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Information Literacy History: Academic information

Academic literature

Academic publications are written by and for academics. In these publications, academics inform each other of research results, discuss the significance of the results, and formulate hypotheses and theories.

The publications must meet certain academic criteria, and readers are assumed to have a critical academic approach. Material that is published is not automatically true; it must be ‘proven’.

Readers of academic publications must be able to verify the correctness of the content. In order to make it easier to verify information, there are agreements and quality criteria in place for academic publications.

Authors of academic publications must provide precise references to the information on which the publication is based. This is done in many different ways:

- with source references in the text

- by describing research methods used by the author

- through review by other academics (peer review)


Academic publications have a number of notable characteristics:

- a systematic structure, with a description of the research method used

- use of academic/scientific, nuanced language

- quantitative data, graphs and tables, original text fragments

- accurate source references

- geared to academic readers


For more information on (writing) academic publications go to the Academic Communication skills portal of the University of Groningen Language Centre.

Example of academic literature

American Historical Review

Academic journals

Researchers at universities and other research institutes publish their research results in academic journals. There are hundreds of academic journals for History. They come in several categories:

  • Journals for general history, such as the American Historical Review. Or the Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis, or BMGN - Low Countries Historical Reviews.
  • Journals specialised in a specific historical period, i.e. the Journal of Ancient History. There are similar journals for medieval, modern and contemporary history.
  • Journals for a certain field of study within history, i.e. economic history, women's history, military history etc. An example is Tijdschrift voor mediageschiedenis.
  • There are also academic journals for the history of countries. Nearly every country has its own historical journals. Some are dealing with the entire history of the country. An example for the Netherlands is Bijdragen en mededelingen betreffende de geschiedenis der Nederlanden (BMGN)


Scientists publish their articles in academic journals for their fellow-scientists. These articles tend to be between 10-20 pages long and contain the results of scientific research.

They are aimed at insiders, not at the general public. They contain much scientific jargon. Not every term is explained.

Academic journals reflect on developments in the academic field and give an overview of recent research. They also contain reviews: short articles of 1 - 2 pages long reviewing academic literature which has been published recently.

Sometimes these journals are publications by local history circles, containing all sorts of news items etc.

Example of an academic journal

BMGN - Low Countries Historical Review

Watch this short film about scholary vs popular information

Popularized academic literature

‘Popular’ academic publications are intended for readers who do not have specialist knowledge of the subject.

 The characteristics of popularized academic publications include:

- simpler language

- more examples, fewer quantitative and detailed data

- less precise descriptions of research methods

- few / no source references

- more detailed explanation of the subject of the publication

- geared to the general reader

Example of popularized academic literature

History Today