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.
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:
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 the in-text 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