How to Cite Online Sources in a Research Paper

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In the modern technological age, more and more professors are accepting online sources as legitimate references for research papers. The usual citation rules for books and journals change slightly to accommodate online publications; sometimes they are strict and precise, and other times they may be more flexible, depending on what reference information is available. Before you compile your works cited section, find out which style your professor wants you to use -- APA, MLA or Chicago. Then use these guidelines to cite your sources correctly.

MLA Style

  • Cite a complete website like this: Website Name. Date the site was published or last updated. Organization that Produces the Site. Date you visited the site and collected information <website URL>.

    For example: Fox Broadcasting Company. April 2011. Cable Network. 6 May 2011. <www.fox.com>

  • Cite an individual article from an online journal like this: Author. "Title of Article." Title of Journal vol.number (Date): page numbers. Date you visited the site <article URL>.

    For example: Ware, James H. "Pragmatic Trials --- Guides to Better Patient Care?" The New England Journal of Medicine 364 (2011): 1685-1687. 3 Feb. 2011 <http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1103502?query=featured_home>.

  • Cite an individual article from an online newspaper like this: Author. "Title of Article." Title of Newspaper Full Date, ed.: page numbers. Date you visited the site <article URL>.

    For example: Schmidt, Michael. "M.L.B. Report Casts Doubt on Rigor of Drug Testing." New York Times 5 May 2011, New York ed: B11. 5 May 2011 <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/06/sports/baseball/06steroids.html?_r=1&hp>.

  • Cite an email like this: Author. "Subject Line of Email". Name of Email Recipient. Date email was sent. (Reference 1 for all the above)

    For example: Mauro, Sean. "Info You Requested." Email to Molly Stein. 7 Aug. 2010.

  • Cite online sources in-text like this: (Author, Name of Website). If you do not know the author's name, use the title of the article; if there is no article title, use only the name of the website. Do not include the full URL. For example, use LATimes.com instead of http://www.latimes.com.

APA Style

  • Cite a complete website by putting the URL in parentheses in the text right after you mention the site. You don't need to include it in your works cited section.

  • Cite an individual article from an online journal like this: Author. (Date article was published). Title of article. Title of Journal, vol.(number), page numbers. Retrieved date, from article URL. Note that the article title is not in title case.

    For example: Ware, J. H. (2011). Pragmatic Trials --- Guides to Better Patient Care? The New England Journal of Medicine vol. 364, 1685-1687. Retrieved February 3, 2011, from http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1103502?query=featured_home.

  • Cite an individual article from an online newspaper like this: Author. (Year, Month Day). Title of article. Title of Newspaper. Retrieved date, from article URL. Note that the article title is not in title case.

    For example: Schmidt, M. (2011, May 5). M.L.B. Report Casts Doubt on Rigor of Drug Testing. New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2011 from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/06/sports/baseball/06steroids.html?_r=1&hp.

  • Cite an email in an in-text parenthetical note, not in your works cited section. Your parenthetical should look like this: (personal communication, April 6, 2009). (Reference 1 for steps 1-4)

  • Cite online sources in-text with the author's last name or the abbreviated article title in parenthesis. No page number or website name is necessary.

Chicago Manual of Style

  • Cite a book you read online like this: Author, Title of Book, (Location of Print Publication: Print Publisher, year), accessed date, URL of book. Omit any information you do not have. Some professors or publishers may not require you to list the date on which you accessed the webpage.

    For example: Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, accessed September 9, 2010, http://www.dickens-online.info/great-expectations.html.

  • Cite an online journal article like this: Author, "Title of Article," Title of Journal and edition number (year), accessed date, article URL.

    For example: James H. Ware, "Pragmatic Trials --- Guides to Better Patient Care?," The New England Journal of Medicine 364 (2011), accessed February 3, 2011, http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1103502?.

  • Cite other online references like this: "Title of Webpage," Name of Corporation or Institution Running the Webpage, accessed date OR last modified date, webpage URL. Omit any information you do not have.

    For example: "Harvard College Admissions," Harvard University, last modified April 3, 2011, http://www.admissions.college.harvard.edu/apply/forms.

  • Omit blogs and emails from your works cited section, and introduce them in the sentence in which you refer to them. For example, "In an email to the author on May 15, 2010, John Smith said...".

Tips & Warnings

  • In APA style, titles of books, journals and volume numbers are italicized.
  • In Chicago style, titles of books and journals are italicized, but volume numbers are not.

References

  • Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
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