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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

ESL 522/525 Graduate Student Guide

A guide to the University Library and its resources for students enrolled in ESL 522: Introduction to Business Writing and ESL 525: Elements of Business Writing.

What Am I Looking At?

You will find a variety of types of sources in your research, and it can be tough to know exactly what you're looking at sometimes. Being able to identify the kind of source you're using can be helpful when evaluating the relevancy and credibility of a source. You'll also need to know what kind of source you're looking at to ensure that you cite a source correctly as part of your research. The information below can help you identify a source before you evaluate the source for reliability and credibility. And of course, you can always search in Google for more information about a source and how to identify it!

Databases and Journal Articles

A database is an online searchable collection of information or collection of materials, often put together because of their source type or subject area.  For example, the Library has eBook databases as well as data & statistics databases, but we also have subject-specific databases such as business and engineering databases. Subject-specific databases do not contain every published item about a topic, but have often been created or curated by a publisher, organization, or particular company such as EBSCO or Elsevier. Sometimes, a database can feature both a specific source type as well as subject area. The IBISWorld database below is one example of a database offering a specific source type within a certain subject area.

Academic databases might contain articles from academic or scholarly journals. These scholarly journals are primarily for sharing research and analysis produced by scholars in a specific field of study with other scholars and researchers interested in the topic. The quality and accuracy of these journal articles is often assessed and reviewed by other expert scholars through the peer review process. Some article elements which might help you identify a source as a scholarly article include:

  • Volume/Issue: Articles included in an academic journal will usually be published in a specific volume and issue number of that journal (for example, Volume 5, Issue 1).
  • Abstract: A brief summary of the purpose, design, and results of the research.
  • Introduction: Provides background information and explains how the research contributes to the field.
  • Methods: Detailed information on how the research was conducted.
  • Results: Summarizes the data collected during the research. Might contain charts and graphs.
  • Discussion: Analyzes the data and its significance and may mention implications for future research.
  • Conclusion: Recaps the research results and may mention implications for future research.
  • References:  Properly formatted list of works cited in the article.

The journal title and article title listed below are examples of academic or scholarly sources which might be found in a database.

Books, Book Chapters, and Theses & Dissertations

Elements of a Book or eBook might be:

  • Longer total page lengths.
  • Author(s) named.
  • Publisher and place of publication.
  • ISBN number (a 10 or 13 digit number assigned to that book).

The titles below are examples of a book and an eBook.

Elements of a Book Chapter might be:

  • The author(s) of the entire book.
  • Author(s) for the individual chapter if the book has different authors for each chapter and an editor(s) for the book overall.
  • Publisher and place of publication.
  • ISBN number (a 10 or 13 digit number assigned to that book).

Elements of a Thesis or Dissertation might be:

  • The student as the named Author.
  • The name of the university granting the degree.
  • The specific degree awarded.
  • The advisors who advised the thesis or dissertation. 

Other Periodicals, Magazines, and Newspapers

Trade journals are publications that keep professionals up to speed on a particular industry’s trends, debates, news, professional development opportunities, and best practices. They might provide up-to-date coverage of current trends or summarize the findings of scholarly research and studies. Elements of a trade journal might be:

  • Shorter in length, usually not longer than 1-10 pages.
  • Reports on current events or trends for a specific industry.
  • Written by someone with knowledge in the industry or field for other practitioners.
  • May contain advertisements in the journal targeted at professionals in the industry.
  • Not peer-reviewed.

The titles below are examples of trade journals.

Magazine articles usually contain general interest and/or news information. Magazine articles are written by journalists, and they are intended for a general audience. The language used in magazine articles can often be easily read by most people, lacks the technical language or jargon of a particular industry, and may contain the author's opinions. You can use magazines to find popular or general interest information. Elements of a magazine article might be:

  • Reports on current events, trends, or popular culture.
  • Can be anonymous or have authors, though generally written by journalists in either case.
  • Shorter in length, not longer than 1-10 pages (magazine articles tend to be longer than newspaper articles).
  • Generally lack references or cited works.
  • Can be found on the internet, but should not be treated as websites (there are articles that can only be found on a magazine's website, but they should still be treated as a magazine).
  • The purpose may be to entertain or inform.

The titles below are examples of magazines.

Newspaper articles contain up-to-date information about current events. Newspaper articles are written by journalists, and they are intended for a general audience. You can use newspapers to find information about both national and local current events. Elements of a newspaper article might be:

  • Reports on current events, issues, or popular culture.
  • May include images of an event or person, usually photographs.
  • Shorter in length, not longer than 1-10 pages.
  • Generally lacks references or list of cited works.
  • Will often feature a byline, identifying the author and the author's affiliation or job title (for example, Marshall Lee, Science Reporter).
  • Uses a headline, intended to capture the reader's attention or convey information, rather than a traditional title. 
  • Can be found on the internet, but should not be treated as a website (there are articles that can only be found on a newspaper's website, but they should still be treated as a newspaper).

The titles below are examples of newspaper sources.

Internet Sources

The internet makes it easier than ever to find information with a simple Google search and the click of a mouse. Elements of websites include:

  • Contains structured menus (home, contact, etc.) with many subpages
  • Owned by a organization, business, or individual
    • Presents general information about an organization, business, or topic
    • Websites belonging to individuals can vary in content, may cover a topic that interests them or a hobby.
  • Provides a copyright date, sometimes a range rather than just one date
  • Doesn't necessarily get updated on a daily basis with new content

When citing a website as a source, 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.

The links below show a variety of websites.

A blog is different than a regular webpage. It is often regularly updated by an author, usually on a particular topic. Sometimes, it can be more like a journal or informal series of posts. Elements of blogs include:

  • A post structure
    • Posts often contain a date, an author, and a title
    • Newer posts are displayed at the top of the page
  • Writing style may be more informal or personal
    • Can feel like the writer is talking at you

The titles below are examples of blogs: