I am doing a course in a university. Course has 60% of weightage alloted to the project (which involves implementing algrithm to solve a problem), which we may turn into thesis if at all we succeed to find out something new (we have only one semester duration). I have to write a initial document of the work. I want to know if its ok to specify webpages (which I went through for some related information, not strictly of referred jornal papers, but some articles on some site) as references. I have never seen any journal paper to include webpage URL in the references. But, at least now, mine is a project and not a thesis (not yet come up with something new). So, I was thinking whether should I include webpage references.

Q.1 I was thinking I should include them as long as its a project (implementation of existing algorithms). Once I come up with something new, I can skip webpages and specify only non webpage references (books and journal papers which helped me find new algorithm) in the thesis. Am I correct with this?

Q.2 Also if I have to include webpage as a reference, in what format should I?

  • Questions about how your instructor will assess your homework are off topic because they depend on individual circumstances - the preferences of the instructor. Jan 31, 2021 at 4:48

5 Answers 5


The general rule for such things is that if you use the work of others for things not commonly known, then you must cite them. So, yes, cite web pages as needed and quote, formally, from them also when needed. But cite them even if you paraphrase things.

You also probably need to do more than just include a list of references at the end of the paper. The reason for including a reference should be made clear, usually in the text itself. There are exceptions to this, but it is better to be clear about why you include a reference and to be specific about what you have used within any referenced article.

The form of the citation/reference is a bit less important than the fact of it and unless you are given some specific format, use examples from things you read. Use something similar to what is used in Wikipedia or a textbook if you have no better source.

One note about citing web pages. Since such things can change without notice, the correct thing is to include the date at which you last read/used the web page. "Last accessed 29 Jan 2021" for example

  • 7
    It might be overkill for the OP here, but in general it ought to become good practice also to make sure that web pages cited in journal articles have also been stored in online archive services such as the Wayback Machine (archive.org).
    – Lou Knee
    Jan 29, 2021 at 22:20
  • Since this is about homework, not research, any answer other than "ask your instructor" could be wrong. Jan 31, 2021 at 4:49

From my experience:

Q1: Include it as a regular reference (like an article) and if you find a published paper then exchange it. At our department we followed this strategy and published also our papers with references to websites.

Also I personally do not like this strategy, it seems inevitable in some cases. Be careful to include only really meaningful websites which correspond to a specific topic or software package.

Q2: I would recommend to use Bibtex and follow the style in this question: https://tex.stackexchange.com/questions/3587/how-can-i-use-bibtex-to-cite-a-web-page


Short answer: Because this is not yet a thesis or scientific publication, you may be able to cite websites instead of papers and books (your Q1 question). Other answers have already discussed the format of citing a webpage (Q2), and there are a few related questions on academia.stackexchange.com.

However, there is also the long answer:

You should try very, very hard not to cite websites. The reason is that you should not use websites as sources for scientific information:

  • The website may disappear after publication, making the reference useless and putting the burden of trying to find an archived version on the reader of the work.
  • The website may change (and become irrelevant or wrong).
  • Websites are (more often than not) full of mistakes.
  • It is hard to verify the reliability of the information if you do not know where the author of the website got it.
  • If you do know where the author got the information, that is probably the source you want to read and cite (see also: wikipedia on Chinese whispers).

So the question is: why are you using the website(s)?

To learn something that is "common knowledge"?

If you use a website to learn something that is common knowledge, there is no need to cite it. The exception is when you copy text literally from the website, but that is usually frowned upon and sometimes violates copyright (even if a reference is added). In most cases you are better off by reading multiple sources and rephrasing the knowledge to fit the style and application of your work.

To learn something new?

If a website describes something that is not common knowledge, you should ask yourself where this knowledge came from. That will often lead you to a better source to cite. This is a check you should be doing anyway (even when reading and citing scientific papers) to make sure you are citing something that is scientifically sound.

Because you found the one website on the internet where good scientific research is published that is not published elsewhere?

In my field (biophysics) I have never seen any examples in grant proposals, scientific papers, or other academic works where a website contained useful information that was not available elsewhere. But if you found the rare case where citing a website is really necessary, you should absolutely do so. By citing the website, the interested reader knows where to find more information (hopefully, this was discussed above). And of course you would not want to be accused of plagiarism.

Because of a lack of time?

Totally understandable, but not exactly a good reason.

  • 2
    Actually, for mathematics and CS, at least, I've found web pages, even Wikipedia, to be quite reliable. Wikipedia, of course, requires that the information there be cited.
    – Buffy
    Jan 29, 2021 at 20:38
  • 1
    Yes, I agree. Wikipedia is a great resource. Of course it usually contains references to the original sources. But there are also many weblogs and other websites (especially about computer science and algorithms) full of oversimplification or errors.
    – Louic
    Jan 29, 2021 at 20:42
  • I routinely cite websites in scientific papers (maths), such as the Block Library (wiki.manchester.ac.uk/blocks) or similar pages on status of conjectures. A good practice is to make sure that the specific piece of information you are using is archived in the Wayback Machine. Jan 30, 2021 at 14:23
  • This is wrong. academia.stackexchange.com/questions/148405/… Jan 31, 2021 at 4:50

You should cite any source of information. So yes, you cite web pages.

Whether you should follow links on those pages to primary sources is a question for your instructor.

Your bibliography software may suggest a format. If none i s given, provide the title of the page, the author (if appropriate), the url and the date when you last visited it.

  • You should cite the exact thing you used. If you read and relied on the website, cite that, regardless of what materials the website claims to rely on. However, it may be good practice to read and rely on the sources that informed the website instead.
    – fectin
    Jan 30, 2021 at 18:54

The answer is a definitive YES. We live in the information age and fully connected to the internet 24/7, where everything is a web link address.

One may ask the question differently: the web address is long and ugly. In such cases, the writer should try to find a more standard and commonly used address link. For instance, use links of type DOI when referencing a published article. For example, http://doi.org/10.3352/jeehp.2013.10.3

An example of a reference in APA style is as follows: (boldface type added for emphasis but not included in the reference):

Morey, C. C., Cong, Y., Zheng, Y., Price, M., & Morey, R. D. (2015). The color-sharing bonus: Roles of perceptual organization and attentive processes in visual working memory. Archives of Scientific Psychology, 3, 18–29. https://doi.org/10.1037/arc0000014.

As last resort can use an address shortener, as long as a clear description is made before including the link in text paragraph (otherwise you may leave the reader wondering what is the link for)

Remember that all the style manuals are especially picky about how citations are formatted and those styles can change over time, so when you’re including a Web address in a citation, be sure to check the specific style you’re supposed to be following. For example, the current APA style is to not put a period after a URL in a citation. Their rationale is that the specific alphanumeric sequence is important because it is what points readers to the reference.

The Modern Language Association style guide also recommends using the short URL in running text—simply Forbes.com instead of http://www.forbes.com, for example).

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