Using and Citing Online Sources

Posted by Shmoop on 12/19/18 8:25 AM

You've sifted through all the muck of the Internet and found the perfect source. We're talking super credible, up-to-date, and written by the most expert of experts. Your next step? Cite it.

citing online sources

But it's not that simple—the Internet is a slippery sucker, so you have to be extra careful when it comes to citing online sources.

Here's Shmoop's general rule of thumb: always citeAfter all, it's really not possible to over-cite.

Some websites make it super easy to cite them (by providing tons of detailed info about who they are), but others aren't so helpful. Luckily, there are some standard ways to go about citing online sources.

Purdue's Online Writing Lab has all the deets you'll need. Just remember to check with Teach about which citation manual you should be following:


Copyright, Creative Commons, and Public Domain

Here's the catch: you can't just take whatever you want from whomever you want, cite it, and call it a day. There are some rules about what you can and can't use, citation or not.

copyright creative commons

Example: you have a blog about TV, and you totally want to post a screen grab from last night's episode of [Your Favorite Show]. As long as you cite it, it's fine, right?

Not so much.

Stuff that's copyrighted can't be embedded onto your own stuff. To be fair, there are zillions of bloggers out there doing just that—and they probably won't ever get a cease and desist because the TV networks have better things to do—but it's still not legal.

Take a look at these two sites for more information about all that jazz.

Alright, Sherlock Shmoop. Here is a task if you are up for it: go out into the wide world of the Internet, and find three examples of "doing it right" and three examples of "doing it wrong."  

Did you enjoy this article? If so, check out our Digital Literacy course. There's more where that came from.


Teacher Notes

Collect online citation examples from students. For each example determine if the person is either following the rules or not following the rules. Consider: Did they cite correctly? Is it fair use? What's their original source?

Citing online sources is majorly tough, so instead of making students dive in headfirst and do it themselves, walking through a few examples might help. 

It's worth taking the time to click on the links to see if they've thought through all the issues: fair use, citation, etc. You won't grade them based on accuracy, just participation, but you should give them feedback so they know if they're doing it right.


Topics: Literature

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