Citing a website in your research paper or essay can be difficult and time-consuming, but there are a few techniques you can use to determine the publication date. Check the site and its URL for a date to see when an article or page was published. Alternatively, you can perform a simple Google search for the site using a special URL operator that will reveal the date. If you need to know when the site was published, you can look it up in the source code. Although most websites have a publication date, you may not always be able to find it. If this occurs, refer to the website as a “no date” page.
Method 1 Checking the Page and URL
1. Look beneath an article’s or blog post’s headline. Most news sites and blogs will include the date beneath the title of the article, as well as the author’s name. Look for the date directly under the title or at the beginning of the article’s text.
Between the title of the post and the date, there may be a one-sentence secondary headline or an image. Continue scrolling to see if the date appears below the secondary headline or image.
Some articles may have been updated after they were published. When this is the case, there should be a disclaimer at the beginning or end of the article stating when and why it was edited.
Variation: If you don’t see the date on the article, see if you can find it on the website’s homepage or search engine. The publication date may be listed next to the article’s link or thumbnail.
2. A copyright date can be found at the bottom of the web page. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and look at the information there. You might come across copyright information or a publication note. Examine this information to see if it includes an original publication date. Keep in mind, however, that this date may be the most recent time the website was updated rather than the publication date.
The last time anything was added or changed on a site is the date it was updated. That means the information you’re reading could have been published at a different time. A recent copyright or update, on the other hand, indicates that the site is active and being updated, so the information may be reliable.
Examine the section of the article that includes a brief biography of the author. The date may be directly above or below it at times.
Tip: A copyright date is typically listed only by the year and does not include a specific month or day.
3. Check to see if the date is included in the URL. Scroll through the URL in the address bar. Some blogs and websites automatically fill in the web address with the date of the post’s creation. You may find the entire date, or you may only find the month and year.
Check that you’re on the page dedicated to the specific post, not an archive or index page. To confirm that you are on the post-specific page, click on the post’s headline.
Many blogs shorten their URLs to make them easier to search, so you might not find the date there.
4. To get an estimate, look at the timestamps on any comments. While this isn’t the most precise method, it can give you an idea of when the article was first published. In the comments, look next to the username to see when the comment was written. Scroll down until you find the most recent date. This is the closest date to publication if the user interacted when the article was published.
This date cannot be used to cite a website. It can, however, help you determine when the website was published, so you’ll know how old the information is. If it appears to be recent, you may decide to use the website but cite it as “no date.”
Method 2 Using a Google Operator
1. Copy the URL of the website and paste it into Google’s search box. Highlight the URL with your cursor, then right-click and select copy. Then, navigate to Google’s homepage and enter the URL into the search box. Don’t press the search button yet because you’ll be adding to the URL.
Make certain that you copy and paste the entire address.
2. Enter “inurl:” in front of the page URL and press the search button. This is an operator that will assist you in obtaining additional information about the website’s URL link. To begin, place your cursor in front of the site’s URL. Then, in front of the site, type “inurl:”. There should be no blanks. After you’ve entered the operator, click the search button.
The quotation marks should be omitted.
This may appear to be a difficult operator to use, but you do not need to do anything special to use it. All you have to do is type it in, and Google will take care of the rest.
3. Add “&as qdr=y15” to the end of the URL, then re-search. After the URL you just searched, place your cursor in the browser’s address bar. Then, without the quotation marks, type “&as qdr=y15.” To bring up your final list of results, re-enter your search term.
The second part of the “inurl:” operator.
It’s fine to copy and paste the code if that makes things easier for you.
To put your cursor in the right spot in the search box, use the functions Ctrl+L in Firefox and Chrome or Alt+D in Internet Explorer.
4. Check the results to see if the date listed in the website description is present. Scroll through the search results to find what you’re looking for. At the top, you should see a link to the page you’re attempting to cite. To find the date, look to the left of the page description. Most of the time, you’ll find it there.
If you don’t see the date there, it’s possible that it’s not available. At that point, you could try to find the date the website was published by looking in the website’s source code to see if the information is worthy of citing as a “no date” website.
Method 3 Searching the Source Code
1. Right-click the page and choose “View Page Info.” When you click on the menu option, a new window or tab will open with the website’s code. It may appear complicated, but you don’t need to understand it to find the date.
Depending on your browser, the menu item may be labelled “View Page Source.”
Control+U on Windows and Command+U on Mac are keyboard shortcuts for directly opening the source code.
2. Control+F or Command+F will open your browser’s “Find” function. You can easily search the source code for the date using the “Find” function. If you’re using Windows, press Control+F to access this feature. To search the code on a MAC, press Command+F.
Alternately, you can access the “Find” function by clicking Edit in the top menu bar and then selecting “Find…” from the drop-down menu.
3. Look up the terms “datePublished,” “publishdate,” or “published time.” Enter either of the search terms and press enter. The “Find” function will search the entire page’s code for your search term. Then it will scroll directly to the location of the information.
If none of the search terms yield results, enter “publish” into the “Find” function. This may result in the publication information being displayed.
If you want to know when a web page was last changed or updated, look for the word “modified” in the source code.
4. Look for the date in the year-month-day format. Read the section of code that the “Find” function discovered. The date will appear immediately after the term you searched for. The year will be listed first, then the month and day.
This date can be used to cite the website or to determine how old the information on the website is.
Method 4 Citing the Website
1. For MLA format, include the author’s name, title, website, date, and URL. Write the author’s name, beginning with the last name, then the first name, separated by a comma. After a period, provide the capitalised title with quotation marks around it, followed by a period. Put the website’s name in italics, then a comma and the date in day-month-year format. Enter a comma, then the URL, followed by a period.
As an example, consider the following: “Understanding Expressive Poems,” Arianna Aranda. Poetry Scholar, www.poetryscholar.com/understanding-expressive-poems, 7 Nov. 2016.
Don’t be concerned if there is no date. You can also use the date you visited the website, which you’ll put after the URL. As an example, consider the following: “Understanding Expressive Poems,” Arianna Aranda. Understanding Expressive Poems, Poetry Scholar, www.poetryscholar.com/understanding-expressive-poems. 9th of April, 2019.
2. In APA, include the author’s name, year, title, and URL. Fill in the blanks with the author’s last name, a comma, their first name, and a period. After that, put the website’s publication year in parenthesis, followed by a period. Include the title in sentence case, followed by a period. Finally, write “Retrieved from” and include the URL from which you reached the site. Don’t use a period at the end.
As an example, consider the American Robotics Club. (2018). Creating Complex Robots http://www.americanroboticsclub.com/building-complex-robots/
If there is no date, you can substitute “n.d.” for the year. For example, you could write: American Robotics Club. (n.d.). Creating Complex Robots http://www.americanroboticsclub.com/building-complex-robots/
3. For Chicago Style, use the author’s name, page title, website name, date, and URL. List the author’s name, beginning with the last name, followed by a comma, and ending with the first name. After a period, capitalise the page title and surround it with quotation marks, followed by another period. Italicize the website’s name. Put a period after “Last modified,” then write the date the website was published as month, day, and year, followed by a period. Finally, put a period after the URL.
As an example, consider the following: Li, Quan. “Examining Art.” Cultural Insights. Last updated on February 12, 2015. www.insightsintoculture.com/examining-art.
If you don’t have a date, you can use the date you first accessed the site. Use the same format, but replace “Last modified” with “Accessed” before the date. For example: Li, Quan. “Examining Art.” Cultural Insights. The 9th of April, 2019 was the date on which this page was accessed. www.insightsintoculture.com/examining-art.
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