How to Cite Online Works in a Bibliography

by Grace Riley, Demand Media

Using a bibliography to cite published content you used in your writing adds credibility to your work. The two most common formatting guides for citations are the Modern Language Association (MLA) handbook and the American Psychological Association (APA) manual. A bibliography differs from a MLA works cited page and APA reference list in one critical way: a bibliography should include citations for all of the sources you consulted while writing, not just the sources that you directly cited in the text. Apart from the difference in content, you can format the citations for online works as you would cite web-based sources in any works cited page or reference list.

General Guidelines

Basic guidelines exists for every online reference in a bibliography, regardless of the source or which style guide you are following. Use the author's or editor's screen name at the beginning of a reference if you cannot find his real name. Also, if the date of publication or most recent update is not available, enter the abbreviation “n.d.” for the date entry.

MLA: Online Articles and Periodicals

Begin the citation with the author's or editor's last name, succeeded immediately by a comma. Leave a space, then type the full first name and a period. Add an open quotation mark. Enter the name of the article, followed by a period and a close quotation mark. Place the name in title case by capitalizing every word except for articles. Then, type the periodical name in italicized title case. Insert a period immediately after the name. Add the version number, followed by a period. Enter the name of the publisher or sponsor, succeeded immediately by a comma. Leave a space, and type the publication date in day-month-year format with the month abbreviated. Place a period after the year. Note the medium by entering “Web.” Conclude the citation with the date you accessed the source and a period. The seventh edition of the MLA guide does not require URLs in online citations, but many professors and editors request them. If you need to add one, leave a space after the access date, and insert an open angled bracket. Paste the URL, followed by a close angled bracket. For example: Polk, James K. “Manifest Destiny.” American Presidents Magazine (italicized). Past Presidents Press, 1 Apr. 1849. Web. 1 Apr. 2013.

MLA: Websites and Web Pages

Enter the author’s last name, then a comma, a space, his full first name, and a period. If the author publishes under a screen name, enter the screen name in the author field followed by a period. Capitalize the first letter of the screen name. If he publishes under a screen name, but you know his real name, insert a space between the screen name and the period. Make an open bracket followed by his first name, a space, his last name and a close bracket. The period that ends the author entry should follow the close bracket. Enter the name of the web page in title case, followed by a period. Place the title in quotation marks. If you are citing an entire website, you do not need to list a page name. Type the site name in italicized title case, followed by a period. Enter the name of the publisher or sponsor, succeeded immediately by a comma. Add the publication date in day-month-year format. Note the medium by entering “Web.” Conclude the citation with the date you accessed the source and a period. For example: Presidentpolk [James Polk]. “Manifest Destiny.” American Presidents (italicized). Past Presidents Press, 1 Apr. 1849. Web. 1 Apr. 2013. (Ref 2: “A Page on a Web Site” & “Citing an Entire Web Site”) (NEW - Ref 2: "A Listerv..."

APA: Online Articles and Periodicals

Begin the citation with the author’s or editor’s last name, succeeded immediately by a comma. Leave a space, then type the author’s first initial and a period. Leave a space, and insert an open parenthesis. Enter the publication date in year-month-day format, with a comma after the year. Spell out the month. Add a close parenthesis and period. Enter the name of the article, followed by a period. Place the title in sentence case by only capitalizing the first word, first word after a colon, and proper nouns. Then, type the periodical name in italicized title case. Insert a comma immediately after the title. Add the version number and an open parenthesis. Enter the edition number and a close parenthesis, followed by a period. Italicize the version number but not the edition number. If you do not have an edition number, exclude the parentheses. If you do not have edition or version numbers, place a period at the end of the periodical name instead of a comma. According to the sixth edition of the APA manual, you must include URLs for online sources. Leave a space at the end of the entry, then type the phrase “Retrieved from” before pasting the URL. For example: Polk, J. K. (1849, April 1). Manifest destiny: Realizing the potential of a nation. American presidents magazine (italicized), 11(1). Retrieved from http://presidentsmag.com/01041849/polk/ Note: “11” should be italicized, above.

APA: Websites and Web Pages

Type the author’s last name, succeeded by a comma, a space, his first initial and a period. If you know the author's screen name but not his real name, type the screen name in the author field. Capitalize the first letter and add a period to the end. Enter the publication date in year-month-day format. Enclose the date in parentheses, then insert a period. Enter the name of the web page in sentence case, followed by a period. If you are citing an entire website, enter the site name instead of a page name. Type the phrase “Retrieved from” before pasting the URL. For example: Presidentpolk. (1849, April 1). Manifest destiny: Realizing the potential of a nation. Retrieved from http://presidents.gov/01041849/polk/ (NEW - Ref 3: "Blog (Weblog) and Video Blog Post"

About the Author

Grace Riley has been a writer and photographer since 2005, with work appearing in magazines and newspapers such as the "Arkansas Democrat-Gazette." She has also worked as a school teacher and in public relations and polling analysis for political campaigns. Riley holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in American studies, political science and history, all from the University of Arkansas.

Photo Credits

  • James Woodson/Photodisc/Getty Images