Even if you find the author’s name, Internet sources make it harder to tell what status that person has in his or her field.Is the author an expert, a fan, or just a crackpot?
To some degree, these categories distinguish more and less reliable sources of information.
But the distinctions are neither clear nor entirely stable.
When listing Internet sources in your References or Works Cited, the most important thing to remember is that your goal is to make it easy for a reader to consult your sources. As you will see in the discussion of specific categories, however, some of these items may be hard to determine.
(This same goal is paramount when listing print sources.) For most sites, that means you should include the URL for the page you cite in your paper (the web address that begins “http”). The ease of using electronic sources of any kind can make it harder to keep track of where the source ends and your original contribution begins—and you must always keep that distinction clear.
Knowing more about the author helps readers to assess the source and also, sometimes, to find the source when the website has been moved or revised. In general, we highlight your need to respect authors’ rights, explaining how to give people credit for their ideas while distinguishing your own original contributions.
The general form of a citation from an Internet source is: Author’s name. But the ease of using electronic sources also raises dangers about what might be called rights, leading you to make public words that the original author intended only as private communication.
But websites change, and the address you used won’t always be active when your reader tries to view a source. See How to Copy and Paste but Not Plagiarize for advice about how to use electronic sources wisely.
For that reason, it’s important to include both the date you accessed the site and also a full account of the person, group, or organization that sponsors the site. Most of this guide focuses on helping you subordinate sources to your own ideas.
When someone speaks in public, participates in an interview, or publishes a piece of writing, he or she implicitly agrees that other people may refer to this material in research.
But some electronic sources blur the line between public and private communication.