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OASIS Writing Skills

Overview of APA Format

Title: Importance of APA Format for Webpages

Audio: As part of an online institution, Walden students must dive into online researching. Most Walden students will use a webpage as a source sometime in their education. However, this doesn’t mean that you will use just any webpage on the internet as a source in your scholarly writing, but you may need to use organizations’ or government departments’ webpages occasionally. This is why it is important to know how to write reference entries for these types of sources so your reader can find your original source.


Title: Including Retrieval Dates

Audio: Students often ask if they should include the date they accessed the webpage in their reference entry (what APA calls the “retrieval date”). APA 7 noted the following about retrieval dates:


“Provide a retrieval date...when citing an unarchived (i.e., not stable) work that is likely or meant to change.”


Of course, most webpages will be updated at some point, but certain webpages are intended to be changed or updated. APA specifically mentions pages like Google Maps as an example or the U.S. Census Bureau’s page with population statistics. These pages will inherently change depending on the day a user accesses them, so writers should include a retrieval date in a reference entry for these types of pages. On the other hand, an About Us webpage on an organization’s website or a webpage about more static content wouldn’t need a retrieval date. The majority of webpages students cite probably don’t need a retrieval date, but some sources may. Here is an example of a reference entry from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which needs a retrieval date, since content on the CDC website is meant to be updated as new health information is available.

Finding the Right Information

Title: Different Websites, Different Designs

Audio: When academic writing and researching only relied on print resources like traditional books and journal articles, finding the correct information needed to cite a source was fairly easy for writers. This is because print resources are, for the most part, published and designed in similar ways. Once you know how to navigate and find the information you need in one print book to create a reference entry, it’s fairly easy to do the same for any other print book.

However, websites and webpages are different. Each website is designed in a different way and uses a different layout, style, and design. This means that it can be challenging to find the right information to use in your reference entry of a webpage. For example, the publication year for one webpage might be located at the bottom of the page while another webpage might have this information located at the top of the page. Finding the correct information is just as important as formatting it correctly in your reference entry, so in this tutorial you’ll practice finding the right information for creating webpage reference entries.


Title: Webpage Demo

Audio:The first piece of information I should look for to create a reference entry for this webpage is the author. A good place to start looking is immediately under the title of the webpage: often if a webpage lists an individual author, he or she will be listed here. This webpage doesn’t list an individual author, so next I look at the top of the page. Here I can see the Georgia Department of Education listed, as well as the School Superintendent. Being the School Superintendent isn’t the same as being the author and responsible for the content of this webpage. The same applies to the Contact Information listed; these individuals aren’t necessarily the authors of the page. With this in mind, I will list the Georgia Department of Education as the author.

Now I need to determine the date. We can check the footer to see if there is a publication date here; however, remember that we can’t use a “last reviewed” date or the copyright date, as copyright dates are often updated automatically each year. Thus, “last reviewed” or copyright dates don’t reflect an actual publication or update of content. There is not other date information here, so let’s check the top of the page. The date is missing here too. This means there is no publication date, so we will list “n.d.” for “no date.”

Next I need to determine the title of the webpage. This can also be tricky as some webpages have multiple headings, titles, and subtitles; as the writer, it’s up to you to determine which heading is the overall title for the page. For this webpage I can see that “Curriculum and Instruction” is the title. This title is separated from the headings on the webpage by color and font size, all clues that it is the title of the page.

Next I need to determine if this source is stable or unstable, likely to change or not, to decide if the retrieval date is needed. The Georgia Department of Education is a trustworthy source and the content of this page, information about Georgia’s curriculum and instruction, isn’t likely or intended to change. Based on this consideration, the retrieval date is not needed for this webpage.

The last piece of information I need is the webpage’s URL. I can find this at the top of my browser, and all I need to do is copy and paste this entire URL to include it in my reference entry. And that’s it! I now have all the information I need to create a reference entry for this source.

Common Errors

Title: Common Errors in Webpage Reference Entries

Audio: There are a few common errors students make when creating webpage reference entries. These include the following:

  1. Citing the entire website
  2. Including the wrong author
  3. Identifying an incorrect date
  4. Keeping the title plain text
  5. Using an incorrect URL

However, the biggest mistake is when writers don’t use resources to write and revise their reference entries. The above common errors can often be avoided by simply using the resources available to check your reference entries.


Title: Responding to Missing Information

Audio: Webpages are one type of source that is more likely to be missing information you need to create a reference entry. This is due to the way webpages are published, which can vary significantly from website to website. With this in mind, then, the author or publication year might be hard to find or missing from a webpage and could make it more difficult for writers to create a reference entry. Never fear! APA style has a solution in both of these cases. We’ll explore what to do if the webpage’s author or date appears to be missing as we look at Common Errors #2 and #3.



Title: Common Error #1: Citing the entire website

Audio: Websites can be very large and when you are researching, you most likely won’t be reading all of the pages in a website. This is why you should cite only the individual webpage you read and are using in your writing. Citing individual webpages also helps your reader locate the specific information you are referencing: Instead of having to search an entire website, the reader can look at just one individual page.

This will also mean that if you use multiple webpages as sources in your writing, you’ll cite each individual webpage as a separate reference entry. This may mean you have multiple reference entries to the same, overall website, but this approach will ensure the reader can easily find each page you are using in your writing.


Title: Common Error #2: Including the wrong author

Audio: Webpages are different from other sources in that they often do not list individual authors. Instead, webpages often list entities as the author: organizations, companies, or governmental departments. Students sometimes automatically assume a webpage doesn’t have an author if an individual isn’t listed. However, that’s usually not the case: If no individual author is listed on the webpage, look for the most specific organization, company, or governmental department that is responsible for the webpage’s content and list that entity as the author in your reference entry.


Title: Common Error #3: Identifying an incorrect date

Audio: Writers should use the most specific date available in a webpage reference entry. This means that when a date, month, and year are available, they all go in the date element of the webpage reference entry.

However, not all dates are appropriate to include in your reference entry. Publication dates or dates labelled “last updated” can be used in the data element. Copyright and “last reviewed” dates, on the other hand, are inappropriate for the reference entry. These dates do not necessarily mean that the website’s content was updated, so they are unreliable and should be avoided.  


Title: Common Error #4: Keeping the title plain text

Audio: APA considers a webpage a “stand alone” source, and as such webpage titles should be italicized. This italicization is similar to a book title, and the entire title should be italicized, including any subtitles.


Title: Common Error #5: Including an incorrect URL

Audio: When citing webpages, always include the direct URL of the webpage as the publication information. The direct URL is the most efficient and specific way for your reader to find the webpage you are citing, as compared to providing the overall website’s home page. The easiest way to ensure you are providing the correct URL is to copy and paste it from the address bar in your browser.


Title: Biggest Common Error

Audio: The biggest mistake writers make is when they don’t use resources to write and revise their reference entries. This is because it’s nearly impossible to memorize the reference entry format for all of the kinds of sources you might use in your writing and researching. Instead, use the APA manual (7th edition) and the Writing Center as resources to help you with your formatting.