I am writing a master's thesis in engineering. It is quite literature-heavy, and I'm using Zotero with BibTeX to manage my references. For the most part, I use Zotero's browser extension to create Zotero entries, but when necessary (e.g. for PDFs that were only published on a university server), I also create some from scratch. Sometimes, I want to cite websites of software tools without a publication. I could gather as much information as possible from those websites, but since these references are really only made in passing, I find that giving the reader a URL suffices. Also, my sources list is quite long already, so I try to avoid going out of my way to add extra references just for the sake of mentioning a single name. So, a URL it is.
What is and what ought be the best practice to include such a naked URL into a master's thesis, or even a research paper? There are essentially three possible ways to do this:
- Footnote with the link (e.g. using
hyperref): ugly, but visible to people who print the work on physical paper -- and lose the digital version, so that the only way to visit the URL is copying it letter by letter manually. Edit: for non-homepages, I am using archive.org to prevent link rot, which is academically good, but the URLs are ridiculously unaesthetic.
- Embedded hyperlink in the text (with an unobtrusive colour to indicate the text is clickable). Looks neat, but not accessible in print. This is what I'm currently doing.
- Have a list of raw URLs as a subsection of my sources list, and use some LaTeX magic to annotate and jump to the correct link from the text.
Worth mentioning: our department has 1. no standard citation style and 2. stopped requiring physical thesis prints since 2020, hence why 1. I have the freedom to choose the citation style and 2. I am embracing hyperlinks currently. My thesis is in NLP, so my own style most closely resembles that of the ACL (see this paper as an example), but this is not a hard constraint.
I am asking for an ought as well because of this freedom. If the standard is (1), but there are better arguments for (2), then I prefer (2).
Note: I am not asking how to cite a website. As explained above, I've made up my mind on this: I want to only cite a URL, not have a whole BibTeX entry for it. The question is how/where to do the citation.