#Finding scientific information: Publication types

Publication types

The kind of information needed determines the choice of information source. Different types of publications contain different kinds of information, or it is presented differently, generally with the target group in view. The timing of publishing information varies according to the type of publication.

The different publication types are listed according to the publication speed of the information:

Publication types: timeline

Social media and web pages

Typical websites are the social media profiles or home pages of individual persons, companies, organizations, institutions and administrative bodies. Distribution of information and business purposes are typical examples of their use.

Web pages can provide immediate information about events, and can be always up-to-date. They may contain additional material related to a printed source or TV and radio programmes, news etc.

  • time of publication: from this moment onwards to several years after the event
  • target group: wide audience, school children, students, researchers
  • authors: individuals, societies, organisations
  • contents and content structure: very diverse; topics of the texts range from general overviews to single pieces of information, may also include pictures and sound
  • content viewpoint: varies from scientific to entertainment according to the nature of the web-page

Twitter is a news and social networking service. Image source: Science News (@ScienceNews) <https://twitter.com/sciencenews>7.4.2017.


A newspaper is a publication which comes out regularly, is typically funded by paid subscriptions and advertising and can be published in printed and electronic format. It contains news and articles that report or comment on different aspects of life and society. Current events and surveys form their main contents, but in addition they contain material on culture, sport, entertainment and other topics. The distribution of newspapers can be on the national, regional or local level.

  • time and frequency of publication: reports news on a daily to weekly basis. Published daily or on a few days a week.
  • target group: wide readership
  • authors: journalists, editorial staff, expert columnists
  • content and structure: range from news surveys to review articles and opinions. Articles normally provide answers to the questions who, what, where, when and how. An editorial presents the newspaper's view on a current topic. Articles do not include bibliographies.
  • breadth of articles: varied
  • the viewpoint of the contents: dependent on for example the degree of regionality, the political affiliation etc.
  • publisher: a commercial publisher or a political party

Uusi päivä newspaper 5.12.1917. Image source: Digi - National Library's digital collections <http://digi.kansalliskirjasto.fi/sanomalehti>10.2.2017

Conference proceedings

Conference proceedings is the term used to describe a publication which contains papers presented at a congress, conference, seminar, workshop or any other such meeting or training session. The publication contains the oral presentations or discussions of a particular meeting in the form of full texts or summaries. The proceedings can be published in the form of a book or a supplement of a journal. They are often called Proceedings of the International Congress/Conference/ Symposium/Colloquium/Meeting of...

  • time of publication: published either before or after a meeting. Articles published before a meeting are often assessed by a referee.
  • target group: participants of the meeting, researchers, experts, others with an interest in the subject.
  • nature of the contents: new research results, findings, inventions
  • authors: researchers, presenters
  • contents and structure: abstracts, articles from the meeting
  • breadth of articles: an abstract is brief, an article can be several pages long
  • publisher: scientific societies, organisations, commercial publishers

Image sources: ASME 2014 33rd International Conference on Ocean, Offshore and Arctic Engineering <https://proceedings.asmedigitalcollection.asme.org/conferenceproceedings.aspx> 7.4.2017


Magazines are published at regular intervals and in terms of content the articles can be general, or popular scientific information, political reviews, economic or consumer information, but may also be articles related to hobbies. There is great variety in size and paper quality, or they maybe published uniquely as web publications.

  • time and frequency of publication: varies from one week to a month from the occurrence of events. Published at least four times during a calendar year.
  • target group: wide readership, people with special interest
  • authors: journalists, experts, people with special interest in the subject
  • contents and structure: overviews, summaries, more analytical than newspapers. They answer the questions who, what, where, when and how; may also contain the analytical question why. Depending on the magazine, an article may contain bibliographic information.
  • breadth of articles: ranging from one to several pages.
  • publisher: a commercial publisher, societies, associations, organisations.


Scientific journals

Scientific journals are the most important publication channels for scientific information. With many scientific journals, the quality is guaranteed by an evaluation policy whereby experts from the same field assess an article's contents and its publication merits. This assessment process is called a referee or peer review policy, and therefore these magazines are often called 'refereed journals'. Such journals are published regularly, either monthly or quarterly, or they may also be published irregularly, but nevertheless with some degree of frequency. The articles in this kind of journal follow an agreed structure, and they contain enough information to allow replication of the research described.

