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How to Cite a Website on a College Essay

by Grace Riley, Demand Media

    Citing a website that informed your college essay is a critical step in the writing process. Citations ensure academic integrity and guard against plagiarism by attributing quotes from other writers’ work. They also lend credibility to academic writing by demonstrating the research that informed the content. Professors generally require students to follow a particular style guide when they write essays. The Modern Language Association (MLA), American Psychological Association (APA), and Chicago Manual of Style are the three most common formats in academic writing.

    Determine Which Style Guide to Follow

    Ask the professor which format she prefers, if she has not already announced her preference. Each format assembles reference information in a distinct way, and some professors will deduct points from essays that do not follow the style guide they expect students to use. Also, ask if she wants a URL (Web address) included for each website citation. Some style guides no longer require writers to include URLs, but many professors require them anyway.

    Citing a Website in MLA Style

    According to the seventh edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, you start an MLA citation with the name of the website’s author or editor, if there is one. Invert the name by entering the last name first, followed by a comma and then add the full first name. Insert a period. Type the name of the website and italicize it. Capitalize the first letter of every word except for articles, like “a,” “the” or “of,” and insert a period at the end. Enter the version number followed by a period, if the number is available. Type the name of the publisher or sponsor of the site, followed by a comma. If the publisher’s name is not available, replace it with the abbreviation “n.p.” Add the date the content was created or most recently modified. List the date in day-month-year format, and abbreviate the month. Insert a period. If a date is not available, replace it with the abbreviation “n.d.” Type the word “Web” and a period to indicate the medium of publication. Add the date on which you accessed the site for your research in day-month-year format. Insert a period to conclude the citation. The seventh edition of the MLA guide does not require writers to cite Web addresses. However, if the professor requires the URL, add it to the end of the citation after the access date. Insert an open angle bracket, followed by the URL and a close angle bracket. Finish the citation with a period. For example: Collins, Michael. National Air and Space Museum (italicized). Smithsonian Institution, n.d. Web. 20 Jul. 2012. .

    Citing a Website in APA Style

    According to the sixth edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, you start an APA citation with the name of the website’s author or editor. Invert the name by entering the last name first, followed by a comma. Then added the first name, abbreviated with the first letter and a period. Enter an open parenthesis. Type the year of publication or most recent update, a comma, the unabbreviated month, then the day. Insert a close parenthesis and a period. If a date is not available, replace it with the abbreviation “n.d.” Add the name of the website. Capitalize the first letter of the first word and any proper nouns and insert a period at the end. The sixth edition of the APA manual requires writers to cite Web addresses. Type the phrase “Retrieved from” and add the URL. For example: Collins, M. (2012, July 20). National Air and Space Museum (italicized). Retrieved from http://airandspace.si.edu/

    Citing a Website in Chicago Style

    According to the 16th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style, you start a Chicago citation with the name of the website’s author or editor. Invert the name by entering the last name first, followed by a comma. Then, add the full first name. Insert a period. If there is a title for the Web page, add it in quotation marks with a period before the closing quotation marks. Add the name of the website. Capitalize the first letter of every word except for articles, like “a,” “the” or “of.” Italicize the title, and insert a period at the end. Type the phrase “Last modified” if you have the most recent modification date. Otherwise, type “Accessed” to note when you used the site. You only need to include one date. Enter the unabbreviated month, the day, a comma, then the year. Insert a comma. The 16th edition of the Chicago manual requires writers to cite Web addresses, so add the URL, followed by a period. For example: Collins, Michael. National Air and Space Museum (italicized). Last modified July 20, 2012, http://airandspace.si.edu/.

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    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

    • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

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