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Scholarly sources: Books

Types of scholarly (e)books

Scholarly books are typically written for an expert audience and intended to share research findings. Although not peer reviewed, books published by university presses and other established academic publishers go through a thorough editorial process. 

They generally fall into four categories: 

  • Monographs [NL: monografieën] are books on a single specialized subject, usually written by a single author, but a monograph may also be written by any number of authors. 
    • Dissertations [NL: proefschriften] are a specific type of monograph. These are extended scholarly works, written to obtain a PhD degree (the highest level of academic degree) at a university.
  • Edited books [NL: geredigeerde boeken] are collections of articles/chapters on a subject, usually written by different authors, gathered by one or more editors. The editor edits the chapters for length, grammar, etc. and ties them together in a logical fashion.
  • Conference proceedings [NL: gebundelde conferentieverslagen]: collections of papers presented at a conference, congress, or symposium that are traditionally published in book form. Conference papers may also be published as a special issue or supplement to a journal. However, not all conference papers are traditionally published in a book or journal. They are often available on the web anyway. 
  • Textbooks: topically organized books of reference on a certain field of study, specifically for use as a coursebook for students. These books provide an overview of essential knowledge on a subject and are typically written at a fairly easy reading level. 

Reference works

Reference works (also called background sources) are useful to quickly get authoratitive facts or information or an overview of a subject. 

  • Dictionaries 
  • General encyclopedias
    -- provide concise overviews on a wide variety of topics in an understandable way.
  • Subject encyclopedias
    -- focus on a limited subject (e.g., Encyclopedia of Law Enforcement, Encyclopedia of Leadership). They provide much more in-depth information than a general encyclopedia.
  • Handbooks
    --  summarize what is known about a subject area, organized into specific topics.

Subject encyclopedias and handbooks are particularly useful when initially researching a topic. Use them for gaining an overall sense of a topic. Important to know: you won't find the latest developments in a subject area in a reference work.  

Where to find reference works?

The TiU library has online access to a large number of dictionaries and encyclopedias. They are listed on the library's Encyclopedias and dictionaries page.

Look up handbooks in the library catalog (see Module D). Search by entering a topic keyword + handbook, then refine your search results to display only books.