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Understanding what type of source you are looking at is important for a number of reasons
Knowing the type of sources helps you understand the source's motivation, perspective, and audience. This helps you determine how credible the source is as well as the type of information you are likely to find in it.
When citing a source, it is a good idea to know what type you are dealing with so you can properly cite it. Just because a source can be found through Google does not mean it is a website.
When writing about sources in a literature review, annotated bibliography, or any other piece where you introduce sources, it helps to identify them by what type of source they are. This shows your reader you have spent time learning about the source and that you know what type of source it is, what its purpose is, and who it was written for.
Below you will find common characteristics of sources from the library and internet to help you identify what type of source you have. If you need further help, contact a librarian.
After you looked at this guide, you're welcome to test your knowledge in the quiz below:
A database is a collection of materials, often put together because of their subject area or source type. For example the library has eBook and video databases, but we also have psychology and business databases, called subject databases.
Subject databases do not contain everything on a topic, but have often been created or curated by a publisher, organization, or particular company. For example,
PsycArticles contains American Psychological Association journals
MLA International has MLA approved sources
IBISWorld (business) contains research and content created by IBISWorld.
Books/eBooks/Book Chapters/Theses & Dissertations
Books and eBooks have
Longer page lengths
Author(s) for the entire book or Author(s) for the chapter and editors
ISBN assigned (13 digit number sometimes beginning 978-) (books older than 1967 will not have this)
Structured menus (home, contact, etc.,) with many subpages
Owned by a organization, business, or individual
present general information about an organization or business
websites belonging to individuals can vary in content, may cover a topic that interests them or a hobby.
Copyright date, sometimes a range rather than just one date
Doesn't get updated on a daily basis with new content
For citation purposes, make sure you make it clear to your reader if you are using information from the entire website or just one page of the website.
Remember just because it is on a website, doesn't mean it is a website or a page of a website.
If you are referring to an image or video on the website, it is not a website. If you have a .gov or .org it may not be a website. See the Government Document/Organization Report section for more information.