If you have been a student for a while, you may have noticed that style guidelines struggled to keep up with internet sources. Even now, when all style guidelines have detailed information about how to cite web-based sources, many people report being confused about how to do so properly. While it would be easy to blame this on some act or omission by the style guide people, the reality is that website design, itself, is generally to blame. Many websites simply do not have the type of information that one needs to create an ideal academic citation. In other instances, a student may not be sure whether the information is actually a website or some other type of source. For example, you might wonder if a book, journal, or magazine that is available online should be cited as a website or as another source type.
In this handy APA website citation guide, we will answer your website citation questions and teach you how to properly cite different types of information available on the Internet.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges that a student faces when trying to cite an online source is that the readily available information does not seem to match the information needed for the citation. Many websites, especially ones created and maintained by individuals, do not have basic information that is usually needed for a citation, such as the author and the date of creation. As a result, you need to examine each website with a critical eye. Ask yourself two questions. First, what identifying information is available for this website? Second, what information do I need for a complete citation to a website of this type. If the website is missing identifying information, you will essentially omit that part of the reference, though certain types of missing information may require you to change how you approach your citation creation.
While there are some types of information that requires a specialized format, the basic APA website citation format is very simple:
Author, A. A. (Year, Month Day). Article title. Retrieved from URL
Author Name: Soraya Chemaly
Article Title: 50 Actual Facts About Rape
Date of Publication: December 8, 2014 (using updated date because that is when this actual article was published; the prior version was published on the original publication date)
Therefore, the citation would be:
Chemaly, S. (2014, December 8). 50 actual facts about rape. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soraya-chemaly/50-facts-rape_b_2019338.html
In many online encyclopedias, there is no author information. Therefore, the article name takes the place of the author name. The generic format is:
Article name. (Date). In Encylopedia name. Retrieved from URL
Wikipedia is an extremely popular online encyclopedia, and our example uses a Wikipedia article. However, please be careful when using Wikipedia as a source in your academic writing. Although many colleges and universities have changed their rules to reflect Wikipedia’s evolving content standards, many others still prohibit its use as a source in academic writing.
Article Name: William Shakespeare
Encyclopedia Name: Wikipedia
While you may notice that there is no date at the top of the article, many online encyclopedias, including Wikipedia, include that information at the bottom of the article:
Date: May 9, 2017
Putting together the information, the citation would be:
William Shakespeare. (2017, May 9). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare
Author, A.A., & Author, B.B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Online Periodical,
volume number (issue number). Retrieved from URL
This is relatively simple format, which you would use for online periodicals. Time Magazine is one such periodical, and given that the format is simple, you would think that the citation would also be simple. However, if you go to www.time.com, you find that the website contains information from the magazine, but also breaking news that is not included in the periodical. How do you determine which articles are in the magazine?
If you look at the homepage, captured in the screenshot below, you will see that the general news articles are on the homepage, while links to articles included in the published magazine are on the right. We have indicated this area with the notation “articles included in the current issue.” Not all online periodicals will use the same way of differentiating between online news and news available in their publication, but they should have some way of differentiating between them. Therefore, before citing your source, take a few moments to investigate the cite, so you can decide whether or not you are citing an article in a periodical or simply an article from a website; they are cited differently.
For the purposes of this example, we selected an article from the then-current episode for our research. It contains much of the identifying information that we will need to create our citation:
That information includes:
Authors: Michael Scherer, Alex Altman
Date: May 18, 2017.
However, as you can see, there is other important information that is missing, including the volume and issue number. Therefore, you want to take a moment to look up the specific information for that issue. When you do, you get a result like the one below:
This provides additional information, including:
Date of publication: May 29, 2017
We can then put that information together to form the citation:
Scherer, M. & Altman, A. (2017). Trump’s loyalty test. Time Magazine, 189 (20). Retrieved from http://time.com/4783929/president-trump-loyalty-test/?xid=homepage&pcd=hp-magmod
There are a wide variety of types of internet periodicals, but online scholarly journals are cited differently from the others. This is because scholarly journals usually contain identifiers known as DOIs. A DOI is a digitial object identifier, which identifies content and provides a persistent link to the content on the Internet. While URLs may change, a DOI should remain linked to a publication and follow it through URL changes. Therefore, is a more permanent way to locate a document. If a DOI is available, you always want to include it in your citation.
The basic way of citing an article from an online periodical with an assigned DOI is:
Author, A.A. & Author, B.B. (Date of publication). Title of article, Title of Journal, volume
number, page range. doi: xxxx/xxxxx or http://dx.doi.org/xxx.xxx.xxx
To see how to find this information, let us examine a screenshot of an article from the Journal of Investigate Medicine: High Impact Case Reports available from the PMC database:
Unlike the problems we encountered locating all of the necessary information with the regular periodical, the scholarly journal has the information we need readily available:
Author names: Veysi Hakan Yardimci and Aytul Hande Yardimci
Date of Publication: April 27, 2017
Volume number: 5
Issue number: 2
Article Name: An Unusual First Manifestation of Hodgkin Lymphoma: Epitrochlear Lymph Node Involvement- A Case Report and Brief Review of Literature
Periodical Name: Journal of Investigative Medicine: High Impact Case Reports
Because APA allows you to shorten the name of certain words in your references, you can abbreviate the journal as J Investig Med High Impact Case Rep.
The only piece of information that is missing is the page range for the article, but if you go to the source, you will see that the page number is not included.
