URLs in Parentheses?


22 March 2014

Why does EE put URLs in parentheses when CMOS and MLA don't? Three reasons: consistency, clarity, and completeness.


A URL cites the place of publication. The standard practice for citing publication data for published works, in reference notes, is to enclose that publication data in parentheses. Following this practice for online publications as well as print works makes it easier for programmers to create citation templates and makes it easier for researchers to remember the "nitpicking rules" of citation formats.


To improve comprehension in complex sentences, we often use parentheses to set off additional but useful information about something we've just mentioned. In citation "sentences," parentheses serve the same function.

History researchers regularly use original sources that create complex citations. When we consult online images of these sources and identify the origins of those images, our citations become quite complex. Setting off the publication data in parentheses aids that clarity.


CMOS and MLA citations provide minimal details for websites--that is, the minimal needed at publication time for readers to relocate a record. EE, by comparison, focuses on the details we need *in the research process,* in order to accurately interpret and appraise what we are using.

EE focuses on the fact that that descriptive details and provenance information are needed to evaluate the reliability of a source. Therefore, our citations to online publications need to be as thorough as a conventional citation to a print publication.

In sum:

Website citations in EE style follow the same basic format used for printed books. Beyond that, if a site offers image copies of original records, then our citation includes the details essential for finding and understanding those originals