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How to Research Guide

DU Libraries

Research Terms

When doing research, you may come across some unfamiliar words.  Here is a list of common research terms.


An abstract is a short summary of a document.  Abstracts are useful because they allow you to quickly determine if a document fits your topic.


The citation provides the bibliographic information for a source. It lets the reader know who is responsible for creating a source you reference in your project, when it was created, and gives the reader all the information needed to retrieve that source for further examination.


This refers to the legal right of the copyright owner to determine how a work may be copied, distributed, displayed, performed, etc.  The copyright owner is often the author/creator of the work.  To learn more about copyright, check out the U.S. Copyright Office’s Copyright FAQ page.


An organized collection of stored data which is usually searchable by keywords, subject, topic, language, and/or date. The library subscribes to a range of databases that relate directly to courses offered at DU.


DOI stands for Digital Object Identifier.  A DOI is a string of letters and numbers used to identify an electronic document.  While the web address (URL) where a work is located may change, the DOI remains the same. 

Fair Use

Under certain conditions, a section of a work can be reproduced without asking permission from the copyright owner.  According to, these conditions include “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.”  However, you must always cite the source!  To learn more about fair use, check out the U.S. Copyright Office’s Fair Use page.


This means the whole document is available. 


A publication, produced periodically on a schedule, that provides research articles in a particular field of study. Journal articles report on primary research and offer insight and evaluation of the results.

Key Word Search

A key word search looks for a particular word or words within a document.  The advantage of key word searching is that it is quick.  The disadvantage is it often produces results unrelated to your topic, and misses those that use a different term. 


"Open Educational Resources" are freely accessible, openly licensed text, media, and other digital assets that may be useful in your research. These resources may or may not be scholarly sources.

Peer Reviewed &

These terms are often used interchangeably.  Peer reviewed documents have been examined by a panel of experts.  Examples of journals that publish peer reviewed articles include Harvard Law Review and Journal of the American Medical Association.  Some instructors may require that you use only peer reviewed sources for your papers.

Subject Search

Libraries and databases categorize items by subject.  By searching by subject, you get results that are closely related and it is more efficient than keyword searching.


URL stands Uniform Resource Locator.  This is the address of a document on the internet.  For example, the URL for Davenport University’s homepage is

Volume and Issue Number

Journals and magazines often number their publications using volume and issue numbers.  The volume number includes all issues published within a specific time period (usually a year), and the issues are numbered within the volume.  For example, the January 10, 2011 issue of Time is volume 177, issue 1.