Academic Integrity

The expectation that all students will be honest in their academic work, will not plagiarize or cheat, and will be motivated by more than just getting good grades.

Affective Engagement

An emotional reaction to content based on flashes of positive or negative feeling.

Algorithmic Bias

Occurs when algorithms reinforce or even amplify racist, sexist, or other social biases.


Step-by-step instructions that computers follow to complete tasks, solve problems, and make automated decisions. Algorithms use data to make predictions about people, including their preferences, attributes, and behaviors. They power nearly everything we see online and are used to shape and filter content on the platforms we interact with daily.

Boolean Operators

A set of terms (AND, OR, and NOT) that are used in between keywords and phrases to help create a more precise search.


"Social media accounts that are operated entirely by computer programs and are designed to generate posts and/or engage with content on a particular platform. In disinformation campaigns, bots can be used to draw attention to misleading narratives, to hijack platforms’ trending lists, and to create the illusion of public discussion and support." Definition from "Information Disorder: The Essential Glossary" by Claire Wardle.


A reference to another source of information.

Confirmation Bias

The collection of evidence that supports what one already believes, while ignoring or rejecting evidence that supports a different conclusion.


A form of protection for intellectual property that is automatically applied to any creative work that is placed in a fixed, tangible format. Copyright in the United States lasts for the life of the creator plus an additional 70 years after their death.

Creative Commons

A non-profit organization that created open licenses that amend the copyright protections to allow for more freedom in the reuse, adaptation, and sharing of creative works.


Believing that people are motivated purely by self-interest; distrustful of human sincerity or integrity. Definition from Oxford English Dictionary.

Data Mining

"The process of monitoring large volumes of data by combining tools from statistics and artificial intelligence to recognize useful patterns. Through collecting information about an individual’s activity, disinformation agents have a mechanism by which they can target users on the basis of their posts, likes and browsing history. A common fear among researchers is that, as psychological profiles fed by data mining become more sophisticated, users could be targeted based on how susceptible they are to believing certain false narratives." Definition from "Information Disorder: The Essential Glossary" by Claire Wardle.


"The term currently being used to describe fabricated media produced using artificial intelligence. By synthesizing different elements of existing video or audio files, AI enables relatively easy methods for creating ‘new’ content, in which individuals appear to speak words and perform actions, which are not based on reality." Definition from "Information Disorder: The Essential Glossary" by Claire Wardle.

Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC)

A type of library classification system that organizes books using 10 main classes. Each of the 10 classes have a hierarchical system of subclasseses that become increasingly more specific.


"False information that is deliberately created or disseminated with the express purpose to cause harm. Producers of disinformation typically have political, financial, psychological, or social motivations." Definition from "Information Disorder: The Essential Glossary" by Claire Wardle.


"The act of publishing private or identifying information about an individual online, without his or her permission. This information can include full names, addresses, phone numbers, photos, and more. Doxing is an example of malinformation, which is accurate information shared publicly to cause harm." Definition from "Information Disorder: The Essential Glossary" by Claire Wardle.


The metric by which companies evaluate the number of clicks, likes, shares, and comments associated with their content.

Fair Use

An exception to copyright in which you can use a copyright-protected work without getting permission from the creator.

Filter Bubbles

This term refers to the intellectual isolation that can result from algorithms predicting what information you would want to see based on behavioral data like search history, clicks, views, likes, and location. This may limit our exposure to opposing viewpoints and confirm our existing beliefs.

Flattening the Curve

A term that came into prominence during COVID, this refers to the public health strategy to slow the spread of the virus.

Information Competency

Synonymous with "information literacy."

Information Cynicism

When skepticism turns to cynicism and deep distrust, research can become unproductive. Information cynics may feel powerless to identify reliable and useful sources. While learning to question everything, they may begin to believe nothing—even highly-credible sources of information.

Information Hygiene

The “metaphorical handwashing you engage in to prevent the spread of misinformation." Definition from “It Can Take As Little as Thirty Seconds, Seriously” by Mike Caulfield.

Information Literacy

An integrated set of skills, practices, and dispositions that prepare students to discover, interpret, and create information ethically while gaining a critical understanding of how information systems interact to produce knowledge. Information literacy aims to help students navigate the information landscape not just for college courses but beyond—in the workplace, in their personal lives, as lifelong learners, and as news consumers, creators, and voters. Definition from “Information Literacy in the Age of Algorithms” by Head, Fister, and MacMillan.

