Academic Publication Forms and Text Types
The results of historical research are recorded in academic texts. Together, these texts are known as specialist or secondary literature. The different forms which secondary literature can take are introduced below, as are specific types of academic text. A search for secondary literature will differ according to which publication forms you are attempting to find.
Essays and Articles
Essays and articles are relatively short academic studies written by a single author or by two or more co-authors. They are published in edited collections or in academic journals.
An introduction usually takes the form of a monograph which provides an overview of a particular topic. Introductions often illustrate key issues by discussing typical examples.
A handbook is typically more detailed and comprehensive than an introduction. Unlike those of the latter, the individual chapters of a handbook are usually written by different authors. This allows handbooks to cover a wider range of topics, with many comprising multiple volumes.
An encyclopaedia differs from a handbook primarily in its very contrasting structure. Encyclopaedias are ordered alphabetically by headword, each of which are detailed in short articles.
Monographs are studies which are written by a single author or several co-authors. They are released as standalone publications.
Edited collections comprise a series of articles written by different authors on a narrow or more broadly defined topic. They are compiled by one or more editors.
Edited collections and monographs can form part of an academic series. These bring together studies which are focused on the same topic or field of research.
Articles, reviews and various other information pertaining to particular areas of research are published in historical journals.
Abstracts are short summaries which provide readers with a brief overview of a text. They are often found at the beginning or end of articles in academic journals. Abstracts of academic texts are also available on specialist online portals, occasionally also in bibliographies.
An introduction to an edited collection or monograph (not to be confused with an introduction as a form of publication in its own right – see the above sub-section on “Publication Forms”) often serves as a useful point of entry into a particular area of historical research. Introductions summarise the existing research, discuss relevant criticisms thereof, and provide information on sources and methodology.
Written by specialists in their areas of study, articles in historical encyclopaedias provide a brief but comprehensive overview of a particular topic. Most encyclopaedia articles also include a list of literature references. General knowledge encyclopaedias with anonymous authors, such as Encyclopædia Britannica, should only be cited in exceptional circumstances.
An essay is less confined to the prescripts of academic writing than other types of scholarly texts. It gives its author the freedom to raise, discuss and take a personal position on research questions in a more experimental manner.