UA Library Search Guide

Research tools and resources explained

What Makes a Resource Scholarly?

  • Written by academic experts for other experts in a particular field of study
  • Based on credible theories, analyses, and evidence-based insights
  • Focused on developing academic knowledge that is credible, authoritative, and impartial
  • The language used is often highly-technical and complex

The Importance of Many Ways of Knowing

It is important to note that scholarly resources include Indigenous and myriad non-western ways of thinking and knowledge-sharing practices, all of which greatly contribute to the development of knowledge and academic scholarship.

To learn more, visit our Indigenous Research Guide, which provides information on Indigenous ways of knowing, research methods, research data sovereignty, and citation styles.

Types of Resources

Scholarly articles are great sources of high-quality academic information. 

  • Published in academic journals at regular intervals (i.e. monthly, quarterly, yearly)
  • Often undergo a peer-review process
  • Contains highly-specialized academic information on a very specific topic
  • Usually longer in length (often 10-20+ pages)
  • Follows a set citation style (APA, Chicago, CSE, etc.) for its references
  • Written by academic experts in a particular field of study
  • Includes original research and/or summaries of knowledge on a highly-specified topic

What Does Peer-Reviewed Mean?

Peer review is a process where other academic subject-matter experts review and verify information provided in a scholarly article prior to it getting published.


Examples of Scholarly Articles:

Watch a Video Tutorial

Academic non-fiction books and ebooks are great sources of scholarly information and are usually broader in subject matter when compared to scholarly articles.

  • Often published by academic publishers, such as university presses 
  • Written by academic experts in a particular field of study
  • Include citations that follow a set citation style (APA, Chicago, CSE, etc.)
  • Can be published as a single stand-alone book, as part of a series of books, or as a multi-volume work
  • Edited books are collections of chapters from different authors, also called an edited volume

When reading non-fiction books and ebooks you usually only need to read the chapters that are most relevant to your topic. Look through the book's table of contents or search within the ebook to find relevant chapters.


Examples of Academic Non-Fiction Books:

Fiction is comprised of creative works that portray imagined individuals, events, places, or situations. Although fiction may be based on a true story, fiction does not have to adhere to fact or plausibility. Most fiction is comprised of written stories and can often include:

  • novelsnovellasshort storiespoetrygraphic novels, comics and plays

These works can be published as stand-alone items, as part of a series, or as part of an anthology.


Examples of Fiction

Government Information includes documents, data, information, and publications produced by governmental agencies. Examples of government information include: 

  • laws and legislation
  • reports and policies
  • data, datasets, and statistics
  • webpages
  • maps

To learn more about finding government information, please check out our Government Information Subject Guide.

Grey literature is any material that is published outside of typical book and journal publishing. Grey literature is created by experts within departments and agencies of government organizations, non-governmental organizations, universities, think tanks, and corporations.

  • Webpages
  • Documents and reports
  • Theses and dissertations
  • Conference proceedings and much more

Where to Find Grey Literature?
Google can be a great starting point when searching for grey literature. 
Conducting a site search (site:website.com) is a great way to find information from a particular website. Limiting by filetype (filetype:PDF) is also a great way to narrow your search.

To learn more about searching for grey literature, check out our Guide to Searching Grey Literature.

A thesis, or a dissertation, is a research paper that usually contains original research authored by candidates completing an academic degree (usually a Master's or a Doctorate degree). 

Learn more about theses and dissertations in our Theses and Dissertations Guide.

Indigenous Knowledges can be understood as being:

  • Transmitted from generation to generation
  • Developed from complete knowledge systems
  • Expressed in many formats. eg. oral, ceremony, artistic creations, artifacts, etc.
  • Not all in the past; there is continued growth, innovation, and change in practices
  • Inclusive of history, law, spirituality, agriculture, environment, science, medicine, art, music and more

To learn more, visit our Indigenous Research Guide, which provides information on Indigenous ways of knowing, research methods, research data sovereignty, and citation styles.

Legal publications often include:

  • Legal cases, legislation, and treaties
  • Legal encyclopedias & dictionaries
  • Secondary sources (books, articles etc.) that comment on or explain the law found in cases or legislation  

To learn more about legal publications, check out our Legal Research Guide.

The background information found in tertiary sources, such as encyclopedias and dictionaries can help you get started with your research, grounding you in concepts, definitions, and keywords that are relevant to your topic.

  • Provides an overview of a topic by synthesizing information from many resources
  • Helps you to understand your topic and develop keywords for searching
  • Not always accepted as a source for university-level papers (check with your instructor first)
  • Great resources to help you get started with your research

To learn more about doing background research, take a look at our Background Resources guide.


Examples of Encyclopedias & Dictionaries 

Articles published in a trade magazine are usually of interest to those within a given trade, business, or industry.

  • Often focused on industry-specific news, trends, and annual reports
  • Frequently published by professional associations and organizations
  • Written by industry practitioners for others working in the same or similar fields
  • Usually do not undergo a peer-review process

To learn more about finding industry information, check out our Business and Engineering Subject Guides

Popular articles are intended to be read by general audiences

  • Shorter in length
  • Written by journalists or freelance writers
  • Uses accessible language on a broad range of topics

Examples of Popular Articles

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Editorials, or opinion pieces, express the personal opinions of the author on a current event or topic. 

Please note that while book review articles can be published in academic journals they do not qualify as scholarly articles.

Please note that what is considered a primary or a secondary source varies by discipline and context. If you are in doubt as to whether or not something is a primary or a secondary source Ask Us or contact a Subject Librarian.


What is a primary source?

  • first-hand accounts of events created by participants or witnesses of an event OR;
  • materials created by researchers through first-hand experimentation, observation, or other research methodologies OR;
  • creative works, including poems, music scores, short stories, films, novels, paintings, etc.

What is a secondary source?

  • resources that discuss an event or subject (but are written after the time that the events occurred by someone who was not a participant or witness)
  • works that contain interpretations and analyses of one or more primary source
  • resources that summarize, analyze, or report on the work of other researchers