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Citing Electronic Documents   Tags: advanced research, bibliographies, citation, e-resources, reference  

Last Updated: Apr 2, 2017 URL: Print Guide

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About Citations of Electronic Documents

Please be aware that the suggestions for citing electronic resources given here are not for any official style but are for a generic unofficial format. You should always check with your professors to determine the preferred citation style for your classes.

First, ask yourself these questions:

  • How did I find this material? On a database like ASAP, Lexis/Nexis Academic Universe, or EbscoHost? Or did I search the Web using Google, Bing, Yahoo, or another search tool?
Once you can answer these questions, you're ready to start building a citation. The suggestions given here are not based on any one official style, but were developed with the idea that the two main purposes of any citation are 1) to accurately indicate the origin of a work and 2) to help someone else find the information you've used with a minimum amount of difficulty.

Almost all citations for books include the following information. The order in which you present the information may vary with the citation style you're using, but these elements will probably be present:

  • Author
  • Title of the book
  • Publisher
  • Place of publication
  • Date of publication
  • Page numbers
For journal articles, most citations include:
  • Author
  • Title of the article
  • Title of the journal
  • Volume and issue number of the journal
  • Date of publication
  • Page numbers

When you site Web resources of any kind, you'll need to add at least these three important things to the information in your citations:

  • URL (Uniform Resource Locator) for the material
  • Date you viewed the material
  • Number of paragraphs. This can be tricky because Web formatting can make paragraphs difficult to distinguish. Make an honest effort. Even though you might not need this number in your bibliography or works cited list, you may need to refer to paragraph numbers when you use parenthetical citations, endnotes, or footnotes.


A Word about URLs

Some documents on the web, particularly articles from databases, can have very long URLs. These often include session numbers that do not last after a limited amount of time. If you are citing an item that appears in a database, your best practice may be to either

  • provide the URL for the database, but not for the individual article. For example, an article linked from Academic Search Premier might have a url like this in the browser's location window:
    Rather than providing this long, temporary link, provide the part of the URL that gives the location of the host database:
  • if the citation or the item includes what is called a DOI, you might include that. A DOI is a unique alphanumeric string that identifies content and provides a persistent link. Details on the use of DOIs in citations are provided by the different citation and style manuals.
In an academic paper it is generally not good practice to use a URL shortening and redirecting service like tinyurl. Thile shortened links are a great way to share material, but in many cases a knowledgeable reader will use the real URL to evaluate a source; you lose the information the URL conveys when you use a shortened or redirected link.


Contact the Librarians

We're here to help!

During the school year, librarians are available at the Reference Desk during the following times.

8 a.m.-5 p.m.
6 p.m-10 p.m.
8 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
1 p.m.-5 p.m.
6 p.m.-10 p.m.

Phone: (920) 832-6752

Website: The Library

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Need Writing Assistance?

The reference librarians are happy to assist you with your questions about research and citation. Contact us in person or use the link to ask a Reference Librarian.

The Center for Teaching and Learning provides assistance with your writing questions. They can help you make a good paper great!


Honor Council and Honor Code

Lawrence is proud of its long-standing tradition of a student-run honor system. Potential violations include failing to distinguish carefully between one's own work and material from any other source (e.g., written materials, oral sources, web pages, or other data available through computer resources).

See these pages for more on the Honor Council and Honor Code.


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