How to cite references in a web article

Lindsay McComb / Posted 6.26.2012

How to cite references in a web article

So you've written an article for the web. Maybe it's on your blog, maybe it's for some kind of awesome webzine.

You googled around a bit to find out information for your article. Maybe you grabbed a creative commons photo from flickr. Being the conscientious person you are, you want to make sure that you give credit where credit is due.

Here are a few easy tips to help you cite, reference and link all your creative sources.

Hyperlinks and inline citations

If you can link to it, do it. If you reference a product, a person, a place, or a thing: provide a hyperlink. Not only will it give your readers a better understanding of what you're talking about, but it will also make sure the product/person/place/thing gets the appropriate credit.

Scenario 1: You're writing an article comparing eReaders. You're discussing the merits of the Barnes and Noble Nook and the Amazon Kindle Fire. In order to give readers a chance to see what you found in your research, make sure to provide links to the produces.

I love the Amazon Kindle Fire, but the Nook is a little too booky.

Scenario 2: You read an article somewhere that inspired you to write a passionate response. Before you defend your no doubt awesome point of view, make sure that you reference who wrote the article and link to it.This gives your readers better context. This is also known as an inline citation.

Liz Dwyer believes that "supporting your local library is honoring Ray Bradbury." Here's what I think...

Scenario 3: You found a creative commons photo that you're free to use as long as you give the author credit (don't even think of just grabbing a photo from just anywhere) and want to place it in your article. Do so! Just make sure to add a caption underneath with a link to the original source. 

Don't you just love the smell of old paperbacks? These vintage books are a prime example of what eBook readers are missing out on. (Velo Steve)

Quick and dirty

So you provided hyperlinks to everything you mentioned in your article. Great!

What about blogs you read for inspiration or news articles about the topic on hand? What about that picture you grabbed (with a creative commons license) to make a header?

Why, just credit (with links) the online sources at the end of your article, of course. Here at the Meta Q that's just what we do. It usually looks a little something like this:

Time Magazine
The Atlantic
Photo credit: formatbrain

Pick a style

Sometimes web sources aren't enough. Maybe you need something a little more extensive for your reference list Before you do so, make sure you pick a style that works best for you and/or your organization.

Some popular styles to choose from are: AP, APA, MLA, Chicago and Harvard style.

AP style is favored by journalists and is ever-evolving to accommodate writing online. Here at Meta Q, we're big fans of the AP style.

We'll get you started by showing you how to reference a book and a website using AP style. For more information on other styles, please visit their respective websites below.

Make sure to put all items in your bibliography in alphabetical order by the author's last name. If a book has more than one author, list them in alphabetical order.

One author:
Sedaris, D.  Naked.  Back Bay Books, 2000.
Two authors:
Strunk, William Jr. and White, E.B. The Elements of Style, second edition. The Macmillan Co., 1972.

For websites, it's not always easy or possible to provide the all the information, but try your best to ascertain the author, the title of the post, the name of the website, the date the entry was posted, the specific URL and the date you accessed it. A website reference should look a bit like this:

McComb, L. "Give eReaders a chance," The Meta Q. 5 June 2012, (26 June 2012).

Have a question about citing references in your web writing? Let us know!

Lindsay McComb

Writer and Content Specialist

Lindsay is Q Digital Studio’s writer and content specialist. She develops heady technical jargon into clear, coherent (and optimized) content. She has a knack for finding just the right words - but only after she’s had a nice cup of coffee (or two). She happily dives into the depths of the Internet on a daily basis. Lindsay has worked as a writer and editor the world over.