Citing Internet resources is a concern for many students. It always raises questions and is still not clearly regulated. We’ll tell you which mistakes you should avoid, which possibilities you have and how you finally get structure into your references in the bibliography.
Internet sources cite in the bibliography – a challenge
Again and again authors of scientific papers deal with the same problem: the citation of Internet sources. Even experienced writers and students are often insecure and choose a provisional variant for quoting. Many universities are not up-to-date in this regard and only give a fragmentary account of how students should deal with Internet sources.
In particular, older universities only mention online magazines or eBooks in their guides and forget about regular Internet sources without authors, such as the Duden online dictionary, personal websites or partially accepted sources like Wikipedia. Again and again students are researching to find out somehow a writer, a constitutional date or a place, unfortunately often unsuccessful.
Whom does the Internet sources cite?
Most often affected are students who need to write homework while studying to complete a module. Of course, this includes graduates who write their bachelor thesis, master thesis or dissertation. Somewhat less affected are students. They just have to fear in their work that they will come across inevitable Internet sources.
Which degree programs are affected?
In older degree programs such as German Studies, History, Mathematics, Philosophy and Co., lecturers are often skeptical about Internet sources. Most of all they should be completely avoided or tolerated only with exact information. Depending on the topic, this is not possible. Even old study courses are cross-media and research demands that they also deal with modern topics. Sooner or later it is necessary to obtain current sources also from current media. Thus, in media studies, in computer science or in sociology, it is often a prerequisite to have to cite Internet sources.
Which internet sources are suitable for citation?
The key problem with selecting Internet sources is that it is difficult to assess which sources are legitimate and which are not. The difficulty is that often the author and proofreader can disagree. In addition, each reviewer is different severity. Some teachers or teachers, for example, accept Wikipedia if the sources are traceable, while others consider this an absolute no-go.
In principle, information is suitable whose author and constitution date are tangible. PDF files, online magazines and eBooks are also included. It gets more critical when it comes to websites of authors with biographical information or interviews. Here are some tips for you to finally use a unified system for quoting Internet sources.
There are these citation ways
There are now guidelines for citing Internet sources in Harvard and APA citation modes. But for the much more common, German citation, there are only rough guidelines. We show you the three possibilities in their basic structure, so that you can orient yourself.
The Harvard format
The American citation is also called Harvard format and is common in degree programs that deal with English studies or linguistics (linguistics). The Harvard system may seem less complicated at first, but it also affects the reading flow a bit. Both the German and American systems have their advantages. Stick to what your school or college, or your teacher or lecturer, indicates.
The APA format
The abbreviation APA actually means “Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association” and is a guide to scientific work. It was originally developed for the Department of Psychology, but has since been transferred to other departments. The APA citation method is primarily used in the natural sciences, but some humanities also follow this style.
Indication in the bibliography:
Last name, first name initials. (Year, day month). Title [type of source]. Retrieved from URL
Indication in the text:
This is a sample text (last name, year).
Quote Internet sources: 6 tips
Here are some important tips that can help you quote from Internet sources. Since there is still no uniform system for the German citation method, after which one can name his Internet sources without author, place and time, we have some examples for you. If you are very unsure, you should send your instructor one of your online sources and ask if it is okay or otherwise desired.
Pay attention to the accuracy of your information
Remember that Internet sources are very good to check. You should therefore pay particular attention to identifying everything that you have cited directly or indirectly. In the bibliography, your Internet source should always include the date of the last call. The rapidity of websites often means that their content may change and your source may become unreachable. By stating the last call date, you assure that the source was still yours at that time. Thus nobody can criticize you afterwards, if the source has updated or changed.
Use these abbreviations if information is missing
There are some standards that you can specify if you are missing specific sources. They are important if you want to specify your cited Internet sources later in the bibliography. If you do not know where your source was written, you can o.O. (without location), o.J. (without year), o.D. (without date) and o.V. (without author).
Ask your instructors
If you are unsure about quoting Internet sources, you should ask your instructor for safety. Send him an e-mail asking questions about the exact sources and adding the URL so that he can understand exactly or ask him during the consultation for your work, as he stands on sources such as Wikipedia.
Remove link or not?
It depends. If you only have to submit a printed work, the hyperlink should be removed in any case. This can be done very quickly with a right-click on the URL and a subsequent left-click on “remove hyperlink”. If you do not remove the link before printing, the URL will remain blue and underlined, and it will have no purpose in this release.
However, if you also want to send your paper online as a PDF or Word file, it pays off for your proofreader if you do not remove the link from your URL. So he can access your source with a simple left-click and does not have to make the effort to copy the URL and paste it back in the browser window.
To be on the safe side: Illustrate and take screenshots
If you are not sure whether your Internet source is legitimate or not, use it for illustration rather than proof. It is difficult to provide solid evidence with Internet sources anyway, as they can always change the evidence.
If you just want to illustrate something, you can use online sources more easily because they are not the foundation of your scientific work. However, if you want to provide proof that is essential to your work, you should take screenshots. So you can create a kind of time capsule and preserve the website as you found it as a picture.
Printed literature should always be preferred
Internet sources are so popular with students because they are very quickly available and can be found, for example, with the search function on PC keywords quickly. Many useful information can be found both in print and online. Here, students often prefer the online version so they do not have to carry more books from the library home. But as you have probably already noticed, it is very time consuming and nerve-wracking to use internet sources. Therefore always prefer the printed version. Quoting Internet sources should be the exception rather than the rule anyway.
Extra tip: Specialized literature that you can find online (for example, on Google Books) is often simply scanned in and does not differ from the printed version. If you are sure that this is the case, you can save yourself going to the library and still use all the information as usual and list it in your bibliography.
Examples: How to specify Internet sources without author, location and time
Unfortunately, there is still no official system for the German citation method, according to which one can quote and abbreviate regular Internet sources without author, place and time. Often, precisely this information, which students encounter again and again, is forgotten in the guidelines of the universities. They also include reputable sources such as university websites, duden.de or important institutions. That’s why our examples are not quite consistent to show you the possibilities you have.
Until there is an official system for websites of this kind, students are forced to obtain the information elsewhere or to cite the found source without the author, place and date. The most important thing is that the reader will find your reference from the footnotes later in the bibliography. Below are a few examples for illustration and inspiration.
Institutes: Use subsites as titles
One way to name your Internet source is to use your clicks or subsites as titles. For example, if you are referring to information from the Goethe-Institut website, for example, by going to the “About us” tab and heading to “Sponsor”, you can specify the source as in the following example. Since no exact date of the information is to be found, only the year number is indicated, since the Website was still updated this year. This information can usually be found at the very bottom of the website, in this case marked “© 2018 Goethe-Institut”.