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Reference List: Basic Web Page

Introduction

Although many online materials are not appropriate as scholarly evidence, you might encounter assignments that require the use of information found online.

When looking at a website, you first need to determine what type of material it is. The information could be a journal or magazine article, a personal web page, an organization’s web page, an institutional report, a blog post, or an online reference work. In addition to knowing the type of material, you will also need to assess the website for accuracy and scholarship. For tips on evaluation resources, please visit the Walden Library's Evaluating Methods web page. To learn more about differentiating between primary and secondary sources and evaluating electronic sources, check out the Walden Library’s Evaluating Resources webinar.

We cover online journal and magazine articles on a different page, so here we focus on other web content.

Basic Web Page

When you are just mentioning the existence of a particular website in text, there is no need to provide a full citation. You can just include the URL in parentheses in the body of your paper. Here is an example:

To begin my research, I typed women and cancer into Google (www.google.com).

However, if you are providing information from a particular web page, you need to cite it in the text with author and date as you would other sources:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011), lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women.

You should then include a full reference list entry for the source:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Cancer among women. Retrieved April 25, 2011, from http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/data/women.htm

These are the elements of the reference list entry for the web page cited above:

  • Author. When there is no individual author noted, use the organization’s name as the author. This name should appear both in the URL and at the top of the page.
  • Year. To determine the publication year, look for information about when the page was created, usually at the bottom of the page. Be wary of using a copyright date that might be at the bottom of the webpage (see this APA Style Blog post for some commentary on webpage copyright dates). Also, note that the APA style experts do not recommend using "last updated" dates since those do not always give an accurate sense of when the page was originally published. If you cannot find a year listed, use n.d. (meaning no date) in place of the year.
  • Title. The title can occasionally be difficult to determine because web pages have many layers. In this example, for instance, you might be tempted to use “Cancer Prevention and Control” as the title. However, a quick look along the left side of the screen shows you that “Cancer Prevention and Control” is the main category for a number of web pages and not unique to this particular page. You should use the page’s unique title.
  • URL. Give the URL for the specific page and not the organization’s home page. Also, APA requires URLs to be inactive. To disable an active link, right-click on the link and select “Remove hyperlink.” You will know the hyperlink has been removed when the color and underline no longer appear.

Other Web Page Nuances

Retrieval date. A retrieval date is only included if the information is likely to change. Because this is a web page that is constantly being updated as new information about cancer becomes available, the retrieval date is necessary. However, if this was a journal article or PDF, the material would be considered permanent and therefore not require a retrieval date.

Direct quotations. If you are directly quoting from the web page, you will not be able to include a page number (because there are no pages). Instead, count the paragraphs from the top of the page to determine the paragraph number. Here is an example:
Lung cancer is “second among white, black, and American Indian/Alaska Native women” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011, para. 3).

Multiple works in the same year. In some papers, you might use multiple web pages by the same author in the same year. For instance, you could cite three CDC web pages about different types of cancer, all with the same basic parenthetical citation: (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011). Per APA, add a lowercase letter by the number to differentiate between the sources. So, in this example, the years in both citations and the reference list should be 2011a, 2011b, and 2011c. Order the works alphabetically by title:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011a). Cancer among women. Retrieved April 25, 2011, from http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/data/women.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011b). Fast facts about colorectal cancer. Retrieved April 25, 2011, from http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/basic_info/facts.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011c). Prevention. Retrieved April 25, 2011, from http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/prevention.htm

Knowledge Check: Basic Web Page