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This document focuses on why and how electronic sources must be cited so that students can avoid plagiarism. Because students now routinely use readily available electronic sources for their papers, they must learn how to properly cite them. You will have more complete coverage of plagiarism issues if you use this document in conjunction with the more general Recognizing and Avoiding Plagiarism, which includes an exercise in how to paraphrase, and The Template for Taking Notes on Research Papers, both of which are found in the Cain Project resources. Do not consider these documents to be legal advice: The author is not an attorney.

Basic information

  • The copyright protections associated with print also govern the use of audio, video, images, and text on the World Wide Web (WWW).
  • If a document is on the WWW, that DOES NOT mean that it is in the public domain and may be used with no restrictions.
  • A document on the WWW may be copyrighted even if it does not explicitly state that it is copyrighted. Assume that a work is copyrighted unless the site explicitly authorizes use.
  • The same copyright protections exist for the author of a work regardless of whether the work is in a database, CD, discussion board, blog, or web page.
  • Cite a visual used in the text at the end of the Figure or Table caption: ( Ozymandias 2005 ) just as you would cite text in a paragraph. If you use only part of a visual or change it, cite it as ( Adapted from Ozymandias 2005 ).
  • Put all electronic citations in your Bibliography or Works Cited.

Tips on using internet resources

  • ALWAYS credit the source of your information.
  • Check to see if the author provides information on how his/her work (e.g., video, audio, graphic, icon, web page) may be used. Make sure to follow the guidelines, if they exist.
  • If possible, ask the owner of the copyright for permission to use the work. Because all authors of a single document have equal copyright protection, it is necessary to get permission from only one. The corresponding author of a paper should be your first choice. Keep a paper copy of your request for permission and of the permission received.
  • If you use one of your own published articles in your thesis, you don’t need permission from the other authors, all of whom have equal copyright rights. Clearly state the source, however, and recognize the contributions of the other authors. Most journals will give you permission to use your published paper in your thesis, but check the contract!
  • If you post a chapter from your unfinished thesis or a paper you plan to submit for publication, it is considered published and copyrighted by the act of placing it on the Internet. A journal then cannot accept it for publication because it has already been published. To avoid this copyright disaster, clearly label the posted material as DRAFT and make certain that it differs from what you later submit as finished thesis or paper for publication.

Guidelines for citing electronic media

Check with the journal, your advisor, or your professor to determine what style is required. The APA style guide and the Chicago Manual of Style are commonly used, but some journals have their own style sheets. If you are submitting for publication outside the U.S., style expectations will differ. Preferred style may differ from field to field, as well. If you have kept accurate and complete notes on what you read, you’ll be able to meet any requirements.

What to include (if available)

  • Name of the author, editor, compiler, or translator of the document or graphic. Last name, First initial. (Make this complete enough so that you can do an electronic search for it. Sometimes last name and first initial are not sufficient, as in “Jones, J.”)
  • Date of document’s publication or last update on the Web site. If the publication date is not known, use n.d. to indicate “no date” (n.d.).
  • Title of the document, graphic, or the Web Site.
  • Publication information--the name of the main Web Site where the document or graphic is posted.
  • Page number range or total number of pages or other sections, if they are numbered.
  • Date accessed and location of the material on that date: Month, day, year; URL.
  • Keep a paper copy to prove the date accessed to protect yourself if it disappears from the Web.
  • If you download an article published as print, you may cite it as a printed source. If you cite an article in an electronic journal, you must cite it as a Web source.

Examples of citation in a bibliography or works cited

Notice that the same basic information is included in the three entries for journal articles, although the styles differ. Choose the style appropriate for what you are writing, and then be consistent within the document. You must follow a style guide.

If the Bibliography is set up numerically rather than alphabetically, as would happen when references are numbered consecutively within a text, the entries would be numbered and the authors’ names would all be first name first, as in [1] Christopher Beattie, Mark Embree, etc .

Beattie, Christopher, Mark Embree, and D. C. Sorensen. Convergence of Polynomial Restart Krylov Methods for Eigenvalue Computation. SIAM Rev. , 47 (2005), pp. 492-515. [Journal style]

Chen, J. Y., A. Kutana, C. P. Collier, and K.P. Giapis. Electrowetting in Carbon Nanotubes. Science 310 , 1480-1483 (2005). [Journal style]

Hacker, Diana. (2006). The Bedford Handbook . Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s. [APA style]

Nicolo, Micah J., Gerald R. Dickens, Christopher J. Hollis, and James C. Zachos. “Multiple early Eocene hyperthermals: Their sedimentary expression on the New Zealand continental margin and in the deep sea,” Geology 35, no. 8 (2007): 699-702. [Chicago style]

Electronic sources

Herbst, Roy S., M.D., PhD., and Scott M. Lippman, M.D. Molecular Signatures of Lung Cancer—Toward Personalized Therapy. New England Journal of Medicine 356 , no. 1 (January 4, 2007): 76-78. Retrieved April 18, 2007 from (External Link)

Ortiz-Barrientos, D. and M. A. F. Noor. Evidence for a One-Allele Assortative Mating Locus.” Science 310, no. 5753 (2005): 1467. Retrieved September 1, 2007 from (External Link)

Provenzo, Eugene F. Jr. “Time Exposure.” Educational Studies 34, no. 2 (2003): 266-67. Retrieved September 11, 2007 from (External Link)

Additional resources

See (External Link) (Gives information about copyright laws.)

Visit (External Link) (Extensive examples of how to cite journal articles in APA format, the form used by many fields.)

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Source:  OpenStax, Plagiarism and scientific writing. OpenStax CNX. Nov 16, 2008 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10604/1.1
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