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How do I Correctly Cite Internet Sources?

honest-userCiting a source means to acknowledge, or give credit to, the person who actually created the content you’re using. The opposite of this is plagiarism, which means to take someone else’s work – art, paper, report, photos, etc. – and claim it as your own.

Citing your sources is important for two key reasons. The first is to give credit where credit is due to the people whose work you quote, or used as a basis for your ideas. The second reason is to allow others who read or see your work to check the resources you’ve used to check for accuracy by following your citation to the exact article, or website you reference, or to learn more from that resource if they are looking to expand their own understanding.

When and how to cite:

  • Whenever you use a direct quote, acknowledge the quote by placing it inside quotation marks and then naming the author.
  • Whenever you paraphrase content – ideas, written text, or thoughts – place the credit within your research paper where your paraphrase occurs and at the end of the paper in the bibliography.
  • Whenever you use photos, images, or other art, naming the artist or creator underneath the image.
  • You can also use footnotes, endnotes or parenthetical remarks to cite content in research papers.

There is no single standard for citing or referencing online sources correctly; instead there are several guidelines based on style preferences. It is important for teachers to identify the style they require, and for students to follow that style when turning in work.

Core elements in citing material include the author’s last name, first name (when known); the title of the specific document, article, or work in quotes, (when known); the title of the larger work if there is one, the date when the article was published (when available); the date of the last revision if any; the date you accessed the material, and for internet resources, the URL where the content is hosted.

For example, if an online article titled Citing Sources was written by John Smith in August 2011, and was found on the website and you researched it for a report on September 3rd 2011, and wanted to quote the 4th paragraph, you could cite it like this:

Smith, John: Citing Sources: []: para. 4: [Sept 3, 2011]

Creating that citation was easy because all the information elements were discoverable. Unfortunately, information on the internet doesn’t always include all of these pieces. Maybe John Smith was only attributed by his last name. In that case, the citation would look like this:

Smith: Citing Sources: []: para. 4: [Sept 3, 2011]

What if you couldn’t find the name of the author at all? The citation would then look like:

[Unattributed]: Citing Sources: []: para. 4: [Sept 3, 2011]

What if you are citing an entire website? The citation would look like:

ProperCitations is an excellent website for learning how to cite material (

Using the same scenario, with John Smith and Citing Sources, but using a different style guide can make the citation look different. For example if the style guide requires you to show not only when you accessed the document, but also when the document was created, it might look like this:

Smith, John. (Aug. 2011). “Citing Sources.” ProperCitations. Retrieved 3 Sept. 2011 from

When your resource isn’t found on a website, it came as comments through email, IM, Social Network, etc., you designate the sender, and the date it was sent. For example:

J. Smith (personal communication, Sept 3, 2011)

Learn more about how to cite internet content by referring to:

The APA Style Help, (
The MLA style help, (
What is citation?, (

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