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How to Cite a Website | MLA, APA & Chicago Examples

Published on March 5, 2021 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on January 17, 2024.

To cite a page from a website, you need a short in-text citation and a corresponding reference stating the author’s name, the date of publication, the title of the page, the website name, and the URL.

This information is presented differently in different citation styles. APA , MLA , and Chicago are the most commonly used styles.

Use the interactive example generator below to explore APA and MLA website citations.

Note that the format is slightly different for citing YouTube and other online video platforms, or for citing an image .

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Table of contents

Citing a website in mla style, citing a website in apa style, citing a website in chicago style, frequently asked questions about citations.

An MLA Works Cited entry for a webpage lists the author’s name , the title of the page (in quotation marks), the name of the site (in italics), the date of publication, and the URL.

The in-text citation usually just lists the author’s name. For a long page, you may specify a (shortened) section heading to locate the specific passage. Don’t use paragraph numbers unless they’re specifically numbered on the page.

The same format is used for blog posts and online articles from newspapers and magazines.

You can also use our free MLA Citation Generator to generate your website citations.

Generate accurate MLA citations with Scribbr

Citing a whole website.

When you cite an entire website rather than a specific page, include the author if one can be identified for the whole site (e.g. for a single-authored blog). Otherwise, just start with the site name.

List the copyright date displayed on the site; if there isn’t one, provide an access date after the URL.

Webpages with no author or date

When no author is listed, cite the organization as author only if it differs from the website name.

If the organization name is also the website name, start the Works Cited entry with the title instead, and use a shortened version of the title in the in-text citation.

When no publication date is listed, leave it out and include an access date at the end instead.

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An APA reference for a webpage lists the author’s last name and initials, the full date of publication, the title of the page (in italics), the website name (in plain text), and the URL.

The in-text citation lists the author’s last name and the year. If it’s a long page, you may include a locator to identify the quote or paraphrase (e.g. a paragraph number and/or section title).

Note that a general reference to an entire website doesn’t require a citation in APA Style; just include the URL in parentheses after you mention the site.

You can also use our free APA Citation Generator to create your webpage citations. Search for a URL to retrieve the details.

Generate accurate APA citations with Scribbr

Blog posts and online articles.

Blog posts follow a slightly different format: the title of the post is not italicized, and the name of the blog is.

The same format is used for online newspaper and magazine articles—but not for articles from news sites like Reuters and BBC News (see the previous example).

When a page has no author specified, list the name of the organization that created it instead (and omit it later if it’s the same as the website name).

When it doesn’t list a date of publication, use “n.d.” in place of the date. You can also include an access date if the page seems likely to change over time.

In Chicago notes and bibliography style, footnotes are used to cite sources. They refer to a bibliography at the end that lists all your sources in full.

A Chicago bibliography entry for a website lists the author’s name, the page title (in quotation marks), the website name, the publication date, and the URL.

Chicago also has an alternative author-date citation style . Examples of website citations in this style can be found here .

For blog posts and online articles from newspapers, the name of the publication is italicized. For a blog post, you should also add the word “blog” in parentheses, unless it’s already part of the blog’s name.

When a web source doesn’t list an author , you can usually begin your bibliography entry and short note with the name of the organization responsible. Don’t repeat it later if it’s also the name of the website. A full note should begin with the title instead.

When no publication or revision date is shown, include an access date instead in your bibliography entry.

The main elements included in website citations across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the author, the date of publication, the page title, the website name, and the URL. The information is presented differently in each style.

In APA , MLA , and Chicago style citations for sources that don’t list a specific author (e.g. many websites ), you can usually list the organization responsible for the source as the author.

If the organization is the same as the website or publisher, you shouldn’t repeat it twice in your reference:

  • In APA and Chicago, omit the website or publisher name later in the reference.
  • In MLA, omit the author element at the start of the reference, and cite the source title instead.

If there’s no appropriate organization to list as author, you will usually have to begin the citation and reference entry with the title of the source instead.

When you want to cite a specific passage in a source without page numbers (e.g. an e-book or website ), all the main citation styles recommend using an alternate locator in your in-text citation . You might use a heading or chapter number, e.g. (Smith, 2016, ch. 1)

In APA Style , you can count the paragraph numbers in a text to identify a location by paragraph number. MLA and Chicago recommend that you only use paragraph numbers if they’re explicitly marked in the text.

For audiovisual sources (e.g. videos ), all styles recommend using a timestamp to show a specific point in the video when relevant.

Check if your university or course guidelines specify which citation style to use. If the choice is left up to you, consider which style is most commonly used in your field.

  • APA Style is the most popular citation style, widely used in the social and behavioral sciences.
  • MLA style is the second most popular, used mainly in the humanities.
  • Chicago notes and bibliography style is also popular in the humanities, especially history.
  • Chicago author-date style tends to be used in the sciences.

Other more specialized styles exist for certain fields, such as Bluebook and OSCOLA for law.

The most important thing is to choose one style and use it consistently throughout your text.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Caulfield, J. (2024, January 17). How to Cite a Website | MLA, APA & Chicago Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved March 18, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/citing-sources/cite-a-website/

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How to Cite a Website

Last Updated: February 9, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Michelle Golden, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Jennifer Mueller, JD . Michelle Golden is an English teacher in Athens, Georgia. She received her MA in Language Arts Teacher Education in 2008 and received her PhD in English from Georgia State University in 2015. There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 3,556,855 times.

If you're writing a research paper, you'll likely do quite a bit of research online. If you have websites that you want to use as sources for your paper, an entry for the website must appear in the reference list (also called the bibliography or Works Cited) at the end of your paper. You'll also include a citation in-text at the end of any sentence in which you've paraphrased or quoted information that appeared on that website. While the information you need to provide is generally the same across all methods, the way you format that information may vary depending on whether you're using the Modern Language Association (MLA), American Psychological Association (APA), or Chicago style of citation.

Sample Citation Templates

how do you reference a website in a essay

  • Example: Claymore, Crystal.
  • If no individual author is listed, but the website is produced by a government agency, organization, or business, use that name as the author. For example, if you're using a CDC web page as a source, you would list the author as "Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

Tip: For your entire Works Cited entry, if an element doesn't exist or isn't provided, simply skip that part of the citation and move on to the next part.

Step 2 Provide the title of the page in double quotation marks.

  • Example: Claymore, Crystal. "Best-Kept Secrets for Amazing Cupcake Frosting."

Step 3 Give the name of the website in italics followed by the date of publication.

  • Example: Claymore, Crystal. "Best-Kept Secrets for Amazing Cupcake Frosting." Crystal's Cupcakes , 24 Sept. 2018,

Step 4 Include the URL for the web page.

  • Example: Claymore, Crystal. "Best-Kept Secrets for Amazing Cupcake Frosting." Crystal's Cupcakes , 24 Sept. 2018, www.crystalscupcakes.com/amazing-frosting.

Step 5 Close with your date of access if there was no date of publication.

  • Example: Claymore, Crystal. "Best-Kept Secrets for Amazing Cupcake Frosting." Crystal's Cupcakes , www.crystalscupcakes.com/amazing-frosting. Accessed 14 Feb. 2019.

MLA Works Cited Format:

Author Last Name, First Name. "Title of Web Page in Title Case." Name of Website , Day Month Year of publication, URL. Accessed Day Month Year.

Step 6 Place a parenthetical citation after referencing the website in your text.

  • For example, you might write: "The best cupcake frosting techniques are often the least intuitive (Claymore)."
  • If you include the author's name in your text, there's no need for a parenthetical citation. For example, you might write: "Award-winning baker Crystal Claymore wasn't afraid to give away all her secrets, sharing her favorite frosting techniques on her website."

Step 1 Start your reference list entry with the name of the author.

  • Example: Canadian Cancer Society.

Step 2 Add the year the website or page was published.

  • Example: Canadian Cancer Society. (2017).
  • If you're citing several pages from the same website that were published in the same year, add a lower-case letter to the end of the year so you can differentiate them in your in-text citations. For example, you might have "2017a" and "2017b."

Step 3 Type the title of the web page in sentence case.

  • Example: Canadian Cancer Society. (2017). Cancer research.
  • If the content you're citing is a stand-alone document, the title should be italicized. This will usually be the case if you're citing a PDF document that appears on a website. If you're not sure, use your best judgment in deciding whether to italicize it or not.

