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Identifying Information Sources Online

Help with determining what type of source you've found online

Stuff and Such

There is a lot of stuff online and a lot of different types of information sources. This guide highlighted some of the main types of sources you may find when searching for information. However, as we know, there are a lot of other types of sources you may find online. 

Some, like videos and photographs, are easy to identify. Others are harder. 

This page describes a few types of sources that you may find, especially when researching on the open web. 

Government Documents

Government Documents

Many government documents are available online on various government websites. If created by the Federal Government, the document is in the public domain, which means it is not under copyright. 

Please see our LibGuide on Government Resources for more information. 

  • Author: These documents will have as their authors a government agency or department

government document image

Student Papers

Student Papers

There are a number of sites online that collect student papers. You should probably not use these as sources for your research paper. And, it goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway), never turn in one of these papers as your own; that's plagiarism and cheating. 

  • Format: In Word or PDF form; formated like a research paper
  • University: May say which university and course the paper is from
  • Author: Searching for more information on the author may yield no information or confirm that the person is a student

Other Information Sources

Lecture Notes, Outlines, & Slides

Many professors post their lecture notes, outlines, and presentation slides online. If these sources are available on the open web, you may find them in your results list. 

  • Author: Often lists the professor's name and university
  • Course information: Most likely have the name of a course (ex. Biology 100) on them. This is a key characteristic to let you know you've found notes to a specfic course at a university.

lecture noes example

Lesson Plans

Some instructors, including those from the K-12 grades, along with various educational organizations post lesson plans online. 

  • Title: May say lesson plan on the source
  • Grade level: May note what grade level (ex. 8th grade) that the lesson plan is for
  • Standards: Often will note what standards/competencies the lesson aligns to

lesson plan image