How to Cite a Document From a Website


As the Purdue Online Writing Lab notes, modern academia's rules about citing Internet sources frequently change and are not yet absolutely established. In addition, specific rules about formatting the citations vary among different style guides. However, the basics are always the same; every time you cite an online document, you will need to include the essential pieces of information that provide adequate attribution and that help your readers locate your sources.

In Body of Paper

  • Mention the name of the document's author, at minimum. You can specify just the author's last name, or both his first and last names. If the document wasn't written by a specific person or people, you can instead mention the organization that authored or published the document.

  • Include the publishing organization or the name of the website, if it fits into the context or strengthens your discussion of the source. For example, the Library of Congress is the publisher of some websites; or, if you are mentioning the Library of Congress's website itself, then the publisher would be the U.S. Government.

  • Note when the document was published, if its information is time-sensitive, only relevant for a certain period or likely to change in the future.

  • Refer to a particular place in the document, if you're citing specific information or if you are quoting directly. You can use the page number if the document has pages, specify the paragraph number or note the subtitle or heading of the relevant section.

In Bibliography

  • Write the name of the author of the document. If the specific document has no author, then you can either omit the author's name or use the author or publisher of the website.

  • Cite the title of the document. You can enclose it in quotation marks (according to the Modern Language Association style guide), italicize it (according to the American Psychological Association style guide or simply write it without extra formatting.

  • Write the name of the website. To find it and to make sure you write it correctly, look on the home page, check the logo--usually found in the top left-hand corner--or examine the site's "About" page.

  • Cite the publisher of the website--often a company or organization--if you did not already use it in place of the author.

  • Specify the date when the document was published, if you can find it. Otherwise, use any date you can find on the document or on the webpage where you obtained the document: The date it was updated, the date it was reviewed or the most recent copyright date.

  • Cite the date when you most recently accessed the document. Specify the month, day and year.

  • Copy and paste the URL that leads to the document. Or, you can use the URL for the page that links to the document.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you must follow a certain style guide, such as APA, MLA or Chicago, then you will need to format this information in a particular way, according to the specific style guide's formatting rules.
  • According to the Library of Congress, you should primarily endeavor to provide sufficient information and to be consistent. The most important thing is forming a citation that will allow readers to find your cited sources.

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