Skip to Main Content

Library & Research Jargon: Types of Resources

A dictionary-guide to those weird jargon words and phrases we librarians and your professors sometimes use.

Use the tabs below to explore the different types of resources we cover in this guide.

Resource Types

Books can cover virtually any topic, fact or fiction. They can even fall under reference. And books don't have just one format; they can be hardcover, paperback, and even eBooks. Inside, they could look like a lengthy narrative, be a reference book and look like a list, or maybe be a comic book filled with comic strips and panels. A book could also be a collection of stories, essays, poems, etc. by one or multiple authors.

For research purposes, you will probably be looking for books on a particular topic to support an argument or thesis for an assignment. Books are useful when you're looking for lots of information on a topic, and to find summaries of research or information to support your thesis.

Books, especially nonfiction, also often have a table of contents at the beginning and an index at the end. These are useful for navigating a book without having to read it cover-to-cover. The table of contents is an outline of the contents of the book, and the index is like an alphabetical search engine of what's inside the book and where to find it inside.

Below is a screenshot of the main page of an eBook about social justice on Salem Press, with a table of contents and a box to search within the book. (Many books in the library are available online as eBooks and can be found in the library catalog or in library eBook databases.) Also shown is the image of the hardcover version of the book.

Screenshot of ebook about social justice

Source: Salem Press at

Reference materials are resources that are intended to be fact-based, such as encyclopedias, atlases, and dictionaries. There are no overt opinions, interpretations, or analyses in a reference entry; they are meant to be only objective facts and background information.

Below is a screenshot of the "social justice" entry in the Salem Press Encyclopedia, accessed through our library website.

Reference entry for "social justice" in an encyclopedia

Source: Encyclopedia of Race and Racism at

Academic or scholarly sources are written by scholars and experts in a particular field. Writers of these articles have a point of view or are making a claim, and they back their opinions/claims with cited works and evidence. These articles are sometimes research publications based on studies, and have sections like abstracts, methods, results, etc.

Academic/scholarly journals are collections of articles in one academic publication. They are generally serial publications, and the most authoritative ones are peer-reviewed. Other identifying parts of academic publications are in-text citations, references listed at the end, and author credentials (for instance, a PhD and/or affiliation with an educational institution).

Below is a screenshot of an academic research article from BMC Nursing in our library database. You can see that it is categorized specifically as a research article because it mentions being a study and has research components like background, method, and results. It also has the other previously listed parts of an academic article.

Screenshot of academic article (specifically, academic research article) about social justice in health system

Source: BMC Nursing at

Popular magazines are periodical publications with articles and illustrations, but they are marketed towards the general public or people with certain interests that aren't necessarily academic or professional. They typically cover a particular subject or area of interest, like current events, history, cars, hobbies, fashion, etc. They often come out weekly or monthly.

Below is a screenshot of an article on social justice published in TIME Magazine. It's marketed to the public and written in such a way that a layman can read and comprehend the article.

Screenshot of popular magazine article about social justice

Source: TIME Magazine at

Trade publications are journals and magazines written for professionals in their specialized field, focusing on current trends and issues. The material is usually practical and pertains to day-to-day operations. A trade publication could contain news and current events relevant to the professional field, ads, product reviews, etc. Unlike academic/scholarly journals, they do not contain original research; they are meant to be practical, not theoretical.

Below is a screenshot of an article about the recent effects of social justice on publishing from Publishers Weekly, a trade magazine targeted at publishers, librarians, booksellers, and literary agents.

Screenshot of trade publication article on social justice

Source: Publishers Weekly at

Newspapers and news sites provide articles and items that are mostly published daily but are often updated live, depending on the format. "News" in general is a resource type: it's a report (or collection of reports) of recent or current events.

But news can have several different formats. Printed newspapers are published daily, and the same articles in the newspapers are often published on the news sites. Other formats are often updated live, like live articles on the news sites, newscasts (televised on TV), streamed newscasts (on the news sites), and the radio. The news also contains different types of sources, like reports of recent/current events (the actual "news"), editorials, opinion pieces, and news commentaries.

Using newspapers and news can be useful in your assignment for their immediate reports of events. They're published either the same day or the same week as an event, whereas scholarly journals, books, and encyclopedias don't publish the information until months or even years later. The HCC Libraries have a newspaper search in the catalog separate from the normal collection search. There are also a number of newspaper databases available to browse.

Below is a screenshot of a news article from AP News (The Associated Press). This article was not accessed through the library database, but through the news website. This type of article is published on the news site, but might also be printed in newspapers.

Screenshot of news article about social justice

Source: PR Newswire at

Videos and films are resource formats that can be great resources for academic work, if used in the right context. The library has plenty of video and film databases that have materials that can be used as sources. There are documentaries, videos of famous speeches, instructional tutorials, newsreels, interviews, and famous films. Even if a video or film isn't considered "scholarly" or purely educational, it can still be useful as a resource— for example, A Raisin in the Sun (1961) or To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).

Below is a screenshot of a video of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s last speech, "I've Been to the Mountaintop".

Source: Alexander Street Press at