Step 4 Close with the direct URL of the web page.

  • Example: Canadian Cancer Society. (2017). Cancer research. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-101/cancer-research/?region=on

APA Reference List Format:

Author Last Name, A. A. (Year). Title of web page in sentence case. Retrieved from URL

Step 5 Use the author's name and year for in-text parenthetical citations.

  • For example, you might write: "Clinical trials are used to test new cancer treatments (Canadian Cancer Society, 2017)."
  • If you include the author's name in your text, place the year in parentheses immediately after the author's name. For example, you might write: "The Canadian Cancer Society (2017) noted that Canada is a global leader in clinical trials of cancer treatments."

Step 1 Start your bibliographic entry with the name of the author.

  • Example: UN Women.

Step 2 List the title of the web page in double quotation marks.

  • Example: UN Women. "Commission on the Status of Women."

Step 3 Add the name of the website or publishing organization in italics.

  • Example: UN Women. "Commission on the Status of Women." UN Women .

Step 4 Provide the publication date or access date.

  • Example: UN Women. "Commission on the Status of Women." UN Women . Accessed February 14, 2019.

Step 5 Close your entry with a direct URL to the web page.

  • Example: UN Women. "Commission on the Status of Women." UN Women . Accessed February 14, 2019. http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw.

Chicago Bibliography Format:

Author Last Name, First Name. "Title of Web Page in Title Case." Name of Website or Publishing Organization . Accessed Month Day, Year. URL.

Step 6 Use commas instead of periods between elements in footnotes.

  • Example: UN Women, "Commission on the Status of Women," UN Women , accessed February 14, 2019, http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw.

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You Might Also Like

Cite an Interview in MLA Format

  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_works_cited_electronic_sources.html
  • ↑ https://libguides.up.edu/mla/common/websites
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_formatting_and_style_guide/reference_list_electronic_sources.html
  • ↑ https://libraryguides.vu.edu.au/apa-referencing/7Webpages
  • ↑ https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/references/examples/webpage-website-references
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/chicago_manual_17th_edition/cmos_formatting_and_style_guide/web_sources.html
  • ↑ http://libanswers.snhu.edu/faq/48009

About This Article

Michelle Golden, PhD

To cite a website in text using MLA formatting, include the author's last name in parentheses at the end of the sentence you're using the source in. If there is no author, include the title of the web page instead. If you're using APA formatting, include the author's last name followed by a comma and the year of publication in parentheses at the end of the sentence. If you don't know the author's name, use the name of the web page instead. For more tips from our English co-author, like how to cite a website in Chicago style, scroll down! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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What is APA?

APA style was created by the American Psychological Association. It is a set of rules for publications, including research papers.

In APA, you must "cite" sources that you have paraphrased, quoted or otherwise used to write your research paper. Cite your sources in two places:

  • In the body of your paper where you add a brief in-text citation.
  • In the Reference list at the end of your paper where you give more complete information for the source.

Acknowledgement

What's new in the 7th edition of apa.

Below is a summary of the major changes in the 7th edition of the APA Publication Manual.

Essay Format:

  • Font - While you still can use Times New Roman 12, you are free to use other fonts. Calibri 11, Arial 11, Lucida Sans 10, and Georgia 11 are all acceptable.
  • Headers - No running headers are required for student papers.
  • Tables and Figures - There is a standardized format for both tables and figures.

Style, Grammar, Usage:

  • Singular "they" required in two situations: when used by a known person as their personal pronoun or when the gender of a singular person is not known.
  • Use only one space after a sentence-ending period.

Citation Style:

  • Developed the 'Four Elements of a Reference" (Author, Date, Title, Source) to help writers to create references for source types not explicitly examined in the APA Manual.
  • Three or more authors can be abbreviated to First author, et al. on the first citation.
  • Up to 20 authors are spelled out in the References List.
  • Publisher location is not required for books
  • Ebook platform, format, or device is not required for eBooks.  
  • Library database names are generally not required
  • No "doi:" prefix, simply include the doi.
  • All hyperlinks retain the https://
  • Links can be "live" in blue with underline or black without underlining

Commonly Used Terms

Citing : The process of acknowledging the sources of your information and ideas.

DOI (doi) : Some electronic content, such as online journal articles, is assigned a unique number called a Digital Object Identifier (DOI or doi). Items can be tracked down online using their doi.

In-Text Citation : A brief note at the point where information is used from a source to indicate where the information came from. An in-text citation should always match more detailed information that is available in the Reference List.

Paraphrasing : Taking information that you have read and putting it into your own words.

Plagiarism : Taking, using, and passing off as your own, the ideas or words of another.

Quoting : The copying of words of text originally published elsewhere. Direct quotations generally appear in quotation marks and end with a citation.

Reference : Details about one cited source.

Reference List : Contains details on ALL the sources cited in a text or essay, and supports your research and/or premise.

Retrieval Date : Used for websites where content is likely to change over time (e.g. Wikis), the retrieval date refers to the date you last visited the website.

  • Next: How Do I Cite? >>
  • Last Updated: Mar 13, 2024 2:21 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.msubillings.edu/apa7

Home / Guides / Citation Guides / Harvard Referencing / How to reference a website using the Harvard referencing style

How to reference a website using the Harvard referencing style

This guide covers how to reference a website in Harvard style. When citing information sourced from the web, it is of paramount importance that you make very clear what it is you are referencing. As sources on the internet can vary widely, your reference should aim to provide a trail that can lead the reader directly to the source. An internet source could be almost anything, including but not limited to scholarly journal articles, newspaper articles, blog posts, and personal web pages. Your reference format for internet sources will vary based on the type of source.

Since most websites are updated from time to time, it is possible that anything you quote may be changed or removed. This means that it is important to record within your citation the date that you last accessed the site.  

Another important fact to be mindful of is that most websites do not have page numbers. If you need to reference a specific location on a website, you can use paragraph numbers in place of page numbers (abbreviated ‘para.’ in your in-text citation).  

Citation styles for different online sources

This section will elaborate on the citation style to be utilized for the following sources, along with examples for each source type.  

Web pages authored by an individual/individuals

Your references for this type of web page will include the following information:  

  • Author’s/Authors’ names
  • The year the site was published or last updated (in round brackets)
  • Title of the web page (in italics)
  • Available at: URL (Accessed: date)  

In-text citation

B. Johnson (2016) made his argument quite clear stating…

Reference list

Johnson, B. (2016) The rise of the Ubermensch. Available at: http://www.bjohnsonsworld.co.uk/theriseoftheubermensch (Accessed: 23 October 2017).

In-text citation (two authors)

After years of research, Russell and Verstappen (2013) found that…

Russell, J. and Verstappen, M. (2013) Rubber compounds and their rate of wear . Available at: http://www.dailysciencefixforyou.com/rubbercompounds (Accessed: 24 November 2019).

Web pages authored by a company or organization

Here’s the information you will need to include for this type of reference:

  • Name of the company/organization
  • Year the site was published or last updated (in round brackets)            
  • Title of the web page (in italics)      
  • Available at: URL (Accessed: date)                          

A patient may suffer mild psychosis (Rural Health Institute, 2018) as a result of…

Rural Health Institute (2018) The effects of shock therapy. Available at: http://www.rhi.co.uk/shocktherapy (Accessed: 31 October 2019).

Web pages with no author  

Citation structure :

  • Title of the webpage (in italics)
  • The year the site was published/last updated (in round brackets)
  • Available at: URL (Accessed: date)          

Renderings of the architect’s master plan can be found online ( Gumpert’s Modernism, 2013) …

Reference List

Gumpert’s Modernism (2013) Available at: https://www.stellararchitecture.com/modernism/ (Accessed: 24 July 2020)

Web pages with no author or title

Citation structure:

  • URL of the page
  • (Accessed: date)        

In-text citation    

Salt dough cookies (http://www.wholesomerecipes.com/saltdough.html, 2018) are a wonderful way to….

http://www.wholesomerecipes.com/saltdough.html (2018) (Accessed: 12 September 2020).

Web pages without a date

Citation information:  

  • Author’s name
  • Mention that no dates were available (use ‘no date’ in round brackets)
  • Title of the web page, if available (in italics)

Cuba struggled through the decade (Banana Republic News, no date) facing a constant onslaught of….

