dcsimg
You are here:

How to Cite Web Sources

The web has made it easier than ever to do research, but citing web sources in a paper can be a major challenge. How do you cite a website if you can't determine who wrote it? What about if you aren't sure what individual or organization sponsors the site or when particular material was posted online?

Because of issues like these, you might be tempted to not cite web sources. But if you don't, or if you cite them improperly, you're committing cyber-plagiarism. And if you plagiarize, it's likely you'll be caught. Nowadays, professors not only plug suspicious passages into search engines, but also scour web sites that sell papers and Internet forums that abet plagiarism. Many schools use sophisticated software and/or subscribe to online programs to detect plagiarism.

So educate yourself about how to cite web sources. Here's some information to get you started.

When to Cite Web Sources

The rules for when to cite are the same for print and Internet sources.

Do cite:

  • Direct quotations
  • Ideas that you get from a source but express in your own words
  • Statistics and other facts/figures

Cite all the sources you use in these ways, even those written in a casual tone, like a blog or a post in a comment thread.

Do not cite:

  • Your own original ideas
  • Information that is widely-known

Unsure whether something is common knowledge? Check with your instructor or be safe by citing the source.

How to Cite Web Sources

After finding a website that you want to use, do some investigating. Who is the author? When was the material posted? Does an organization sponsor the site? If this information isn't on a web page, check the site's homepage or click the "about this site" link. You still might come up empty-handed. Bloggers often write under screen names only. Wiki sites, like Wikipedia, allow any user to post or edit content, often anonymously. You should reconsider citing from Wikipedia, blogs and similar sites unless you can ascertain how authoritative/accurate they are.

Ask your instructor which citation manual to use. Commonly-used manuals include the Modern Language Association (MLA) Handbook and the Chicago Manual of Style. Current editions of these and other manuals demonstrate how to cite a variety of Internet sources in the text of your paper and in works cited or bibliography pages.

Look over the appropriate manual before you start writing, so you can use strategies to cut down on the number of citations or make them less obtrusive. For instance, you might employ a signal phrase to clarify that one of your paragraphs is paraphrased entirely from a particular web page, avoiding repetitive citations throughout the paragraph.

Manuals also specify how to handle tricky situations common to the Internet. For example, if a blog author provides both a name and screenname, in your works cited entry you should put the screenname first and then the author name in brackets, according to the MLA Handbook. Also be aware of stipulations about citing specific web pages versus sites in general.

Finally, good news: the web has in some ways made citing sources easier. There are sites that organize electronic source material and generate proper bibliographic citations. You can ask you instructor or a research librarian about these, but be sure you always refer to the manuals and double-check your work.

General rule of thumb: always err on the side of caution. You'd much rather cite too often than get in academic trouble for plagiarism.

Search Schools

      
Matching School Ads
  • Winthrop University

    Winthrop University is a public, comprehensive university located just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, in Rock Hill, South Carolina, 

    Programs

    • Master of Business Administration - Marketing
    • Master of Business Administration - Strategic Leadership
    • Master of Arts in Arts Administration
    • More...

    Location: Online

    Winthrop University Request Info »
  • Boston University - MSW

    Founded in 1839, Boston University is one of America’s largest and most respected private research universities. It offers a unique combination of academic excellence and social relevance for its more than 32,000 students from 135 different countries.

    Programs

    • Master of Social Work - Macro
    • Master of Social Work - Clinical
    • Master of Social Work

    Location: Online

    Boston University - MSW Request Info »
  • Full Sail University - Online

    Push Your Creativity To The Next Level

    Programs

    • Graphic Design, Bachelor of Science (Online)
    • Internet Marketing, Master of Science (Online)
    • Music Production, Bachelors of Science (Online)
    • More...

    Location: Online

    Full Sail University - Online Request Info »
  • George Washington University

    At the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences, we prepare progressive leaders across disciplines to meet the challenge of developing and delivering health care to diverse populations. Our flexible, online programs are designed to advance the careers of health professionals in the areas of Clinical Research Administration, Health Care Quality and Regulatory Affairs.

    Programs

    • Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design
    • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Leadership and Administration
    • Graduate Certificate in E-Learning
    • More...

    Location: Online

    George Washington University Request Info »
  • Platt College

    Turn your talents into a career at nationally recognized and accredited Platt College.

    Programs

    • Veterinary Technology Alternate Route - Certificate
    • Respiratory Therapy
    • Veterinary Technology - Associates

    Location: Online

    Platt College Request Info »
  • Intercoast Colleges

    Get your career started with Intercoast Colleges.

    Programs

    • Business Technology
    • Alcohol & Drug Counseling Studies
    • Online Alcohol & Drug Counseling Studies

    Location: Online

    Intercoast Colleges Request Info »
  • American University

    American University is a leader in global education, enrolling a diverse student body from throughout the United States and nearly 140 countries. Located in Washington, D.C., the university provides opportunities for academic excellence, public service, and internships in the nation’s capital and around the world.

    Programs

    • Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design and Learning Analytics
    • Master of Science in Measurement & Evaluation
    • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration
    • More...

    Location: Online

    American University Request Info »
  • Capella University

    An accredited online university, Capella University offers bachelor’s, master’s/MBA, doctoral, and certificate programs designed to take you to the forefront of your profession.

    Programs

    • DHS - Advanced Program Evaluation & Data Analytics
    • MS - Addiction Studies
    • MS - School Counseling (CACREP-accredited)
    • More...

    Location: Online

    Capella University Request Info »
  • Columbia International University

    For nearly a century, Columbia International University has educated people from a biblical worldview to impact the nations with the message of Christ. 

    Programs

    • Bachelor of Science in Business
    • Associate of Arts in Business
    • Master of Business Administration

    Location: Online

    Columbia International University Request Info »
  • University of Illinois at Chicago

    Study for your graduate education with University of Illinois at Chicago.

    Programs

    • Master of Science in Health Informatics
    Location:
    Chicago: 1200 W Harrison St,, Chicago IL 60607
    University of Illinois at Chicago Request Info »
  • Matching School Ads

    Quick School Search

    College & Career Search Tools

    • Careers: Unsure about your career path? Study profiles of hundreds of professions.

    • Interviews: Professors and deans sit down with our team to give you unique insights on college life.

    • Military Education: Find only Military friendly online schools and campuses.

    • Student Reviews: Know before you go. Read student reviews on over 2000 accredited colleges. Write your own experience.