How to Cite Online Sources

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  • 0:07 Introduction
  • 0:22 Choosing Your Format
  • 0:52 APA Format
  • 2:23 MLA Format
  • 3:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Doresa Jennings

Doresa holds a Ph.D. in Communication Studies.

A large majority of research today is done online, so you'll need to cite web pages for your papers. In this video we will learn the proper way of citing online sources in both APA and MLA styles.


Citing sources is an important part of essay writing. Today, the vast majority of our research is done online. Let's start our journey as we learn the proper way of citing information from sources found in our virtual world.

Choosing Your Format

One of the first choices you need to make is what format you are using for documenting your sources. Two of the most common formats you will be asked to use is APA or MLA. Usually the format will be chosen by the instructor making the assignment. In our examples during this video, we are going to examine citing an online scholarly journal. In academic writing, this will be the most common type of citation you will be doing.

APA Format

If you are using APA format, there is one very important concept to know. Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is an alphanumeric string that acts as a link. When a DOI is not available, you should use the actual web address. DOIs are preferred because they remain stagnant, while traditional website links are subject to change quite frequently. Many publishers post DOI numbers on the first page of the online article.

In addition to the DOI or web link, you'll need the name of the author and the date of publication. The following is an example of a citation from an online source. Let's take a couple of minutes to go over each section:

Barcelona, R. (2009). Pressing the online learning advantage: Commitment, content, and community. The Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 57(3), 193-197. doi:10.1080/07377360903262218

The first thing we notice is the name of the author and the year in which this online article was published. Next, you see the title of the article. Following the title of the article, we see the title of the publication followed by the volume number with the issue number in parentheses. After the issue number, we have the pages on which this particular article can be found. Finally, we have the DOI number. Remember, whenever possible, use the DOI number when writing your citation. If the DOI number is not available, go ahead and use the full web address that links directly to the article.

MLA Format

MLA no longer requires the use of a web link when citing online sources. To cite sources using MLA, you will need the author, the date the web resource was created, the title and the date the information was accessed. If you are going to cite an entire website using MLA, it would look like this:

Editor, author, or compiler name (if available). Name of Site. Version number. Name of institution/organization affiliated with the site (sponsor or publisher), date of resource creation (if available). Medium of publication. Date of access.

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