Banana Republic News (no date) The trials and tribulations of Cuba. Available at: https://www.bananafyinews.com/cuba.html (Accessed: 15 July 2019).

Multiple pages from the same website

If you need to cite multiple pages from the same website, and the pages have different authors and/or publication dates associated with them, then you can simply use corresponding individual in-text citations and reference list entries for each page that you cite. In this case, you would also include the unique URL for each page in its corresponding reference list entry. However, if the pages you are citing all have the same author and publication date, you can differentiate between them in both your reference list entries and in-text citations by adding a lowercase letter after the date.

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022a)

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022b)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022a)  International travel . Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/international-travel/index.html (Accessed: 18 July 2022).

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022b) Cruise ship travel during COVID-19 . Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/cruise-travel-during-covid19.html (Accessed: 18 July 2022).

Note that if the web page has no date, insert a hyphen between the words ‘no date’ and the lowercase letter to improve readability, for example: (no date-a) or (no date-b).

Web blogs or video blogs

When citing any information from blogs or vlogs, you need to keep in mind that you are treading a very thin line between objectivity and subjectivity. Blogs or vlogs are meant to be informal as most people use them to express their perspectives on issues or topics that are close to their heart, or to comment on issues from the public domain. So, be incredibly careful as most blogs are not very well reasoned or objective in their stance.

  • The year that the blog/vlog was published or last updated (in round brackets)
  • Title of the blog/vlog (in single quotation marks)
  • Title of the site that hosts the blog/vlog (in italics)
  • The day or month the blog/vlog was posted

Note that if you’re trying to cite a vlog that was posted on YouTube, you’ll need to know how to cite a YouTube video in Harvard style .

Engelbert D’Souza (2015) has expounded on the “Mandela Effect” at great length….

D’Souza, E. (2015) ‘The Mandela Effect’, Engelbert’s monthly blog , 6 November. Available at: https://www.engelbertsmonthlyblog/november/mandelaeffect/ (Accessed: 11 September 2016).

Social networking sites  

Citation information:

  • Year (in round brackets)
  • Title of the post (in single quotation marks)
  • [Instagram]
  • Day/month of the post
  • Available at: URL (Accessed: date)    

In-text citation  

Hendrix was a master of distortion and feedback (Casanova, 2018) …

Casanova, G. (2018) ‘Jimi Hendrix: wild blue angel’ [Instagram]. 18 September. Available at: https://www.instagram.com (Accessed: 7 October 2019)

  • Author (if available, otherwise use the title)
  • The year the article was published or last updated (in round brackets)
  • Title of the post (in italics)
  • Day/month the post was uploaded

The Trump rally drew large crowds in South Carolina ( Trump campaign , 2016).

Trump campaign (2016) [Facebook] 24 October. Available at: https://www.facebook.com (Accessed: 28 February 2019).

  • Author of the tweet
  • Twitter handle (in square brackets)
  • The year the tweet was posted (in round brackets)
  • The full body of the tweet (if it is too long, use an ellipsis to shorten it)
  • The day/month the tweet was posted

Jasper Kuhn (2018) was quite critical about the proceedings…

Kuhn, J. [@kuhnper] (2018) It was appalling to see the leaders of the state bicker like rabid dogs in the assembly [Twitter] 31 January. Available at: https://twitter.com/kuhnper/status/161664645.654654.655 (Accessed: 17 July 2018).

Key takeaways

  • While referencing anything from a website, the main aim is to provide a trail that can lead the reader directly to the source.  
  • An important point to keep in mind is that you will need to cite the date you last accessed the site.  
  • Since most websites do not have page numbers, use paragraph numbers to show where you found the information you used.  

Published October 29, 2020.

Harvard Formatting Guide

Harvard Formatting

  • et al Usage
  • Direct Quotes
  • In-text Citations
  • Multiple Authors
  • Page Numbers
  • Writing an Outline
  • View Harvard Guide

Reference Examples

  • View all Harvard Examples

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A Quick Guide to Harvard Referencing | Citation Examples

Published on 14 February 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on 15 September 2023.

Referencing is an important part of academic writing. It tells your readers what sources you’ve used and how to find them.

Harvard is the most common referencing style used in UK universities. In Harvard style, the author and year are cited in-text, and full details of the source are given in a reference list .

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Table of contents

Harvard in-text citation, creating a harvard reference list, harvard referencing examples, referencing sources with no author or date, frequently asked questions about harvard referencing.

A Harvard in-text citation appears in brackets beside any quotation or paraphrase of a source. It gives the last name of the author(s) and the year of publication, as well as a page number or range locating the passage referenced, if applicable:

Note that ‘p.’ is used for a single page, ‘pp.’ for multiple pages (e.g. ‘pp. 1–5’).

An in-text citation usually appears immediately after the quotation or paraphrase in question. It may also appear at the end of the relevant sentence, as long as it’s clear what it refers to.

When your sentence already mentions the name of the author, it should not be repeated in the citation:

Sources with multiple authors

When you cite a source with up to three authors, cite all authors’ names. For four or more authors, list only the first name, followed by ‘ et al. ’:

Sources with no page numbers

Some sources, such as websites , often don’t have page numbers. If the source is a short text, you can simply leave out the page number. With longer sources, you can use an alternate locator such as a subheading or paragraph number if you need to specify where to find the quote:

Multiple citations at the same point

When you need multiple citations to appear at the same point in your text – for example, when you refer to several sources with one phrase – you can present them in the same set of brackets, separated by semicolons. List them in order of publication date:

Multiple sources with the same author and date

If you cite multiple sources by the same author which were published in the same year, it’s important to distinguish between them in your citations. To do this, insert an ‘a’ after the year in the first one you reference, a ‘b’ in the second, and so on:

Prevent plagiarism, run a free check.

A bibliography or reference list appears at the end of your text. It lists all your sources in alphabetical order by the author’s last name, giving complete information so that the reader can look them up if necessary.

The reference entry starts with the author’s last name followed by initial(s). Only the first word of the title is capitalised (as well as any proper nouns).

Harvard reference list example

Sources with multiple authors in the reference list

As with in-text citations, up to three authors should be listed; when there are four or more, list only the first author followed by ‘ et al. ’:

Reference list entries vary according to source type, since different information is relevant for different sources. Formats and examples for the most commonly used source types are given below.

  • Entire book
  • Book chapter
  • Translated book
  • Edition of a book

Journal articles

  • Print journal
  • Online-only journal with DOI
  • Online-only journal with no DOI
  • General web page
  • Online article or blog
  • Social media post

Sometimes you won’t have all the information you need for a reference. This section covers what to do when a source lacks a publication date or named author.

No publication date

When a source doesn’t have a clear publication date – for example, a constantly updated reference source like Wikipedia or an obscure historical document which can’t be accurately dated – you can replace it with the words ‘no date’:

Note that when you do this with an online source, you should still include an access date, as in the example.

When a source lacks a clearly identified author, there’s often an appropriate corporate source – the organisation responsible for the source – whom you can credit as author instead, as in the Google and Wikipedia examples above.

When that’s not the case, you can just replace it with the title of the source in both the in-text citation and the reference list:

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Harvard referencing uses an author–date system. Sources are cited by the author’s last name and the publication year in brackets. Each Harvard in-text citation corresponds to an entry in the alphabetised reference list at the end of the paper.

Vancouver referencing uses a numerical system. Sources are cited by a number in parentheses or superscript. Each number corresponds to a full reference at the end of the paper.

A Harvard in-text citation should appear in brackets every time you quote, paraphrase, or refer to information from a source.

The citation can appear immediately after the quotation or paraphrase, or at the end of the sentence. If you’re quoting, place the citation outside of the quotation marks but before any other punctuation like a comma or full stop.

In Harvard referencing, up to three author names are included in an in-text citation or reference list entry. When there are four or more authors, include only the first, followed by ‘ et al. ’

Though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a difference in meaning:

  • A reference list only includes sources cited in the text – every entry corresponds to an in-text citation .
  • A bibliography also includes other sources which were consulted during the research but not cited.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the ‘Cite this Scribbr article’ button to automatically add the citation to our free Reference Generator.

Caulfield, J. (2023, September 15). A Quick Guide to Harvard Referencing | Citation Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved 18 March 2024, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/referencing/harvard-style/

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MLA In-Text Citations: The Basics

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MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook (9 th ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.

