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How to Cite a Website in an Essay: The Importance of Credible Sources

27 March 2023

Citing Websites in Academic

Writing In the digital age, internet sites have become one of the most common sources of information for students and researchers. However, quoting a website in an essay can be tricky, as there are various different styles and formats to follow, causing many students to fall into confusion and despair. In this Mrs. Writer article, we will discuss how to cite a website in an essay. Knowing how to do it is an essential part in understanding how to cite sources, whether for a college admissions essay or for something else.

Properly citing a internet site in an essay is crucial for giving credit to the original source of information and avoiding plagiarism. This article will cover the different citation styles, including APA, MLA, and Chicago, and provide examples of how to cite various types of websites, such as webpages, articles, and online videos. Additionally, we will discuss the importance of evaluating the credibility and reliability of websites before using them as sources in academic writing. No professor would appreciate it if the “reliable” websites you cite in your paper turn out to be random ramblings from highly unreliable Internet cooks.

Understanding Website Citations in Essay

When citing a website, it is essential to include all relevant information that identifies the source and allows readers to locate it. As you can see from our examples, the information required varies depending on the citation style used, so check the requirements of your chosen style before writing out a quote. Remember, citing a website is different from the task of “how to cite an essay itself”.

MLA style: the author's name is usually listed last name first, followed by a comma and the first name. The title of the page is placed in quotation marks, and the title of the site is italicized. The date of publication is listed in day-month-year format, with URL being listed at the end of the citation in angle brackets. Humanities often prefer this style.

MLA citation example: Author's Last Name, First Name. "Title of Webpage." Title of Website, Publisher, Publication Date, URL. +

APA style: here the last name usually goes first, and the first name initial (not full name, as in the previous style) goes afterward, separated by a comma. The title of the site is capitalized in sentence case, with the title of the site is italicized. The date of publication is listed in year-month-day format, and the URL is listed at the end of the citation. Usually, this style doesn't require adding a period at the end. This format is often used for social sciences and such.

Example of APA citation: Author's Last Name, First Initial. (Publication Date). Title of Webpage. Title of Website. URL

Chicago style: this time the original author's name is listed first name first, followed by a period. The title of the webpage is capitalized in title case (as usual with these styles), and the title of the site is italicized, with date of publication listed in the common month day, year format, and the URL, as usual, is listed at the end of the citation. Published works (rather than class papers) are often cited this way. This venerable format has been developed since 1906, before anyone even knew what a “webpage” is.

E. g.: Author's First Name Last Name. "Title of Webpage." Title of Website. Publication Date. URL.

Keep in mind that in addition to these basic elements, site citations may also include additional information, such as the name of the site publisher, the date the webpage was last updated, and the access date (the date on which the writer accessed the webpage).

How to cite a website in an essay: steps and tips from Mrs.Writer

Here are they:

  • Start with the author's name or username if available. If there is no author listed, no need to be confused – just use the title of the article or webpage.
  • Next, include the title of the webpage or article in quotation marks, followed by the name of the website in italics.
  • If the site is part of a larger publication or organization (Twitter, Instagram, etc), include the name of that larger entity after the name of the site.
  • Include the publication date or date of last update in parentheses, followed by a period.
  • If the website does not have a publication date, use the date you accessed it instead.
  • Include the URL or DOI of the website in angle brackets, followed by a period.


  • Andrew, Preston. " Helping you cite better: An overview of MLA essay citations." Mrs. Writer, https://mrswriter.org/how-to-cite-an-essay. Accessed 4 March 2023.

Comparison Table of Website Citation Styles in Academic Writing

Next, we will compare and contrast how to cite a website in an essay using various formats. By examining the similarities and differences between these citation styles, you can gain a better understanding of how to properly cite internet sites in your own research paper.

