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Library Tutorials for In-Seat Students: Library terms

How to use the library website, library resources, and conduct research.

APA is short for American Psychological Association, a style used to format papers. By properly citing your sources using APA format, you are informing your readers where you found your information and giving credit to the authors of that information.

All programs offered at ECPI University use APA style. The APA Style Guide provides information on formatting your paper.

An article is a nonfiction work published in a periodical. An article can be a few paragraphs, or dozens of pages (but still shorter than a book).

The call number is like the "address" of a book on the library shelf. Books are not listed by the title or author- they're arranged by the main subject of the book. ECPI Libraries use the Dewey Decimal System to organize books. Books that don't use the Dewey Decimal System are fiction books- these are listed by the author's last name. A typical Dewey Decimal call number for a nonfiction book will look like this:

Call number

The catalog is a list of what items a library has. ECPI Libraries' catalog searches books and ebooks, and is at the top of the main library page.
** The library catalog does not include journal, magazine, or newspaper articles. This video can help explain things. **

If you see the word Circulation or Circulation Desk at a library, that's where you can check out books. Another way to define Circulation refers to the lending period for library resources- this is how long you can check out different items. You can see the lending periods for different ECPI Library resources here.

A library database is an organized, searchable collection of full-text articles or citations from periodicals, as well as images, recordings and videos often related to a specific subject area. Using library databases will help you find reliable information from trusted sources.

Ebooks are electronic versions of books that can be read on a computer or mobile device.
** Please note that there is a difference between the Online Library ebooks and textbooks available through VitalSource. **

If you see Full-Text articles in databases, it means that you can read the entire article. Many database articles are not available to read- you can only see the title, author, and other citation information. Clicking on Full-Text as part of your database search ensures that you will be able to read all of the articles in your search.


Placing a hold is part of the ILL process (see the ILL box below). You can place holds yourself, or ask the librarian for assistance.
This video helps explain the process.

Interlibrary Loan (abbreviated ILL) is a service whereby students and employees of ECPI University may request eligible library books and videos from other ECPI University Campus Libraries. See the library's instructional video and policy and procedure.

A journal is a periodical published about one subject, usually by an organization, association, or society related to that topic. Journals contain original research and studies by people who work in that field.
Magazines are more designed to inform or entertain, while journals are designed to educate.

You're looking at a LibGuide! LibGuides are created by ECPI librarians to help you with research. They include direct links to useful Online Library resources, as well as quality resources from the internet.
The homepage lists all available guides by subject or course, along with a list of other guides (like certifications, APA, career planning, and more).

Limiters help you refine or narrow your search. You can limit your results to show only full-text articles, certain subjects, or articles in a specific time period. This video shows how to use limiters in your search


(Example of Limiters in Gale Databases)

A magazine is a periodical designed for general reading. Many cover a broad range of topics, but even if a magazine is subject specific (like Psychology Today), it is written for a wide audience.
Magazines are more designed to inform or entertain, while journals are designed to educate.

Peer review is a process of reviewing academic journal articles. These articles are reviewed by other experts in the field to make sure the information is accurate. This video will give more information.


All peer reviewed journals are academic journals, but not all academic journals are peer reviewed.

Limiters in the databases make it easy to find peer reviewed articles if you need them for class assignments.


A periodical is a publication that comes out on a regular basis, more than once a year. Periodicals can be in print or accessed online through the Online Library databases. Newspapers, magazines, and journals are all periodicals and have different publication schedules. Below are examples of how often a typical periodical comes out:

  • Newspapers: every weekday
  • Magazines: weekly or monthly
  • Journals: monthly or quarterly

This video shows how to find periodicals in the library databases.


A primary source is something directly related to an event or person. Examples of primary sources include:

  • Interviews
  • Newspaper articles published at the time (typically include interviews)
  • Statistical data and experiment/study results
  • Books (autobiographies are primary; biographies are secondary)
  • Speeches
See Secondary Source for additional information.


The word reference appears often in libraries or research, and can have different meanings depending on the context. Below are three common uses of the word "reference" you may encounter.
Reference Resource
Reference resources are books about a topic that provide background information about a topic. Articles in databases may give you some information, but they don't give detailed information on a topic. You want to use a reference resource if you're looking for any of the following:
  • history/development of something
  • a thorough overview of a disease or condition
  • biography of a person
  • important people/dates
This video will give you more information.
Reference Desk
The reference desk at a library is the best place to ask a question. The librarians are ready to help you find whatever information you're looking for.
References in APA Style
A reference in APA is the full information for a source you used in your paper. The references are listed at the end of your paper in alphabetical order by the author's last name.
See the APA Style Guide for more information.

A secondary source is something that analyzes or discusses an event or person after the fact. Examples of secondary sources include:

  • Books (autobiographies are primary; biographies are secondary)
  • Journal articles
  • Textbooks
See Primary Source for additional information.