Skip to Main Content

Literature search: 2. Publication types and databases

Overall guide for literature search

Types of publication

Consider what type of literature (handbooks, journal articles etc.) you are looking for. The type of literature determines the database you should use.

Academic literature

Academic publications are written by and for academics. In these publications, academics inform each other of research results, discuss the significance of the results, and formulate hypotheses and theories.

The publications must meet certain academic criteria, and readers are assumed to have a critical academic approach. Material that is published is not automatically true; it must be ‘proven’.

Readers of academic publications must be able to verify the correctness of the content. In order to make it easier to verify information, there are agreements and quality criteria in place for academic publications.

Authors of academic publications must provide precise references to the information on which the publication is based. This is done in many different ways:

  • with source references in the text
  • by describing research methods used by the author
  • through review by other academics (peer review)

Academic publications have a number of notable characteristics:

  • a systematic structure, with a description of the research method used
  • use of academic/scientific, nuanced language
  • quantitative data, graphs and tables, original text fragments
  • accurate source references
  • geared to academic readers

(Source: Information literacy: Academic information, University of Groningen)

Types of literature

Handbook - A handbook is a synthesis of the current knowledge in research, in a particular research area or in a research sub-discipline.

Encyclopedia - Encyclopaedias are used to find information quickly. Entries in an encyclopaedia are usually in alphabetical order.

Book - A book (monograph) deals with one fairly specific subject, which is discussed in detail.

Journal article - Articles are published in magazines and academic journals. An academic article is a report of research that the author has carried out.

Report - Although they are not academic publications, reports by government organizations, think-tanks and companies are useful sources of information in many fields of academic research.

Newspapers - Newspaper articles contain very recent information. Although they do not contain academic information, newspapers can be a useful source.

Magazine articles - Magzine are written for a larger public.

(Source: Information literacy: Types of literature, University of Groningen)

Source types and information need

Publication Types