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Do not cite: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
  • Ashford University

    You've found Ashford University, where school comes to you. Earn your bachelor's or master's degree online.

    Programs

    • AA/Early Childhood Education
    • BA/Early Childhood Education Administration
    • BA/Education Studies
    • More...

    Location: Online

    Ashford University Request Info »
  • The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

    Pursue a certificate, master, or doctorate degree in Psychology at The Chicago School for Professional Psychology

    Programs

    • Ed.D. Educational Psychology and Technology
    • Child and Adolescent Psychology Certificate
    • M.A. Clinical Mental Health Counseling
    • More...
    Location:
    Grayslake: 1200 University Center Drive,, Grayslake IL 60030
    The Chicago School of Professional Psychology 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 »
  • Colorado Technical University Online

    A degree from CTU connects you to what matters most: powerful professional network, real-world professional faculty and innovative technology. Once you earn your degree you hit the ground running.

    Programs

    • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN completion)
    • Master of Science in Information Technology - Network Management
    • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice – Human Services
    • More...
    Location:
    Colorado Springs: 4435 North Chestnut Street, Colorado Springs CO 80907
    Colorado Technical University Online Request Info »
  • Liberty University

    100% Online & No Standardized Testing

    Programs

    • Doctor of Education: Community Care & Counseling: Marriage & Family
    • Doctor of Ministry: Evangelism & Church Planting
    • M.Div: Homiletics
    • More...
    Location:
    Lynchburg: 1971 University Blvd,, Lynchburg VA 24515
    Liberty University Request Info »
  • University of Southern California

    One of the world's leading private research institutions, the University of Southern California (USC) was founded in 1880.

    Programs

    • Online Master of Management in Library and Information Science - Urban Public Librarianship
    • Online Master of Management in Library and Information Science - Academic Librarianship
    • Master of Public Administration
    • More...
    Location:
    Los Angeles: , Los Angeles CA
    University of Southern California Request Info »
  • Miller-Motte College

    Start the next chapter of your life with an Associate or Bachelor degree from Miller-Motte College Online Division.

    Programs

    • Criminal Justice - Associate of Applied Science
    • IT Support Specialist - Associate of Applied Science
    • Paralegal - Associate of Applied Science

    Location: Online

    Miller-Motte College Request Info »
  • Norwich University - Online

    Earn your Master's degree online from Norwich University.

    Programs

    • Master of Public Administration Online
    • Master of Arts in International Relations Online
    • Master of Civil Engineering Online
    • More...
    Location:
    Northfield: 158 Harmon Dr,, Northfield VT 05663
    Norwich University - Online Request Info »
  • Logan University

    Logan is a non-profit university founded in 1935. Logan University has remained grounded in chiropractic education, while continuously enriching academic options with degree offerings in health sciences since 2012.

    Programs

    • Doctor of Health Professionals Education
    • Master of Science - Sports Science & Rehabilitation
    • Master of Science - Nutrition & Human Performance
    • More...

    Location: Online

    Logan University Request Info »
  • American University

    Change the World with American University

    Be a part of something bigger than yourself.

    Programs

    • Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Analytics and Mangement
    • Master of Science in Measurement & Evaluation
    • Master of Science in Nutrition Education
    • More...

    Location: Online

    American University 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.