Guidelines for referring to the works of others in your text using MLA style are covered throughout the  MLA Handbook  and in chapter 7 of the  MLA Style Manual . Both books provide extensive examples, so it's a good idea to consult them if you want to become even more familiar with MLA guidelines or if you have a particular reference question.

Basic in-text citation rules

In MLA Style, referring to the works of others in your text is done using parenthetical citations . This method involves providing relevant source information in parentheses whenever a sentence uses a quotation or paraphrase. Usually, the simplest way to do this is to put all of the source information in parentheses at the end of the sentence (i.e., just before the period). However, as the examples below will illustrate, there are situations where it makes sense to put the parenthetical elsewhere in the sentence, or even to leave information out.

General Guidelines

  • The source information required in a parenthetical citation depends (1) upon the source medium (e.g. print, web, DVD) and (2) upon the source’s entry on the Works Cited page.
  • Any source information that you provide in-text must correspond to the source information on the Works Cited page. More specifically, whatever signal word or phrase you provide to your readers in the text must be the first thing that appears on the left-hand margin of the corresponding entry on the Works Cited page.

In-text citations: Author-page style

MLA format follows the author-page method of in-text citation. This means that the author's last name and the page number(s) from which the quotation or paraphrase is taken must appear in the text, and a complete reference should appear on your Works Cited page. The author's name may appear either in the sentence itself or in parentheses following the quotation or paraphrase, but the page number(s) should always appear in the parentheses, not in the text of your sentence. For example:

Both citations in the examples above, (263) and (Wordsworth 263), tell readers that the information in the sentence can be located on page 263 of a work by an author named Wordsworth. If readers want more information about this source, they can turn to the Works Cited page, where, under the name of Wordsworth, they would find the following information:

Wordsworth, William. Lyrical Ballads . Oxford UP, 1967.

In-text citations for print sources with known author

For print sources like books, magazines, scholarly journal articles, and newspapers, provide a signal word or phrase (usually the author’s last name) and a page number. If you provide the signal word/phrase in the sentence, you do not need to include it in the parenthetical citation.

These examples must correspond to an entry that begins with Burke, which will be the first thing that appears on the left-hand margin of an entry on the Works Cited page:

Burke, Kenneth. Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature, and Method . University of California Press, 1966.

In-text citations for print sources by a corporate author

When a source has a corporate author, it is acceptable to use the name of the corporation followed by the page number for the in-text citation. You should also use abbreviations (e.g., nat'l for national) where appropriate, so as to avoid interrupting the flow of reading with overly long parenthetical citations.

In-text citations for sources with non-standard labeling systems

If a source uses a labeling or numbering system other than page numbers, such as a script or poetry, precede the citation with said label. When citing a poem, for instance, the parenthetical would begin with the word “line”, and then the line number or range. For example, the examination of William Blake’s poem “The Tyger” would be cited as such:

The speaker makes an ardent call for the exploration of the connection between the violence of nature and the divinity of creation. “In what distant deeps or skies. / Burnt the fire of thine eyes," they ask in reference to the tiger as they attempt to reconcile their intimidation with their relationship to creationism (lines 5-6).

Longer labels, such as chapters (ch.) and scenes (sc.), should be abbreviated.

In-text citations for print sources with no known author

When a source has no known author, use a shortened title of the work instead of an author name, following these guidelines.

Place the title in quotation marks if it's a short work (such as an article) or italicize it if it's a longer work (e.g. plays, books, television shows, entire Web sites) and provide a page number if it is available.

Titles longer than a standard noun phrase should be shortened into a noun phrase by excluding articles. For example, To the Lighthouse would be shortened to Lighthouse .

If the title cannot be easily shortened into a noun phrase, the title should be cut after the first clause, phrase, or punctuation:

In this example, since the reader does not know the author of the article, an abbreviated title appears in the parenthetical citation, and the full title of the article appears first at the left-hand margin of its respective entry on the Works Cited page. Thus, the writer includes the title in quotation marks as the signal phrase in the parenthetical citation in order to lead the reader directly to the source on the Works Cited page. The Works Cited entry appears as follows:

"The Impact of Global Warming in North America." Global Warming: Early Signs . 1999. www.climatehotmap.org/. Accessed 23 Mar. 2009.

If the title of the work begins with a quotation mark, such as a title that refers to another work, that quote or quoted title can be used as the shortened title. The single quotation marks must be included in the parenthetical, rather than the double quotation.

Parenthetical citations and Works Cited pages, used in conjunction, allow readers to know which sources you consulted in writing your essay, so that they can either verify your interpretation of the sources or use them in their own scholarly work.

Author-page citation for classic and literary works with multiple editions

Page numbers are always required, but additional citation information can help literary scholars, who may have a different edition of a classic work, like Marx and Engels's  The Communist Manifesto . In such cases, give the page number of your edition (making sure the edition is listed in your Works Cited page, of course) followed by a semicolon, and then the appropriate abbreviations for volume (vol.), book (bk.), part (pt.), chapter (ch.), section (sec.), or paragraph (par.). For example:

Author-page citation for works in an anthology, periodical, or collection

When you cite a work that appears inside a larger source (for instance, an article in a periodical or an essay in a collection), cite the author of the  internal source (i.e., the article or essay). For example, to cite Albert Einstein's article "A Brief Outline of the Theory of Relativity," which was published in  Nature  in 1921, you might write something like this:

See also our page on documenting periodicals in the Works Cited .

Citing authors with same last names

Sometimes more information is necessary to identify the source from which a quotation is taken. For instance, if two or more authors have the same last name, provide both authors' first initials (or even the authors' full name if different authors share initials) in your citation. For example:

Citing a work by multiple authors

For a source with two authors, list the authors’ last names in the text or in the parenthetical citation:

Corresponding Works Cited entry:

Best, David, and Sharon Marcus. “Surface Reading: An Introduction.” Representations , vol. 108, no. 1, Fall 2009, pp. 1-21. JSTOR, doi:10.1525/rep.2009.108.1.1

For a source with three or more authors, list only the first author’s last name, and replace the additional names with et al.

Franck, Caroline, et al. “Agricultural Subsidies and the American Obesity Epidemic.” American Journal of Preventative Medicine , vol. 45, no. 3, Sept. 2013, pp. 327-333.

Citing multiple works by the same author

If you cite more than one work by an author, include a shortened title for the particular work from which you are quoting to distinguish it from the others. Put short titles of books in italics and short titles of articles in quotation marks.

Citing two articles by the same author :

Citing two books by the same author :

Additionally, if the author's name is not mentioned in the sentence, format your citation with the author's name followed by a comma, followed by a shortened title of the work, and, when appropriate, the page number(s):

Citing multivolume works

If you cite from different volumes of a multivolume work, always include the volume number followed by a colon. Put a space after the colon, then provide the page number(s). (If you only cite from one volume, provide only the page number in parentheses.)

Citing the Bible

In your first parenthetical citation, you want to make clear which Bible you're using (and underline or italicize the title), as each version varies in its translation, followed by book (do not italicize or underline), chapter, and verse. For example:

If future references employ the same edition of the Bible you’re using, list only the book, chapter, and verse in the parenthetical citation:

John of Patmos echoes this passage when describing his vision (Rev. 4.6-8).

Citing indirect sources

Sometimes you may have to use an indirect source. An indirect source is a source cited within another source. For such indirect quotations, use "qtd. in" to indicate the source you actually consulted. For example:

Note that, in most cases, a responsible researcher will attempt to find the original source, rather than citing an indirect source.

Citing transcripts, plays, or screenplays

Sources that take the form of a dialogue involving two or more participants have special guidelines for their quotation and citation. Each line of dialogue should begin with the speaker's name written in all capitals and indented half an inch. A period follows the name (e.g., JAMES.) . After the period, write the dialogue. Each successive line after the first should receive an additional indentation. When another person begins speaking, start a new line with that person's name indented only half an inch. Repeat this pattern each time the speaker changes. You can include stage directions in the quote if they appear in the original source.

Conclude with a parenthetical that explains where to find the excerpt in the source. Usually, the author and title of the source can be given in a signal phrase before quoting the excerpt, so the concluding parenthetical will often just contain location information like page numbers or act/scene indicators.

Here is an example from O'Neill's  The Iceman Cometh.

WILLIE. (Pleadingly) Give me a drink, Rocky. Harry said it was all right. God, I need a drink.

ROCKY. Den grab it. It's right under your nose.

WILLIE. (Avidly) Thanks. (He takes the bottle with both twitching hands and tilts it to his lips and gulps down the whiskey in big swallows.) (1.1)

Citing non-print or sources from the Internet

With more and more scholarly work published on the Internet, you may have to cite sources you found in digital environments. While many sources on the Internet should not be used for scholarly work (reference the OWL's  Evaluating Sources of Information  resource), some Web sources are perfectly acceptable for research. When creating in-text citations for electronic, film, or Internet sources, remember that your citation must reference the source on your Works Cited page.

Sometimes writers are confused with how to craft parenthetical citations for electronic sources because of the absence of page numbers. However, these sorts of entries often do not require a page number in the parenthetical citation. For electronic and Internet sources, follow the following guidelines:

  • Include in the text the first item that appears in the Work Cited entry that corresponds to the citation (e.g. author name, article name, website name, film name).
  • Do not provide paragraph numbers or page numbers based on your Web browser’s print preview function.
  • Unless you must list the Web site name in the signal phrase in order to get the reader to the appropriate entry, do not include URLs in-text. Only provide partial URLs such as when the name of the site includes, for example, a domain name, like  CNN.com  or  Forbes.com,  as opposed to writing out http://www.cnn.com or http://www.forbes.com.

Miscellaneous non-print sources

Two types of non-print sources you may encounter are films and lectures/presentations:

In the two examples above “Herzog” (a film’s director) and “Yates” (a presentor) lead the reader to the first item in each citation’s respective entry on the Works Cited page:

Herzog, Werner, dir. Fitzcarraldo . Perf. Klaus Kinski. Filmverlag der Autoren, 1982.

Yates, Jane. "Invention in Rhetoric and Composition." Gaps Addressed: Future Work in Rhetoric and Composition, CCCC, Palmer House Hilton, 2002. Address.

Electronic sources

Electronic sources may include web pages and online news or magazine articles:

In the first example (an online magazine article), the writer has chosen not to include the author name in-text; however, two entries from the same author appear in the Works Cited. Thus, the writer includes both the author’s last name and the article title in the parenthetical citation in order to lead the reader to the appropriate entry on the Works Cited page (see below).

In the second example (a web page), a parenthetical citation is not necessary because the page does not list an author, and the title of the article, “MLA Formatting and Style Guide,” is used as a signal phrase within the sentence. If the title of the article was not named in the sentence, an abbreviated version would appear in a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence. Both corresponding Works Cited entries are as follows:

Taylor, Rumsey. "Fitzcarraldo." Slant , 13 Jun. 2003, www.slantmagazine.com/film/review/fitzcarraldo/. Accessed 29 Sep. 2009. 

"MLA Formatting and Style Guide." The Purdue OWL , 2 Aug. 2016, owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/. Accessed 2 April 2018.

Multiple citations

To cite multiple sources in the same parenthetical reference, separate the citations by a semi-colon:

Time-based media sources

When creating in-text citations for media that has a runtime, such as a movie or podcast, include the range of hours, minutes and seconds you plan to reference. For example: (00:02:15-00:02:35).

When a citation is not needed

Common sense and ethics should determine your need for documenting sources. You do not need to give sources for familiar proverbs, well-known quotations, or common knowledge (For example, it is expected that U.S. citizens know that George Washington was the first President.). Remember that citing sources is a rhetorical task, and, as such, can vary based on your audience. If you’re writing for an expert audience of a scholarly journal, for example, you may need to deal with expectations of what constitutes “common knowledge” that differ from common norms.

Other Sources

The MLA Handbook describes how to cite many different kinds of authors and content creators. However, you may occasionally encounter a source or author category that the handbook does not describe, making the best way to proceed can be unclear.

In these cases, it's typically acceptable to apply the general principles of MLA citation to the new kind of source in a way that's consistent and sensible. A good way to do this is to simply use the standard MLA directions for a type of source that resembles the source you want to cite.

You may also want to investigate whether a third-party organization has provided directions for how to cite this kind of source. For example, Norquest College provides guidelines for citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers⁠ —an author category that does not appear in the MLA Handbook . In cases like this, however, it's a good idea to ask your instructor or supervisor whether using third-party citation guidelines might present problems.

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How to Reference in an Essay (9 Strategies of Top Students)

Are you feeling overwhelmed by referencing?

When you’re first asked to do referencing in an essay it can be hard to get your head around it. If it’s been a while since you were first taught how to reference, it can be intimidating to ask again how to do it!

I have so many students who consistently lose marks just because they didn’t get referencing right! They’re either embarrassed to ask for extra help or too lazy to learn how to solve the issues.

So, here’s a post that will help you solve the issues on your own.

Already think you’re good at referencing? No worries. This post goes through some surprising and advanced strategies for anyone to improve no matter what level you are at!

In this post I’m going to show you exactly how to reference in an essay. I’ll explain why we do it and I’ll show you 9 actionable tips on getting referencing right that I’m sure you will not have heard anywhere else!

The post is split into three parts:

  • What is a Reference and What is a Citation?
  • Why Reference? (4 Things you Should Know)
  • How to Reference (9 Strategies of Top Students)

If you think you’ve already got a good understanding of the basics, you can jump to our 9 Advanced Strategies section.

Part 1: What is a Reference and What is a Citation?

What is a citation.

An in-text mention of your source. A citation is a short mention of the source you got the information from, usually in the middle or end of a sentence in the body of your paragraph. It is usually abbreviated so as not to distract the reader too much from your own writing. Here’s two examples of citations. The first is in APA format. The second is in MLA format:

  • APA: Archaeological records trace the original human being to equatorial Africa about 250,000–350,000 years ago (Schlebusch & Jakobsson, 2018) .
  • MLA: Archaeological records trace the original human being to equatorial Africa about 250,000–350,000 years ago (Schlebusch and Jakobsson 1) .

In APA format, you’ve got the authors and year of publication listed. In MLA format, you’ve got the authors and page number listed. If you keep reading, I’ll give some more tips on formatting further down in this article.

And a Reference is:

What is a Reference?

A reference is the full details of a source that you list at the end of the article. For every citation (see above) there needs to be a corresponding reference at the end of the essay showing more details about that source. The idea is that the reader can see the source in-text (i.e. they can look at the citation) and if they want more information they can jump to the end of the page and find out exactly how to go about finding the source.

Here’s how you would go about referencing the Schlebusch and Jakobsson source in a list at the end of the essay. Again, I will show you how to do it in APA and MLA formats:

  • APA: Schlebusch, C. & Jakobsson, M. (2018). Tales of Human Migration, Admixture, and Selection in Africa. Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics , 11 (33), 1–24.
  • MLA: Schlebusch, Carina and Mattias Jakobsson. “Tales of Human Migration, Admixture, and Selection in Africa.” Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics , vol. 11, no. 33, 2018, pp. 1–24.

In strategy 1 below I’ll show you the easiest and fool proof way to write these references perfectly every time.

One last quick note: sometimes we say ‘reference’ when we mean ‘citation’. That’s pretty normal. Just roll with the punches. It’s usually pretty easy to pick up on what our teacher means regardless of whether they use the word ‘reference’ or ‘citation’.

Part 2: Why Reference in an Essay? (4 Things you Should Know)

Referencing in an essay is important. By the time you start doing 200-level courses, you probably won’t pass the course unless you reference appropriately. So, the biggest answer to ‘why reference?’ is simple: Because you Have To!

Okay let’s be serious though … here’s the four top ‘real’ reasons to reference:

1. Referencing shows you Got an Expert’s Opinion

You can’t just write an essay on what you think you know. This is a huge mistake of beginning students. Instead this is what you need to do:

Top Tip: Essays at university are supposed to show off that you’ve learned new information by reading the opinions of experts.

Every time you place a citation in your paragraph, you’re showing that the information you’re presenting in that paragraph was provided to you by an expert. In other words, it means you consulted an expert’s opinion to build your knowledge.

If you have citations throughout the essay with links to a variety of different expert opinions, you’ll show your marker that you did actually genuinely look at what the experts said with an open mind and considered their ideas.

This will help you to grow your grades.

2. Referencing shows you read your Assigned Readings

Your teacher will most likely give you scholarly journal articles or book chapters to read for homework between classes. You might have even talked about those assigned readings in your seminars and tutorials.

Great! The assigned readings are very important to you.

You should definitely cite the assigned readings relevant to your essay topic in your evaluative essay (unless your teacher tells you not to). Why? I’ll explain below.

  • Firstly, the assigned readings were selected by your teacher because your teacher (you know, the person who’s going to mark your essay) believes they’re the best quality articles on the topic. Translation: your teacher gave you the best source you’re going to find. Make sure you use it!
  • Secondly, by citing the assigned readings you are showing your teacher that you have been paying attention throughout the course. You are showing your teacher that you have done your homework, read those assigned readings and paid attention to them. When my students submit an essay that has references to websites, blogs, wikis and magazines I get very frustrated. Why would you cite low quality non-expert sources like websites when I gave you the expert’s article!? Really, it frustrates me so, so much.

So, cite the assigned readings to show your teacher you read the scholarly articles your teacher gave to you. It’ll help you grow your marks.

3. Referencing deepens your Knowledge

Okay, so you understand that you need to use referencing to show you got experts’ opinions on the topic.

But there’s more to it than that. There’s actually a real benefit for your learning.

If you force yourself to cite two expert sources per paragraph, you’re actually forcing yourself to get two separate pieces of expert knowledge. This will deepen your knowledge!

So, don’t treat referencing like a vanity exercise to help you gain more marks. Actually view it as an opportunity to develop deeper understandings of the topic!

When you read expert sources, aim to pick up on some new gems of knowledge that you can discuss in your essays. Some things you should look out for when finding sources to reference:

  • Examples that link ideas to real life. Do the experts provide real-life examples that you can mention in your essay?
  • Facts and figures. Usually experts have conducted research on a topic and provide you with facts and figures from their research. Use those facts and figures to deepen your essay!
  • Short Quotes. Did your source say something in a really interesting, concise or surprising way? Great! You can quote that source in your essay .
  • New Perspectives. Your source might give you another perspective, angle or piece of information that you can add to your paragraph so that it’s a deep, detailed and interesting paragraph.

So, the reason we ask you to reference is at the end of the day because it’s good for you: it helps you learn!

4. Referencing backs up your Claims

You might think you already know a ton of information about the topic and be ready to share your mountains of knowledge with your teacher. Great!

So, should you still reference?

Yes. Definitely.

You need to show that you’re not the only person with your opinion. You need to ‘stand on the shoulders of giants.’ Show what other sources have said about your points to prove that experts agree with you.

You should be saying: this is my opinion and it’s based on facts, expert opinions and deep, close scrutiny of all the arguments that exist out there .

If you make a claim that no one else has made, your teacher is going to be like “Have you even been reading the evidence on this topic?” The answer, if there are no citations is likely: No. You haven’t.

Even if you totally disagree with the experts, you still need to say what their opinions are! You’ll need to say: “This is the experts’ opinions. And this is why I disagree.”

So, yes, you need to reference to back up every claim. Try to reference twice in every paragraph to achieve this.

Part 3: Strategies for How to Reference in an Essay (9 Strategies of Top Students)

Let’s get going with our top strategies for how to reference in an essay! These are strategies that you probably haven’t heard elsewhere. They work for everyone – from beginner to advanced! Let’s get started:

1. Print out your Reference Style Cheat Sheet

Referencing is hard and very specific. You need to know where to place your italics, where the commas go and whether to use an initial for full name for an author.

There are so many details to get right.

And here’s the bad news: The automated referencing apps and websites nearly always get it wrong! They tell you they can generate the citation for you. The fact of the matter is: they can’t!

Here’s the best way to get referencing right: Download a referencing cheat sheet and have it by your side while writing your essay.

Your assignment outline should tell you what type of referencing you should use. Different styles include: APA Style, MLA Style, Chicago Style, Harvard Style, Vancouver Style … and many more!

You need to find out which style you need to use and download your cheat sheet. You can jump onto google to find a cheat sheet by typing in the google bar:

how to reference in an essay

Download a pdf version of the referencing style cheat sheet, print it out, and place it on your pinboard or by your side when writing your essay.

2. Only cite Experts

There are good and bad sources to cite in an essay.

You should only cite sources written, critiqued and edited by experts. This shows that you have got the skill of finding information that is authoritative. You haven’t just used information that any old person popped up on their blog. You haven’t just gotten information from your local newspaper. Instead, you got information from the person who is an absolute expert on the topic.

Here’s an infographic listing sources that you should and shouldn’t cite. Feel free to share this infographic on social media, with your teachers and your friends:

good and bad sources infographic

3. Always use Google Scholar

Always. Use. Google. Scholar.

Ten years ago students only had their online university search database to find articles. Those university databases suck. They rarely find the best quality sources and there’s always a big mix of completely irrelevant sources mixed in there.

Google Scholar is better at finding the sources you want. That’s because it looks through the whole article abstract and analyses it to see if it’s relevant to your search keywords. By contrast, most university search databases rely only on the titles of articles.

Use the power of the best quality search engine in the world to find scholarly sources .

Note: Google and Google Scholar are different search engines.

To use Google Scholar, go to: https://scholar.google.com

Then, search on google scholar using keywords. I’m going to search keywords for an essay on the topic: “What are the traits of a good nurse?”

how to reference in an essay

If you really like the idea of that first source, I recommend copying the title and trying your University online search database. Your university may give you free access.

4. Cite at least 50% sources you found on your Own Research

Okay, so I’ve told you that you should cite both assigned readings and readings you find from Google Scholar.

Here’s the ideal mix of assigned sources and sources that you found yourself: 50/50.

Your teacher will want to see that you can use both assigned readings and do your own additional research to write a top essay . This shows you’ve got great research skills but also pay attention to what is provided in class.

I recommend that you start with the assigned readings and try to get as much information out of them, then find your own additional sources beyond that using Google Scholar.

So, if your essay has 10 citations, a good mix is 5 assigned readings and 5 readings you found by yourself.

5. Cite Newer Sources

As a general rule, the newer the source the better .

The best rule of thumb that most teachers follow is that you should aim to mostly cite sources from the past 10 years . I usually accept sources from the past 15 years when marking essays.

However, sometimes you have a really great source that’s 20, 30 or 40 years old. You should only cite these sources if they’re what we call ‘seminal texts’. A seminal text is one that was written by an absolute giant in your field and revolutionized the subject.

Here’s some examples of seminal authors whose old articles you would be able to cite despite the fact that they’re old:

  • Education: Vygotsky, Friere, Piaget
  • Sociology: Weber, Marx, C. Wright Mills
  • Psychology: Freud, Rogers, Jung

Even if I cite seminal authors, I always aim for at least 80% of my sources to have been written in the past 10 years.

6. Reference twice per Paragraph

How much should you reference?

Here’s a good strategy: Provide two citations in every paragraph in the body of the essay.

It’s not compulsory to reference in the introduction and conclusion . However, in all the other paragraphs, aim for two citations.

Let’s go over the key strategies for achieving this:

  • These two citations should be to different sources, not the same sources twice;
  • Two citations per paragraph shows your points are backed up by not one, but two expert sources;
  • Place one citation in the first half of the paragraph and one in the second half. This will indicate to your marker that all the points in the whole paragraph are backed up by your citations.

This is a good rule of thumb for you when you’re not sure when and how often to reference. When you get more confident with your referencing, you can mix this up a little.

7. The sum total of your sources should be minimum 1 per 150 words

You can, of course, cite one source more than once throughout the essay. You might cite the same source in the second, fourth and fifth paragraphs. That’s okay.

Essay Writing Tip: Provide one unique citation in the reference list for every 150 words in the essay.

But, you don’t want your whole essay to be based on a narrow range of sources. You want your marker to see that you have consulted multiple sources to get a wide range of information on the topic. Your marker wants to know that you’ve seen a range of different opinions when coming to your conclusions.

When you get to the end of your essay, check to see how many sources are listed in the end-text reference list. A good rule of thumb is 1 source listed in the reference list per 150 words. Here’s how that breaks down by essay size:

  • 1500 word essay: 10 sources (or more) listed in the reference list
  • 2000 word essay: 13 sources (or more) listed in the reference list
  • 3000 word essay: 20 sources (or more) listed in the reference list
  • 5000 word essay: 33 sources (or more) listed in the reference list

8. Instantly improve your Reference List with these Three Tips

Here’s two things you can do to instantly improve your reference list. It takes less than 20 seconds and gives your reference list a strong professional finish:

a) Ensure the font size and style are the same

You will usually find that your whole reference list ends up being in different font sizes and styles. This is because you tend to copy and paste the titles and names in the citations from other sources. If you submit the reference list with font sizes and styles that are not the same as the rest of the essay, the piece looks really unprofessional.

So, quickly highlight the whole reference list and change its font to the same font size and style as the rest of your essay. The screencast at the end of Step 8 walks you through this if you need a hand!

b) List your sources in alphabetical order.

Nearly every referencing style insists that references be listed in alphabetical order. It’s a simple thing to do before submitting and makes the piece look far more professional.

If you’re using Microsoft Word, simply highlight your whole reference list and click the A>Z button in the toolbar. If you can’t see it, you need to be under the ‘home’ tab (circled below):

how to reference in an essay

You’ve probably never heard of a hanging indent. It’s a style where the second line of the reference list is indented further from the left-hand side of the page than the first line. It’s a strategy that’s usually used in reference lists provided in professional publications.

If you use the hanging indent, your reference list will look far more professional.

Here’s a quick video of me doing it for you:

9. Do one special edit especially for Referencing Style

The top students edit their essays three to five times spaced out over a week or more before submitting. One of those edits should be specifically for ensuring your reference list adheres to the referencing style that your teacher requires.

To do this, I recommend you get that cheat sheet printout that I mentioned in Step 1 and have it by your side while you read through the piece. Pay special attention to the use of commas, capital letters, brackets and page numbers for all citations. Also pay attention to the reference list: correct formatting of the reference list can be the difference between getting the top mark in the class and the fifth mark in the class. At the higher end of the marking range, things get competitive and formatting of the reference list counts.

A Quick Summary of the 9 Top Strategies…

How to reference in an essay

Follow the rules of your referencing style guide (and that cheat sheet I recommended!) and use the top 9 tips above to improve your referencing and get top marks. Not only will your referencing look more professional, you’ll probably increase the quality of the content of your piece as well when you follow these tips!

Here’s a final summary of the 9 top tips:

Strategies for How to Reference in an Essay (9 Strategies of Top Students)

  • Print out your Reference Style Cheat Sheet
  • Only cite Experts
  • Always use Google Scholar
  • Cite at least 50% sources you found on your Own Research
  • Cite Newer Sources
  • Reference twice per Paragraph
  • The sum total of your sources should be minimum 1 per 150 words
  • Instantly improve your Reference List with these Three Tips
  • Do one special edit especially for Referencing Style

Chris

Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 5 Top Tips for Succeeding at University
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Quick guide to Harvard referencing (Cite Them Right)

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There are different versions of the Harvard referencing style. This guide is a quick introduction to the commonly-used Cite Them Right version. You will find further guidance available through the OU Library on the Cite Them Right Database .

For help and support with referencing and the full Cite Them Right guide, have a look at the Library’s page on referencing and plagiarism . If you need guidance referencing OU module material you can check out which sections of Cite Them Right are recommended when referencing physical and online module material .

This guide does not apply to OU Law undergraduate students . If you are studying a module beginning with W1xx, W2xx or W3xx, you should refer to the Quick guide to Cite Them Right referencing for Law modules .

Table of contents

In-text citations and full references.

  • Secondary referencing
  • Page numbers
  • Citing multiple sources published in the same year by the same author

Full reference examples

Referencing consists of two elements:

  • in-text citations, which are inserted in the body of your text and are included in the word count. An in-text citation gives the author(s) and publication date of a source you are referring to. If the publication date is not given, the phrase 'no date' is used instead of a date. If using direct quotations or you refer to a specific section in the source you also need the page number/s if available, or paragraph number for web pages.
  • full references, which are given in alphabetical order in reference list at the end of your work and are not included in the word count. Full references give full bibliographical information for all the sources you have referred to in the body of your text.

To see a reference list and intext citations check out this example assignment on Cite Them Right .

Difference between reference list and bibliography

a reference list only includes sources you have referred to in the body of your text

a bibliography includes sources you have referred to in the body of your text AND sources that were part of your background reading that you did not use in your assignment

Back to top

Examples of in-text citations

You need to include an in-text citation wherever you quote or paraphrase from a source. An in-text citation consists of the last name of the author(s), the year of publication, and a page number if relevant. There are a number of ways of incorporating in-text citations into your work - some examples are provided below. Alternatively you can see examples of setting out in-text citations in Cite Them Right .

Note: When referencing a chapter of an edited book, your in-text citation should give the author(s) of the chapter.

Online module materials

(Includes written online module activities, audio-visual material such as online tutorials, recordings or videos).

When referencing material from module websites, the date of publication is the year you started studying the module.

Surname, Initial. (Year of publication/presentation) 'Title of item'. Module code: Module title . Available at: URL of VLE (Accessed: date).

OR, if there is no named author:

The Open University (Year of publication/presentation) 'Title of item'. Module code: Module title . Available at: URL of VLE (Accessed: date).

Rietdorf, K. and Bootman, M. (2022) 'Topic 3: Rare diseases'. S290: Investigating human health and disease . Available at: https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=1967195 (Accessed: 24 January 2023).

The Open University (2022) ‘3.1 The purposes of childhood and youth research’. EK313: Issues in research with children and young people . Available at: https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=1949633&section=1.3 (Accessed: 24 January 2023).

You can also use this template to reference videos and audio that are hosted on your module website:

The Open University (2022) ‘Video 2.7 An example of a Frith-Happé animation’. SK298: Brain, mind and mental health . Available at: https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=2013014&section=4.9.6 (Accessed: 22 November 2022).

The Open University (2022) ‘Audio 2 Interview with Richard Sorabji (Part 2)’. A113: Revolutions . Available at: https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=1960941&section=5.6 (Accessed: 22 November 2022).

Note: if a complete journal article has been uploaded to a module website, or if you have seen an article referred to on the website and then accessed the original version, reference the original journal article, and do not mention the module materials. If only an extract from an article is included in your module materials that you want to reference, you should use secondary referencing, with the module materials as the 'cited in' source, as described above.

Surname, Initial. (Year of publication) 'Title of message', Title of discussion board , in Module code: Module title . Available at: URL of VLE (Accessed: date).

Fitzpatrick, M. (2022) ‘A215 - presentation of TMAs', Tutor group discussion & Workbook activities , in A215: Creative writing . Available at: https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/forumng/discuss.php?d=4209566 (Accessed: 24 January 2022).

Note: When an ebook looks like a printed book, with publication details and pagination, reference as a printed book.

Surname, Initial. (Year of publication) Title . Edition if later than first. Place of publication: publisher. Series and volume number if relevant.

For ebooks that do not contain print publication details

Surname, Initial. (Year of publication) Title of book . Available at: DOI or URL (Accessed: date).

Example with one author:

Bell, J. (2014) Doing your research project . Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Adams, D. (1979) The hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy . Available at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/kindle-ebooks (Accessed: 23 June 2021).

Example with two or three authors:

Goddard, J. and Barrett, S. (2015) The health needs of young people leaving care . Norwich: University of East Anglia, School of Social Work and Psychosocial Studies.

Example with four or more authors:

Young, H.D. et al. (2015) Sears and Zemansky's university physics . San Francisco, CA: Addison-Wesley.

Note: You can choose one or other method to reference four or more authors (unless your School requires you to name all authors in your reference list) and your approach should be consistent.

Note: Books that have an editor, or editors, where each chapter is written by a different author or authors.

Surname of chapter author, Initial. (Year of publication) 'Title of chapter or section', in Initial. Surname of book editor (ed.) Title of book . Place of publication: publisher, Page reference.

Franklin, A.W. (2012) 'Management of the problem', in S.M. Smith (ed.) The maltreatment of children . Lancaster: MTP, pp. 83–95.

Surname, Initial. (Year of publication) 'Title of article', Title of Journal , volume number (issue number), page reference.

If accessed online:

Surname, Initial. (Year of publication) 'Title of article', Title of Journal , volume number (issue number), page reference. Available at: DOI or URL (if required) (Accessed: date).

Shirazi, T. (2010) 'Successful teaching placements in secondary schools: achieving QTS practical handbooks', European Journal of Teacher Education , 33(3), pp. 323–326.

