3. What are the characteristics of scientific publications and how do I identify the different types of publications in references?

Scientific publications must fulfill some criteria of being scientific. Readers are expected to have a critical scientific attitude. What has been published is not always true but must be proven true. Readers must be able to verify the contents. To guarantee the quality of scientific publications authors are expected to give an account of the work by

  • listing all the used and cited sources (references), with full bibliographical information so that others can verify these.
  • giving a full description of the methods used.

In addition the publication must also be subjected to peer review, which is verification and review by other specialists in the specific field. The above criteria and tradition have developed when publishing was done on paper. However, these are still mostly valid in the digital era.

One of the most important characteristics in a scientific publication is the list of references included. References are important to distinguish the results made by the author and those made by others. Different types of publications require different search strategies to locate them. Therefore, it is important that you can identify the sources cited in a list of references.

We distinguish the following types:


Articles in books, or collection of articles
Journal articles
Conference proceedings articles
Reports and Preprints
Informal or unofficial sources
Web sources



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