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Glossary

Glossary

A

Abstract-only database: A number of databases only include abstracts, or abstracts and citations, of articles rather than providing access to the full text of the articles. This enables those databases to provide information about a much larger body of research than databases that only provide full-text access to items that your institution subscribes to. To check if the University has access to a specific article, look for a Check fulltext options icon or similar, or copy and paste the title into Library Search.

AACODS: AACODS is an evaluation model developed by Flinders University, designed to enable evaluation and critical appraisal of grey literature. The criteria included in the evaluation model include Authority, Accuracy, Coverage, Objectivity, Date, and Significance.

Author submitted subject headings: Some databases provide not only controlled subject headings, but also allow authors to submit their own subject headings. These can be used to find other research that has been indexed using the same terms.

On the one hand, these can be less useful because each researcher may refer to concepts using different words. So while one subject heading may make sense to the author, you may be looking for their research using different keywords.

On the other hand, author-submitted subject headings may be more specific to the research undertaken than the controlled vocabulary allows.

Author submitted subject headings may also be referred to as Author supplied terms or Uncontrolled terms etc.

Author supplied terms: Some databases provide not only controlled subject headings, but also allow authors to submit their own subject headings. These can be used to find other research that has been indexed using the same terms.

On the one hand, these can be less useful because each researcher may refer to concepts using different words. So while one subject heading may make sense to the author, you may be looking for their research using different keywords.

On the other hand, author-submitted subject headings may be more specific to the research undertaken than the controlled vocabulary allows.

Author supplied terms may also be referred to as Author submitted subject headings or Uncontrolled terms etc.

B

Boolean: Boolean search is a type of search allowing users to combine keywords with operators (or modifiers) such as AND, NOT and OR to further produce more relevant results.

Using the search operator AND narrows your search results. A search string that connects words with AND will find research that includes all of your keywords. For example, the search string hotel AND "New York” will find research containing both keywords.

Using the search operator OR expands your search results. A search string that contains only synonyms for the same key concept should be searched using the operator OR to find research that includes at least one of the keywords. For example, the search string chocolate OR cocoa OR cacao OR “Theobroma cacao L.” will find research that has referred to chocolate but using different terminology.

C

Case-control study: A study design that examines a group of people who have experienced an event (usually an adverse event) and a group of people who have not experienced the same event, and looks at how exposure to suspect (usually noxious) agents differed between the two groups. This type of study design is most useful for trying to ascertain the cause of rare events, such as rare cancers.

Case series: Analysis of series of people with the disease (there is no comparison group in case series). Case series provide weaker evidence than case-control studies.

Citation chaining: Citation chaining is the act of using one article or information source to locate more research. Most databases support options to explore older and newer or related research from a particular piece of research. Backwards citation chaining refers using the article’s Reference List or Bibliography to locate earlier or older research that was used to support the article. Forward citation chaining is using

Citation-only database: A number of databases only include abstracts, or abstracts and citations, or only citations, of articles rather than providing access to the full text of the articles. This enables those databases to provide information about a much larger body of research than databases that only provide full-text access to items that your institution subscribes to. To check if the University has access to a specific article, look for a Check fulltext options icon or similar, or copy and paste the title into Library Search.

Classification code: Some databases use a system of classification codes that may be used to find other research that is indexed in the same research field. This may be more useful if you are finding that the resources you are finding are too subject-specific. Using the classification code may lead you to a broader range of information within the same field of research.

Cohort study: A non-experimental study design that follows a group of people (a cohort), and then looks at how events differ among people within the group. A study that examines a cohort, which differs in respect to exposure to some suspected risk factor (e.g. smoking) is useful for trying to ascertain whether exposure is likely to cause specified events (e.g. lung cancer). Prospective cohort studies (which track participants forward in time) are more reliable than retrospective cohort studies.

