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PolyU Library

Conduct a Literature Review

A guide to walk you through the process of doing a literature review

Types of Literature

There are so many different resources around us - data, technical reports, conference papers, journal articles, books.

Understanding a bit more about what they are will help you decide which type of literature you should consult based on your information needs. 

The Amazing Journey of Information from InfoLit for U


Different types of information can be obtained from different sources, e.g. find news on the news site or print newspapers, and find books from Google Scholar or the library's OneSearch. News and magazines are regarded as popular sources, whereas books and scholarly journals are scholarly sources. You are likely to use both of them for your research project.

This graphic summarizes the timeline of different types of information and where you can find each type. 

Information Timeline
Adapted from Information Timeline by adstarkel, used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Scholarly Sources vs. Popular Sources

Understanding the characteristics and differences between the two will help you evaluate and select the most appropriate resources for your research work. In general, 

  • Popular sources help you build an understanding of a topic
  • Scholarly sources help you further develop an academic argument for your research
  Scholarly Sources Popular Sources
  • Reference books (handbooks, encyclopedias, etc.)
  • Books
  • Scholarly journal articles (example)
  • Conference proceeding articles (example)
  • Trade journal articles (example)
Audience Published works written by experts and are for experts in a particular field. They are referred as academic and usually peer-reviewed works. Works written by editors or journalists for the general audience
Look and feel

Usually lengthy articles supported with graphs/ charts;

Include a list of referenced materials at the end of the work; 

For journal articles, usually structured with abstract, literature review, methodology, results, and conclusion.

Short articles designed in an attractive layout with colorful photos; 

Usually do not have a specific structure

Reference list is seldom included as the sources used are usually anonymous.

Purpose For scholars/ researchers/ students to communicate findings and advancements in research For the general public to entertain or inform about general events or topics

Watch the video or refer to this infographic to learn more about scholarly, trade, and popular articles.