Guide to Grammar and Writing

G. Citing Materials From Electronic, Online Resources

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G. Citing Materials From Electronic, Online Resources

Online (Internet) resources must be held to the same high standards of scholarly integrity that we impose on material in the library. The difference is that your college library staff is not in charge of cyberspace; in fact, no one is. One problem of searching for materials on the World Wide Web, for instance, is that a search engine (as vastly improved as today's search engines are over their early progenitors) can return a listing from the Yale University English Department alongside a listing from my good Aunt Millie. An online document, Evaluating Web Resources, by Jan Alexander and Marsha Ann Tate of Widener University, is extremely helpful in establishing principles for evaluating Web-based materials. Students need to be cautious about using materials that are not retrievable (e-mail and discussion groups, especially) by others in the community of scholars. Also, students should generally not use or refer readers to URLs that are accessible only with a password (course Websites are usually accessible only with a password); sites accessible by easy and free registration (typical of newspapers) are acceptable, but are not encouraged if they lead to archived materials available only with a fee.

The section on using World Wide Web resources is based on advice given at the Modern Language Association’s own web-site (using our own examples, however).

1. WWW Sites (World Wide Web)

To cite files available for viewing/downloading on the World Wide Web, the MLA suggests giving the following information, including as many items from the list below as are relevant and available.

  1. Name of the author, editor, compiler, or translator, reversed for alphabetizing and followed by an abbreviation such as ed., trans., if appropriate

  2. Title of the article, poem, short story with the scholarly project, database, periodical; in quotation marks, followed by the description Online posting

  3. Title of a book (underlined)

  4. Name of the editor, compiler, translator, if not cited earlier, followed by the appropriate abbreviation such as Ed., Trans., etc.

  5. Publication information for any print version of this resource (if such a thing exists)

  6. Title of the scholarly project, database, periodical or professional or personal site (underlined); or, for a site with no title, a description such as Home page

  7. Name of the editor of the scholarly project or database (if available)

  8. Version number of the source (If not part of the title) or other identifying number

  9. Date of electronic publication, of the latest update, or of posting

  10. Page numbers or the number of paragraphs or of other numbered sections of the material (if any)

  11. Name of any institution or organization sponsoring or associated with the web site

  12. Date when the researcher found access to this resource

  13. Electronic address, or URL, of the resource (in ). It is no longer considered necessary to include the protocol (http://) for a WWW download, since most browsers will work without including that protocol. If possible, however, show the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) of the web-site in its entirely without break or inappropriate hyphens at line-endings and without spaces. (It's probably a good idea to provide the URL its own line. If you have to break the URL at the end of a line, do so immediately after a slash mark. If you are confronted with a very long URL, that is probably impossible to use (and might not be available, anyway, on subsequent attempts to get access to it. Instead, use the source page that got you to that page and include appropriate keywords that will yield your specfic source with an appropriate search.)

    Note, also, that spelling is critically important in reporting URLs.

For the Works Cited Page

Scholarly Project

The Avalon Project: Articles of Confederation, 1781. Co-Directors William C. Fray and Lisa A. Spar. 1996. Yale Law School. 2 Dec. 2003

Professional Site

Guide to Grammar and Writing. Capital Community College. 4 April 2004

Personal Site

Jascot, John. Home page. 1 Dec. 1997. 38 Jan. 2004

Course Website

Darling, Charles. Introduction to Literature. Course Website. Jan. 2004–May 2004. Dept. of Humanities, Capital Community College. 20 May 2004

Book Published Online

Du Bois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk. Chicago, 1903. Project Bartleby. Ed. Steven van Leeuwen. Dec. 1995. Columbia U. 2 Dec. 2003


Dunbar, William. "The tretis of the twa mariit women and the wedo." The Poems of William Dunbar Ed. James Kinsley. Clarendon Press, New York. 1979. University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center. Ed. David Seaman. Jan. 1994. U. of Virginia. 2 February 2004

Article in an Online Journal

Fitter, Chris. "The Poetic Nocturne: From Ancient Motif to Renaissance Genre." Early Modern Literary Studies 3.1 (Sept. 1997): 60 pars. 4 Mar. 2004

Article in an Online Magazine

Bowden, Mark. "Lessons of Abu Ghraib." Atlantic 293.5 (June 2004): 12 pars. 24 May 2004

Article in a Discussion Group or BLOG

Norton, J.R.. "Torture at Abu Ghraib: A Timeline." The O'Franken Factor (June 2004): 34 pars. 24 May 2004

In-text Citation

In parenthetical citations, you will treat online resources the same as you would treat other kinds of resources, according to their type (book, journal article, etc.). The key, remember, is to provide the means necessary for your reader to discover and share in what you have found, whether those resources can be found on a library shelf or in cyberspace.

As Fitter points out, "Landscape description in this period is in transition, from traditional paysage moralisé to pictorialism, and verse such as Saint-Amant's La Solitude, for instance, anticipates Romantic "mood-music" in the age of the emblem book" (59).

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