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Course C - All disciplines: Quality and usability of sources

This course is designed for advanced bachelor and master students. You will learn how to determine your need for information; find information effectively and efficiently; check information carefully; process and save information.

Under construction

This module is under construction. We expect that we can present the results in the course of 2016.


Latin term for archived documents.
A written essay or report on a subject. Articles appear in magazines, journals, newspapers, and in encyclopedias, among others. In the context of this course, an article is a contribution to an academic journal.
Bibliographic file
File containing bibliographic data. Bibliographic files may exist in printed or digital form. When in digital form, a bibliographic file is often referred to as a database, but not all databases are bibliographic.
Bibliographic reference
The title data required to find a publication, also referred to as a reference. A list of such data forms a list of references or bibliography.
List of bibliographic publications in a particular field or by a particular author, designed to draw attention to the existence and content of documents (books, journals or articles), regardless of whether they are present at a particular location. Also referred to as a reference list.
A routine by which you save a reference to a site or page you have visited. The bookmark can then be used to subsequently return to the site or page. Browser programs such as Netscape or Internet Explorer allow you to collate and organize bookmarks for your favourite websites.
Boolean operators
Boolean operators are logical expressions. The operators AND, OR and NOT are used to indicate relationships between search terms, thus making the search more precise.
  • AND: restricts your search
    Search: computer AND education.

    Result: titles containing both terms.
  • OR: widens your search
    Search: computer OR education.

    Result: titles containing either of the two terms.
  • NOT: restricts your search (by excluding certain terms)
    Search: computer NOT education.

