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Research resources for theatre courses offered at Jordan College of Fine Arts, Butler University, Indianapolis, IN.

Basic terminology

Research (Library) Terminology:

Abstract - an abbreviated accurate representation of a work, usually without added interpretation or criticism, accompanied by a bibliographic reference to the original work when appearing separately from it. (ALA)

Annotation - a note added by way of comment or explanation; an informational and descriptive note, especially about a book. (Web3)

Bibliography - a list of works, documents, and/or bibliographic items, usually with some relationship between them, e.g., by a given author, on a given subject, or published in a given place, and differing from a catalog in that its contents are not restricted to the holdings of a single collection, library, or group of libraries. (ALA)

Citation - a note referring to a work from which a passage is quoted or to some source as authority for a statement or proposition. (ALA)

Commercial (online or "subscription") databases - collections of information or articles, sharing a common characteristic such as subject discipline or type, which are produced for profit and made available to libraries (as well as to individuals and other institutions) through purchase or subscription. Such collections are usually generated under the auspices of some sort of editorial board and generally contain reliable/authoritative information. Online databases are usually accessed via links from library web pages to online hosts, which normally offer many different databases.

Internet search engine - a huge database of web page files that have been assembled automatically by machine which allows users to search a portion of the Web.  It provides access to a large number of the publicly available pages on the Web.  Examples are Google,Yahoo, Bing -- try Google Scholar!

Journal - a periodical, especially one containing scholarly articles and/or disseminating current information on research and development in a particular subject field. (ALA)

Online library catalog (a.k.a. Online public access catalog or OPAC) - an electronic database containing descriptions of the holdings of a particular library.  The WorldCat Discovery Search Box on the Butler Libraries' homepage affords access to the Butler Libraries' online catalog.   WorldCat is an example of a union online library catalog; it offers access to descriptions of the holdings of many (i.e. thousands) of libraries worldwide.

Periodical - really just another term for words like magazines, journals, newspapers, etc.; a publication with a distinctive title which appears in successive numbers or parts at stated or regular intervals and which is intended to continue indefinitely. Usually each issue contains articles by several contributors. (C&C)

Plagiarism - the act of stealing or passing off as one' own the ideas or words of another; to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source. (Web9)

Primary sourcean original record or contemporary document that contains material written or created at the time an event occurred.  Examples include autobiographies, diaries, letters, newspaper accounts, etc.

Reference resources - materials containing brief, factual information relating to a wide variety of topics (as a general encyclopedia, such as Encyclopaedia Britannica) or specific to a very narrow discipline, such as The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments. Print references in a library do not circulate to afford maximum accessibility to users. Examples of reference materials include: dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, and periodical indices. These materials are found on the main (ground) floor of Irwin Library.  Music and art reference materials are located in the northeast quadrant!  Butler also has reference scores, which include monuments of music and complete works of composers.

Reserves (course reserves) - materials set aside by a professor/instructor for a specific academic course and given a limited check-out period (usually anywhere from 2 hours to 3 days) so that all the members of the class may have acess to them. Print reserves are often shelved behind the Circulation Desk of academic libraries. Electronic reserves may be available from a library's Web site (  Be sure you know (1) your professor's name, (2) the name and/or number of the class, and (3) the title of the item you need.

Secondary source - any material other than primary sources used in the preparation of a work. (ALA)

Style guide or style manual - a book giving rules and examples of usage, punctuation, and typography, used in preparation of copy for publication (e.g., APA, MLA Handbook, Chicago Manual of Style, etc.).

Subject heading (a.k.a. descriptors) - an access point to a bibliographic record, consisting of a word or phrase which designates the subject of the work(s) contained in the bibliographic item. (ALA)

Subject (or descriptor) subdivision - the method of extending a subject heading by indicating the form of the subject matter (form subdivision), the place to which it is limited (geographic subdivision), the period of time treated or the time of publication (period subdivision), or the aspect or phase of the subject treated (topical subdivision). (ALA)

Truncation - to shorten a word by dropping off one or more letters (usually after the root of the word) in an effort to search multiple forms of a word simultaneously. The shortened form of the word is followed by a truncation symbol (e.g., *, ?, $, etc.).  Symbols may vary from database to database.  When in doubt, consult the "HELP" screen!)

Uniform resource locator (URL) - the means of locating an Internet page. It indicates the service that will retrieve the file, the site which holds the file, and the file path name. (IEI)

Key to symbols for sources:

ALA = The ALA Glossary of Library and Information Science. Heartsill Young, ed. Chicago: American Library Association, 1983.

C&C = Wynar, Bohdan S. Introduction to Cataloging and Classification. Littleton, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, Inc., 1976.

IEI = International Encyclopedia of Information and Library Science. John Feather and Paul Sturges, ed. London, N.Y.: Routledge, c1997.

Web3 = Webster's Thrid New International Dictionary. Philip Babcock Gove, ed. in chief. Springfield, MA: Mirriam-Webster, Inc., c1993.

Web9 = Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. Frederick C. Mish, ed. In chief. Springfield, MA: Mirriam-Webster, Inc., c1991.


Email Butler University Libraries
Irwin Library: 317-940-9227
Science Library: 317-940-9937
CAT: 317-940-8575

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