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JHP 3151: Comparative Genocide in the Twentieth Century: Troubleshooting: What's that Term Mean?

Terminology Around Describing Sources

Term Meaning

Written for an academic audience and usually by someone with educational credentials. Scholarly works are not necessarily peer-reviewed.

Example: An article published in a journal written for experts in the discipline.


The source has gone through a peer-review process where the content has been vetted by another expert in the discipline. Items that go through this additional review process are usually seen as high quality.

Example: An article written in a journal that has a peer-review process.


The item is written for a general audience where specialty knowledge is not needed.

Example: Magazine article

Primary Source*

Original research, thoughts, creations, or observations. Primary sources can be very credible as evidence. If you are researching a literary work, the text itself is considered a primary source.

Example: literary works, diaries, opinion pieces, interviews, autobiographies, etc.

Secondary Source*

Research that summarizes and synthesizes primary sources or other secondary sources around a given topic.

Example: An article written about a literary work.

Tertiary Source

Summarizes information around a topic and usually references both primary and secondary sources.

Example: Encyclopedia.

*Whether a source is primary or secondary will depend on how you intend to use it. For example, if you are using an article about a work to provide background information, that's secondary. But if you are analyzing the article to study the scholar's approach and argument, it would be a primary.

For more information, check out this video from the Santiago Canyon College Library:

Terminology Around Source Types

Term Meaning
Scholarly Journal A periodical that is published with an academic audience in mind usually within a specific field or discipline that often presents either original or secondary research on a topic within the journal's scope and written by experts in the field.
Magazine A periodical written for a general audience with the purpose to entertain, sell, or inform the public on a variety of topics. The articles in magazines could be news items, opinion pieces, personal narratives, etc. often written by people with or without expertise.
Periodical A publication that is published at fixed intervals (i.e. four times a year, monthly) in volumes or issues. Both journals and magazines are thus considered periodicals based on their publication cycle.
Critical Essay A scholarly essay or paper that analyzes, interprets, and evaluates a given text or literary works, and backs up any claims with evidence from primary and secondary sources.
Book Review A form of literary criticism where a book is reviewed on its own for content and merit within a given field. Book reviews are often available for academic books that provide research on a given topic and can help in terms of evaluating the quality of the book.
Bibliography A complete or selective list of sources consulted around a particular topic. In addition to bibliographies of sources found at the end of academic papers and articles, bibliographies can also be standalone publications that collect all the work written around a certain author or genre.
Conference Proceeding Scholars and professionals who are accepted to present original research at conferences are sometimes offered to include a written version of their presentations in a publication of conference proceedings. There is usually no review process that goes into the conference proceeding beyond the process of having their proposal accepted for the conference.
Thesis/Dissertation Often the end product of a Master's or Doctoral program. Theses and dissertations, while long in nature and presented before a review board, are still considered student works and should be treated with caution.

Terminology Around Searching the Library

Term Meaning
Library Catalog The catalog lists our book, ebook, journal title, media, and equipment holdings. As well as our Special Collections and IMC materials. The catalog does not list individual articles.
Database A collection of resources that may be source specific (i.e. a newspaper database), subject specific (i.e. a literature databases), or multidisciplinary in nature.
Limiters/Filters These are options within a database or search engine that help to narrow down your search results to more relevant items (i.e. by publication date, source type, peer-reviewed). These can be found in many places including on the database's landing page, within the advanced search feature, and along the side of the search results.
Boolean Operators Named after George Boole, these operators are the conjunctions (AND, NOT, OR) that are put between keywords to determine the relationship between them. For example: AND between two keywords will search for things with both terms
APPsearch The main search box featured on the library's homepage, APPsearch pulls search results from many of our databases and catalog all in one place. It does not, however, capture everything or prioritize results as a discipline specific database might.
RAP Session The library's research advisory program (RAP) allows students to schedule appointments with librarians for advice and help at any point in their research process from selecting a topic to locating appropriate sources.
ABC Express The library's catalog allows you to search the holdings at Western Carolina University and University of North Carolina at Asheville in addition to our ASU holdings. You can request materials from these two institutions using ABC Express.
Interlibrary Loan You can request materials (largely books, articles, and book chapters) from other institutions using interlibrary loan. The time it takes to receive the item will depend on what the item is and where it's coming from so be sure to give yourself plenty of time.
WorldCat A catalog of library catalogs, WorldCat allows you to see what relevant resources are out there that are not in our holdings. You can request items you find in WorldCat through interlibrary loan.
EBSCO, ProQuest, Gale, etc. Sometimes databases are referred to in relation to the vendor who owns and operates them. Certain databases are from the same vendors and so while the content might differ, the feel and functionality of the databases will be very similar. If you hear a name and you are unsure what if being referred to, don't hesitate to ask. Librarians love questions.