Citing Online Sources: What's Essential?



15 February 2014

Online sources are publications with the same core elements as print publications. This concept applies whether we are using a commercial site, a website created by an individual, or a social-networking site such as Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn. Most websites are the online equivalent of a book.

Thus, we cite the

  • author/creator/owner of the website’s content (if identifiable);
  • title of the website;
  • type of item (as with a book’s edition data);
  • publication data:
  • place (URL);
  • date (posted, updated, copyrighted, or accessed—specify which); and
  • specific detail for that citation (page, section, paragraph, keywords, entry, etc.).

If the website offers multiple items by different creators—as with the social networking sites and many of the large data providers—it is the equivalent of a book with chapters by different authors. That calls for citations of two additional items:

  • title of database, article, image collection, personal page, etc.;
  • name of the item’s creator (rarely necessary for personal pages).

Evidence Style punctuation for online citations also follows basic rules for  books and their chapters, or journals and their articles:

  • Website titles (like book titles) appear in italics.
  • Database titles (like article and chapter titles) appear in quotation marks.
  • Publication data such as URLs and date of posting or access are the equivalent of publication data for books. Thus, they appear in parentheses within our reference notes.

Isn't it nice to know that the standard patterns you memorized in middle school for citing books and articles will also work for standard online sources?


For a fuller discussion, see EE 2.33.  Many of the queries posted in EE's Citation Issues Forum also expand upon social-media citations and the quirks presented by some types of online materials. Just use the search-query box at the top-right of your screen.