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Literature Types: Home

This guide lists some of the main types of literature including popular, scholarly, trade, government information, etc.

Main Types of Literature


Scholarly & research articles often report original research or review the works of others in deep and lengthy analysis of issues related to discipline.  They are peer-reviewed which is also known as "refereed." Scholar are kept up-to-date in their fields of study through scholarly & research journals, and because they are written by and for researchers, they can use very technical terminology related to their respective studies and it can be difficult to understand. 

The sources of information used in scholarly research literature is very important, so footnotes and bibliographies (aka reference lists) will be listed either within the article's text or at the end of the document.  These lists can provide extensive documentation for additional information, which make this type of literature the preferred method of scholarly research communication.  Publishers are often scholarly presses at universities or professional research organizations.  They typically include an abstract that summarizes their work.  The journals include few to no glossy advertisements, and most images are typically in the form of charts, tables, formulas, and images directly related to their specific work.  Scholarly research literature as a whole is neutral and factual in their finding; scholars are not supposed to be biased in their work.

Examples: American Hist. Review; Behavioral Ecology; Cell; Journal of Ed. Research; Plasma Physics; Lancet; and Social Psychology Quarterly.


Popular magazines are often short articles that provide a general overview of a topic.  It is not peer-reviewed.  They do not provide much information in-depth.  They tend to be of current events, hot topics, and interviews.  They are typically designed for profit and producted by commercial publishers. Because of this, they are geared towards a wide range of readers, and the use of technical terminology is minimal.  It is easy to read and understand, and is typically entertaining and "flashy."  The literature may be full of opinion; it may present just one side of the story or be heavily biased on a topic.  Popular magazines are used as primary sources of information for analysis of popular culture. 

Journalists and freelance writers are often the authors, and they rarely cite any of their info sources.  Tracking down information regarding popular culture can be challenging.  The articles frequently incorporate many images that are visually attractive, and full of color ads and pictures of all sorts are sprinkled throughout the publication. 

Examples: Time; Newsweek; Sports Illustrated; Readers Digest



Professional, trade and industry journals consist of statistical information, forecasts, and current trends.  They often include company, organization, & biographical information, employment and career info, and news and products in a specific field.  They are written for practitioners. 

The authors are usually practitioners in the field, or journalists with subject expertise.  The are not typically peer-reviewed.  They use professional terminology, so it may be difficult to understand.  Occasionally citations and brief bibliographies are included for further investigation.  Professional and trade associations are usually the main publishers, but they may also be produced by commercial publishers who are in it for the money.  Photographs, charts, tables, glossy advertisements, and all types of illustrations are normally included. 

Examples: RN (Registered Nurse); Science Teacher; Restaurants and Institutions; American Libraries



Commentaries on social & political issues; Some in-depth analysis; Political viewpoints;
Acts as voice of activist organization; Speeches & interviews; Book reviews.  Written for a general educated audience;
Easy to read.  Varies extremely from academics to journalists to representatives of various groups. Occasionally uses citations or provide short bibliographies.  Commercial publishers or non-profit organizations.  Wide variety of appearances; Some have no graphics, while others are loaded.

Examples: Mother Jones; Atlantic; National Review; New Republic



Primary info on events; Current information (local, regional & global); Hard news; Classified ads; Editorials; Speeches. Written for a general educated audience; Easy to read;  Authors are the newspaper journals, who work for commercial publishers.  Rarely do they cite any sources.  They include pictures, charts, and advertisements of all sorts.  

Examples: New York Times; Washington Post; Christian Science Monitor; Wall Street Journal



Literature not typically available through regular market channels because they were never commercially published, listed, or priced; Reviews current information & occasionally provides original research.  Can be very technical; Uses the language of the discipline.  Government officials;
Researchers; Academic Scholars.  Ranges from no documentation to extensive use of citations. U.S Government; Universities; Scholarly presses;
Research organizations.  No glossy ads; Graphs; Charts; Formulas; Tables

Examples: Reports (government, institutional, technical, research); Newsletters; Bulletins; Internal documents; Dissertations; Theses; Conference proceedings. 



You might find that resources provided by your library can be really helpful, and you can access many of these resources online through your library's website. 

Don't forget that our librarians are excellent resources!