Here is a useful table for this:

Style Similarities Differences
APA Include author, date, and page number Use "Retrieved from" for online sources, no URL needed for print
MLA Insert author, title, publisher, and date Write "Accessed" for online sources, URL included
Chicago Take care to add author, title, and publication Write "accessed" for online sources, URL included
Harvard Place author, date, and title Parenthetical citation vs. in-text citation
Vancouver Use a numbered superscript in-text citation Include full details in the reference list, including URL

These are just general similarities and differences and may vary depending on the specific citation guidelines for each style, so always keep this in mind. If you need more information on how to cite a book in an essay, it is easy to find.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Here are some of them, which can lead to a loss of points or even plagiarism accusations:

  1. Forgetting to include the author's name. One of the most frequent mistakes when citing an internet site is forgetting to include it. This is particularly vital if the site does not have an official publication as the author, so be sure to check the page carefully to find the author's name, and include it in your citation.
  2. Failing to provide a full URL. Make sure to include the complete web address in your citation, including the "http://" or "https://" at the beginning, which will allow your readers to easily access the site and verify whether your source actually exists – a common issue with some of the more dishonest papers out there.
  3. Outdated links. Unfortunately, internet sites can change or be taken down (sometimes called “link rot”), which is why it's important to use the most up-to-date address when citing a website. If you are citing a site that you accessed in the past, check to see if the link has changed or if the site has been updated, and if so, use the new URL in your citation. In case you're afraid that your page is going to disappear soon, you can link to archive services like Internet Archive's Wayback Machine.
  4. Not citing specific pages. You shouldn't cite the entire website instead of a specific article you quote, which can make it difficult for readers to locate the source you are referencing, especially if the site itself is large and easy to get lost in. Make sure to include the title of the specific page or article you are citing, along with the URL.
  5. No date of access. Finally, another common (although less blatant) error is forgetting to include the day you accessed the website. Remember: internet sites can change frequently, so it's important to let your readers know when you visited it. Make sure the date you include is the most recent possible.

To avoid these mistakes, we recommend you to use reliable sources and make sure to include all the necessary references. Additionally, you can try specialized online citation tools (always useful for people with low tolerance for routine tasks) or consult with your professor or a writing center for guidance. Usually, they are quite happy to assist in these technical matters.

Evaluating Website Credibility for Academic Writing: A Guide for Students

Here are some tips and guidelines to help you assess the credibility of websites and ensure that the sources you use in your essay are reliable.

  1. Check the domain. One way to evaluate the credibility of a website is to examine the domain and address. Look for reputable domains such as .gov, .edu, or .org. These domains are generally used by government organizations, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations, respectively. Be cautious of sites with unusual or suspicious domain names or extensions, such as .biz or .info. Ask yourself: how official is the organization behind this page?
  2. Review the author and publisher information. This is another vital factor to consider. Look for the name of the person or collective responsible for the content and verify their credentials or expertise in the subject area. You can Google the name of the author to find out whether it is a respectable academic, a random crank, or someone completely unknown. Check the publisher information to determine if it is reputable.
  3. Evaluate the content and sources. Review the sources used by the website. Check to see if they are credible and reliable, such as peer-reviewed journals or reputable news sources. Be wary of websites that rely solely on anecdotal evidence or personal opinions (“this is the horrible story that happened to me and my friend”).
  4. Examine the website design and functionality. This can also provide clues about its credibility. Look for websites that are well-designed and professional-looking, with clear navigation and easy-to-find contact information. Sites that are cluttered with ads, pop-ups, or strange text formatting (unusual colors, all caps, and other signs of what is sometimes called “greentext”) may indicate that you're dealing with someone not particularly trustworthy.
  5. Consider bias and objectivity. Look for websites that present information in an objective and balanced manner, without single-mindedly promoting a particular viewpoint. Be cautious of sites that are overly opinionated, present their opinions in a demagogic or sensational manner (“amazing revelations you never knew before!”), or seem to have a hidden agenda.

Evaluating the credibility of websites is an important step in using reliable sources for academic writing, including essays. By following these guidelines and tips, you can strengthen your arguments and enhance the overall quality of your writing, while avoiding citing the various opinionated cranks that populate the darker recesses of the World Wide Web. We at Mrs. Writer hope that our advice has helped you to understand how to cite a website in an essay.

Andrew Preston

As a knowledgeable writer in the fields of health, biology, and psychology, I ensure the delivery of top-notch articles that have been instrumental in the success of many students.

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