Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Publications are very important in the academic world because they communicate the results of research. The diagram above shows a schematic representation of the diffusion of research results. The cycle starts at the top with an idea for research and is followed by the research project. 

When the researcher finds results they are communicated. First there is informal communication. Researchers talk to their colleages about their projects or they post a first report on the internet.  

Disseminating the results of research to the broader academic community is done by publishing the research results in a scholarly publication. There are several formats for publishing research results and there are differences between the academic displines. The diagram above gives an overview of the possibilities.

The first formal communication medium often is a paper that is presented at a conference and published in the conference proceedings. This can be followed later by the writing of an article that is published in a scholarly journal. 

For researchers in the humanities there can be another important medium to publish research results. They extend their research on the topic and in the end they write a monograph.

The knowledge communicated in articles and books can be combined and summarized in resources like handbooks and reference works. As we will see later on handbooks are not reports of researchers about their own research projects, but have the purpose to craft a synthesis of all available knowledge in a field.

University libraries make these publications available to the academic community. In this way researchers can use the knowledge of their predecessors and add their own knowledge to the field.

Scholarly Communication

Academics report the results of their research in journal articles, and (contributions to) books, but also by giving presentations and lectures at conferences. Other academics and researchers, as well as students, take note of these results of scientific research. They then use this information for their own research or studies. Research results documented in publications can be refuted or confirmed by repeating the research, and new research builds on these results.

This involves the standard communication process, with a sender (the publishing researcher), a message (the published research results), a recipient (the reader, listener) and even a medium (book, journal, lecture). This is the process of scholarly or academic communication..


We can make a distinction between formal scholarly communication (such as articles, book contributions, books and conference contributions, as mentioned above) and informal scholarly communication. The latter involves informal contact between academics when they discuss their research during conferences or at work, or in e-mails and letters.

Whenever possible, the products of formal scholarly communication are kept and made available to others in academic libraries, archives and databases. This enables academics to keep up to date with – and make contributions to – progress in knowledge and science. This process takes place when previous publications are cited in references in new publications.

Scholarly or Academic Publications

Scholarly or 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 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 special jargon or terminology that is developed in the field;
  • quantitative data, graphs and tables, original text fragments;
  • accurate source references;
  • geared to academic readers.

Popular Publications

Not only scholarly publications are of interest for the field of international relations. Several types of popular publications are widely used as a source of information. 

Newspapers and general interest magazines give information about current events. Journalists and other well-informed people write books in which they comment current events. Blogs can be a means to publish information. Reports from organizations and think-thanks can be used as an information source.. 

There is a much quoted citation that says "journalism is the first rough draft of history". This quote indicates the importance of journalistic sources for academic research projects. 

Popular publications differ from scholarly literature.
In scholarly publications the research method should be thoroughly explained. All important information that is 'borrowed' from the work of other researchers should be acknowledged. Scholarly publications are aimed at specialists in the field. Explaining the jargon in the field is not necessary.  

Scholarly publications have special procedures for the selection of publications that can be published: peer review. Popular publications don't use peer review.

The most important differences between popular and scholarly publications are:

  • simpler language
  • more explanation of the subject of the publication
  • less descriptions of research methods
  • few/no source references
  • geared to the genereal reader 

Book reviews and editorials are not considered scholarly articles, even when found in scholarly journals.

Types of Scholarly publications

Book reviews

Book reviews are a medium of discussion in the academic world. It is common practice that books are reviewed. Researchers within the field write an assessment of the newly published book. Book reviews are short; they normally count two or three pages. These reviews are published in scholarly journals. Books about politics and international relations are also reviewed in newspapers, and on websites.

There are several ways to find book reviews. You can find some book reviews in SmartCat, but the listing in SmartCat is far from complete.


Although they are not academic publications, reports by government organizations, think-tanks and companies are useful sources of information in many fields of academic research. They contain: 

  • the aims and objectives of social organizations
  • policy evaluations
  • effect reports
  • political and ethical interpretations of academic advances
  • survey results

Sometimes we use reports because the person or organization that produced them are the subject of our research. Sometimes we use the information in a report as the basis for a research project. Some reports contain specialist analyses that can serve to substantiate or prove a theory.

Newspapers & Magazines

Articles in newspapers and magazines contain information about current events. Although they do not contain academic information, newspapers and magazines can be a useful source.

The University Library has subscriptions (including online subscriptions) to the main Dutch and foreign newspapers. Nexis Uni is an important source for journalistic content.

You cannot find most articles in newspapers and magazines by searching SmartCat. In most cases you have to search databases like Nexis Uni to find them.



Questions? Ask the experts: