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How to cite a website: learn the basics & see examples

When writing a scientific paper, sources from the Internet may be relevant in addition to the classic citation of printed material. You have to keep a few things in mind to ensure the accuracy of the reference. Printed sources should, in most cases, have a preference over digital sources due to the immutability of books and journals and the seriousness of the publications, which is sometimes easier to assess.

Table of Contents:

Source criticism is of particular importance

Before you can even start citing a digital source, it is essential to sift through the source. For scientific work, only references that are classified as very reputable should be used since the credibility of one's work is mainly dependent on the sources used. This applies to term papers, bachelor and doctoral theses, and other publications.

To assess whether the Internet source at hand is trustworthy, you should take a look at the following criteria:

  • Does the Internet site have an imprint?

    What sounds banal excludes the particularly unserious sources already at first sight. Anyone who does not include their real name in an imprint is unsuitable as a primary source in academic writing. You can use such sites as a springboard for researching other sources.

  • Does the website belong to a recognized organization?

    Websites of universities, state institutes, recognized publishers, or professional journals are usually considered trustworthy. However, it should be noted here that print products also available as online publications should be cited from the print version. The only exception is if the online publication differs from the print version in essential points.

  • Is there an identifiable author?

    This point is essential both for formal source citation and for checking seriousness. If no author is indicated, a look at the imprint can help. Here it is often stated who is responsible for the website's content. However, a direct indication of the concrete publication is optimal.

  • Are (good) sources also indicated in the potential source?

    Be it by linking or by a list of the sources used at the end of the text: Stating the origin of one's information is a good sign of a reputable source.

  • Is the information content high and the content unique?

    Helpful texts do not always have to be suitable sources. Sometimes they are simply an aid or help in finding good primary sources.

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Important tips for citing internet sources

Once the decision has been made to cite a source, consider a few things when citing.

The following information is necessary for the citation:

  • Author of the source

    If you cannot find this information directly on the text (which may indicate a less reputable resource), you should see the name in the imprint.
    Example: Stefanie Andres

  • Title of the source

    If there is no article title available, the page title can be used (however, this may also be an unkempt page with little meaningfulness).
    Example: "How to cite a website: a comprehensive guide"

  • The naming of the web page

    Here, once again, the nature of the source should be made clear by placing the words "website" or "online". The section where the reference text is placed should also be named for large websites with many sections.
    Example: Website of SciFlow GmbH

  • Publication date

    The publication date can be found on the article itself - especially for scientific and journalistic pieces. If the date is unavailable, the retrieval date is used in the quick reference, or it must be indicated as "without date".

  • URL of the source

    The URL must be given in its entirety and must not be shortened. When separating lines in the bibliography, pay attention to the hyphens within the domain. You should not insert hyphens to indicate a line break (this adds additional characters to the URL and thus distorts it). It would be best to place the hyphen in the middle of the word. Please do not put it at a point in the URL where a hyphen already exists, as this could lead to confusion among readers.

  • DOI

    If a DOI number is available, you can use it instead of or in addition to the URL. This information is not mandatory and can be omitted if not present.

  • Date of the web page call

    Since content on web pages can change, it is essential to indicate the access date. The information should at least be accurate to the day; for websites with a high fluctuation and many updates (such as prominent online newspapers), a reference to the time can also be helpful.
    Example: 08.06.2022, 12:48 CEST

To have a good possibility for later proof of the content on a URL at retrieval, we recommend taking a screenshot of the page and saving it. This way, it is possible to react quickly to any inquiries. Internet directories, such as the Wayback Machine, can also be helpful here.

References should not be deposited as hyperlinks. This usually leads to color highlighting and underlining the URL, leading to irritations in the paper's print version. It is, therefore, better not to do this.

How to cite a website with no author

Should it be necessary to quote a website without disclosure of the author, you can just cite the website without this information. This also applies if you can not find a publication date. You can substitute the authors name with the name of the organization responsible.

Citing videos on video platforms

The above criteria for source criticism apply to the same extent. In addition to traditional text sources on the Internet, it is becoming increasingly common for videos on platforms such as YouTube or Vimeo to be used to investigate particular issues. Mostly, the theses of the work then revolve around questions about the medium and media use itself. As a rough guideline: You can use videos very well to prove which statements were made on a specific topic, for example, how many views there were at one particular time, or simply as an example of one specific type of video presentation. On the other hand, less suitable are explanatory videos in which complex scientific topics are presented. Here you should always seek out the primary sources and use them.

When citing longer videos, you can directly include the time marker in the URL to which your citation refers. This way, all future readers can easily understand where your quote comes from. The quotation specifies the creator, the year of publication, and the exact time.

An example in APA style:

"She does a lot of weird things with her voice." (Tristan Paredes, 2022, 02:58).

In the bibliography, you will add more information:

Tristan Paredes. (2022, June 5th). Vocal Coach Reacts to Kate Bush - Running Up That Hill (Stranger Things) [video]. YouTube.

Internet sources in text and bibliography - a few examples

Once you have evaluated the sources in terms of their seriousness and gathered all the information, you must quote the obtained facts correctly. As examples, we list the most common citation methods. We want to point out that there can be slight deviations from the standard at each institute, so we recommend a short inquiry in advance.

How to cite a website in MLA citation style

As an example I picked an article out of our collection. Here you can see the in-text citation in MLA style:

To not lose track of the many sources that arise in research, a literature management program can be helpful. (Andres, 2022).

In the bibliography it will look like this:

Andres, Stefanie. "Bibliography - how your scientific source list succeeds". SciFlow, 5th of June 2022,

How to cite a website in Harvard citation style

Only an abbreviation is referenced in the text in the Harvard citation style, found in the bibliography as a full citation.

To not lose track of the many sources that arise in research, a literature management program can be helpful. (Andres, 2022).

In the bibliography, the following citation can then be found:

Andres, S. (2022): ‘Bibliography - how your scientific source list succeeds’. Available at: (Accessed: 20 June 2022).

How to cite a website in APA citation style

In APA citation, likewise, only a brief reference is given in the body text, the associated source citation of which can then be found in the bibliography.

To not lose track of the many sources that arise in research, a literature management program can be helpful. (Andres, 2022).

In the bibliography:

Andres, S. (2022): Bibliography - how your scientific source list succeeds SciFlow.

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Conclusion: this is how citing sources from the Internet works

In summary, these are the most critical points:

  • Internet sources should remain the exception and give priority to print products.
  • Especially on the Internet, you have to check sources for reliability.
  • You must not forget to state the date of retrieval. Otherwise, the reader cannot trace the contained content.
  • This information must not be missing under (almost) any circumstances: Author, headline, web page description, URL, retrieval date, publication date.
  • The citation format depends, as always, on the citation style.