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Information Literacy Tutorial: Scholarly communication

Learn what academic literature is, where to find it and how to use it correctly.

Scholarly communication

Academics report the results of their research in journal articles, and (contributions to) books, but also by giving presentations and lectures at conferences. Other academics and researchers, as well as students, take note of these results of scientific research. They then use this information for their own research or studies. Research results documented in publications can be refuted or confirmed by repeating the research, and new research builds on these results.

This involves the standard communication process, with a sender (the publishing researcher), a message (the published research results), a recipient (the reader, listener) and even a medium (book, journal, lecture). This is the process of scholarly or academic communication..


We can make a distinction between formal scholarly communication (such as articles, book contributions, books and conference contributions, as mentioned above) and informal scholarly communication. The latter involves informal contact between academics when they discuss their research during conferences or at work, or in e-mails and letters.

Whenever possible, the products of formal scholarly communication are kept and made available to others in academic libraries, archives and databases. This enables academics to keep up to date with – and make contributions to – progress in knowledge and science. This process takes place when previous publications are cited in references in new publications.

Science communication and scholarly/academic communication are not the same

The term ‘scholarly/academic communication’ refers to communication within the academic world, i.e. communication between academics and between academics and their students (knowledge transfer). The related term ‘science communication’ is used to describe the process whereby academics communicate with the general public via general and public media This is known as the ‘popularization’ of science, or ‘outreach’. In the academic world, this work is regarded as increasingly important. The societal relevance of academic research is becoming more and more important in the allocation of research funding (‘knowledge valorization’), so it is also important to communicate research results to the public.

It is not only academics themselves who communicate with the public about their research; there is also a professional field of science journalism, exhibitions and museums about science. You should also note that the terms ‘science communication’ and ‘scholarly/academic communication’ are often used interchangeably.

Watch this short film about scholarly communication

The Library, Limerick Institute of Technology