Sunday, 11 March 2012

Referencing Points - Websites

A few days ago we had the following question on our AskNow service:

“How do I differentiate between the author of a website, the name of the website and the sponsor of a website when I am referencing?”

This can be tricky, as sometimes the website will only give you some of these details, and sometimes the details are identical (for example, the name of the website is also the name of the company responsible for the website).

Generally speaking, you should look for the copyright information for the page (usually right at the bottom) and/or the “About Us” details. They should give you the name of the people responsible for the website, and that’s what you would normally use as the author.

Often, websites are “authored” by a company, rather than a person, but sometimes a person wrote the information on a page that is owned by a company. In this case there will be a “byline” on the page somewhere (a person’s name either at the top near the title or at the bottom after the text) as well as a company name in the copyright information/About us details. In this case the person becomes the author and the company becomes the sponsor. Often, though, there won’t be a sponsor – the company is just the author.

The name you use depends on the way the site is structured. Websites can have an overall name for the whole site, and then a number of sections which each have their own name, and then a number of pages which have their own name. You need to provide the details that make it most clear where your information came from. A good rule of thumb is to look for the biggest, most obvious text at the top of the page and work out if you can see a title for the site/section and a subtitle for the page.

For example, if you were going to cite information on the JCU library’s website on Referencing, using the part from the section on APA referencing, your author would be James Cook University, the title of the page would be Referencing: APA, and the URL would be You would also be able to find the date the page was last updated, which was in 2012.

Depending on the style you were using, that would be all the information you needed to cite the page in your reference list. You may also need to include the date when you personally saw the page.

The thing to keep in mind is that you are giving whatever details would be most useful for someone to find that page using your reference list.

Oh, and remember that different styles have different requirements for things like URLs and "date cited" information. Check your Subject Outline for the style and find a relevant guide.

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