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InfoSkills voor Rechtswetenschappen

InfoSkills @ TiU

Formally published sources

Publication status

undefinedIn categorizing sources, we have so far looked at the audience to which a source is directed. But there are other angles as well. One of them is publication status. Some of the materials you'll come across will be formally published, others will not.

What is a formally published source?

Formally published sources (also referred to as 'mainstream publications') come from a commercial or scholarly publisher. This type of source is widely available, for instance from (online) bookstores, libraries, supermarkets, or newsstands.


  1. Books/e-books, aimed at different target groups:
    • popular books 
    • professional/trade books
    • scholarly books
  2. Periodicals, which are published regularly (e.g. daily or monthly).
    • Popular periodicals
      • newspapers
      • magazines, which may cover very serious topics (ex.: Environment
    • Professional/trade periodicals, called journals or magazines (ex.: Global Trade Magazine)
    • Scholarly periodicals, called journals (ex.: Journal of Clinical Neuropsychology)


More and more periodicals are available in both print and digital format. For instance, nearly all scholarly journals have established digital versions (called e-journals). Some of them, particularly newer journals, are now published in digital form only. Books are also increasingly available as e-books.

Relatively new are podcasts, which are mainly published by newspapers. The New York Times's The Daily has become the genre's big hit. It publishes a 20-minute bulletin every weekday.

How about the quality of formally published sources?

Popular & professional sources

  • Popular sources vary greatly in quality. Everything from entertainment books and magazines to highly regarded newspapers, such as The New York Times, and well-respected popular magazines (e.g. Popular Science) falls into this category.
  • Professional sources are generally considered credible, but not quite as authoritative as scholarly sources.  

Scholarly sources

Among the vast amount of formally published sources, scholarly journals and books are by far the most authoritative. That has everything to do with the quality-control standards in scholarly publishing, which gives these publications maximum quality and credibility. 

  • Scholarly journal articles have been judged by experts in the field prior to publication (a process called 'peer review').
  • Scholarly books -- published by university presses and recognized scholarly publishers -- are subjected to a rigorous process of editorial review as well.