By format

Search for information by format

Information exists in a variety of formats. Publications that report original research are known as primary literature. These include journal articles, technical reports, theses and dissertations. As original research findings are synthesized and condensed new formats are produced including books, reviews, textbooks and treatises for example. These are referred to as secondary literature.

You might need to search for information according to its format depending on your information needs. The next section describes the common formats and links through to advice on how to search and find each type of information in the Library.

Common formats

Electronic resources are available online and range across many topics. Some are primary sources, but most are secondary sources of information. The resources can be textual or audiovisual and may come in a variety of file formats. The list provided by the Library includes databases of journals, books, research data sets, video recordings and images.

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Journal articles provide concise information focused on a topic. As journals are published regularly, they are considered to provide timely research information and are good for identifying trends, new ideas and new discoveries. Many journals are peer-reviewed - their articles are not published until they have been reviewed by a panel of other academics or professionals in the field. This process ensures a high quality of writing and maintains professional standards. Some conference papers are published in journals others may be published as proceedings from a specific conference.

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Books provide overviews of topics and disciplines. They may have an historical approach to a topic and are good sources when looking for established information in a field, including protocols and procedures, and background information to begin research.

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Audiovisual formats provide alternative visual and auditory mechanisms for conveying information. Videos, sound recordings and interactive multimedia such as games or tutorials may suit some information or accessibility needs better than text. These formats may be more important in some fields of study such as design, music and arts, but are also valuable in scientific fields where imaging has become critical for conveying information.

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Theses and dissertations are an important primary source of information on a topic. In more recent times Universities have been providing digitised versions available online. Older theses may only be available as a print version, and may have to be copied or digitised to make them accessible to others. They are considered to be ‘unpublished’ even though many are now accessible online. Some theses are later reworked into a book format and undergo a publication process if they are considered to be commercially viable for sale as books.

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There are many other formats you might need to search for such as:

  • Bibliographies
  • Taxonomies
  • Archives
  • Data sets
  • Government & Non-Profit Reports

These can be more difficult to search and find. Please ask us for assistance any time you need advice on finding information.

Ask a librarian

Our librarians can help you find other types of literature that is more difficult to locate through conventional channels.

Ask a Librarian