    Result: titles containing the first term, but not the second.
    NB: take care when using ‘NOT' – it is easy to exclude more than you intend to.
If you use more than one operator in a single search, make sure that AND and NOT both come before OR. When using multiple operators, it often makes sense to include brackets, e.g. (computer or computerization) and (higher education or tertiary education).
Alphabetically or systematically ordered list or register of publications (books, articles, CD-ROMs etc) that are present or to which access is provided in the library. Each publication has a call number (location number), with which the publication can be found in a study room or storage area, or a URL.
Catalogue record
Bibliographic description of a publication in the catalogue.
Citation index
A citation index lists the author's sources (reference list) for every document described, and indicates how often the document in question has been cited by others (number of references).
Colleague assessment
See peer review.
Conference proceedings
Book in which (summaries of) the contributions of the participants of a conference are published.
Confirmation bias
Confirmation bias: the tendency we all have to test our expectations in such a way that they are confirmed.
Daily newspaper
Newspaper which appears at least 6 times a week.
DARE = Digital Academic REpositories. DAREnet provides access to full-text publications and research output from all Dutch universities, KNAW, NWO and a number of scientific institutes. Publications are added to the repository on a daily basis. DAREnet is a subset of NARCIS.
Database (or: Databank)
A database is a body of digitized data, stored in a systematic manner. The data may consist of texts, bibliographic information, statistical data, etc. In other words, they may be reference data or factual information. A body of files containing factual information is often referred to as a databank. In the library world, the term ‘database' is often used to refer specifically to bibliographic files as distinct from catalogues.
A bibliographic database contains: references to books, articles, reports, congress proceedings, etc (i.e. publications) often accompanied by summaries regardless of the location of the publications (which can be established by consulting catalogues).
Directories are manually compiled and ordered lists of webpages. Directories typically cover fewer webpages than search engines, but they are often of better quality because of being selectively created by people. Open Directory is the largest directory in the world, while Yahoo! Directory is the best known, having been set up in 1994. is the best-known and largest Dutch directory. See also: Subject gateway.
DNS = Domain Name Service
A system that converts domain names, such as, into the corresponding IP addresses, which consist of four groups of numbers, such as The server that provides the service is known as a DNS server.
A unified body of information, e.g. a book, a chapter of a book, a journal or an article in a journal.
specification of the origin of a webpage. Top-level domain names may be geographical, such as .nl (the Netherlands) and .uk (United Kingdom), or indicative of a type of organization, such as .edu (education), .gov (government), .net (network provider), .com (commercial), .org (non-profit organization). At a lower level, one has subdomains, which are divisions of top-level domains or host domains. So, for example, the address of the UBVU is not a domain in its own right, but a division of the VU domain:
One who prepares the work of another person, or number of persons for publication, by selecting, revising, and arranging the material; also, one who prepares an edition of any kind of publication, such as an encyclopedia, dictionary etc.
Electronic article
Journal article in electronic form.
Electronic database (or e-Resource)
The CD-ROMs and online databases to which the UBVU offers access. Electronic databases include catalogues, bibliographies, encyclopaedias, dictionaries, annual reports, maps, newspapers, theses, statistics and internet resources. Click here for the electronic databases of the UBVU.
Electronic journal (or e-Journal)
Journal in electronic form.
Electronic mail: the exchange of messages by telecommunication. Messages may be accompanied by other files (e.g. images or audio files) known as attachments. E-mail was one of the first applications of internet and remains one of the most popular applications. E-mail is one of the TCP/IP protocols. One of the more popular protocols for sending e-mail is the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP); a popular protocol for receiving e-mail is POP3.
Descriptive, informative dictionary (typically illustrated and organized alphabetically).
FTP = File Transfer Protocol
FTP is the most widely used standard protocol for exchanging files and programs with another computer via internet
Full text
Where the words ‘Full text' appear in, for example, a catalogue, this means that the full text and possibly illustrations are available in electronic form.
Brief description or summary of a scientific discipline or art history.
HyperText Markup Language: a descriptive ‘language' for the compilation of documents for the WWW. HTML is the standard language used for the web.
HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) is the standard language used by computers to communicate with one another on the web. Most web addresses begin with HTTP://
An index may be a list of authors' names, keywords or titles. Where webpages are concerned, it may also be a list of URLs, images, discussion lists, etc.
Information specialist
Library employee with specialist knowledge of one or more disciplines
Inter Library Loan (ILL)
Library users can borrow books or request copies of articles or other items from other libraries in the Netherlands and elsewhere. Fees are charged for inter-library loans. You can open an ILL/IBL account at the central library desk in the main building (2B-01). The fees associated with each IlL request are charged to your account. Photocopies are sent to your home address, books are held for collection from the ILL desk. More information you'll find on the website of the UBVU
Internet is a global network of networks, all using the TCP/IP communication protocol and a shared address area. The Internet is formed by millions of computers all over the world, most of which are connected to one another via private networks. One of the key features of the Internet is that there is no central computer system. The most widely used applications of the Internet are e-mail, FTP, telnet and the World Wide Web. Millions of people use the Internet to communicate with each other, to obtain, create and share news and information.
Invisible web
