In this guide, we are going to assume that a mysterious hard copy is a printout, a photocopy or a scan.

If you think it is a printout of a source from the web...

  1. Look at the bottom of the page for a full or partial URL.  Use that to track down the source again. 

screenshot of a webpage with the URL highlighted in the lower left corner

  1. Find an important sentence.  
    • Copy it into a Google search.
    • Enclose it in quotation marks (to search it as an exact phrase).
    • Search -- you might find the source again, or you might find another source that cites it.

If you think it's a book chapter or article...

Scanned/copied articles can look very similar to book chapters.  To tell the difference, look for these clues:

  1. Journal articles usually include a lot of information on the first page.  Look for:
    • Full citation information.
    • Contact information for the author(s).
    • Information about when the article was submitted, revised and accepted.


  1. On interior pages, journal articles will (sometimes) provide more information - author's last name or an abbreviated article title or journal title.

  1. Book chapters usually include only the author's name and chapter title on the first page of the chapter.
  1. On interior pages, books will frequently include the author's name and/or chapter titles at the top of the page:

scan of an open book with the author's name highlighted at the top of the left page and the chapter title highlighted on the top of the right page

I have no idea what it is - there was a disaster...

If there was a disaster -- maybe all of your notes and photocopies got mixed up and now you have no idea what anything is -- start with the Google trick above.  Find a meaningful sentence, and search it as a phrase.

Then - ask for help.