Intellectual Property

Describes an expression of the human mind that can be owned and protected once it is place in a fixed, tangible format. Intellectual property can be protected by trademark, copyright, patent, etc.


Words that describe the main concepts in a research question or search query. Searching for only the keywords, instead of a whole research question, will help to return more relevant search results.

Library of Congress Classification (LCC)

A type of library classification often used in large, academic libraries. This system uses 21 classes to organize books by subject.


"Genuine information that is shared to cause harm. This includes private or revealing information that is spread to harm a person or reputation." Definition from "Information Disorder: The Essential Glossary" by Claire Wardle.


"The formal definition of the term meme, coined by biologist Richard Dawkins in 1976, is an idea or behavior that spreads person to person throughout a culture by propagating rapidly, and changing over time. The term is now used most frequently to describe captioned photos or GIFs that spread online, and the most effective are humorous or critical of society. They are increasingly being used as powerful vehicles of disinformation." Definition from "Information Disorder: The Essential Glossary" by Claire Wardle.


"Information that is false, but not intended to cause harm. For example, individuals who don’t know a piece of information is false may spread it on social media in an attempt to be helpful." Definition from "Information Disorder: The Essential Glossary" by Claire Wardle.


Helps organize what Boolean operators go with what keywords. Without nesting, most search engines and library databases will read your search statement from left to right, applying the Boolean operators in that sequence

Open Access

Resources online—usually academic resources—that are freely available.


A barrier you may encounter online, when you have to pay for a subscription before you can access an information resource.

Phrase Searching

Placing a phrase (two or more keywords) in between quotation marks will ensure that those words stay in that exact order during the search. The entire phrase will be searched for instead of the individual keywords. Phrase searching is important to use when searching for specific quotes or names.


To pass off another person's work as one's own. Using another person's words, either word-for-word or paraphrased or summarized, and not referencing them.

Primary Sources

First-hand observations or experiences of an event. The original sources of information before they have been analyzed or summarized. Examples include: speeches, autobiographies, and empirical research.

Related Keywords

Terms that are synonymous, or similar in meaning, to keywords. Main concepts are not always described using the same term. For example, a more scientific information source, may use the term "feline" instead of the term "cat."

Research Questions

A question that research sets out to answer. Research questions should be not be able to be answered with a simple "yes" or "no" and should be clear, concise, and focused.

Scholarly Conversation

Describes the existing body of knowledge about a topic.

Search Statement

A combination of keywords, key phrases, and Boolean operators that are entered into a search box for conducting precise searches.

Secondary Sources

These are sources of information created after an event has occurred and offer a review or analysis of the event. They provide an interpretation of a primary source or data. Examples include: biographies, nonfiction books, and literary criticism.

SIFT Method

Fact-checking strategy based on four moves, or things to do to quickly make a decision about whether or not a source is worthy of your attention. Stop. Investigate the source. Find better coverage. Trace claims, quotes and media to the original context.


Not easily convinced; having doubts or reservations. Definition from Oxford English Dictionary.

Sock Puppet

"Online account that uses a false identity designed specifically to deceive. Sock puppets are used on social platforms to inflate another account’s follower numbers and to spread or amplify false information to a mass audience." Definition from "Information Disorder: The Essential Glossary" by Claire Wardle.

Tertiary Sources

These are compilations of information coming from primary and secondary sources. Examples include: encyclopedias, indexes, and most textbooks.


"The act of deliberately posting offensive or inflammatory content to an online community with the intent of provoking readers or disrupting conversation." Definition from "Information Disorder: The Essential Glossary" by Claire Wardle.


On Wikipedia, vandalism refers to editing an article in a malicious manner that is intentionally disruptive, whether the edits are humorous, nonsensical, a hoax, or degrading.


An online, free, collaborative encyclopedia. Since its creation in 2001, Wikipedia has grown into the world's largest reference website (as of November 2020, it has 1.7 billion unique visitors monthly and more than 55 million articles in over 300 languages).


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Introduction to College Research Copyright © by Walter D. Butler; Aloha Sargent; and Kelsey Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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