Tuesday 26 November 2013

How to cite a webpage in APA style

There seems to be some controversy over how to cite a web page using APA style. When a student finds information on a website, he or she often uses the title of the article as the reference. For example, citing this page he or she would use ("How to cite a web page", 2013). This is wrong, because there is clearly an author for this blog post: Peter J. Francis. You should cite the name of the author, just like you would a journal article. Be thorough; look carefully in the fine print for an author.

Just today I edited an essay that cited three newspapers. I know that virtually every story in a newspaper has a byline. I used to write for newspapers and seeing my name in print was half the reward. There is absolutely no reason not to know the name of the author of a newspaper article. Normally, when I am editing, I correct these things, but this person had not provided the full url in the reference section (which I pointed out when I returned the paper).

However, often a webpage is written by the member of a staff of an organization. Let's say HyperGraphix was a big anonymous editing company and there was no author on the page. Would you cite it as ("How to cite a webpage in APA style", 2013) or (HyperGraphix, 2013)?

I've researched this a lot and the answer is contradictory. Sometimes you use the name of the organization, sometimes you use the title of the article. I will try to tease out what the difference is.

There are four elements necessary for a complete citation: author, date, title, and url. Format is added if the format is out of the ordinary, such as a blog post, or lecture notes. One or more of these may be missing. This link tells you to use the title when you have no author.

However, this link says to use the organization as author when you have no author named. http://www.apastyle.org/learn/faqs/web-page-no-author.aspx

Normally I use the OWL (Purdue University Online Writing Lab) as my goto source for APA references. https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/ This easy to use resource has lots of examples for all APA questions. There is also an MLA section, and I recently discovered a Chicago section. Many universities have APA or other style references, but I find this one to be the most comprehensive. But the OWL is strangely silent on the web page with no author. Maybe they don't give a hoot!

The two links above are both from the APA, so which is right? I had a client marked down because she used a title where an organization should have been used. I think the question is whether the organization is a professional organization, or is it just a place that posts information. For example, my client was doing a Master's degree in Nursing and was citing a document from the Centers for Disease Control. So this is a document that has been prepared for and by an organziation (CDC, 2013). Cite the organization.

On the other hand, if you were citing Travelocity's tips for vaccination, then Travelocity is merely posting information it has obtained elsewhere. Cite the webpage title ("Get stuck for health", 2013). Notice the webpage title used double quotation marks. You can use an abbreviated version of the title.

This makes some kind of sense because you can trust a named author more than an organization and an organization more than some webpage. There's a hierarchy of trust.

Back to my original question. Would you cite it as ("How to cite a webpage in APA style", 2013) or (HyperGraphix, 2013)? I would like to think you would use the latter. HyperGraphix is my editing business, and I should have some expertise. In addition, this website is the sole property of my editing business, and it's not designed to let other people post. You can be certain that HyperGraphix is responsible for the content. So give me the credibility of using my business name.

The next problem is how to set up the reference in the reference section. Do not use quotation marks on the title in the reference section. The first part of the entry should be the same as the in-text reference. As I explain to my students, the system is designed so you give a brief in-text reference, and if the reader wants more information, he or she should be able to find the full information in the reference section. That's why the reference section is in alphabetical order, and each entry begins with the same words used in the citation.So for the reference entry to this web page, write it like this:

Francis, P.J. (2013). How to cite a webpage in APA style.  [weblog]. Retrieved from http://essaywritngtips.blogspot.ca/2013/11/how-to-cite-webpage-in-apa-style.html

If there was no author, then it would be:

How to cite a webpage in APA style. (2013). [weblog]. Retrieved from http://essaywritngtips.blogspot.ca/2013/11/how-to-cite-webpage-in-apa-style.html
Updated April 2, 2014.