If you go back 10 or 20 years, the most common place to do research would be the library. Fast forward back to today and that may well be the last place. The very first place is the internet. From a novice to an expert researcher, the internet is the go to place for research. Therefore, it is essential that we know how to reference a website. Every type of source is referenced slightly differently. The added benefit of looking at how a website is reference is that it often throws up some common curveballs. Meaning, the Harvard Referencing System has some rules, but, as always, there are some exceptions to the rule. You can find most of these exceptions on a website. This means that by going through this post, you will learn how to reference a website as well as get a deeper understanding and insight into the Harvard Referencing System itself.

The rule

Every time you use information from a source, you must acknowledge it twice. The first time is within the text and this is known as a citation. The second time comes at the end of the text and this is found in the reference list or bibliography.

reference a website

Firstly, a citation is a brief acknowledgement of the used source. According to the Harvard Referencing System, you must mention the surname of the author and the year the particular article was published in. That’s it. That is the rule for citing your sources. Very straightforward and easy to remember. This is the same whether it is a book, website, journal article or any other source

The reference list contains the remainder of the details of the source. This allows the reader to trace the reference back to its source. Each source is referenced differently. For example, one of the details in the book reference is the name and place of publisher, one of the details of a journal article is the name of the journal and one of the details of a website is the website address.

Let us take a look at an example.

referencing a website
What information do you need from a webpage?

In the text:

According to Chadalavada (2011) saffron or ginger can be added to increase the Karak flavour.

Reference list:

Chadalavada, D. (2011) Chai Karak: The Popular Drink That’s Rapidly Spreading in the Gulf. Khaleejesque. [ONLINE] Available at: https://khaleejesque.com/2011/09/diwan/chai-karak-the-popular-drink-thats-rapidly-spreading-in-the-gulf/ [Accessed 31 August 2019].

I would recommend copying the above reference and using as your template. Edit it to your needs and you got yourself a website reference.

As you can see, I did not find the date directly on the article (more to come under exceptions), but here is a trick you can use to find this detail. Many times, especially with blogs, you can find the date of publishing in the website address.

The exceptions

Often, students ask what do I do if I cannot find the name of the author or the year it was published in. This is a common scenario a student is faced with. This scenario is usually the case with one type of source… you guessed it… a website.

reference a website

No author?

If there is no author mentioned in the article, you write down the name of the establishment. For example if you find an article on the BBC website and they did not mention the name of the author (this is common), you would write BBC (2019). And this is the case in the text as well as at the end of the text.

No date?

What if there is no date of publishing mentioned in the article? The first solution is to look for it in the website address, especially if it is a blog. And this is what we did with our Karak example above. However, usually you will not be so fortunate. In this scenario, you write down n.d. as in BBC (n.d.). It stands for no date.

Want more details? Check out our Academic English or Academic Writing courses for a detailed look at research and referencing.

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The default: surname (year) e.g. Smith (2019)

No name: name of establishment (year) e.g. BBC (2019)

No date: surname (n.d.) e.g. Smith (n.d.)