Google (or the database) is not the source!


Question from a student: I found this article in the database ERIC – how do I put that in the reference?


Questions about how to write references are common in the library Information Point. Sometimes there´s confusion about where to put the different commas, or the student might be clueless as to how to write a reference to an oral source, and sometimes students also ask how to include the search tool (i.e. the database of the search engine) they used when they found the source. In this last case, the answer is always: It shall not be included in the reference. Period.

When you write a reference in your work (thesis, paper, home exams) there will be several different reasons to why you use a certain reference. Sometimes you might want to show how well-read you are, sometimes you want to prove the argument you just made with someone else’s research, or maybe you include a reference to an article written by your teacher (just to show the teacher that you have read something by her). No matter why your chose to refer to a source, you must include the reference to that source in the reference list. Thus: If you refer to an article by Henderson, the reference to Henderson’s article should be listed in the reference list. And it doesn’t matter how you found the article; if it were a friend that sent you a link, if you found it on Google, or if you’ve searched systematically in one of the databases provided by the library.

The reason to include a reference list in your work is that everyone who reads your paper should be able to find your sources, if they need to. And the reader might not have access to the same databases that you do (or the same friends for that matter – if your received the source as a link from your friend). Consequently is it important that all information about the source – such as title, author, year, publisher and so on) is correct, since it makes it easier for the person who sets out to find the source you’ve been using. But the tool you’ve used is not relevant (i.e. the database, Google, or maybe your friend).

Remember: The database is the road to your source, but it’s not a part of the source!

Text: Katharina Nordling
Photo: Suss Wilén

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