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Publication types

Different kinds of sources

An important foundation for information searching on an academic level is knowledge about how research results are published.

As a rule, research refers to previous scientific work in order to develop and critically evaluate one's own results as well as the results of others. It is the task of the researcher to thoroughly describe the process used to reach the study results. Moreover, there should be clear references to the sources the researcher has used to build arguments so that readers can check these in order to form their own opinion. New research results are normally published in articles, reports, conference publications or books.

The following publication types contain different types of information on different academic levels. It is important to know the different publication types and know when it is best to use them.

Different publication types

Journal articles

Journal articles are published in different kinds of periodicals, such as trade magazines or scholarly journals. They are usually shorter compared to other scientific publications, such as research reports.

Here we will concentrate on scholarly journal articles. Such articles present new research results or theories. They are usually aimed at an international research community within a specific field of research. This means that they are usually written in English. Even articles by Swedish researchers are often in written in English.

Scholarly journal articles are valuable because they often present new research findings, making them important to have in one's own research. As with dissertations and research reports, they can give you a good overview of earlier research, important theories and methods within the subject.

In most fields, scholarly journal articles are considered to have the highest scientific value of all publication types. One reason for this is that before journal articles are published, they are reviewed by other researchers within the same discipline. This process is called 'peer review'. You can read more about how articles and other publications are reviewed in the section on Peer Review.

Bear in mind that the time between writing an article and when it is published can take up to two years, so some facts may become outdated.

Different types of scholarly articles

There are different types of scholarly articles:

  • Original articles present research results (in the form of empirical studies) for the first time.
  • Review articles are critical evaluations of other previously published studies. These can also take the form of a meta-analysis in which the results of a number of studies are used to answer a question, such as what is the recommended way to treat a certain disease.
  • Theoretical articles aim at developing new theories based on existing research.

Elements of an original article

A peer-reviewed original article usually follows a specific layout, including the following elements.


In an abstract, a short summary of the article is provided, presenting the aim, method, results and conclusions of the article. Keywords are also provided to help identify the contents of the article.


An article usually starts with a general background. The aim and research questions are presented as well as the limits of the study.


In the method section, the methodology, and in some cases the material used, are described. The description provided should be detailed enough so that other researchers will be able to assess the reliability and credibility of the study and be able to repeat the research.


The research results are accounted for in this section. Diagrams and tables may also be included.


In this section, the results of the study are evaluated. Methodological considerations and how the results relate to earlier research are discussed. ​


All cited documents included in the article must be found in the reference list.

What characterizes different types of periodicals?

Scholarly journals

Trade magazines

Popular science magazines

Aimed at scholars within the field. Aimed at professionals within the field. Aimed at the public.

Present the results of research.

Present information for those who work within a certain profession. Aim to inform and entertain readers.
Reviewers (referees) evaluate the articles prior to publication (peer review). Evaluated by the editor. Evaluated by the editor.
The editors are often well-established researchers. The editors are usually professionals within the field. Editor(s) provided by the publisher.

The authors are usually researchers affiliated with a university or research institute.

The authors are practicing professionals within the field.

The articles are usually written by reporters of the magazine or freelance writers.​

Published by universities or academic associations/publishers.

Often published by professional associations.

Usually published by commercial publishers.

Often illustrated with tables and diagrams, rarely with pictures.

Occasionally illustrated. Often illustrated.

Articles are usually long and contain footnotes and reference lists. ​

Sources are rarely given and footnotes and reference lists are seldom included.

Articles are usually short and seldom contain footnotes or reference lists.​

Technical language.

Language which includes some technical terminology but still easy to comprehend.

Language that is easy to understand.
Few ads, if any.

Ads are directed at professionals within the field.

Ads are directed at the general public.

In this context, books are defined as specialist books which offer an overview, such as text books (course books) for university studies, or books where the author pursues a theory of his or her own. Often books like this include an introductory chapter, providing a good overview of the subject. You can also find useful references to earlier research and original articles. However, you should always keep in mind that it usually takes quite a long period of time to write and publish a book, so certain facts may have become outdated.

Some academic publishers specialize in volumes with chapters written by prominent researchers within the field. Contributions are selected, compiled and reviewed by an editor or sent out to be reviewed by other scholars within the same field.

​Encyclopedias define concepts, which means they can provide a good introduction to a subject. There are both general and subject specific encyclopedias. Encyclopedia entries may also contain selected references for further reading.

In this context, handbooks are defined as publications that provide theoretical overviews rather than practical instructions. Handbooks contain collections of chapters which cover a certain subject area or field. They can provide you with an introduction, the theories that are used within the research, and its most important authors, as well as good reference lists of the most important contributions to the field.

Handbooks explain the various terms used within the specific field. Therefore, handbooks provide a shortcut to important original sources.

Dissertations are written by postgraduate students to get a licentiate or doctoral degree. The purpose of a dissertation is for students to prove that they know the earlier research within the discipline, master the area of research methodology, and can also contribute with new knowledge within the specific topic they write about. Therefore, dissertations also serve as very good overviews of earlier research and provide the reader with extensive reference lists. Sometimes, a dissertation consists of several articles that have been published in journals plus a comprehensive summary. These are called summary dissertations.

Student theses are written by university students, usually on the level of bachelor or master. Student theses do not carry the scientific weight of licentiate and doctoral dissertations, but they may also provide you with suggestions for other references, methodology and working methods within the field.

​Reports are a way for researchers to publish information about ongoing research or a recently completed research project. Reports are often published by a university or research institution and, compared to journal articles and books, they are published much faster. Just like dissertations, although not to the same extent, reports may contain both research overviews and references to earlier research.

These reports are usually published in a series and called working papers, discussion papers, technical reports, or research reports.

When researchers participate in conferences, it is with the purpose of presenting their research to colleagues within the same field, often internationally. The papers they produce for the conference are published in conference proceedings which are similar to books or anthologies. Like reports, conference proceedings can provide a good overview of current research.

Official publications usually consist of laws, parliamentary publications, or other official material such as government investigations. New material is published electronically and older publications are increasingly available on the Internet due to digitization.