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GEN: Understanding the Many Types of Information Found in Libraries



What They Are

Use Them When You Need...

Short works, anywhere from a paragraph up to about 30 pages, published as part of some larger work.

  • Narrowly focused analysis.
  • Detailed findings from individual studies.
  • The latest information on a topic.

Because of their short length, articles often exclude background info and explanations, so they're usually the last stop in your research process, after you've narrowed down your topic and need to find very specific information.

The main thing to remember about articles is that they're almost always published in some larger work, like a journal, a newspaper, or an anthology. It's those "article containers" that define the types of articles, how you use them, and how you find them.

Articles are also the main reason we have so many databases. To search most of our databases, we have a global search engine, but it does not include any of our ebook or newspaper databases. There is no single database that indexes all articles.

Scholarly Sources

The terms academic or scholarly journal are usually synonymous with peer-reviewed, but check the journal's publishing policies to be sure. Trade journals, magazines, and newspapers are rarely peer-reviewed.

Primary or Secondary Sources

In the social sciences and humanities, articles are usually secondary sources; the exceptions are articles reporting original research findings from field studies. Primary source articles are more common in the physical and life sciences, where many articles are reporting primary research results from experiments, case studies, and clinical trials.

Academic Journals

Clues that you're reading an academic article

  1. Abstract at beginning
  2. Footnotes or endnotes
  3. Bilbliography or list of references

Articles in academic (peer-reviewed) journals are the primary forum for scholarly communication, where scholars introduce and debate new ideas and research. They're usually not written for laymen, and assume familiarity with other recent work in the field. Journal articles also tend to be narrowly focused, concentrating on analysis of one or two creative works or studies, though they may also contain review articles or literature reviews which summarize recent published work in a field.

Magazines and Trade Journals

Clues that you're reading a non-academic article

  1. No abstract, footnotes or endnotes
  2. Decorative photos
  3. Advertisements

Unlike scholarly journals, magazines are written for a mainstream audience and are not peer-reviewed. A handful of academic journals (like Science and Nature) blur the line between these two categories; they publish peer-reviewed articles, but combine them with news, opinions, and full-color photos in a magazine-style presentation.

Trade journals are targeted toward a specific profession or industry. Despite the name, they are usually not peer-reviewed. However, they sometimes represent a gray area between popular magazines and scholarly journals. When in doubt, ask a librarian or your teacher.

Search for a Specific Journal or Magazine

Looking for a specific journal or magazine? Use this to find which databases have full text.

Journal Search


Newspapers as Primary Sources

Though usually written by journalists who were not direct witnesses to events, newspapers and news broadcasts may include quotes or interviews from people who were. In the absence of first-person accounts, contemporary news reports may be the closest thing to a primary source available.

Of all the content types listed here, newspapers are the fastest to publish. Use newspaper articles to find information about recent events and contemporary reports of/reactions to historic events.

Milton Students have access to the following newspapers:

NOTE: These links will take you to a search box in ProQuest; you will not be searching something that looks like the newspaper's website!


Reviews are a type of article that can appear in any of the categories above. The type of publication will usually determine the type of review. Newspapers and magazines review movies, plays, general interest books, and consumer products. Academic journals review scholarly books.

Note that a review is not the same as scholarly analysis and criticism! Book reviews, even in scholarly journals, are usually not peer-reviewed.

Review Scholarly Criticism
  • about a recently released work
  • usually short (under a page)
  • consumer-focused; provides a recommendation for potential readers/viewers/users
  • about a work from any point in history
  • usually a full-length article
  • scholar-focused; provides analysis for fellow scholars studying the work