Definition: citing a website
Online Sources: internet sources are quotes, pictures, recordings, etc. taken from websites on the World Wide Web (cf. Franck & Stary 2009: 191). Besides this, also articles from websites count as online sources. When you ask yourself how to cite a website, it is crucial to include these components:
Author Surname, Name. Date of publication. Title of the article. Domain. URL. Date of last access.
An overview on how to cite a website
If you want to cite a website, you have to provide a full citation in your reference list. This example shows how to cite a website using the APA citation style:
|Author||Date/year of publication||Title of the article||Domain||Date of last access & URL|
|Mohr, Bianca.||(2019, Apr 5).||How to cite a book: Guide & APA Book Citation Examples.||BachelorPrint.||https://www.bachelorprint.com/how-to-cite-a-book/. Last accessed 23th Apr 2019.|
In your bachelor/master’s theses, as well as other pieces of academic writing, you must ensure to only cite websites with academic content! Not all articles and websites on the web are suitable for academic texts.
Recommended: How to cite an article
Proper referencing in citing a website
Author name & article title: If you are citing a website, it is mandatory to name the author and the title of the cited article.
URL & DOI number: Moreover, the URL is part of the citation and the DOI number can also be included.
Date of last access & date of publication: The date of last access is another compulsory element when citing a website. For example: Retrieved March 5, 2019. If you can find information about the date of publication of the website article you want to cite, you should include this in any case. Sometimes you might not be able to find a publication date. In that case, you can use the date when you last accessed the website in the short references (cf. Samac, Prenner, & Schwetz 2009: 95 ff., Szuchman 2005: 106).
Important Components of website citation
The table below gives an overview of the most important components of website citations, irrespective of the citation style chosen. Additionally, it is marked which elements are obligatory for a full citation of a website and which are not. Moreover, there are examples for each element. You will also find comments that explain the different components in more detail.
It is necessary to name the author of the website article. However, you may not always find information about the author of the website contents you are citing. In such cases, you should put in the name of the operator of the website or the domain. If there is no information regarding the operator either, you can use “n.a.”, which means “no author”.
|Components of the website citation||Obligatory||Examples||Comments on how to cite a website|
|Author of the website/article||A must when citing a website||- Eckhoff, Luis G.|
- Harvard Library
|If the author is not named (= be careful, the information on the
website might not be reliable! Reconsider citing from this website)
put in the operator’s name (or domain), or “n.a.” (no author)
|Title of the website/the website article||A must when citing a website||Citation and Research |
Management Tools at
|If there is no headline, use the title of the website|
|Domain (operator)||A must when citing a website||Website of Harvard |
|- Use the term “Website” or “online” to clarify what kind
of source you are citing
- Corresponds to editors/title of an edited volume (set in italics if
- Include the domain in case it is a large internet portal
|Date of publication||Should be included when citing a website||- 2016|
- December 2016
- 15 March 2014
|- Important date; it is also part of the short reference in the text
- If there is no date, use the date of your last access in the short
|Web address, URL||A must when citing a website||https://guides.library.|
|- Shortening the URL is not permissible
- Using hyphens for line segmentation can be confusing (since the hyphen
is not part of the actual URL), so you should use a space after a
slash and set it to left-adjusted paragraph alignment
|DOI (Digital Object |
|Can be included when citing a website||DOI: 10.5539/ ijel.v3n3p14||Can be used instead of/in addition to the URL|
|Date of last access||A must when citing a website||- Retrieved March 5, 2001 from |
the World Wide Web
- Last accessed 12th Apr 2019
|- Put in exact date (day, year) in case the website
is frequently updated
- Keep a screenshot of the website article
Recommended: How to cite a book
Example: Citing websites in APA style
Ghosh, P. (2019, April 10). First ever black hole image released. BBC News. Last accessed 21th Apr 2019: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-47873592.
Rudlin, D. (2019, April 11). Why are we so bad at planning cities? The Guardian. Last accessed 12th Apr 2019: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/apr/11/why-are-we-so-bad-at-planning-cities.
Citing a website: Short references in the text
Citing a website in Harvard Style
Although the term “Harvard Style” is frequently used, it does not refer to a manual of style such as “The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association” (short: APA) or “The Chicago Manual of Style”, which you can use as a reference book to check how to cite a website in that particular style.
The term Harvard referencing is “another name for the author/date citation system, the custom of using author and date in parentheses, e.g. (Robbins 1987) to refer readers to the full bibliographic citations” (cf. Harvard Library 2018, Chernin 1988). Consequently, you can cite a website in APA citation style, which is an author/date system.
How to cite a website: Basic rules
Online sources and websites get more and more into the focus of studies, e.g. in a cultural discourse. Therefore, it is crucial to know how to cite a webiste when you are using it as source for your thesis.
If you are citing a website, it has to be included in the reference list. This is not always easy, as in many cases internet sources do not have page numbers and cannot be assigned to an author or to their year of publication. In case you are citing material from the website of an institution, e.g. a ministry, this institution is cited as the author (cf. Kruse 2010: 118).
What you have to bear in mind when citing a website, is to differentiate between “real” online sources and such that could also exist as print version. Many academic journals for example are published online only; however, such journal articles are not regarded as website sources, as they could theoretically exist as printed versions, too. Moreover, there is an issue number and the individual articles can be downloaded in PDF format. Only if the online version differs from the print version, it is advisable to include the URL and the date of last access (cf. Samac, Prenner & Schwetz 2009: 100).
You also have to be careful with using online sources as reference. They can function as primary source but less as secondary source.
It is recommended to make a copy of the website or take a screenshot (or even a printout, which can go into the appendix of the text) of the website you intend to cite. By doing so, you can ensure that you have cited the website correctly. This also means that your citation is accurate based on your last access of the website.
Example from the website British Council: An article called “Can we learn a second language like we learned our first?” including information about the author and the date of publication.
Recommended: APA Citation
In a nutshell
- Citing a website entails an entry in the reference list; it must be treated just as any other type of source.
- Citing websites as secondary source should be the exception rather than the rule; it is recommended to mainly quote sources in print.
- When citing a website, it is mandatory to include the date when you last accessed the website, because contents on websites can easily be changed or deleted.
- Make sure the information provided by the website you are citing is reliable, and only cite quotable websites in your bachelor’s thesis / master’s thesis.
- The main components of website citations are: Author, title, domain, URL, date of last access, and date of publication.
- If there is no author, it is possible to include the operator of the website and the name of the domain instead.
Chernin. 1988. The “Harvard System”: a mystery dispelled. British Medical Journal 297: 1062–1063.
Franck, Norbert & Joachim Stary. 2009. Die Technik des wissenschaftlichen Arbeitens. 15th Ed. Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh.
Harvard Library. Oct 24, 2018. “Citation and Research Management Tools at Harvard – Harvard Style”, in Harvard Library. https://guides.library.harvard.edu/cite/guides. Last accessed 23th Apr 2019.
Karmasin, Matthias & Rainer Ribing. 2014. Die Gestaltung wissenschaftlicher Arbeiten. 8th ed. Wien: Facultas.
Kruse, Otto. 2010. Lesen und Schreiben – Der richtige Umgang mit Texten im Studium. Konstanz: UVK Verlagsgesellschaft.
Samac, Klaus, Monika Prenner & Herbert Schwetz. 2009. Die Bachelorarbeit an Universität und Fachhochschule. Wien: Facultas.
Szuchman, Leonore T. 2005. Writing with Style – APA Style Made Easy. 3rd edition. Canada: Thomson Wadsworth.