|When it comes to citing material found on
websites there are a few questions that always come up. We hope
to clear up any ambiguities with this helpful guide.
By properly citing the sources used to gather material for an
essay, you accomplish several important purposes:
- You give credit to the originators of the ideas you
propose in your essay. This is not only a matter of academic
courtesy, but it has the added value of avoiding plagiarism.
- You show your readers the specific research that went into
the writing of your essay. Your instructor will get a picture
of the amount of effort you expended as you prepared to write
your essay, which can't hurt when it comes to giving a grade.
- You give your readers a chance verify the ideas expressed
in your essay by showing where they came from, who wrote them,
and when. Ideas gathered from multiple, reputable sources give
your work credibility.
- You are able to distance yourself from the ideas presented
in the essay. This gives you the flexibility to agree,
disagree, compare and contrast the material without chaining
yourself to others ideas.
Evaluation Before Citation
Before you rely on an article published on a website a a source
for the subject you are researching, take the time to evaluate
the author of the article and the website itself for suitability
as a source.
- Does the author have the educational background, expertise
or experience with the subject to be considered a trustworthy
- Is the information presented in the article backed up by
references to other reliable sources?
- Is the web page containing the article part of a site
produced by an educational institution, governmental body or
organization that is recognized as an authority in the
If you can answer yes to one of the above questions then
proceed. If not, it is time to find a more appropriate source to
The Difficulty With the Web
The problem with citing material found on websites, is that
there are no rules for publishing on the web. Information we
expect to be included in print media like the author's name,
date of publication, title of the document and even the document
can be found are not always, or even generally available. At
some point a set of rules may develop to address these issues.
For now our best advice is to at the very least:
- Give the name of the author. This might not be available.
If not skip.
- Give the title of the article.
- Give the name of the website. This may not be easy to find
as some sites have different "names" for different areas of
the site, and others don't appear to have a coherent name at
- Give the URL of the exact page on which the cited material
- Give the date of publication, if known.
- Give the exact date you consulted the article.
Examples - one with all
information available and one more limited citing this article.
Mihm, Stephen. "Pet Theory: Do Cats Cause Schizophrenia?"
Lingua Franca, December 2000/January 2001. Online.
November 30, 2000.
"A Guide to Citing Material From the Internet." Fat
Campus, Online. Available: http://www.fatcampus.com/citefromweb.htm,
January 27, 2005.
Helpful Free Tools
Page allows you to:
- Take copies of Web pages and keep them for
your own records.
- Easily and safely share Web Pages with
friends or colleagues.
- Prove exactly what was at a Web address at a
MLA Auto-Generator is an
incredible piece of free software that allows you to quickly and
effortlessly format your documents' works cited lists in
complete accordance with the latest MLA or APA style guidelines.
MLA Auto-Generator will automatically churn out a perfect
bibliography entry, every time.
Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free,
easy-to-use Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, and
cite your research sources. It lives right where you do your
work — in the web browser itself.