The invisible web is the term given to parts of the web whose information cannot be located using ordinary search engines. The invisible web is typically formed by databases, dynamic HTML pages, PDF, Word and Flash files, videos, audio files and real-time information. The 'visible' part of the internet is estimated to contain more than 14.5 billion documents; the invisible web is easily five hundred times as large. More than half of the invisible web's content is contained in specialist databases, many of them with thousands of pages, which are invisible to search engines.
IP address
The network address of a computer that is connected to internet. The IP address is used to route data from the sender to the recipient via internet. An IP address is made up of four numbers, separated by dots, such as Each site also has a name, such as The name of a site is translated into a linked IP address by a DNS.
A single periodic edition of a journal.
Publication, new issues of which appear at regular intervals, e.g. every week, every month or every quarter.
Keywords are the words that are central to a defined issue or problem. When defining an issue or problem, it is important to think of synonyms (including foreign-language terms with the same meaning) for your keywords and of other related terms.
Distinction is made between free keywords and thesaurusized keywords.
  • A free keyword is an everyday word used as a search term, on its own or with others.
  • A thesaurusized keyword is a word that, on its own or in combination with others, serves to precisely define the subject matter of a publication and that is used to access an alphabetical subject catalogue. In this context, keywords are assigned to each title in the catalogue using a thesaurus, thus defining the content of the publication as accurately as possible.
LCC (Library of Congress Classification)
The classification system of the Library of Congress. This sophisticated system is widely used around the world. In the system, every field of study is divided into numerous subordinate classifications.
LCSH (Library of Congress Subject Heading).
A standardized term used in the subject register of the Library of Congress Classification (LCC) system.
Library card
Students at Dutch universities are entitled to a free library card on production of a valid student card. Library cards are available from the first floor library desk in the VU Main Building.
Literature reference
Reference to literature that has been or will be consulted. Also known as reference.
Information about a document. Metadata are separate from the content of the document. The metadata may consist of the author, the number of pages and the language that the document is written in. Often, the metadata also include keywords describing the content of the document.
Methodical structure
A fixed structure for an article or research report, featuring the following elements:
  • introduction including a description of the issue or problem addressed;
  • a description of the method by which the issue or problem is addressed;
  • a description of the results in the form of observations, measurements and analytical findings a discussion of the results and observations;
  • the conclusions of the study.
A book devoted to a single subject.
NCC - Dutch Central Catalogue
The Dutch Central Catalogue NCC contains bibliographic references and the locations of roughly 14 million books and nearly 500,000 journals in more than 400 libraries in the Netherlands.
Repeating the import of a (typically short) passage of text, such as a sentence or paragraph. A paraphrased passage is normally about as long as the original, but worded in a way that is consistent with your own writing style.
Peer review
Assessment by fellow academics of the quality of the content of an article prior to publication; often organized by the publishers of scientific journals.
Phrase searching
Searching with exact wording or phrase, e.g. “quantum theory”.
PiCarta contains a number of files that can be searched together. The files in question are:
  • The Dutch Central Catalogue (NCC): contains bibliographic data on and the locations of books and journals held by various establishments, including all the Netherlands' University libraries and major public libraries. The NCC is linked to the Interlibrary Loan system (ILL).
  • Online Contents (OLC): contains details of the contents of journals in all academic fields (from 1992).
  • NetFirst: catalogue of Internet sources (started in 1995).
The practice of taking someone else's work, idea, etc., and passing it off as one's own.
Professional publication
A professional publication is a journal of a primarily practical nature, published for professionals working in a particular field.
A body of rules and arrangements (a technical standard) for the exchange of data between different programs, program components, computers or networks.
Proximity operator
The proximity operator ADJN (adjacent) is used when you are sure THAT certain terms occur in a text, but unsure about their exact INTERRELATIONSHIP. The N in the operator represents a number one integer greater than the maximum number of words that may occur between the known words or phrases.
  • The effect of ADJ4 nightlife
  • The effect of the weather on nightlife
  • The effect of the euro on nightlife
Quick and dirty
If you need to know something fast or when you need some information just to get acquainted with a certain subject, you can use the so-called 'quick and dirty method'. This means you'll search with just a few titles or keywords or a combination of these words in an electronic file or via internet.
The title data required to find a publication; also referred to as bibliographic data. The bibliographic data on a document should include at least the author's name and the title of the document. If the document in question is a publication contained within a larger documentary body (e.g. an article in a journal or a chapter in a handbook), the bibliographic data also need to include the title of the larger documentary body in question. In a scientific publication, references should conform to guidelines issued by the editor(s).
Reference list
See: Bibliography.
A critical discussion and comparison of previously published articles on a reasonably broad topic.
Scientific dictionary
A dictionary defining terms used in a particular scientific discipline or by the scientific community at large. The content is based on scientific articles and (hand)books.
Scientific encyclopaedia
A scientific encyclopaedia contains (brief) definitions of terms and (short or lengthy) scientific articles on particular subjects or entire disciplines, reflecting scientific knowledge and thinking at the time of publication. The content is based on scientific articles and books.
Scientific publications