Putting together the information, the citation is:
Yardimci, V. H. & Yardimci, A.H. (2017). An unusual first manifestation of Hodgkin Lymphoma: Epitrochlear lymph node involvement- A case report and brief review of literature. J Investig Med High Impact Case Rep, 5(2). doi: 10.1177/2324709617706709
While most scholarly journals will have doi’s associated with their articles, some newer or smaller journals might not. To cite to hose articles, you want to include the URL to the journal’s home page. This can be confusing, because you would usually cite the URL where you found the resource, itself. Therefore, be sure you include the appropriate URL.
The basic format for an online scholarly journal with no doi is:
Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Journal, volume
number. Retrieved from URL
Author Name: Martin Kovan
Article Name: Capital Punishment: A Buddhist Critique
Journal Name: Journal of Buddhist Ethics
Date of Publication: 2017
URL for article: http://blogs.dickinson.edu/buddhistethics/files/2017/03/Kovan-Capital-Punishment-final-4.pdf
URL for journal: http://blogs.dickinson.edu/buddhistethics/
Kovan, M. (2017). Capital punishment: a Buddhist critique. Journal of Buddhist Ethics, 21. Retrieved from http://blogs.dickinson.edu/buddhistethics/
Newspapers are another popular online resource. The basic citation for a newspaper article is simple:
Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Year, Month Day). Title of article. Title of Newspaper.
Retrieved from URL
Information from the page is:
Author: Julie Takahashi
Article Name: Judge Dismisses Ahmed Mohamed ‘Clock Boy’ Suit against Irving ISD
Newspaper: Houston Chronicle
Date: May 19, 2017
Therefore, the citation is:
Takahashi, J. (2017, May 19). Judge dismisses Ahmed Mohamed ‘Clock Boy’ suit against Irving ISD. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved from http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Judge-dismisses-Ahmed-Mohamed-Clock-Boy-suit-11159334.php
It is always preferable to cite to a hard-copy of a book, if that is available. If the book has a doi, then use the doi in place of the URL. If it is not, then the citation format for an electronic book is:
Author, A. A. (publication date). Title of book. Retrieved from URL.
Although Pride and Prejudice is available in print format, for the purposes of this example, we will assume that we could only access an electronic copy:
Author: Jane Austen
Title: Pride and Prejudice
Copyright Date: 1918
Publisher: Charles Scribner’s Sons
Although we have the publisher information, because we accessed the book online, we can cite it as:
Austen, J. (1918). Pride and Prejudice. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=s1gVAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
Books accessed through Kindle or Nook have their own citation format:
Author, A. A. (Date of publication). Title of book [Kindle DX version].
Retrieved from Amazon.com
Author, A. A. (Date of publication). Title of book [Nook DX version].
Retrieved from Barnes and Noble
While you can find videos in a number of different locations, it is now probably the most common to find videos on the internet using services like YouTube.
The basic format for citing a video available on the internet in APA format is very simple:
Author, A. A. [Screen name]. (Year, month day). Title of video [Video file]. Retrieved from
http://url or https://url
In the below example, we look at the citation by YouTube personality Jack Septic Eye:
There is no author name, so you use the username instead:
Jack Septic Eye. (2017, May 15). We won the game: Player unknown’s battlegrounds #2 w/
Robin [Video File]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIdx2NCzlyI
Another popular type of source available online is the podcast. Podcasts may be audio only or video podcasts. NPR is probably the best-known source of podcasts, but you might find them in other locations, as well. You want to include as much information as possible about the podcast, though it might not all be available.
The general format for a podcast citation will be:
Publisher. (Year, Month Day). Episode title [Episode Number]. Podcast name. Podcast
retrieved from URL.
Date of Publication: May 15, 2017
Podcast Name: Wow in the World
Episode Title: The Search for Planet 9 and Our Sushi-Powered brains
Episode Number: Episode 1
You might have to click on the actual podcast to complete the information you need for your citation:
NPR. (2017, May 15). The search for planet 9 and our sushi-powered brains [Episode 1]. Wow in the World. Podcast retrieved from http://www.npr.org/podcasts/510321/wow-in-the-world
When the Internet first became a very popular source of information, there was some confusion about whether URL’s should be included in citations. After all, URL’s are not static; simply because you can access the referenced information at the URL at the time you create the source does not mean that any of your future readers will be able to find it there in the future. However, most citation methods seemed to realize that the purpose of a citation is to help the reader find the original source, should they wish to do so. As a result, including the URL or other identifier, such as the doi for academic journals, became part of referencing sources. We have shown you the appropriate way to include these identifiers in each of the different-types of web-available resources.
Because you will probably need to include the URL in your reference, we are starting with a simple guide for finding the URL. Most of you are probably aware that the URL is the text found in your browser bar when you are on a website. In our citation guides, we use the example, we are using the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s website as our example. The URL for that website is https://fbi.gov. While the https language is not technically part of the URL, it is required for citation. That is because there are different types of hypertext transfer protocols. Generally http is used for non-secure websites, while https is used for secured websites. You want to be sure to include the appropriate one in any references you create. Unfortunately, as the screenshot captured below indicates, some browsers will not include the first part of the address in the URL line. As the first example below demonstrates, Internet Explorer does not display this part of the address as a default. You can find it by highlighting the source in the browser bar, which will cause the full address to appear. In the alternative, if you are doing a lot of research, you may want to select a browser like Google Chrome, which displays the full address, as shown in the second example below.
FBI Homepage screenshot taken from FBI homepage on May 16, 2017, annotated by Student Network Resources
FBI Homepage screenshot taken from FBI homepage on May 16, 2017, annotated by Student Network Resources
Internet sources are rapidly replacing hard-copy sources as the main resources students use in research papers and essays. Therefore, it is essential that today’s student knows how to properly cite a web-based source. We hope we have provided you with a comprehensive overview of APA website citation. However, we know that the Internet is constantly evolving. If you need any additional help with citing internet resources, please feel free to contact us at our Student Questions cite.