I wrote a paper about governance mechanisms at StackExchange in which I got a lot of informations out of questions (especially on meta). I have kept all my references.

My teacher is letting us pick which style we want to use for the paper as long as we apply it thoroughly. In my other courses, we use APA but if I start writing (StackExchange, 2014) everytime I use an info out of a question, my paper is going to be illegible. From what I've read, you're only supposed to cite things that you've paraphrased, ideas, not necessarily information that you've found or researched but I do want to give credit where it belongs and I would also like if my teacher would be able to retrace where I've found things but APA doesn't seem to include such a thing as a bibliography.

I would like to:

  • have a bibliography at the end containing the documents I've consulted for my research
  • be able to have my citations as footnotes

Which style should I go for in this case?

  • "not necessarily information that you've found or researched" - any information that isn't original and isn't common knowledge does need a citation.
    – ff524
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 21:47
  • @ff524 however, if the actual information is in article A, but you found out that A exists only because a fellow researcher X or article B told you "hey, A seems to be relevant to your problem" - then X and B don't deserve any citation, only the actual source A does. X/B might possibly get a mention in 'acknowledgements' part of the article if that was very important.
    – Peteris
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 22:07
  • @Peteris agreed. However, SE answers are required to be more than just a "hey, this link seems relevant." It's likely that the OP uses the interpretation/synthesis of information found there, which should be cited.
    – ff524
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 22:11
  • 1
    @Emilie "common knowledge" means it is commonly known by the expected audience of your paper... so unless you are writing a paper that will be read primarily by long-time SE users, you should cite that information :)
    – ff524
    Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 2:17
  • 1
    writing (StackExchange, 2014) everytime — But why would you? StackExchange is not the name of the author!
    – JeffE
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 10:51

3 Answers 3


Though I'm not a fan of it in general, in your case the IEEE style could work very well. In the body of the paper, references are numbered in square brackets, like this: [1] and [2,3]. In the bibliography, you'd just have one entry per web page, with the URL. If you use LaTex, it's easy to make these all active hyper links, so that your professor can click on the "[1]" to go to the bibliography entry, and then click on the URL to go to the StackExchange web page. It's also possible to make the references hyperlinked in MS Word, but it might take some manual formatting steps to link each reference to each bibliography entry.


One citation style that may be appropriate could be The Chicago Manual of Style which has two documentation systems:

  1. notes and bibliography and;
  2. author-date

The notes and bibliography system which should suit as per your question is described on the website as such;

The notes and bibliography style is preferred by many in the humanities, including those in literature, history, and the arts. This style presents bibliographic information in notes and, often, a bibliography. It accommodates a variety of sources, including esoteric ones less appropriate to the author-date system.

As a History student this is the style that I am using for my masters thesis.

The style uses the following example for a website as per your question.


A citation to website content can often be limited to a mention in the text or in a note (“As of July 19, 2008, the McDonald’s Corporation listed on its website . . .”). If a more formal citation is desired, it may be styled as in the examples below. Because such content is subject to change, include an access date or, if available, a date that the site was last modified.

  1. “Google Privacy Policy,” last modified March 11, 2009, http://www.google.com/intl/en/privacypolicy.html.
  2. “McDonald’s Happy Meal Toy Safety Facts,” McDonald’s Corporation, accessed July 19, 2008, http://www.mcdonalds.com/corp/about/factsheets.html.
  3. “Google Privacy Policy.”
  4. “Toy Safety Facts.”

Google. “Google Privacy Policy.” Last modified March 11, 2009. http://www.google.com/intl/en/privacypolicy.html. McDonald’s Corporation.

“McDonald’s Happy Meal Toy Safety Facts.” Accessed July 19, 2008. http://www.mcdonalds.com/corp/about/factsheets.html.


I suggest APA. It does have citation styles and there are many wonderful automatic generators out there that are up to date and will create the bibliography for you by merely data scraping website URLs and by entering the ISBN# of whatever book you may have used.

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/ has a great article

http://www.bibme.org/ is a wonderful generator site I've used numerous times.

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