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Research Tutorials: Citing Web Sources - The Basics

How to Cite Web Sources - The Basics


When using Google for research, you'll find all types of sources; from news articles and blogs, to journal articles or books. Citing web sources can be tricky because there are so many different types, but the main elements you need to cite them remain the same.

You'll want to look for the author, the title, the name of the website or publication, the date of publication, and the URL. Depending on the source, you may need more information than this, but these are the basics.

Let's take a look at a few examples and where to find these elements. I'm looking for the skills I'll need as a librarian in the next five to ten years, to help me decide what new training to pursue this year. After sifting through the results, I landed on this editorial article.

The first thing we need is the author. The author is often found at the top of the article, under the title, or at the bottom of the article. In this case the author, Rebecca T. Miller, is at the top.

Now the title; "The Job Outlook: In 2030, Librarians Will Be in Demand". The name of the website or publication is often across the top or built into the URL name. In this case, it is "Library Journal".

Like the author, the date is often under the article title or at the bottom of the page; here we have October 17 2017.

And finally, the URL - that's the easy part, because it's in the browser bar.

Now, we got lucky with this article, all the elements were straightforward - but not all sources will be this easy.

Let's say I wanted to track down the source of the claim this article is making, about librarians being in more demand in 2030. I want to evaluate the report myself. This wasn't what I was expecting at all! It doesn't look like a report [referencing image of a graphical representation of article data] - I thought a report would look more like this [referencing image of article in all-text format] . Keep in mind that visualization of research and sources in general are changing, and it's becoming harder to tell, visually, what it is you're looking at on the web. If you come across a source you don't know how to navigate or cite, don't give up. Use those lateral search skills to find out more about it.

So it looks like the site is an interactive infographic of the research the editorial was reporting on, and here's a link to the technical report. Dang, this is 124 pages and looking at the data in this report, I can understand why they made it into an easier-to-understand infographic. After a little searching on the infographic, I was able to find the same data in an easier-to-read format.

If I wanted to cite this page, I'd start by looking for the author, but there isn't a specific author listed on the page. If you can't find the citation information on the page you're on, try looking around. I'll try the "About" section - it looks like three organizations teamed up to create this report. Pearson, Nesta, and Oxford Martin School. These are my authors.

Next is the title, which is right here at the top, "The Future of Skills". The publisher, or publication, which is the organization or company making the information available - that's Pearson, right here. Depending on the citation style you're using, you may or may not repeat this information in the citation, since Pearson is also an author.

Searching all over the site, I was not able to find a publication date; sometimes that happens. If you look around the site and you can't find an element, it's okay to skip it. Do try to find the citation information if you can, though. If you take a quick glance at the source and don't see the information, but your professor is easily able to find it, then you'll likely lose points.

And finally, the URL. There we have it! We found the citation information for both an easy, and a difficult source. If you're having trouble finding citation elements, librarians are here to help - either way, you've got this!