Types of publications

As mentioned in Module 1, the type of information source you need for your assignment will depend on the topic and the type of assignment.

Here are some examples of the most common types, relevant to most disciplines.

Books and ebooks

Books and ebooks provide a thorough and systematic treatment of a subject and are found in print and online.

They often contain:

  • historical information
  • established theories and facts
  • classic works such as Einstein, Marx and Shakespeare
  • both in-depth discussion and broad discussion of a topic.

Relevant to:

  • All disciplines, although particularly the humanities and creative industries


Scholarly journals

Scholarly journals provide original research and commentary on recent developments in specific disciplines. They:

  • are published regularly (weekly, monthly, biannually, etc.) by an academic institution, research body, professional organisation or scholarly press
  • contain journal articles written by researchers or academics in a particular field
  • are specific to a discipline or subject area
  • can be found in print and online
  • are often peer reviewed.

Scholarly journals publish different types of articles. Empirical articles report on original research using data collected from experiments or observations. Review articles summarize existing research from multiple empirical articles/studies.

Peer Review

The peer review process is a strict approval process applied to scholarly journals with one or more experts reviewing the articles before they are accepted for publication. This process ensures the article is accurate, well-researched and contributes to the body of knowledge in a field. Peer reviewed is also known as refereed.

Watch the video below to find out more about the Peer Review process.

Newspapers, magazines and trade journals

Other sources of information which are published regularly include newspapers, magazines, and trade journals. In contrast to scholarly journals, they report industry news and trends, current or popular events or issues, and are not necessarily written by scholars or experts in a specific field. While these types of publications are valuable sources of current information, they are not considered scholarly or academic sources. See the comparison table below for more information about the difference between scholarly and non-scholarly publications.

Comparing 3 common types of journals


  Scholarly Trade Popular
Authority Author(s) are identified and their expertise in the subject able to be easily established Author(s) are usually identified, and Industry expertise is expected but not necessary Author(s) are often not identified; no industry or subject should be assumed
Purpose To inform.
Readers are assumed to have a high level of knowledge in the subject and the writing is often detailed and uses subject terminology
To inform.
The writer assumes some level of knowledge in the area by the reader. May use subject/ Industry terminology
To entertain/sell.
No knowledge of subject matter is assumed and use of subject terminology is limited
Currency Slower
Original research and thorough editorial process takes time
Often address the current issues in an industry
Fast turn around and production as a key purpose is often to be on trend
Objectivity Doesn't contain advertisements.
Any potential conflict of interest should be stated
Can contain advertisements and sponsored content Usually contains advertisements and sponsored content
Reliability Contains extensive references to other scholarly publications. Often includes data to justify conclusions May refer to other publications or data depending on the purpose No references or in-text citations. No data or evidence to justify conclusions
Use With confidence After careful assessment Only as an exception

Government and corporate documents

Documents published by government departments and organisations provide access to current information not available through academic databases or catalogues.

  • government information such as policies, fact/information sheets, and guidelines
  • statistics
  • information about a company or organisation.


Conference proceedings

Conference proceedings are the published record of a conference. They:

  • include abstracts of presented papers and sometimes the entire text
  • include the latest original research,and are often the first place researchers share their ideas and results
  • are available in print and online.

Social media

Social media is increasingly being used as sources of information, particularly for sharing breaking news.

Type of social media Useful for: Examples
Microblogging Breaking news, maybe used to locate more in-depth sources. Twitter
Wikis Collaborative webpage editing and creation via a web browser. Wikipedia
Blogs Chronological posts by individual users hosted on a platform. Companies and organisations now also produce their own blogs. Platform:Wordpress
Individual blog:QUT Library Blog

Other types of sources

Other types of sources are more relevant to certain disciplines than others. Here are some examples:

When considering using any information source, in particular social media, remember to evaluate your sources and if unsure, check with teaching staff.