Controlled clinical trial (CCT): A trial in which participants are assigned to two or more different treatment groups. The term is often used to refer to controlled trials in which treatment is assigned by a method other than random allocation. When the method of allocation is by random selection, the study is referred to as a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT). Non-randomised controlled trials are more likely to suffer from bias than RCTs.

Controlled terms: Controlled terms are generally subject headings or tags that have been defined by the database provider or a recognised taxonomy, and these terms are assigned to the resources by the database providers. Each resource within the database is indexed under the controlled term categories, which can be used to find other resources on the same topic.

Controlled terms may also be called Controlled vocabulary, Subject headings, Tags, etc

Controlled vocabulary: Controlled vocabulary are generally subject headings or tags that have been defined by the database provider or a recognised taxonomy, and these terms are assigned to the resources by the database providers. Each resource within the database is indexed under the controlled term categories, which can be used to find other resources on the same topic.

Controlled terms may also be called Controlled terms, Subject headings, Tags, etc

CRAAP model: The CRAAP evaluation model is a well-known model for evaluating articles and information sources. The CRAAP acronym identifies the categories against which resources are evaluated, including Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose.

E

Empirical research: Empirical research is research undertaken by observation, often involving verifiable and real-life evidence such as experiments, as opposed to concepts and ideas. This can involve both qualitative and quantitative research methods.

EndNote: EndNote is a referencing software and is used for storing and managing bibliographic references. See our EndNote Guide for more information.

Ethnographic diary: Ethnographies are in-depth studies of cultural, organizational, national, ethnic or racial groups about their life, customs and relationship with the broader world (at the national or global level). They are useful for you because they give a more detailed look at groups than research articles can offer.

G

Grey literature: Grey literature refers to research that is unpublished or has been published in non-commercial form. Much grey literature is now freely available on many websites. However, grey literature is only selectively indexed in databases. Examples of grey literature include:

  • conference papers/conference proceedings
  • theses
  • clinical trials
  • guidelines
  • newsletters
  • pamphlets
  • reports
  • fact sheets, bulletins
  • government documents
  • surveys
  • interviews
  • informal communication (e.g. blogs, podcasts, email)

H

Hand searching: Hand searching refers to the act of browsing journal issues for research that may be of interest to your subject area. For example, as you search for information you may come across an article in a journal that is of key significance for your area of study, and you may browse its issues to find other material in the subject area.

I

Impact factor: The impact factor (IF) or journal impact factor (JIF) of an academic journal is a scientometric index calculated by Clarivate that reflects the yearly mean number of citations of articles published in the last two years in a given journal, as indexed by Clarivate's Web of Science. As a journal-level metric, it is frequently used as a proxy for the relative importance of a journal within its field; journals with higher impact factor values are given the status of being more important, or carry more prestige in their respective fields, than those with lower values. Impact factors are frequently used by universities and funding bodies to decide on promotion and research proposals.

Indexing: Indexing is the process of categorisation of resources that databases use to provide information resources. If an article is indexed, it is categorised using a defined set of criteria in the database.

K

Key concepts: The first step in the research process is to identify the key concepts of your topic. Key concepts are the important ideas that remain once you remove all of the common words such as of, and, on, effect, what, impact, discuss, etc. from your research question. From these key concepts you will generate the keywords needed to conduct your research.

Keyword: Your keywords are the terms you use to find information about your key concepts. The keywords you use might be the same as your concepts, or you may need to consider other words or variations of your key concepts to build a good search strategy. It is good practice to use multiple keywords related to the same concept (ie synonyms) to ensure that you find research using different terminology for the same concept. For example, the keyword chocolate might also be searched alongside the synonyms cocoa, cacao, “milk chocolate”, or “Theobroma cacao L.”.

L

Literature review: At its most basic, narrative reviews are most useful for obtaining a broad perspective on a topic and are often more comparable to a textbook chapter including sections on the physiology and/or epidemiology of a topic.  When reading and evaluating a narrative review, keep in mind that author's bias may or may not be present.  The labels Narrative Review and Literature Review are often describing the same type of review.  For scientific purposes, the term Literature Review is the one used most often.

