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Columbia Online style for citing web research

The Columbia Online Style Guide takes a generic, almost intuitive approach to citations. 

You can use this style for both humanities and scientific work. As you pursue the examples, you'll be happy to see that the citation style pretty much follows the same order…

  1. author

  2. title of article/publication

  3. title of work

  4. date work was published

  5. URL

  6. the date you retrieved the information. 

There are slight variations, but for the most part, if the information required is not available, then you just skip it. 

Here are some specific examples of how to cite information from the Web using the Columbia Online Style Guide.








By academic freedom 
I understand the right to search for truth and to publish and teach what one holds to be true. This right implies also a duty: one must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true.

—Albert Einstein












Knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.

—Samuel Johnson, Rasselas













Conventional people are roused to fury by departure from convention, largely because they regard such departure as a criticism of themselves.

—Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness


 Web Site—When you want to cite the entire Web site and neither title nor author of the site is given, start with the site name, the copyright date on the site, if given, the URL, and the date retrieved.

      FindLaw, 1994-2001. http://www.findlaw.com (22 May 2001).

If you want to reference a specific page at a site, follow this example:

      FindLaw, “FindLaw: Legal Professionals”, 1994-2001. http://guide.lp.findlaw.com/01topics/ (22 May 2001).

Articles or a Specific Document from a Web Site—Here are examples of how the Columbia Online Style Guide treats an announcement, an article with an identified author, and an article without an author.

 An announcement or article from a news service:

      “D.C. Court of Appeals to Hear Oral Argument in the Microsoft Antitrust case.” USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/washdc/msanti01.htm (26 Feb. 2001).

An article with an identified author:

     Daza, Joyce P. "Technology Planning: What Small Business Needs to Know."  Technology Today, 36. (2001). http://www.atc-1.com/technologytip.htm (21 June 2001).

An article with no author identified:

      “From Infrastructure to Structured Cabling: Why Spend the Extra?”. Convergence, 51. (2001). http://scs.com/news/stc.html (13 June 2001).

Online Databases—The Columbia Online Style's guideline for citing information retrieved from an online database starts with the author. If there is not an author, start with the title of the information retrieved from the database, follow it with the organization which owns the database, the name of the database, the file if available, and the date retrieved. Note that the URL is not required.

      Blue, Carolyn L. “Preventing Back Injuries Among Nurses.” Orthopaedic Nursing, 15.6.(1996): 9-14. InfoTrac SearchBank: Health Reference Center - Academic. File #P196874. (12 Mar. 2001).

E-mail—E-mail communications from individuals should be cited as personal communications and also included in the reference list. This format differs from the APA Style, which excludes e-mails and other non-retrievable postings from the Works Cited list.

      Chavez, Rita P. “Wound Care.” Personal e-mail (28 June, 2001).

Discussion Group—Discussion group information is not treated as a personal communication. It is cited by listing the author, the topic, followed by the discussion list in italics, the originating Web address, and the date received.

      Rogacion, Esther. “Issues in Wound Care.” WW-R . WW-R@hyporoctes.admin.ubc.edu (19 June 2001).

Newsgroup—The rule for citing information derived from a newsgroup is very similar to citing information from a discussion list. Start with the author and topic, followed by the newsgroup name, the URL, and the date retrieved.

      Lieberman, Daniel. “Reply to A Bifurcation of the PRC Proponent.” 28 May 2001. news: misc.publicregulatoryissues. http://www.nmregulatorywatch.com (29 May 2001).

 Chat Sessions and List Communications—Referencing a chat session or an e-mail from a list service, you follow the same format as for a newsgroup. Even if the chat session is not retrievable, it needs to be cited.

FTP site—First give the author's name (if known), the full title (if a short work, show it in quotation marks; if a longer work, show it in italics), and then the document date if available. Follow that with the protocol ("ftp") and the full FTP address. Finish the citation with the date of retrieval enclosed in parenthesis.

      Mathews, Keith. “CALC: Number Theory Calculator.” 22 Jan. 2001. ftp://www.maths.uq.edu.au/pub/krm/calc/ (29 May 2001).

Telnet Site—Start with the author's name or alias. Follow it with the title of the work in quotation marks. Then insert the title of the full work or telnet site in italics, the date of the publication, the protocol (telnet) with the complete telnet address, instructions on how to access it, and finally the date, enclosed in parentheses, that the material was retrieved. Skip anything that you can't find

      Lepkey, Gay. “Selected Railway Photo Listing.” Canadian National Archives. 23 Oct. 2000 telnet://telnet.ncf.carleton.ca: guest, go freeplace (28 May 2001).

GOPHER Sites—Most GOPHER sites have gone the way of the typewriter. However, if you stumble across one of these sites, here is how you should cite information retrieved. List the author's name, if known, the title of the paper or file enclosed in quotation marks, the title of the complete work in italics, and the date of the publication if it is available. Follow this information with the protocol, the address, the search path and in parentheses, the date you accessed the site. Skip information that is missing.

      India International Information Programs. “Global Issues - Biotechnology in Food Production, Week No. 11 from 5/3/96 to 11/3/97.” Gopher://gopher.iiip.org.india: 80/120/gbi/1997/gbi97.11 (12 May 2001).


Barber, M. 2000. The Longman Guide to Columbia Online Style. New York: Addison Wesley Longman.

Harnack, A., and E. Kleppinger. 1997. Online! New York: St. Martin's Press.

Munger, D., D. Anderson, B. Benjamin, C. Busiel, and B. Paredes-Holt. 2000. Researching Online, Third Edition. New York: Longman.

Walker, J., and J. Ruszkiewicz. 2000. Writing@online.edu. New York: Addison-Wesley Educational.

Thanks to our co-citationologist, Joyce Daza, for her many contributions to these articles.



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