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March 19, 2010

How to Cite Facebook: Fan Pages, Group Pages, and Profile Information

[Note 10/18/2013: Please view an updated and expanded version of this post at http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2013/10/how-to-cite-social-media-in-apa-style.html]

Chelsea blogby Chelsea Lee

Although Facebook citations may not be in the Publication Manual, this blog has addressed how to cite Facebook in general (just mention the URL in text) and how to cite particular Facebook status updates (make a reference list entry) in APA Style. That advice still holds true.

Now to discuss how to cite specific information from Facebook other than status updates, such as anything on a publically viewable page (e.g., a fan page, group page, info tab, boxes tab, etc.). Here are two templates, based on the APA Style FAQ for how to cite information from a website with no author, year, or page numbers:

Username or Group Name. (n.d.). In Facebook [Page type]. Retrieved Month 
Day, Year, from http://www.facebook.com/specificpageURL
  • When the date is unknown, use n.d. for “no date.”

  • Describe the source type inside square brackets.

Username or Group Name. [ca. 2010]. In Facebook [Page type]. Retrieved 
Month Day, Year, from http://www.facebook.com/specificpageURL
  • When the date can be reasonably certain but isn’t stated on the document, use a bracketed date and “ca.” (see also Example 67, p. 214).

 

Example Citations

Because examples make everything more fun, let’s say I am writing about the cognition skills of the great apes and I discuss Nonja, an orangutan armed with a digital camera who lives in the Vienna Tiergarten Zoo (read more about her in this Daily Mail article). Here’s a citation for her Facebook fan page:

Nonja. (n.d.). In Facebook [Fan page]. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from 
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nonja/190010092116

In my next paper about the power of nostalgia and viral marketing, I refer to the Facebook group page for When I was your age, Pluto was a planet. As of this writing it had more than 1.8 million members (and its founder has even been interviewed by NASA). Here’s a citation for the group page:

When I was your age, Pluto was a planet. [ca. 2009]. In Facebook [Group 
page]. Retrieved December 16, 2009,
from http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2207893888

For all these citations, whether to use "n.d." or "[ca. 2010]" is a judgment call and up to you, depending on the situation. And remember to double check your URLs—many pages can share the same name, so you need the right URL to tell them apart.

 

Private Page Citation

Because content from private or friends-only Facebook pages or profiles is not retrievable by everyone, if you cite it, it should be treated as personal communication (see section 6.20, p. 179).


What other social media citation conundrums do you have?

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