In-text citations for web resources

Lack of page numbers

The biggest problem in writing parenthetical references for Web resources is the lack of page numbers. While certain databases (JSTOR, Project Muse) will show you the page numbers of the original (print) document, usually the page numbers you see on your printout of a Web document (e.g., "1 of 4" in lower left corner) are assigned by your Web browser and should not be used when citing a resource.

Both the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) recommend that you omit page numbers if the source lacks them, but if the source includes section or paragraph numbers, you should use those. In MLA, use the abbreviations "sec." and "par." In APA, use "sec." and "para."

For example:

In MLA: (Simmons sec. 33) or (Graves par. 9)

In APA: (Simmons sec. 33) or (Graves para. 9)

The American Psychological Association (APA) further recommends that if no page or paragraph numbers are given but the source includes headings, you should cite the heading and the number of the paragraph following it to direct the reader to the location of the material.

Such a reference might look like this:

(Davidsen, 2001, Introduction, para. 4)

Unknown authors

Many Web sites do not provide author information. In this case, use the same format that you would use for books or articles without an author. If the title is brief, use the full title in place of the author's name in in-text citations. If the title is lengthy, use just the first few words of it.

No publication date

In APA style, the author, date method is used for in-text citations. If a Web resource does not include a date of publication or a date that the resource was last updated, use the abbreviation n.d. (for no date) just as you would for a book or article with no date.

(El Niño, n.d.)

References to multi-document Web sites

If the Web resource you're citing consists of multiple documents (i.e., you can't see the entire content by using the scroll bar on the right side of the screen), the lack of page numbers becomes a real obstacle for your readers who want to find the particular portion of the Web site that you're referring to.

As an alternative to setting your readers adrift in a large Web site or including individual entries in your reference list for each document in a large Web site, we recommend including the file name of the particular document to which you are referring in the parenthetical note. (The file name will be the right-hand portion of the URL or Web address; it follows a forward slash and usually ends in htm or html.) With this information your readers will more easily be able to locate the portion of the resource to which you are referring.

For example, suppose I'm using information I found on the California Climate Change Portal web site. My MLA-style bibliography would include this reference:

California Climate Change Portal. 2004. Web. 7 July 2009. <>

If the information I'm citing came from the first document of the Web site, my paper might include a parenthetical note that looks like this:

(California Climate Change)

If, however, the information I'm citing came from a document beyond the home page, and its URL is, my parenthetical note (MLA style) would look like this:

(California Climate Change policies/index.html)

In APA style, the note would look like this:

(California Climate Change, 2000, policies/index.html)

For a review of the basics

For basic information on in-text citations in MLA style, see The St. Martin's Handbook, 7th edition (2011), pp 310-315. For basic information on in-text citations in APA style, see pp. 361-366.


We welcome comments or questions that might help us improve these suggestions.