, students, and campus life; located in Special Collections