Research Skills for Developing Writers: Library Search Vernacular

An introductory guide to help multilingual undergraduate writers at the U develop their research skills.

Library Search Vernacular

As you may have noticed, the language of the library is specialized.  Many of the words you have seen here you already know but in library terms, they have different meaning. For example, the word subject can mean a course topic, a person participating in a study, and it can be a noun, adjective, or verb.  For libraries, it means a word that has been specified by a database to search for resources.  Can you think of other words you already knew that now have a different meaning in research?

Below are graphic organizers that show you how to classify some of the library vernacular and compare them to their use in other contexts.

Comparing Contexts

This chart compares the "everyday use" of a vocabulary word to the "library use" of the word. How many similarities and differences are there?

Vocabulary Word

Usual use

Library Vernacular



·        physical place

·        physical place

·        online collection

·        an outside source




·        group of

similar items

·        source type

·        location in library

·        media

·        organizations




·        topic

·        academic discipline

·        participant


·        related topics

·        specific to the catalog



·        name

·        person


·        name

·        person

·        organization


Sorting Library Vernacular

This graph shows you what types of information are included in the vocabulary words "subject", "title" and "author" in a library. Are these more similar or more different from the "everyday" use of the word?

Next: Lesson 4 Summary & Additional Resources

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