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Do not cite: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
  • Full Sail University - Online

    Learning at Full Sail University has always centered around interaction and the exchange of ideas. Our online curriculum fully embraces this philosophy.

    Programs

    • Cloud Technologies Bachelors - Online
    • Graphic Design, Bachelor of Science (Online)
    • Entertainment Business, Master of Science (Online)
    • More...

    Location: Online

    Full Sail University - Online 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 »
  • 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 »
  • Georgetown University

    About Georgetown University
    Georgetown University is a private, not-for-profit, accredited university located in Washington, DC. Founded in 1789 by John Carroll, Georgetown is America's oldest Catholic and Jesuit University. Today, Georgetown is a major international research university. It has nine schools, an affiliated hospital and many highly-ranked graduate programs.Georgetown University Online

    Programs

    • Master of Professional Studies in Sports Industry Management
    • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate
    • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
    • More...

    Location: Online

    Georgetown University Request Info »
  • Ashford University

    Technology changes everything®

    You’ve found Ashford University, where school comes to you

    Programs

    • Associate of Arts - Early Childhood.
    • BA/Early Childhood Education Administration
    • BA/Education Studies
    • More...

    Location: Online

    Ashford University Request Info »
  • Claremont Graduate University

    Claremont Graduate University (CGU) has been awarding master’s and doctoral degrees for nearly 100 years. 

    Programs

    • Masters of Science in Information Systems & Technology
    • Masters of Science in Evaluation & Applied Research
    • Masters of Science in Marketing Analytics

    Location: Online

    Claremont Graduate University Request Info »
  • University of Maryland at College Park

    Study online with University of Maryland at College Park.

    Programs

    • MBA - Information Systems & Business Analytics
    • MBA - General
    • MBA - Marketing
    • More...
    Location:
    College Park: , College Park MD 20742
    University of Maryland at College Park Request Info »
  • Argosy University, Online Programs

    Welcome to Argosy University

    Argosy University offers doctoral, master's, and bachelor's degree programs to students through its eight colleges:  College of Behavioral Sciences, Graduate School of Business and Management, College of Education,  College of Health Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Creative Arts and Design, College of Clinical Psychology and Western State College of Law at Argosy University as well as certificate programs in many areas.

    Programs

    • Business Administration (BS)
    • Curriculum and Instruction (EdD)
    • Liberal Arts (BA)
    • More...

    Location: Online

    Argosy University, Online Programs Request Info »
  • George Mason University

    Located in Fairfax, Virginia, George Mason University is the largest public research university in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

    Programs

    • Master of Education in Special Education, specializing in Applied Behavior Analysis
    • Master of Business Administration: Business Analytics Specialization
    • Master of Education in Special Education, specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorder
    • More...

    Location: Online

    George Mason  University Request Info »
  • Divine Mercy University

    Divine Mercy University (DMU) is a Catholic graduate school of psychology and counseling, founded in 1999 as the Institute for the Psychological Sciences.  

    Programs

    • M.S. in Psychology (online)

    Location: Online

    Divine Mercy 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.