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November 30, 2016

Writing Website In-Text Citations and References

Dear Style Expert,

I found a very useful website and cited a lot of information from it in my paper. But how do I write an in-text citation for content I found on a website? Do I just put the URL in the sentence where I cite the information?

Thanks,

Wallace

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Dear Wallace,

This is a tricky question, but we can help! The short answer is that in most cases no, you do not put the URL in the text of the paper. In fact, the only time you would put a URL in the text would be to simply mention a website in passing. Because you’re citing specific information, you will need to write a regular APA Style author–date citation. Luckily, writing the in-text citation for a website or webpage is easy: Simply include the author and year of publication. The URL goes in the corresponding reference list entry (and yes, you can leave the links live).

Website Example 

In-text citation:

The American Nurses Association (2006) issued a position statement insisting that pharmaceutical companies immediately cease using thimerosal as a vaccine preservative.

 

Reference list:

American Nurses Association. (2006). Mercury in vaccines [Position statement]. Retrieved from http://nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/Policy-Advocacy/Positions-and-Resolutions/ANAPositionStatements/Archives/Mercury-in-Vaccines.html

Note that the title of the website or webpage should be italicized in the reference list if the work on the page stands alone but not italicized if it is part of a greater whole (if this is ambiguous on the source, just choose what you think makes the most sense for the situation). In deciding how to categorize material on a website for a reference, it may be helpful to consider whether what is on the website is similar to an existing category of document type—for example, this reference is a position statement, which is similar to a press release, white paper, or report; hence the italic title. To clarify the document type, you can also specify the format in brackets after the title. 

Determining Website Authors

It can be confusing to determine who the author of a website or webpage is. Often, the author is a group or agency rather than a particular individual. For example, the author of the position statement cited above is the American Nurses Association. If the website or webpage truly does not have an author, substitute the title of the page for the author in the in-text citation and reference list entry (see this post on missing reference pieces for examples of how to do this).

Determining Website Dates

A second source of confusion is that many websites or webpages do not include publication dates. If no date of publication is provided, use the letters n.d. (which stand for “no date”). The copyright date on the website itself should not be used as the publication date for particular content on that site.

If multiple dates are provided, use the most recent date on which the content was changed. For example, if the site says the content was first published in 2010 and last updated on August 6, 2016, then use the date 2016 in the in-text citation and reference list. However, if the site says it was first published in 2010 and last reviewed in July 2016, then use the date 2010 because a review does not imply that any information was changed.

Multiple Website Citations

If you use information from multiple pages on a website, create a separate reference list entry for each page, with in-text citations that correspond to the appropriate reference list entry. It is common for writers to have multiple entries with the same author and year, so to differentiate these entries, use a letter after the year (e.g., 2016a) or after n.d. (e.g., n.d.-a; more examples here), assigning the letter by putting the references in alphabetical order by title in the reference list. Put references with no date before references with dates, and put in-press references last.

Multiple reference list entries:

American Nurses Association. (n.d.). Know your disaster. Retrieved from http://nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/WorkplaceSafety/Healthy-Work-Environment/DPR/KnowYourDisaster  

American Nurses Association. (1991a). Equipment/safety procedures to prevent transmission of bloodborne diseases [Position statement]. Retrieved from http://nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/Policy-Advocacy/Positions-and-Resolutions/ANAPositionStatements/Position-Statements-Alphabetically/EquipmentSafety-Procedures-to-Prevent-Transmission-of-Bloodborne-Diseases.html

American Nurses Association. (1991b). Post-exposure programs in the event of occupational exposure to HIV/HBV [Position statement]. Retrieved from http://nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/Policy-Advocacy/Positions-and-Resolutions/ANAPositionStatements/Position-Statements-Alphabetically/Post-Exposure-Programs-in-the-Event-of-Occupational-Exposure-to-HIVHBV.html

American Nurses Association. (2015). Academic progression to meet the needs of the registered nurse, the health care consumer, and the U.S. health care system [Position statement]. Retrieved from http://nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/Policy-Advocacy/Positions-and-Resolutions/ANAPositionStatements/Position-Statements-Alphabetically/Academic-Progression-to-Meet-Needs-of-RN.html


In text, you can cite these references separately as usual (e.g., American Nurses Association, 1991b), or you can combine citations with the same author if desired. Simply state the author once and then provide the years of the applicable references in chronological order, separated by commas. 

Combined in-text citations:

American Nurses Association (n.d., 1991a, 1991b, 2015)

(American Nurses Association, n.d., 1991a, 1991b, 2015)

Do you have more questions about how to create in-text citations for content from websites or webpages? Leave a comment below.

Cheers!

—Chelsea Lee

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