Text only | Back

English Composition 2

Citing and Documenting Online Sources

Note: Part of this page explains how to create a Works Cited page for sources from the Web but not from online databases, such as ProQuest or JSTOR. See Documenting Sources from Online Databases for information about creating a Works Cited page with sources from ProQuest, FirstSearch, JSTOR, and other online databases.   

Citing Online Sources

In general, the same guidelines for citing print sources (see Citing Sources) also apply to online sources. However, there are a few additional guidelines, which are explained below:

  1. If no author is given for a source that you use in a paper, you should cite the title of the source. For example, if we use information from an article titled "Pregnant Woman Arrested for Drinking," and there is no author given for the article, then the title of the article should appear in parentheses at the end of a sentence in which the material is used, like this ("Pregnant Woman Arrested for Drinking"). If the title of the source is long, you can use a shortened version of the title in parentheses, but try to include enough words so that the shortened version makes sense. Readers need to be able to locate easily on the Works Cited page any works cited in a paper, so whatever appears in parentheses for a particular source should be the first words that appear for that source on the Works Cited page.
  2. If you shorten the title of a source for your citation, then, you should remove words only from the last part of the title. Remember to include the quotation marks around the title when you cite the title of a source.

  3. For print sources, you would cite in parentheses the page number(s) for the information you use from the source. However, for online sources, you should cite the page or paragraph number(s) only if page or paragraph numbers actually appear on the Web pages themselves, and, often, Web pages do not include these numbers. If you print the Web pages, you will notice page numbers near the bottom of the printouts, but do not cite these page numbers. The page numbers that appear at the bottom of printouts of Web pages are generated by your Web browser and are not page numbers that are part of the Web pages.

Documenting Online Sources: What to Include on the Works Cited Page

The Modern Language Association (MLA) is one organization that sets standards for the documentation of sources. There are other documentation styles, but the MLA style is what is used in English courses and in many other courses as well.

There are many different types of sources that are available online, but you should be able to document most online sources correctly if you follow the basic format below. However, the process is a little different for documenting sources from online database, such as ProQuest or JSTOR. Documentation of the sources from online databases is explained on the Documenting Sources from Online Databases page.

According to the MLA, the following information should be listed for an online source on the Works Cited page  The information should be listed in the order given below.

  1. Name of the author, with the last name first (followed by a period)
  2. Title of the Web page, in quotation marks (followed by a period)
  3. Title of the Web site, italicized (followed by a period)
  4. Name of the publisher or sponsor of the Web site; if none is given, use N.p. (followed by a comma)
  5. Date of publication, in the format 26 Feb. 2009; if none is given, use n.d. (followed by a period)
  6. The word Web (followed by a period)
  7. The date you accessed the source, in the format 12 Aug. 2009 (followed by a period)

If an author's name is not given for a source, just begin the listing on the Works Cited with the next item on the list above, the title of the page.

According to the MLA, the URL (or Web address) should be included for a source on the Works Cited page only if you think that it will be difficult for people to find the source without the URL or if your instructor requires the URL to be included. In most cases, the URL is not needed.

MLA documentation style used to require that the URL be included as part of the listing of each online source on the Works Cited page, but this has changed.

Sample Works Cited Page

The sample Works Cited page below lists two online sources using the MLA format explained above. Sources should be listed in alphabetical order, according to the author's last name or to the first word of the title if no author is given.


Works Cited

Jackman, Tom. "Man Sentenced to 10 Years in Drunken Driving Crash: Judge Exceeds Guidelines, Calls Death of 18-Year-Old a 'Horrible, Horrible Thing.'" Washington Post. Washington Post, 7 October 2006. Web. 21 Aug. 2009.

Wald, Matthew L. "A New Strategy to Discourage Driving Drunk." New York Times. New York Times, 20 Nov. 2006. Web. 24 Aug. 2009.


This page was last updated on Thursday, June 06, 2013. Copyright Randy Rambo, 2009.