  • time of publication: from monthly to yearly intervals
  • target group: researchers, experts and students
  • nature of contents: research results, theoretical
  • authors: researchers, experts
  • contents and structure: detailed research descriptions, research results, statistics , tables, analyses, bibliographies
  • length of article: several pages, normally more than 5 pages
  • content viewpoint: represents a current, objective/neutral view, presented in scientific language, often supported by scientific societies
  • publisher: scientific societies and commercial publishers

Scientific journals

Image sources: IChemE (Education for Chemical Engineers) <http://www.ece.ichemejournals.com/>, Nature <http://www.nature.com>, IEEE Xplore (IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics) <http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=7963899> 4.7.2017

Reference works

An encyclopaedia is an extensive compilation of information. It may be general, containing information about a large amount of different topics, or it may focus on a particular subject matter such as medicine or engineering. Some encyclopaedias concentrate on offering information from a certain cultural or national point of view. An encyclopaedia may be arranged according to headings, either in an alphabetical order or by subject matter. Alphabetical order is the most common, particularly in general encyclopaedias. Articles in encyclopaedias may vary in length from a few sentences to several pages, depending on the encyclopaedia.

A dictionary is a kind of reference work that presents words, usually in alphabetical order, chosen according to some particular criteria. In monolingual dictionaries, explanations are given for the words; other dictionaries offer foreign language equivalents of the words.

A handbook is a kind of reference work that presents central information from a particular subject field. Handbooks are useful sources of factual information, which provide help in solving practical problems. They may contain for instance tables, constants and standards, and often they offer references to other sources of information.

A table is a numerical or other such presentation of information in a list format, usually using several columns (e.g. mathematical tables, physics and chemistry tables, statistics).

  • time of publication: from months to several years from the event
  • target group: wide audience, experts, researchers
  • authors: experts, researchers
  • contents and structure: dependent on the particular reference work; general overviews, statistics, numbers, verbal explanations
  • breadth: dependent on the particular reference work
  • publisher: commercial publishers, scientific societies


Scholarly books can be reference works or handbooks for a whole discipline or for just one particular subject area, written by one or more authors about a particular topic, or they can be composed of an array of articles which a journalist or editorial board has compiled into a book.

A monograph is written completely by just one author or a group of authors. It may also appear as a part of a publication series.

An edited scholarly book is a work that has not been written completely by just one author or a group of authors, rather the contents have usually been collected from several authors and edited. The title page of a book says 'Edited' or 'ed', or Herausgegeben (hrsg.), Redigerad (red) depending on the language of the publication.

A chapter contributed to a scholarly book/publication series as part of an edited book. An author or a group of authors write a chapter, section or an article for a scholarly book edited by someone else. The same person or a group can act both as editor of the book and contributor of one or more chapters.

A textbook is a work specifically written to be a course book. It is not necessarily apparent that the book was originally written to be a course book. Course books are usually more readable than scholarly works.

  • time of publication: from one to several years after the event
  • target group: wide audience, school children, students and researchers
  • authors: researchers, experts
  • contents: detailed analysis of the subject, sometimes articles written by several authors, includes an index of references and contents and often a subject index and a list of authors as well
  • length: many pages, often exceeding one hundred.
  • publisher: commercial publishers, scientific societies, business enterprises, administrative organizations, educational establishments


The patent publications are the significant information source of the product development. The patent literature gives information about the dominating level of the technique and prevents the company from wasting resources to the overlapping study or use of the technique that has already been protected in its own solutions.

The patents can be utilised merely for the following of the development of the field of certain technique, too. The information contained by the patent literature is not usually found anywhere else.

The protection given by the patent is widely used for the protecting of the new economically significant technique. For this reason the new technical solutions and the strategy trends of companies can be often seen at first only in the patent literature. The number of the patent applications increases continuously and the number of the applications in the biggest patent office (China) was over a million already in 2015.

The patent information is necessary in several fields of the technology also in the competitor follow-up. From the patent information can be followed in in what countries or which field are the competitors' patenting active and in which direction the products are being developed. By following patent applications continuously, the companies avoid from drifting to unintentional patent offences and on the other hand, are ready to react at the competitors' claim times and offences of their own patents.


Patenttihakemukset eri toimistoissa

Image source: WIPO <http://www.wipo.int/edocs/pubdocs/en/wipo_pub_943_2016.pdf> 27.6.2017