How to Write a Website Reference in the MLA Format

Proper documentation of sources is an essential part of research to give credibility to your arguments and prevent plagiarism. Online sources are no exception, particularly as electronic sources become an ever more common tool for students and professionals alike. One key difference between online and print sources lies in evaluating their authority, because Web sources require an additional level of scrutiny to determine the source's reliability and value, according to Bedford St. Martins’ research handbook. However, documenting these sources according to MLA guidelines relies upon the same principles of clarity and common sense as when documenting any other type of material

Works Cited

According to MLA style, 7th edition, an entry for a website reference in the bibliography, known as a Works Cited list, should include, in this order, the author’s full name (last name first, a comma and then the first name), the article title in quotation marks (if there is one), the overall site title in italics or underlined, any version numbers (such as revision or volume numbers or posting dates), the publisher information, the publication medium (in this case, "Web" without the quotation marks) and the date you accessed the information. Separate each of these items by a period. The 7th edition of the MLA style does not require the use of URLs, or Web “addresses,” because they are ephemeral and often unwieldy, but if your instructor or supervisor prefers you to include the URL, place it at the end of the listing entry. If there is no date, replace the date with “n.d.”; if there is no publisher available, replace it with “n.p.,” with no quotation marks in either case. Otherwise, simply leave blank any missing information, such as author. The entire Works Cited list should be in alphabetical order, and each entry should use hanging indents, with the second and subsequent lines indented a half-inch.

In-Text Citation

When you cite a website within the paper itself, give some information about the source in order to attribute the information you got there. If you provide in-text attribution, you do not need to provide parenthetical citation, unless your original source uses page, paragraph or line numbering. If your source does use such numbering, provide it in parentheses following your reference to the material. In any case, you must provide the author’s name or the title of the source, either in an in-text attribution or in the parenthetical citation.

About the Author

Jennifer Spirko has been writing professionally for more than 20 years, starting at "The Knoxville Journal." She has written for "MetroPulse," "Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times" and "Some" monthly. She has taught writing at North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee. Spirko holds a Master of Arts from the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-on-Avon, England.

Photo Credits
  • Digital Vision/Digital Vision/Getty Images