Scientific publications are written by scientists for scientists. Their purpose is the presentation and discussion of research findings, and the advancement of hypotheses and theories.
Search engine
Program that enables you to search for information on internet, using a keyword or a combination of keywords. A search engine consults a database (index) of keywords and locations using a spider. The largest search engine, Google, has a database of more than 11 billion. When you use a search engine, you are searching the engine's database, NOT the web itself! Use a search engine when you want to quickly find out about a particular or specialist subject, or locate a particular document, or when you want to gather as much information as possible on a particular subject. If you are after information about a more general subject, it is usually better to start by consulting a directory.
Search key
A search key is a tool that enables you to locate a publication. Most search keys make use of the universal characteristics of a publication, e.g. author, title, a word in the title, ISBN, ISSN. Whichever file you consult, these characteristics remain the same. Some search keys, such as keyword or subject, involve variable characteristics. One file may include 'Second World War' in its keywords, while another includes 'World War II'
Search operator
Means of refining a search. E.g. Boolean operator, truncation and search phrase.
Shelfmark. A unique number with which a book or journal can be located within the library (in the reading rooms and in the storage areas). The shelfmark usually appears on the spine and inside the cover, and usually consists of a combination of letters and numbers. Example of a UB VU shelfmark: KR.15048.-
Source credit
See: reference
Spiders (also known as robots) comb the web for keywords for a search engine.
Central topic or theme of a publication.
Subject directory
See Directory
Subject gateway
Subject gateways are lists of websites, compiled by specialists (information professionals). Subject gateways provide access to only a small portion of the information available on the web! However, because of the careful selection process involved, subject gateway sites normally offer high-quality information. Often, the links to the websites are accompanied by brief descriptions. Subject gateways therefore differ from large directories, such as the Yahoo! Directory, in various respects (fewer links, annotations, quality etc). They tend to specialize in scientific information.
Abbreviated statement of the content of a longer passage of text (e.g. several paragraphs, several pages, a chapter or a complete book). A summary gives only the key points contained in the original and contains far fewer words.
A word with the same or a very similar meaning as one or more other words.
TCP/IP = Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol
TCP/IP is the collective name given to all the protocols used for communication on internet. There are more than a hundred data communication protocols in the TCP/IP family. They include FTP, a protocol for file transfers, and telnet, which enables you to set up a telnet session with a host. These protocols lay down rules on, for example, how the data have to be divided into packets and how each computer in the network has to be identified by a unique IP address.
Telnet is an internet protocol (and program) with which you can log onto a remote computer using a username and password.
MeSH terms or other terms are assigned to each publication by information specialists to develop a uniform system that enables you to identify the subject of all articles you find.
An organized list of terms and their semantic interrelationships, used to support certain (documentary) activities.
The truncation of a search term with wildcards widens the search. Distinction is made between:
  • Right truncation: the search includes all words that begin with the letters before the wildcard (e.g. searching on privatiz? will result in hits that include both privatize and privatization).
  • Left truncation: the search includes all words that end with the letters after the wildcard (e.g. searching on ?proachable will result in hits that include both approachable and reproachable).
  • Masking (central truncation): the search includes all words that begin and end with the letters either side of the wildcard; this allows you to include different spellings or forms of a word in your search (e.g. searching on privati?ation will result in hits that include both privatisation and privatization).
The wildcards used for truncation vary from one retrieval system to another. The most commonly used characters are *, ? and $. Check each database to find out which wildcards are used in that database.
UBVU catalogue
The UBVU collection includes more than 1,300,000 titles (books and journals), from the fifteenth century to the present day. The collection is fully described in the catalogue. The catalogue does not list individual journal articles. For articles, see PiCarta.
URL = Uniform Resource Locator
A URL is an internet address. A URL is made up of a protocol indicator, a domain name and the name of a page or file. A URL is therefore a standardized way of referring to information sources (www, ftp etc.) on the internet.
E.g. indicates that, using the http protocol within the domain, the page index.cfm can be opened.
See Year of publication
With the VUnetID, VU students and staff can access the e-resources and e-journals subscribed by the library anywhere off campus. For more details about Off-campus access see the website of the University Library:
Web of Science
Bibliographic file covering almost all scientific disciplines. Web of Science is made up of three databases:
  • Science Citation Index Expanded
  • Social Sciences Citation Index
  • Arts & Humanities Citation Index
Document on a webserver. The information in the document may be in the form of text, audio or images and hyperlinks to other webpages.
An internet-connected computer on which documents are published
A body of information that a person or an organization places at a particular site (specified by a URL) on the Web.
A character – typically * or ? or $ - which represents one or more random characters within a word. They are useful for expressing words that have various spellings or forms.
See also Truncation. You may find diferent symbols in different systems. Please use the helpfunction of a system. Example: If privati*ation is used as a search term, you will get hits that contain privatisation and hits that contain privatization.
World Wide Web
A global collection of sites using the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP). Multimedia and hypertext are the key features of the world wide web.
Year of publication
Year in which a publication appeared.