How to Cite Sources in a Blog

Let’s not debate whether or not you should cite your sources. Here are the best ways to do it in your posts!

Published Categorized as Blogging

In journalism school, you learn the importance and practicalities of citing your sources in your articles. The fact that you can start a blog whether you studied journalism or not doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it in your posts, too.

Why Cite Your Sources

There’s more than one reason why you want to cite your sources as a blogger:

If you cite your sources properly, you aren’t committing plagiarism by passing off another author’s work as your own—and you save yourself the associated legal and reputational risks of copyright infringement.

You also establish credibility with your readers, especially if you research the subject matter thoroughly and choose your sources well. After all, anyone can cite Wikipedia (and they usually do). But how many bloggers actually take the time to flip through an industry expert’s book and cite their professional advice?

Finally, it’s the right thing to do. I’ve had my content plagiarized before, and I can tell you that it’s not a pleasant feeling when that happens. If others have put love and labor into something, you should respect that and give them the credit they deserve.

So be a good citizen of the World Wide Web and cite your sources.

Below, we’ll discuss how.

How to Cite Your Sources

As a blogger, you generally have two ways to cite your sources: in the content of your post or in a “Footnotes” or “References” section at the end of your post.

Each has its pros and cons, and which one to choose comes down to your personal preferences. No matter which one you choose, the important thing is to stick with it. This will make your writing consistent across blog posts, and thus easier to read.

Citing Sources in Your Posts

By citing your sources in your blog posts, you promote flow. The citation blends naturally with the rest of your text, crediting the source and promoting credibility.

There are different ways to do this.

With your source’s name in brackets

You can use your own words to convey the information from your source and link out to the source in brackets. For example:

It’s a good idea to download or print an article from a website whenever you cite it, since online information can always change or disappear (Purdue Online Writing Lab).

Many bloggers choose this method because it’s concise, straightforward, and native to how websites link to one another on the Internet.

By incorporating your source’s name in your sentence

If you are one of those authors who likes their content wordier as I do, then you will probably prefer to include the name of your source directly in your text. For example:

According to the Purdue Online Writing Lab, it’s a good idea to download or print an article from a website whenever you cite it, since online information can always change or disappear.

This method is particularly good for emphasizing the authority and trustworthiness of your source. I like to use it when citing schools, research institutes, and federal or state agencies.

By naming and quoting them

There are times when you don’t want to paraphrase your source but to name and quote them. For example:

“Because online information can change or disappear,” says the Purdue Online Writing Lab’s MLA Formatting and Style Guide, “it is always a good idea to keep personal copies of important electronic information whenever possible.”

“Downloading or even printing key documents,” the guide continues, “ensures you have a stable backup.”

Use this method when you want to represent the original information in the exact words of your source. This is the correct method if you have interviewed someone or, for precision, want to quote them mot-à-mot.

Citing Sources in a “Footnotes” or “References” Section

You can also cite your sources in a dedicated “Footnotes” or “References” section at the end of your blog post.

This citation method is very useful when you need to cite academic authors, as the names of research papers or scientific articles and the journals in which they are published can be very long and can disruptive to the flow of your writing.

The simplest way to do this is by inserting a footnote index at the end of a citation manually. For example:

It’s a good idea to download or print an article from a website whenever you cite it, since online information can always change or disappear [1].

Footnotes

[1] “MLA Works Cited: Electronic Sources.” Purdue Online Writing Lab, 19 April 2022, https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_works_cited_electronic_sources.html.

But you can also use a WordPress plugin, such as footnotes or Modern Footnotes, for the job.

The University of Pittsburgh Library System provides a guide to the five major citation styles—APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian, and IEEE—and how to use them.

Practicalities of Citing Your Sources

When naming your sources, how explicit do you want to be?

You can name the website as the source, but you can also name the author of the article and even give the title of the article (or at least how it was the day you accessed it). Notice the subtle, but important, difference:

If you chose to cite your sources in a “Footnotes” or “References” section, what citation style will you follow?

As we already touched on, you want to choose a citation style (the five major citation styles being APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian, and IEEE) and stick to it.

In case you’re a freelance author and you’re writing content for somebody else’s blog, ask them early on how they want you to cite their sources and if they have any specific citation style they want you to follow. This will limit the amount of revisions you have to do at first draft.

Image courtesy of Igor Vetushko /Depositphotos

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