Citing Web Sources MLA Style

Robert Harris
Version Date: November 8, 2008

This article describes 1999 MLA Web citation style (MLA Handbook, 5th ed.). The style seems to have remained consistent in the 6th edition of the Handbook (2003), which is the current version. However, in a new, 2008 publication, The MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, a new method of citation is offered. Thus, MLA has two concurrent styles. Because the Handbook is the more popular for undergraduate research paper writers, its style has been retained here. The style may at first seem complicated, but it is not. Look at the examples and you'll see that for most Web sites, citation is straightforward.

Instant Help: If you arrived at this page from the "How to cite this page" link at the bottom of one of the VirtualSalt articles, follow this model for citing:

Harris, Robert. "Evaluating Internet Research Sources."
     VirtualSalt. 15 June 2007.  17 Oct. 2008

In the example above, the first date is the date of the page itself, while the second date is the date you accessed (read or printed) the page.

For further details, read on. 

In-text Citation

For its citation style, the Modern Language Association uses an in-text reference which directs the reader to a list of Works Cited at the end of the paper. For printed works, the in-text reference includes the author's last name or a short title (if there is no author listed) and page number. For Web citations, where few Web documents have page numbers, you can give either a section or paragraph number (if those exist in the document) or simply the author's last name or short title. Here are examples:

A spa chemistry expert recommends adding spa shock after using the spa "in order to help assure a sanitizer level in the water" (Schuster).

Note: If there are no page numbers, as is usual with Web documents, do not make up one or use the number one (as in "Jones 1") to cover the whole document. Use a number only when there is a number.

If you mention the author in your introduction, you do not need the parenthetical name, but such a practice is not recommended because it may make the quotation at first appear to have no citation:

Alan Schuster recommends adding spa shock "in order to help assure a sanitizer level" in your spa.

If there is no author named, use a short title from the article in the parenthetical reference and optionally refer to the organization in the text:

The Gerber Baby Food company notes that for the first three to five days of breast feeding, a woman's body "will produce a substance called colostrum. This thick, yellowy substance is a milk rich in antibodies [. . .]" ("Newborn Feeding").

Works Cited

Use, in this order, as many of these items as are relevant and useful for clearly identifying the source document. The list is long not so that you will include all of it in every reference, but because Web page content and format vary so widely.

1. Author or editor's last name, then first name.
2. Title of the article in quotation marks.
3. Site name or site section that has collected the articles, or book title, either underlined or italicized.
4. Editor or compiler's name (if not used in No. 1 above).
5. Publication information for the printed version, if such exists. (Use the appropriate Periodical date: pages format for printed sources described below.)
6. Title of Web site (if No. 3 is a site section), project, or database. Use Home Page if no title.
7. Editor of the Web site or project or database, if any.
8. Version number, volume number, or other identifying number.
9. Date of publication, posting, or modification. (In Netscape, use "View," "Page Info" to get a "Last Modified" date if no date is given in the article itself.)
10. Total pages, sections, or paragraphs if numbered.
11. Name of corporation, organization, or institution sponsoring Web site. (Note that the URL will usually contain the organization's name or initials or short form and thus help you determine the name to use here.)
12. Date when you accessed the site (without a period following it).
13. URL of the document <in angle brackets> followed by a period.

Note that you will normally be using only about half a dozen of these.

Examples of Typical Web Sites

Lastname, Firstname. "Article Title." Site Name. Article date.

     Organization Name. Date of access <URL>.
With author:
Schuster, Alan. "Spa and Hot Tub Chemical Questions." Ask
     Alan. 18 Aug. 2008. Aqua-Clear Industries. 10 Oct. 

     2008 <http://www.aqua-clear.com/alan/aa9.htm>.
With no author and no page date:
"Newborn Feeding." Welcome to Gerber. Gerber Corporation.

     18 Oct. 2008 <http://www.gerber.com/phases/newborn/feeding.html>.
With the Web site name the same as that of the organization (no organization name is specified):
Harris, Robert. "Evaluating Internet Research Sources." VirtualSalt 

15 June 2007. 17 Oct. 2008 <http://www.virtualsalt.com/evalu8it.htm>.
Site with no site name:

Lastname, Firstname. "Article Title." Home Page. Article date. Date of Access <URL>.

Site with page, paragraph, or section numbers:

"The Ahwahnee Principles." The Center for Livable Communities

     18 Aug. 2007. 23 Principles. Local Government Commission. 

     18 Oct. 2008 <http://www.lgc.org/clc/ahwan.html>.

Citing from Web Site Databases

When the article comes from an online database such as SIRS Researcher or InfoTrac, the publication data of the print article is also included. Note: (1) List the database as well as the service (InfoTrac has several databases, for example). (2) Use cut and paste for the URL-from your browser to your word processor-since the string may be lengthy.
Lastname, Firstname. "Article Title." Periodical Name 

     Periodical Date: Page numbers. Database Name. Date of access 

Database with author:
Rossman, Parker. "The Theology of Imagination: Science, Science 

     Fiction, and Religion." Witness Oct. 1989: 12+. SIRS 

     Researcher on the Web. 9 Nov. 2008 <http://researcher.sirs.com/ 

Database with no author:
"Monkeying with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome." Science News 14 

     Sept. 1996: 170. InfoTrac Expanded Academic ASAP. 4 Nov. 2008 


MLA Style for Printed Sources

Lastname, Firstname. Title. City: Publisher, Date.

Lastname, Firstname. "Title." Periodical day month year: pages.


Lastname, Firstname. "Title." Journal volume (year): pages.

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About the author:
Robert Harris is a writer and educator with more than 25 years of teaching experience at the college and university level. RHarris at virtualsalt.com