I am writing a paper and wish to include a website as a reference. However, the website died a few months ago and is no longer viewable. Interestingly, I've never seen the live website myself, but have only ever seen it via Google Cache.

So, how do I add this source to my bibliography? Do I do everything with the data from the original article (including the original URL) with the date that Google cached the website? Or do I put the Google Cache URL and today's date? If the latter, should I modify any of the other terms of the bibliographic item?

  • 2
    Have you tried the wayback machine? Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 12:23
  • @CaptainEmacs yes, and it doesn't have it. But I don't see how that's relevant for my question. The issue here isn't finding the website again (I saved the Google Cache URL), but merely how to add the website to my bibliography.
    – Wasabi
    Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 15:29
  • If it's there, you could cite it with the old link and date and also refer to it via (available via Internet Archive). The point of a reference is to provide the reader with a reproducible way (if at all possible) to identify the source and check it for themselves. Plus, it wasn't an answer, but only a comment/question because I am not sure about the perfect format to do so. Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 23:40
  • Save the website contents as well, google cache entries are not eternal. If it becomes unavailable, you could host an archived copy somewhere and refer to that.
    – nengel
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 4:29
  • 1
    Given that the cache copy of the content is very likely to be unavailable in a few months already, I'd vote for archiving it somewhere where it has a decent likelihood of remaining online for a long while, and referencing the archive. Or maybe asking the editor of your publication if you can include it as supplementary material, if it's significant enough.
    – nengel
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 12:01

1 Answer 1


As you've never seen the original website, you can't reference that. You don't know how accurate the cache is. For instance, I've seen Google Cache rearrange the formatting and strip out images from websites.

Based on that, the only place you could sensible reference is the cache file.

But, the cache file is likely to disappear very soon. It could only be live for a matter of days. I would save a copy as quickly as possible and grab images. Depending on the nature of how you want to refer to this, there can even be cases where it's appropriate to include a screenshot.

If readers will need to refer back to the information on the original site, I'd suggest archiving this somewhere online yourself (it could be on a blog). In that case, on your archive, provide the background to how this was obtained. In the paper, reference your archive.

You will also need to note somewhere in the paper that the original site was closed (and ideally a date).

I've come across this problem several times in my contract cheating research, where the sites we collected data from were closed, went offline, merged with another site, completely changed their format, or reset all their data. All it was really possible to do was to write a commentary around the changes.

You might also want to do a search for the quote you want, just to see if there's an alternative source you can reference. In some cases, it might really just be easier to not mention the website at all, unless this is absolutely crucial to the success of your paper.

  • The work in question is certainly subject to copyright and OP probably has no right to archive it themselves.
    – user9646
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 11:48

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