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HIST 491: Energy Transition and the Politics of Climate Change (Spring 2024)

Types of Sources

A book isn't just a long article.

A chapter isn't an article that lives in a book.

A reference book is not the same as an argumentative book/monograph.

Every type of scholarly source has a specific purpose and scope, and knowing what each publication is meant to do will help you know where to start. The general types are:

  • Reference Books: Broad overviews of a very large topic
  • Research Books: (monographs): Argumentative study of a reasonably large topic
  • Book Chapter: Narrow focus on a specific topic, but within the context of a larger topic/book. Can be both summary & argument)
  • Article: Narrow focus, very argumentative. Extremely specific. Not good for general information -- you need to know background info already.
  • Book Review: a brief summary of a book. Not a peer reviewed source
  • Dissertation:   A dissertation is an Extremely focused, book-level study of a very specific topic.  These are not peer reviewed & not really considered "published." 
  • Reports: Created by NGOs, Think-tanks, other agencies

Peer Reviewed Vs. Scholarly

In Academe, we are especially interested in a specific type of secondary source: Peer Reviewed Publications.

But what's the difference between scholarly, peer reviewed, popular, or refereed?

Scholarly: A source written by an expert, but not subjected to the peer review process. 
Example: magazine articles (if written by expert), public presentations, reviews, opinion pieces.

Refereed: Academic work that has some level of vetting, usually by an editor or panel. 
Example: Conference papers, journal articles that are approved by an editor but not external reviewers.
NOTE: refereed is often used interchangeably with Peer Reviewed by databases, but it isn't always the same.

Popular: Written for a wide readership. May or may not be written by a subject expert.
Examples: newspaper or magazine, popular press books, websites.

Peer Reviewed: Academic books and articles written by a specialist, reviewed by other experts, and published by an academic press.
Examples: Articles in academic journals, some conference papers, books published  by university presses.