With the advent of the Internet over the past decade there has been an increasing requirement for information on the citation of Internet sources.
In recent years I have received ever more frequent requests to add the “citation of Internet sources” to the MLA Format and MLA Style pages on my Writing Help Central Website.
Accordingly, the following is my summary of the key points for including MLA citations in a paper, as per the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers
Please take note that the material below is based on my understanding of the MLA standards that I consulted when I wrote this. If you have a complex citation situation, please check the MLA Handbook For Writers of Research Papers.
MLA Citation of Sources On The Internet
Authors using and citing sources on the World Wide Web (i.e. Internet) should observe the following two guidelines:
- Direct readers as closely as possible to the specific information being cited. So, whenever possible, reference the specific document to which you refer, rather than home or menu pages.
- Provide addresses (i.e. hyperlinks) that work. Make sure you test them periodically.
Documents available via the Internet include articles from periodicals (e.g. newspapers, newsletters, journals, etc.); They may stand on their own (e.g. research papers, government reports , online books, brochures, etc.); or they may be in Web-based format (e.g. Web pages, newsgroups, blogs, etc.).
Following are some key points to note when citing electronic sources in MLA format:
- A citation of an electronic work may require two or more publication dates to be identified fully. Since electronic texts can be easily altered, any version of a text accessed online may be different from previous versions. So, typically a citation for an online text contains the date assigned to the document in the source as well as the date on which the researcher accessed the document.
- At a minimum, an Internet source reference should include; document title or description, date of publication or retrieval, and an Internet address (i.e. a valid URL, or uniform resource locator). When possible, identify author name(s) as well.
- The URL must be working, or your paper or argument will suffer. The best way to avoid a typo in a URL is to copy it directly (with your word processor) from the address/location field when you are actually at that particular Web page that you want to cite. For example, the URL for this particular page that you are viewing right now is “http://www.writinghelp-central.com/mla-citation-internet.html”. That is the unique identifier for this one particular page of information that differentiates it from all of the other billions of pages online.
- When you cannot copy the URL directly, be sure that you record it carefully; exactly as it is stated wherever you are copying it from. Always use lower-case letters when citing a URL.
- Test all URLs that you cite in a browser program such as Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox. Make sure that it takes you to the exact Web page that contains the info you are citing. It is a good idea to test URL’s periodically since third-party information often gets relocated online or taken down.
- MLA format requires that you include the complete URL, including the access mode prefix (e.g. http://) and all relevant path and file names needed to get to the specific page being referenced.
- MLA format requires that all URLs be enclosed in angle brackets (e.g. ‹http://writingprompts.com/mla.html›. If a URL must be divided between two lines, break it only after a slash; do not introduce any formatting characters such as hyphens.
Sample MLA Citations – Internet References
Following are example citations for some of the more common types of references to online sources. (All sources cited are fictitious):
Online Project or Database:
Include: title of project or database, name of project or database, publication info as available such as version number, name of sponsoring organization, etc., date of access, and full URL.
Britannica Online. Vers. O7.3 Apr. 2007. Encyclopedia Britannica. 8 May 2007 ‹http://www.eb.com/›.
The Discovery Channel Online. 2007. Discovery Channel. 28 June 2007 ‹http://dsc.discovery.com›.
Article, Poem, Short Story or Similar Work:
Include: author’s name, title of work, followed by the rest of the project or database info as itemized above. If no author is available begin citation with the title in quotes.
Jackson, Maynard. “Living With Fear and Uncertainty”. Maclean’s Magazine Online. Ed. Stanley Workman. May 2007. Maclean’s Magazine. 20 Aug. 2007. ‹http://www.macleans.ca/May2007.art05›.
“Watch Your Step!” Runners World On The Web. July 2007. Runners World Blog. 25 Aug. 2007. ‹http://www.runnersworld.com/blog/Jul07/
Fawcett, Shaun. Writing Success Secrets. 2004. 15 Sept. 2006 ‹http://www.writingprompts.com/secrets.html›.
Online Government Publication:
Canada. Industry Canada. Developing Your Business Plan. Business Coach Series, August 2007, Canada Business Web site. 25 Oct. 2007 ‹http://bsa.canadabusiness.ca/gol/bsa/site.nsf/en/su07140.html#a3›.
Scholarly Journal Article:
Dalbert, Raymond. “Business Designs for the New Millennium”. BusinessEd Monthly Review. 47.4 (1999). 15 pp. 17 Apr. 2006
Newspaper or Newswire Article:
“Fossil Find Challenges Man’s Timeline”. NY Times Online 10 July 2007. 10 July 2007 ‹http://www.nytimes.com/nytonline/NYTO-Fossil-Challenges-Timeline.html›.
Bowser, John.”Storm Paralyzes Transit System”. New York Times on the Web 25 June 2007. 28 June 2007 ‹http://www.nytimes.com/
Shoumatoff, Alex. “A Russian Tragedy”. Walrus Online 14 May 2006. 16 Sept. 2007 ‹http://www.thewalrus.ca/online/articles/russia-0506.html›.
Online Interview Transcript:
Griffin, Thomas. Interview with Matt Damon. The Gazette. August
2006. 12 Sept. 2007 ‹http://www.montrealgazette.com/entertain/
Bremer, Fred. “Re: Global Climate Change.” E-mail to Rachel Heinz.
27 July 2007.
Gravely, S. “Business Letter Writing.” Online posting. 12 June
2007. Write Place Web log. 17 Sept. 2007 ‹http://
The above examples are for what I consider to be the most typical types of citations that would be made in the average paper. If you have an Internet source reference situation that is not covered here you’ll have to check out the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers