There are literally dozens upon dozens of ships you can fly in EVE. There are frigates, cruisers, battlecruisers, etc. Plus, each of the four races has their versions of each class of ships. Added into the mix are the various ORE ships, faction ships, not to mention all the tech 2 and tech 3 ships. All of this can be a little overwhelming, especially for the new player.
When you see a ship on your overview or directional scan, you will see the name of the ship (or player) and the type of ship (ie Omen, Drake, Tengu, etc.). As a new player, this isn't very helpful because it doesn't tell you what CLASS the ship is (frigate, destroyer, cruiser, stealth bomber, etc.).
I have found a very easy way to discover the class of the ship if you're unfamiliar with the name. Select the ship on your overview or scan read-out and either click the "I" (information) button, or right-click on it and select "Show Info" from the pop-up contextual menu. Once you have the ship's information screen up (not the player's information), click on the tab that says "Prerequisites".
You will now see all the skills required to fly that particular ship. This will very quickly tell you what class the ship is (frigate, cruiser, etc.), what race the ship belongs to, and whether it is tech 1, tech 2, or tech 3. Tech 2 ships will have a requirement for a ship type at 5. Tech 3 ships will require subsystem skills. If you can't tell from the skill requirements what the ship is, you can always get information on the skill.
Another useful informational tool in-game is the market window interface. Here you can get information on any ship or item that is sold in the game. Just make sure you're not filtering by your own skills if it's something you can't use (in the settings tab), and make sure you don't have "show available" selected if you're in wormhole space.
Be sure to read the comments to get another great tip from one of our readers, FNG.