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Citing Web References

November 7th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Here’s a webpage in a common citation style:

Thumma, Scott, and Warren Bird. Changes in American Megachurches: Tracing Eight Years of Growth and Innovation in the Nation’s Largest-Attendance Congregations. Hartford Institute for Religion Research. 2008. Web. 1 Oct. 2009.

The word “Web” and the pointed brackets are unnecessary, whereas it would be useful to give the meaning of the date, thus:

Thumma, Scott, and Warren Bird. Changes in American Megachurches: Tracing Eight Years of Growth and Innovation in the Nation’s Largest-Attendance Congregations. Hartford Institute for Religion Research. 2008. Http://hirr.hartsem.edu/megachurch/megastoday2008_summaryreport.html. Viewed 1 Oct. 2009.

Wikipedia has a neat link for every article in the “toolbox” in the left column that tells you how to cite the article in a large number of citation styles. See, for example, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:Cite&page=Keynesian_economics&id=324592637. All of the citation styles are defective, failing to follow the principle of omitting useless keystrokes and of including all relevant information (a shocking number omit the date that the article is written!).

I would also drop the “Viewed” information entirely. It is true that webpages change or disappear, but I don’t think knowing that the author viewed it on a particular day is very useful, particularly since the reader will usually know the year he viewed it from the year he wrote the text. And the location information should logically, be in one place, with the year information separate. Thus, what’s better is:

Thumma, Scott, and Warren Bird. Changes in American Megachurches: Tracing Eight Years of Growth and Innovation in the Nation’s Largest-Attendance Congregations. Hartford Institute for Religion Research. Http://hirr.hartsem.edu/megachurch/megastoday2008_summaryreport.html (2008).

I thought about making Wikipedia an exception since it changes so often, but I looked and saw that Wikipedia always has a date of last change, which should be cited as the publication date. That date is at the bottom of an article, like this:

This page was last modified on 8 November 2009 at 05:09.

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