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The term electronic sources refers to information existing in an electronic form designed to be accessed using computer technology. It applies to a range of resources and includes the vast amount of online information published by organisations and individuals on the internet. The term also includes the varied information sources available in electronic databases.
With a click of a button people can access vast amounts of information. However, a potentially bewildering array of information is presented on the internet, and in a range of different formats. As with printed material, online sources must be evaluated for reliability, accuracy and appropriateness. In addition, students are expected to correctly use and cite these online sources in their assignments.
The internet environment presents various challenges.
The processes for publishing material on the web are less rigorous than for print sources.
Almost anyone can put material on the web. Some online material is inaccurate, biased, transient and trivial. Also, you may find that some online material may lack one or other of the following:
If a web document has no indication of author or organisation, no title or date, it may lack academic credibility and you should consider this carefully before using it for your assignment.
Knowing the conventions of how web addresses are set out can help you to do a preliminary evaluation of a source. For example:
Standards are still evolving about writing for the web and how information is presented in web materials.
As you read and research on the internet you will notice that there are many different ways that information is presented. Organisations that are broadly similar may have very different styles. Even departments within one organisation may display their information differently. There may be inconsistencies among documents within one website. Also, you may find it difficult to determine all the necessary details to adequately reference a source. Author, title and publication date may not be available or apparent.
Overall standards are still being formulated on how information from the internet is to be referenced.
The guidelines published by various organisations are modifications and adaptations of print referencing styles. These suggested formats are generally described by those who have formulated them as 'guidelines' (not 'standards'), which are expected to evolve with the ever-changing and dynamic nature of the electronic environment.
The concepts and conventions that relate to referencing print sources do not always apply to internet sources.
The notion of page numbers, for example, does not carry over to the screen, and many online documents do not have page numbers. Thus, the page numbers of a printout of such a document should not be cited because the number of printed pages can vary according to the printer used. The only exceptions are pdf (portable document format) files, which can be read with Acrobat Reader and can be recognised by the extension 'pdf'. The page numbers of pdf files are fixed and remain consistent on all systems.
Some online documents use section numbers, paragraph numbers or line numbers instead of page numbers. You can use these to indicate exactly where your reference is from.
An electronic database is a collection of information organised in categories to enable it to be retrieved. Database information does not have the ad hoc nature of some information on the internet.
The Deakin University Library subscribes to many databases. These are made available by suppliers known as 'hosts' and can be accessed online by Deakin students via the library catalogue. Databases contain abstracts and/or full texts of scholarly journal articles and research papers, conference proceedings, reports, newspaper articles and the like. Many of these texts are copies of print materials that have been put into specific databases. Others, such as online journals, are available at web addresses to which the searcher is directed.
Sources in databases are indexed so that they can be retrieved by author, title, subject, keyword, form or year of publication, for example.
Databases contain detailed and up-to-date information in various fields and it is essential for Deakin students to know how to access these materials and correctly cite them.
Details of all referencing styles used at Deakin can be accessed at www.deakin.edu.au/referencing and in printed form from the Division of Student Life.