Shirazi, T. (2010) 'Successful teaching placements in secondary schools: achieving QTS practical handbooks', European Journal of Teacher Education , 33(3), pp. 323–326. Available at: https://libezproxy.open.ac.uk/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/log... (Accessed: 27 January 2023).

Barke, M. and Mowl, G. (2016) 'Málaga – a failed resort of the early twentieth century?', Journal of Tourism History , 2(3), pp. 187–212. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/1755182X.2010.523145

Surname, Initial. (Year of publication) 'Title of article', Title of Newspaper , Day and month, Page reference.

Surname, Initial. (Year of publication) 'Title of article', Title of Newspaper , Day and month, Page reference if available. Available at: URL (Accessed: date).

Mansell, W. and Bloom, A. (2012) ‘£10,000 carrot to tempt physics experts’, The Guardian , 20 June, p. 5.

Roberts, D. and Ackerman, S. (2013) 'US draft resolution allows Obama 90 days for military action against Syria', The Guardian , 4 September. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/04/syria-strikes-draft-resolut... (Accessed: 9 September 2015).

Surname, Initial. (Year that the site was published/last updated) Title of web page . Available at: URL (Accessed: date).

Organisation (Year that the page was last updated) Title of web page . Available at: URL (Accessed: date).

Robinson, J. (2007) Social variation across the UK . Available at: https://www.bl.uk/british-accents-and-dialects/articles/social-variation... (Accessed: 21 November 2021).

The British Psychological Society (2018) Code of Ethics and Conduct . Available at: https://www.bps.org.uk/news-and-policy/bps-code-ethics-and-conduct (Accessed: 22 March 2019).

Note: Cite Them Right Online offers guidance for referencing webpages that do not include authors' names and dates. However, be extra vigilant about the suitability of such webpages.

Surname, Initial. (Year) Title of photograph . Available at: URL (Accessed: date).

Kitton, J. (2013) Golden sunset . Available at: https://www.jameskittophotography.co.uk/photo_8692150.html (Accessed: 21 November 2021).

stanitsa_dance (2021) Cossack dance ensemble . Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/COI_slphWJ_/ (Accessed: 13 June 2023).

Note: If no title can be found then replace it with a short description.

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IMAGES

  1. How To Reference A Website In An Essay : The Complete Guide to MLA

    how do you reference a website in a essay

  2. 4 Ways to Cite a Website in APA

    how do you reference a website in a essay

  3. How To Harvard Reference A Website

    how do you reference a website in a essay

  4. How to Cite a Website in APA, MLA and Chicago in Any Paper

    how do you reference a website in a essay

  5. How To Reference A Website In An Essay

    how do you reference a website in a essay

  6. How to Cite a Website in MLA: A Complete Guide

    how do you reference a website in a essay

VIDEO

  1. Article referencing manually

  2. Referencing in Academic writting

  3. How to add Citations & References for Journal Article in MS Word| APA

  4. How to add citation and reference search papers@nanglupk1459

  5. How do you reference a cell based on a value in another cell?

  6. update

COMMENTS

  1. How to Cite a Website

    Citing a website in MLA Style. An MLA Works Cited entry for a webpage lists the author's name, the title of the page (in quotation marks), the name of the site (in italics), the date of publication, and the URL. The in-text citation usually just lists the author's name. For a long page, you may specify a (shortened) section heading to ...

  2. 4 Ways to Cite a Website

    3. Type the title of the web page in sentence case. Type a space after the period that follows the date, then type the title of the web page, which will usually appear as a header at the top of the page. Use sentence case, capitalizing only the first word and any proper nouns. Place a period at the end of the title.

  3. How to Cite a Website in APA

    The URL of a website is mandatory if you cite a website or a webpage. Where you include the URL depends on the type of citation. To cite a website as a general reference without any reference to a specific page or particular details, simply add the name of the website in the text and include the URL in parentheses.

  4. Webpage on a Website References

    Provide the name of the news website in the source element of the reference. Link to the comment itself if possible. Otherwise, link to the webpage on which the comment appears. Either a full URL or a short URL is acceptable. 3. Webpage on a website with a government agency group author.

  5. How to Cite a Website in MLA

    Write the author's name in last name, first name format with a period following. Next, write the name of the website in italics. Write the contributing organization's name with a comma following. List the date in day, month, year format with a comma following. Lastly, write the URL with a period following.

  6. LibGuides: APA Citation Style 7th Edition: Welcome

    Reference: Details about one cited source. Reference List: Contains details on ALL the sources cited in a text or essay, and supports your research and/or premise. Retrieval Date: Used for websites where content is likely to change over time (e.g. Wikis), the retrieval date refers to the date you last visited the website.

  7. MLA Works Cited: Electronic Sources (Web Publications)

    Cite web postings as you would a standard web entry. Provide the author of the work, the title of the posting in quotation marks, the web site name in italics, the publisher, and the posting date. Follow with the date of access. Include screen names as author names when author name is not known. If both names are known, place the author's ...

  8. How to Cite a Website in an Essay

    Here's a step-by-step guide: 1. Author (s): Begin with the author's last name, followed by a comma, and the first name. If there's more than one author, list them in the order they appear on the website, separating each with a comma. Use "and" before the last author. If no author is listed, begin with the title.

  9. How to reference a website using the Harvard referencing style

    Web pages authored by a company or organization. Here's the information you will need to include for this type of reference: Name of the company/organization. Year the site was published or last updated (in round brackets) Title of the web page (in italics) Available at: URL (Accessed: date) In-text citation.

  10. How to Cite a Website in APA, MLA and Chicago in Any Paper

    When it comes to citing online articles in APA, you need more than the URL. Depending on the website type, the information you need to find includes: Author, if one is listed. Date. Title of article. Web name. URL. Most of this information is found on the top or bottom of the website.

  11. Reference a Website in Harvard Style

    To reference a website in Harvard style, include the name of the author or organization, the year of publication, the title of the page, the URL, and the date on which you accessed the website. In-text citation example. (Google, 2020) Reference template. Author surname, initial. ( Year) Page Title.

  12. In-Text Citations: The Basics

    APA Citation Basics. When using APA format, follow the author-date method of in-text citation. This means that the author's last name and the year of publication for the source should appear in the text, like, for example, (Jones, 1998). One complete reference for each source should appear in the reference list at the end of the paper.

  13. A Quick Guide to Referencing

    In-text citations are quick references to your sources. In Harvard referencing, you use the author's surname and the date of publication in brackets. Up to three authors are included in a Harvard in-text citation. If the source has more than three authors, include the first author followed by ' et al. '.

  14. Writing Website In-Text Citations and References

    The short answer is that in most cases no, you do not put the URL in the text of the paper. In fact, the only time you would put a URL in the text would be to simply mention a website in passing. Because you're citing specific information, you will need to write a regular APA Style author-date citation. Luckily, writing the in-text citation ...

  15. A Quick Guide to Harvard Referencing

    Sources with multiple authors in the reference list. As with in-text citations, up to three authors should be listed; when there are four or more, list only the first author followed by ' et al. ': Number of authors. Reference example. 1 author. Davis, V. (2019) …. 2 authors. Davis, V. and Barrett, M. (2019) …. 3 authors.

  16. MLA In-Text Citations: The Basics

    In-text citations: Author-page style. MLA format follows the author-page method of in-text citation. This means that the author's last name and the page number (s) from which the quotation or paraphrase is taken must appear in the text, and a complete reference should appear on your Works Cited page. The author's name may appear either in the ...

  17. How to Reference in an Essay (9 Strategies of Top Students)

    9. Do one special edit especially for Referencing Style. The top students edit their essays three to five times spaced out over a week or more before submitting. One of those edits should be specifically for ensuring your reference list adheres to the referencing style that your teacher requires.

  18. Quick guide to Harvard referencing (Cite Them Right)

    There are different versions of the Harvard referencing style. This guide is a quick introduction to the commonly-used Cite Them Right version. You will find further guidance available through the OU Library on the Cite Them Right Database. For help and support with referencing and the full Cite Them Right guide, have a look at the Library's ...

  19. How To Cite: A Basic Guide for College Students

    Note that when you are citing a source in APA format, you will need to add the page number of the source to the in-text citation if you are using a direct quote from that source. Here's an example: The scientists working on the maze study noted, "the brand of peanut butter didn't seem to matter to the mice; they liked both Skippy and Jiff ...