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Citing Web Sources
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Citing Web Sources

Web resources must be credited like any other publication. Citing any source in a research paper or project is important because if you don't provide that information as part of your paper, you can be accused of plagiarism. Plagiarism is generally defined as using someone else's words, language or ideas without giving credit to the author. For plagiarizing some else's work, students have been given failing grades, suspended, or even kicked out of school.

When you research topics on the web, it's important to first check out the accuracy and quality of information on the web sites you find. To learn more, check out "How to Research the Web" on the Ohio Reading Road Trip website.

To help avoid plagiarism, follow these simple suggestions when you're doing research.

  • When you copy specific sentences or phrases from the source, put them in quotes, highlight them, or mark them so that you know these are someone else's words.
  • Make notes right away on the resource of these words or ideas.

So what kind of notes should you make? What information do you need to give credit where credit is due?

To cite sources in your paper or report, look for and write down the following information every time you pull quotes or information from a web site:

The name of the author or the editor of the web page should be listed on that page. Indicate which is which, and if the author's name is a pseudonym or pen name, make that notation too.

Title or name of the work could be the name of an online book, a web site, an online project, or manuscript. Also, make note of chapters titles, sections, and web pages within a web site.

Publication information, if it is included, would be for any print version of the information you are using. Is the short story part of a book that was published? Then you'll need to include the name of the publisher, the city in which the book was published, and the year when it was published. If you can't find the book in your library, you might be able to look it up and find its publication information on a website such as Amazon.com.

A name or description of your resource would be "web site," "email," or perhaps "bulletin board" or "discussion forum." Make a note that the words "online posting" are used in citing resources such as bulletin boards or discussion forums.

Date of publication or date of access refers to the date the information was posted or published on the web site. Check the very top or bottom of the page, as well as the home page and look for words like "Last updated" with a date.

The date you did your research is important to include as well. The Web is a dynamic medium, always changing, so make a note of when you found the information.

Page numbers or total number of pages can be hard to determine. You will see them most often if an article is divided into several pages. This is usually indicated by the word "next" at the end of the page. If the article appears on a single web page, try to provide some point of reference, such as "paragraph 7," or use the title of a section.

The identifying web site address, web site number or pathway (also called URL) is found in the "address" section of your web browser. Usually you can just highlight that address, copy it and paste it into your citation. However, when frames are used on a web site, the path for an individual page may not be indicated in the address. If that is the case, give the address of the main page, and detail the steps you took or the page names that led you to the information. For example:

http://www.authorwebsite.com in the section titled "Biography"

Sometimes you have to look long and hard for the information you need to get the details listed above. Sometimes that information might not be available on the page you're viewing. If you have used the Web Evaluation techniques and are confident the web page is accurate, authoritative, without bias and current, try shortening the web address to see if you can get to the home page or a page that has more information.

For example, on the Library of Congress web site, if the website address is http://www.loc.gov/loc/cfbook/2003-LAL-statewinners.html you can go back to the home page by deleting the file name and the directories from the end of the address, which looks like this: http://www.loc.gov/ (In a web address, directories are between slash marks.) Once you are on the home page, you can possibly get the source of the web page information.

Citation Tip: Some web sites include a citation already designed for you and located at the bottom of the page or near the copyright. A great explanation of this can be found at How Stuff Works.

Your teacher will tell you what style you should use for citations. If you'd like more information, check out the following web sites.

Classroom Connect's Citing Internet Resources offers all kinds of examples of how to cite resources. Other good resources include Ohio State University's Documenting Online Sources and the University of Southern Mississippi, which provides an instant reference guide, illustrating how to cite various works in bibliographies.

Plagiarism as defined by the History News Network at George Mason University in Virginia and described by Writing Tutorial Sevices at the University of Indiana Bloomington.

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