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Identifying Information Sources Online

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

Librarian Liaison

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Diana Wakimoto
Spring 2023
OH: by appointment on Wednesdays from 11am-12pm or email me to schedule an appointment at a different time
Subjects: Biology, History

How do I figure out what I'm looking at online?

Online resources can be fantastic sources of information, but often it can be difficult to identify what type of source you are reading online. This is especially true when you are searching the open web (i.e. using Google or Bing) as opposed to searching the library's databases (i.e. library catalog or a database such as JSTOR or Academic Search Premier). 

This LibGuide has been created to help you figure out what you are looking at online so you can determine whether it is an appropriate source to use. Also, it is only after you can determine what type of source you are using that you can figure out how to cite it--very important for your reference list or works cited page!

Context is Key for Identifying Information Sources

When determining what type of source you are reading online, context is key! 

What does that mean?

It means that you need to look at what is surrounding your source and what information you can get from the host website that you've found your source on. 

There is no one criterion that will always identify the type of source you are looking at. Some sources are nice and tell you in the title that you are reading a blog or a newspaper or a dissertation, but this doesn't always happen. 

Instead, you have to do some extra detective work to determine the type of source you are using. 

A place to start to help you contextualize your source based on publication date is The Information Cycle by the University Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

This guide provides questions to help in your investigation. However, no matter what source you find, remember to evaluate your source before using it in your research!

When in doubt, ask a librarian. 

Good luck!