If you have unrestricted Internet access, you may be tempted to use any source you find online as a basis for your writing. However, an article that you find online may not provide the best or most academically valid information. Citing information you have learned through research, whether it is online or in a book at the library, is one of the cornerstones of academic work. Before you include a source in your paper, you should evaluate the academic quality and reliability of the information. You have probably already heard that Wikipedia is not a good source for academic papers because it can be edited by anyone. You can learn how to incorporate Internet sources smoothly into your papers by following a few rules that can help you select and evaluate the source, quote or paraphrase appropriately, and receive credit for your research through appropriate citation.
Why Should I Cite Information? Yale University’s Center for Teaching and Learning discusses the underlying reasons why students should cite the information that they include in their papers.
How to Cite Website Information in Your Essay: Websites lack page numbers, and it can be challenging to locate the author, date, and publisher of a Web page. The University of Washington offers a handout showing how to write about different types of Internet sources in your paper.
Once you have located information on the Internet that you want to include in your paper, you will want to make sure that you are quoting and paraphrasing the information in a way that provides credit to the original author and publication while also recognizing your research and analysis. Some instructors and textbooks refer to this process as the “academic conversation.” Research today requires an extra layer of caution, as it often involves cutting and pasting information from Web pages or scripts from online videos. If you copy and paste another person’s writing without providing credit or offering a citation, it is plagiarism. Plagiarism is a serious ethical and academic violation, but when people take notes by copying material from the Internet, it can sometimes be a simple accident. Being organized and using tools to keep track of quotes and research will help to show your work and also avoid any problems with plagiarism.
APA Format: Find a description of the American Psychological Association (APA) format here.
MLA Format: Access a visual guide to following the Modern Language Association (MLA) format.
CMS (Chicago) Format: Grace College features a sample paper with citations for the Chicago Manual of Style format, including footnotes and a bibliography.
Because the Internet and writing itself are constantly changing, different instructors will have different requirements for the types of online sources they will accept in student papers. For instance, if you are writing a paper and find information that’s helpful on a blog, can you include this information in a paper? Perhaps, if it’s credible information relevant to the assignment.