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Glossary - Frequently Used Terms

This glossary gives quick definitions of terms and acronyms used in vifabio which might not be common knowledge.


Concise, unbiased summary of the contents of a document.

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Classification system based on the internationally-used Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC). With BioDDC, the entire subject of biology is progressively divided into subdomains; the individual subdomains are each identified by numbers (“notations”) and names. For example: 598 = Aves (Birds).
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A collection of freely-accessible, digitised historical books of biology and related disciplines.
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A cost-free bibliographic online database indexing biology articles from German, Austrian and Swiss journals and series published between 1970 and 1996.
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Function in vifabio’s Virtual Catalogue that serves to save and retrieve interesting results.
Boolean operators
Expressions to combine search terms or search queries in databases. The three most common Boolean operators are ‘AND’, ‘OR’ and ‘NOT’. AND is used when all search terms should appear simultaneously in the resulting documents. When the search terms are considered alternatives, that is to say having only one in a result is sufficient, OR is used.
Navigating through hypertext with numerous links; specifically paging through hierarchical lists of hypertext links. This is possible, for example, in the Internet Guide under the headings "Subject", "Resource type" or "Spatial coverage".

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Systematic collection of electronic records. Each record contains information that is organised by recurring categories.
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Dewey Decimal Classification, a system developed by Melvil Dewey (1851-1931) and internationally used for systematic indexing as well as for ordering books in librarie (see also BioDDC).
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation), an important German research funding institution, which also funds vifabio.
Document delivery service
Fee-based service for the delivery of books and articles via post, fax or email. Delivery times are shorter than conventional interlibrary loan, but the prices are higher (see also subito).
Document repository
Server for publication and archiving of electronic publications (e.g. vifabioDOC); usually operated by academic institutions that can guarantee long-term availability.

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Elektronische Zeitschriftenbibliothek (Electronic Journals Library), a central bibliographic database for title and holdings information of electronic journals and newspapers.
Electronic journals (includes journals published in print and electronically simultaneously, as well as journals that are exclusively electronic).

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Attribute to uniquely identify a web site or another resource. For example a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) such as "".
Interlibrary loan
A library service to delivery literature that is not available on location (neither in the user’s home library nor in other libraries in the same city). A small fee is usually charged for interlibrary loan and the delivery time can be 2-3 weeks. The literature is sent to the home library of the user.
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Internet Guide
A collection of selected, quality-controlled and extensively-described Internet resources. The link collection offers a classification by subject and thereby simplifies the systematic discovery of information on the Internet. In vifabio, the subject classification follows BioDDC.

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A periodical (e.g. monthly) publication that generally contains multiple related contributions (e.g. articles) simultaneously. Normally the individual issues in a year are combined into one volume. In the majority of library catalogues, the titles of the individual contributions are not indexed, only the titles of the journals.

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Allow for the indexing of the content of a document. They are taken either directly from the text or from the title.

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Normally temporary and fee-based access rights to electronic media (such as electronic journals and online databases).

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Data that contains information about data. In literature searching, metadata in the form of bibliographic description (e.g. author, page count, publication year, publisher, etc) and also in the form of subject indexing terms (e.g. subject headings, classifications) are encountered.
Simultaneous search in multiple selected catalogues, databases and directories. This search mode is used in vifabio’s Virtual Catalogue.
A self-contained, scientific treatise on a single subject or person; also known as a book. Antonyms: Journal or anthology or an article in a journal or an anthology.

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National licences
Financed by the DFG (German Research Foundation), national licences offer cost-free access to licenced databases, electronic text collections and electronic journals to German students, scientists and interested private individuals. The funded databases are available to all German publicly-funded universities and research institutes. Private individuals can register for access.
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A letter and/or number combination that indicates a particular place in a classification system. When books are classified in a system according to their content, they are assigned a particular place and therefore accorded a notation. The classification system used at vifabio is BioDDC.

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Online Contents, an indexing database for journal articles. Its biology segment is licensed for vifabio.
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Open Access
Free access to electronic resources (particularly academic literature) on the Internet. Open Access facilitates the use of literature for personal academic work, but does now automatically permit reproduction or redistribution (there are other copyright models such as Creative Commons licences for such purposes).

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Phrase search
Search mode where multiple words are searched for in a particular order; the phrase is entered into the search box delimited by double quotation marks ("...").
An important biomedical bibliographic database.
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Process by which search results are sorted and presented (“ranked”) based on their importance. There are pre-determined criteria that lead to this evaluation and sorting. For example, a result is considered more significant when the search term appears in its title than when it appears in its abstract.
Resource type
The Resource Type category in the Internet Guide describes the character of a web site; it specifies whether it’s the web site of an institution, a database, a topical web site or other. One can browse indexed web sites by Resource Type in the Internet Guide (see also Browsing).
A card catalogue that has been digitised and made available online. The records are made searchable using a text recognition process (OCR = Optical Character Recognition).
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RSS (Really Simple Syndication) enables subscription to the content of web sites, or portions thereof. New content is automatically downloaded by the computer of the subscriber after publication. vifabio offers “vifabio: News” and “vifabio Internet Guide: New resources” via RSS.

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Special subject collection (SSG)
The system of SSGs (Special subject collections) was implemented by the DFG (German Research Foundation) to ensure that at least one copy of all foreign academic literature is available in Germany. Individual disciplines are assigned to various libraries. The University Library Johann Christian Senckenberg in Frankfurt (Main) is responsible for the disciplines of biology, botany and zoology and collects literature from around the world.
Document delivery service provided by academic libraries in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (see also Document delivery service).
Subject headings
Terms that describe the content of a document; they are derived predominantly from a controlled vocabulary. Subject headings are assigned by libraries and publishers, for example.

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Time period after which a search is cancelled if a database does not respond; in vifabio, the timeout can be changed by the user in “Advanced Search”.
Replacement of one or more characters by a wildcard, in order to allow for word variants. For example, vifabio uses the * (asterisk) wildcard to represent any number of characters; the asterisk may be used both in the middle of a word and at the end of a word. For example:
  • biolog* (finds biology, biological, biologically, etc.)
  • m*ller (finds möller, moeller, miller, müller, etc.)

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Virtual Catalogue
A vifabio service that allows for simultaneous search in numerous library catalogues and databases. This is known as metasearch. In contrast to a conventional library catalogue, the Virtual Catalogue covers not only the holdings of a single library, but rather the content of many libraries and databases – this content is unified electronically.

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Journals Database (German: Zeitschriftendatenbank), a central bibliographic database for title and holdings information for academic journals and newspapers.

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