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Do not cite: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
  • Argosy University

    Argosy University offers doctoral, master's, and bachelor's degree programs to students through its eight colleges.

    Programs

    • Psychology (BA) (Online)
    • Business Administration - Accounting (BS) (Online)
    • Business Administration - Healthcare Management (BS) (Online)
    • More...
    Location:
    Phoenix: 2233 West Dunlap Ave., Phoenix AZ 85021
    Argosy University 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 »
  • 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 Management - Healthcare Management
    • Master of Science in Information Technology - Network Management
    • More...
    Location:
    Colorado Springs: 4435 North Chestnut Street, Colorado Springs CO 80907
    Colorado Technical University Online Request Info »
  • Regent University

    Regent University prepares students with the knowledge to excel and the faith to live with purpose.

    Programs

    • Master of Arts in Law - Non-Profit Management
    • Bachelor of Arts in English - Self-Designed
    • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies
    • More...

    Location: Online

    Regent 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 »
  • Intercoast Colleges

    Get your career started with Intercoast Colleges.

    Programs

    • Alcohol & Drug Counseling Studies
    • Online Alcohol & Drug Counseling Studies

    Location: Online

    Intercoast Colleges Request Info »
  • Simmons College School of Social Work

    SocialWork@Simmons is an innovative, online Master of Social Work program offered through the Simmons School of SocialWork, the nation’s oldest school of social work. Complete your MSW in as little as 15 months with this CSWE-accredited program. No GRE required.

    Programs

    • Master of Social Work
    Location:
    Boston: 300 The Fenway, Boston MA 02115
    Simmons College School of Social Work Request Info »
  • Keiser University

    Since 1977, Keiser University has provided quality student-centered, career-focused education.

    Programs

    • Master of Business Administration, MBA - Information Security Management
    • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
    • Master of Business Administration, MBA - International Business
    • More...

    Location: Online

    Keiser University Request Info »
  • Rutgers Business School

    A Rutgers business education prepares students for success – not just in their chosen fields but also in their lives.

    Programs

    • Online MS in Supply Chain Management
    • Master of Governmental Accounting (Online)

    Location: Online

    Rutgers Business School Request Info »
  • USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work

    The MSW@USC is the first top-ranked MSW program offered nationally. Many online programs are limited to certain geographic areas or the availability of courses, making it necessary to travel to campus. Our program can be completed from virtually anywhere without the need to relocate to Southern California.

    Programs

    • Master of Social Work
    Location:
    Los Angeles: 3601 Watt Way, GFS-315, Los Angeles CA 90089
    USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work 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.