Citing Online Sources
Specific formats for referencing online sources in different styles are just being developed and, in
some cases, debated. Indeed, specific formats are often changing as rapidly as the media themselves.
Online sources lack the permanence and stability of print sources. The Library of Congress, for
examples, holds (theoretically forever) the "true and correct" version of any book or magazine
copyrighted in the United States. The authenticity of any reference can ultimately be verified by
consulting the official and unchangeable copyright copy. On the other hand, a web site can
disappear forever the day after it is visited, or, more likely, its content can change radically from one
day to the next.
Because of this inherent mutability of online materials, several general principles for using and citing
them are becoming incorporated in most reference styles.
- If a source exists in print as well as electronic form, access and cite the print source.
Only if you are unable to physically access the book or journal should you cite the
- Except for extremely stable online sources, such as large commercial databases,
include the exact date you visited or accessed the source in addition to the source's
own date of publication or updating.
- Be sure to give the full Internet address of the source in your citation. To verify its
accuracy, return to the location by typing the text of the address into a web
- If information from an online source (other than a large commercial database) is
crucial to your argument, download all information you have used. Even if the
source is not essential, if you expect that it may change or disappear, download all
information you have used and store it electronically. In some case, you may want
to print out the source of your information and include it as an appendix to your document.
- Copy lowercase and uppercase letters exactly as they are given in the source name
and address of any Internet source. Never add any punctuation.
## Citing Online Sources ##
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