Logic grid: A logic grid is a table in which you identify the key concepts, keywords, synonyms, and search operators that you will use in your searching. It enables you to ensure that you search using a well-developed system and is used in systematic searching. Once you have built your logic grid, each column will contain a search string related to the same concept that can be copied and pasted into a database for searching.

M

Mendeley: Mendeley is a free online referencing management system that you can use on the web and on your desktop. You can create a reference library to store and organise your research, insert references and bibliographies into your work, read and manage PDFs and collaborate with colleagues by sharing research and information. Note that Mendeley is not supported by the University of Adelaide, however you can find brief information about it on our Mendeley Guide.

Meta-analysis: Meta-analysis is a statistical technique that summarises the results of several studies in a single weighted estimate, in which more weight is given to results of studies with more events and sometimes to studies of higher quality. Meta-analysis typically refers to the quantitative methods (usually involving weighting) used to integrate data from trials. This is logically distinct from a systematic review, which is defined by an explicitly systematic search and appraisal of the literature with or without an accompanying meta-analysis of the data.

N

Narrative review: At its most basic, narrative reviews are most useful for obtaining a broad perspective on a topic and are often more comparable to a textbook chapter including sections on the physiology and/or epidemiology of a topic.  When reading and evaluating a narrative review, keep in mind that author's bias may or may not be present.  The labels Narrative Review and Literature Review are often describing the same type of review.  For scientific purposes, the term Literature Review is the one used most often.

P

Phrase searching: Place phrase searching symbols (usually quotation marks) around two or more words to retrieve results that contain the words side by side rather than separately. For example, if you type information technology into a database you will find resources about both information in its many forms and technology in its many forms.

Using phrase searching symbols to search for "information technology", however, will restrict your results to information technology.

PICO: PICO is a method used in some disciplines to formulate an answerable research question. The PICO acronym outlines the four components that comprise a well-formulated research question.

P = Problem, Patient or Population

I = Intervention, Indicator

C = Comparison

O = Outcome

PROMPT model: PROMPT Is an evaluation model that is used to evaluate the quality of information sources. It was developed by the Open University Open Learn (Licenced under CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0). The letters in PROMPT provide a set of criteria that can be applied to resources to ensure you select quality material, including Presentation, Relevance, Objectivity, Method, , Provenance, and Timeliness.

Q

Qualitative research: Qualitative research involves descriptive research, measuring perspectives, experiences and personal insights. This type of research is often subjective, and harder to draw objective conclusions from. Methods can include ethnographies, case studies, interviews or surveys, and involves textual or narrative outputs.  

Quantitative research: Quantitative research involves research methods that measure phenomena numerically, often with the use of statistics. This produces quantifiable data from methods such as experiments, and provides more objective and unbiased conclusions.

R

Randomised controlled trial (RCT): A trial in which participants are randomly assigned to two or more groups: at least one (the experimental group) receiving an intervention that is being tested and another (the comparison or control group) receiving an alternative treatment or placebo. This design allows assessment of the relative effects of interventions.

Referencing software: Referencing softwares are programs that store and manage bibliographic references. Key functionality of most referencing softwares are adding and importing references into a central library, organising them into groups, and accessing them when you need them. The University supports EndNote, however there are other softwares available. See our Referencing support webpage for more information.

Research Data Management: Good research data management can support future research based on your data, enhance research efficiency, and help you comply with the requirements of the University, research funding bodies, and publishers. It is a University Policy requirement that researchers and HDR students create a research data management plan for any research project where the lead researcher is a University staff member. This requirement applies to projects that are funded both externally and internally. In addition, HDR students are required to create a plan as part of the Core Component of the Structured Program, and submit the final version of the plan with their final thesis submission. See our Research data management webpage for more information.

S

Search operator: A search operator is a connecting word using in searching to combine keywords. The most common search operators are AND, OR, and NOT.

