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Articles, Books, and . . . ? Understanding the Many Types of Information Found in Libraries


What They Are

Use Them When You Need...

Long works, usually 100 pages or more.

  • In-depth research on large topics.
  • Analysis of an issue's context and consequences, comparison of multiple views, or broad interdisciplinary approaches to a topic.
  • Historical information.

Books are, well, books. Everyone knows about books! But there are actually a variety of types of books, and knowing what type of book you're reading will determine how you use it. See below for some common types of books... and note that reference books have their own page.

All the books owned by UCLA are listed in the Library Catalog. Use Melvyl to look for books beyond UCLA.

Physical Media

Books can be in paper or online; both types are listed in the Library Catalog. See our E-books guide if you're specifically looking for online versions. Do be aware that e-book licenses aren't shared by libraries. (Otherwise the publisher would only be able to sell one copy!) So you can only use e-books that UCLA has subscribed to.

Scholarly Sources

See below for how to identify scholarly books, also known as monographs. Non-scholarly books are usually referred to as "popular press books."

Primary or Secondary Sources

Most books are considered secondary sources, especially since they take a few years to write and get published. Some exceptions include:

  • original literature - these are the primary sources for literary studies
  • autobiographies
  • reproductions of diaries, correspondence, and other manuscript content

Scholarly Books (Monographs)

A monograph is a scholarly book, written by a specialist and intended for other specialists in the field. They're usually published by a university press (like our own UC Press) or a dedicated academic publishing company. However, even mainstream popular presses occasionally publish academic works. Look for these signs of "scholarliness:"

  • Sources are cited, and the work includes a bibliography or list of references.
  • Author has valid academic credentials (degrees in the appropriate field, affiliation with an academic organization).
  • Reviewed in peer-reviewed journals.

When in doubt, ask your professor or TA whether a specific source is acceptable.


Unfortunately, the Library purchases few textbooks due to their cost and rapid replacement by new editions. However, we do get some so it doesn't hurt to look.


Anthologies are a cross-over example. They're books that contain articles (chapters). Anthologies may be collections of articles by a single author, or collections of articles on a theme from different authors chosen by an editor. Many anthologies reprint articles already published elsewhere, but some contain original works.

Anthologies are rarely peer-reviewed, but they still may be considered scholarly works, depending on the reputation of the authors and editors. Use the same criteria listed for scholarly books.

Of course, reprints of articles originally published in peer-reviewed journals retain their "scholarly" status. (Note that most style manuals have special rules for citing reprinted works.)

Dissertations and Theses

Dissertations are scholarly books specifically written as part of the requirements of a doctoral degree. Unlike most student work, dissertations are saved and collected by university libraries. Newer dissertations are usually online, while older ones are only available in paper (typically only a single copy at the university that granted the degree).

Unlike doctoral dissertations, master's theses are only haphazardly collected and preserved. Older theses are often only available in microfilmed versions, obscure departmental collections, or not at all.