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To cite or not to cite: That is the question

Electronic Reference Formats

APA Style for citing social science research on the web

Columbia Online Style for citing web research

MLA Style for citing research on literature and language

CBE Style for citing research on science and math

Chicago style for citing web research

Sharing your web research

 "If you draw on outside sources in writing your paper, you must clearly acknowledge those sources." 

We want to acknowledge right away that this sentence comes from Jane E. Aaron's Little Brown Essential Handbook for Writers, a style guide that many students have been assigned, and some have actually read. 

For more than 500 years, university folks have been citing the books and articles they read to show their peers where they got their statistics, text, images, and ideas, and to encourage these other scholars to go check out the original sources, to make sure they haven’t been distorted, misquoted, or otherwise misinterpreted. 

That give-and-take between writer and readers is part of the extended conversation within the discipline, so the conventions for making citations reflect many years of scholarly argument, in hundreds of thousands of essays in every discipline. When you enter any field, learning how to cite your sources has long been part of becoming a full-fledged member, a recognized participant—a fellow scholar.

But when the Web arrived, with its unusual addresses, and its many types of electronic information, the old conventions were knocked for a loop.

 First, the Web made wholesale theft of material easy—just copy and paste. Plus research took you all over, and you came back with many items that weren’t on library shelves. Citing these nontraditional sources became a headache.

To ease the throbbing pain, many of the old standards organizations came up with new conventions for Internet citations. If you are writing a serious academic essay, or just have to turn in a term paper tomorrow, you’ll find out more about why you should bother, and how to handle Web citations using these new conventions, in these pages.



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