Using the search operator AND narrows your search results. A search string that connects words with AND will find research that includes all of your keywords. For example, the search string hotel AND "New York” will find research containing both keywords.

Using the search operator OR expands your search results. A search string that contains only synonyms for the same key concept should be searched using the operator OR to find research that includes at least one of the keywords. For example, the search string chocolate OR cocoa OR cacao OR “Theobroma cacao L.” will find research that has referred to chocolate but using different terminology.

Search strategy: A search strategy refers to the components and process of your searching for information resources. Your search strategy should be comprised of key concepts, keywords, synonyms, search operators, search strings, search syntax and a list of databases or sources in which you will conduct your searching.

Search string: A search string is a combination of your keywords, synonyms, and search operators. It could also include search syntax depending on the database you are using.

Sensitive data: Sensitive or confidential data includes:

  • Personally identifiable data (TFN, home address, phone number, DOB, etc)
  • Credit card data
  • Medical records and patient data
  • Unpublished research data
  • Student academic records

If you are unsure if a piece of data is Class 3 or Class 2, ask yourself:

  • If the data were to be exposed to major media, would it hurt the reputation of yourself, your work/research unit, or the University?
  • Would an exposure violate University policies, privacy laws, or other laws and regulations?
  • Would unauthorised exposure to a malicious person be detrimental to the success of your work?
  • Would you suffer a significant setback for your work if the data was lost permanently?
  • Does the data contain personal or personally identifiable data?

If the answer to any of the questions is 'YES' then consider the data Class 3.

For more information, see the University’s Storage webpage.

Systematic review: A systematic review is one in which specified and appropriate methods have been used to identify, appraise and summarise studies addressing a defined question. It can, but need not, involve meta-analysis.

As a general rule, systematic reviews sit at the top of the evidence hierarchy pyramid, however there can be exceptions. For example, a large, well conducted Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) may be more useful than a systematic review of smaller RCTs. Also, well conducted systematic reviews can take a long time to complete. By the time they are published, more recent evidence may have become available.

When you are looking for the best evidence to answer a clinical question, it may not be possible to find a recent, rigorous systematic review. If that is the case, you will need to look for primary studies.

The type of primary study design you require will depend on the type of clinical question you are asking.

T

Tags: Tags are generally subject headings or other identifications that have been defined by the database provider or a recognised taxonomy, and these terms are assigned to the resources by the database providers. Each resource within the database is indexed under the tags, which can be used to find other resources on the same topic.

Tags may also be called Controlled terms, Controlled vocabulary, or Subject headings etc

Truncation: Truncation will broaden your search to include various word endings. It is used by adding a truncation symbol (most commonly an asterisk * ) after the root of a word.

For example, if you type exploiting into a database you will usually only find research containing the word exploiting. Using truncation after the 't' in exploiting (so: exploit*) will find various word endings such as exploit, exploits, exploiting, and exploitation.

U

Uncontrolled terms: Some databases provide not only controlled subject headings, but also allow authors to submit their own subject headings. These can be used to find other research that has been indexed using the same terms.

On the one hand, these can be less useful because each researcher may refer to concepts using different words. So while one subject heading may make sense to the author, you may be looking for their research using different keywords.

On the other hand, author-submitted subject headings may be more specific to the research undertaken than the controlled vocabulary allows.

Uncontrolled terms may also be referred to as Author submitted subject headings or Author supplied terms etc.

W

Wildcard: Wildcards allow you to search for different spellings of a word in the one search by placing a symbol in place of the letter that creates the different spelling of a word. It will then provide you with search results that include both variations of the searched for word. The question mark (?) is most common, but wildcard symbols can vary from database to database.

For example, the search behavio?r will find behaviour and behavior.

Z

Zotero: Zotero is a free online referencing system that you can use on the web and on your desktop. You can build a reference library to manage and organise your research, create references and bibliographies in your work and collaborate and share research material with colleagues. Note that Zotero is not supported by the University, however you can find brief information on our Zotero guide.