Study Tips

Using and Documenting Electronic Sources

Your research for college courses will likely include looking for online sources. If you find potential sources online, you will probably find that they vary widely in quality, in currency, and in reliability. You should limit yourself to only those sources that show evidence of carrying authority. Does the site identify authors and provide their credentials? Does the site offer documentation so that readers can substantiate information? Does the site avoid seeming to offer political propaganda? Is it free of advertising, commercial or political? Is the site up-to-date? By asking such questions, you can avoid selecting sources that will undermine your own credibility.

More specifically, your research assignment is most likely to involve online sources of these three types:

  1. Articles in online periodicals (journals and magazines actually published on the World Wide Web)
  2. Periodical articles available through electronic databases such as ProQuest
  3. Web sites of special pertinence and exceptional reliability

The instructions below explain how you can find such sources and how you should include them in your Works Cited list.

Web Sites and Articles in Online Periodicals
Suppose, for example, you are writing a paper on Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew. You might begin your online search by using a Web browser in Internet Explorer to do an Internet search. Then you would type in keywords such as these: Petruchio, Taming, Shrew. Among the many potential sources your search produced, you would find the three listed below, one an article in a scholarly journal, one an article in a magazine, the third a Web site. The last fits into category #3 above; the other two fit into category #1. Each is given here in the MLA form you would use should you use material from it and thus include it in your Works Cited list.

Heaney, Peter F. “Petruchio’s Horse: Equine and Household Mismanagement in The Taming of the Shrew.” Early Modern Literary Studies 4.1 (1998): 12 pars. 12 Jan. 2004 <>.

Kerrigan, William W. “The Case for Bardolatry: Harold Bloom Rescues Shakespeare from the Critics.” Lingua Franca Nov. 1998. 12 Jan. 2004 < 9811/kerrigan.html>.

Pressley, J. M. “Shakespeare’s Works.” Shakespeare Resource Center. 5 Jan. 2006. 25 Jan. 2006 <>.

Full-Text Print Articles Available Through Database
In order to locate sources fitting into category #2 above (periodical articles available through an electronic database), you would again begin with Internet Explorer. Using a computer station connected to the FC network, you enter the ―Academics‖ section of the FC Web site, then click on “Library,” on ―Subscription Databases,‖ and then on the database you intend to use—for example, “ProQuest.”

Entering the search words “Taming AND Shrew,” you would find (again, among many other listings) a reference to the following article, which ProQuest offers in full text or “page image” (that is, appearing on the screen page by page, just as the article appeared in its print form). The citation is given here in Works Cited format, MLA Style:

Fisher, Will. “The Renaissance Beard: Masculinity in Early Modern England.” Renaissance Quarterly 54 (2001): 155 – 87. ProQuest. Florida College Chatlos Library, Temple Terrace, FL. 12 Aug. 2007 <>.

General Comments on the MLA Forms Illustrated Above
Essentially, the sample “Works Cited” entries above offer the following information:

  1. Author’s name, in inverted order. (If the relevant source is an editor or compiler, the appropriate abbreviation should follow the name: “ed.” or “comp.”)
  2. “Essay Title”
  3. Title of Site or Journal with publication information for the print version (if a print version exists). For scholarly journals, this information includes volume and issue numbers (separated by a period), followed by the year (in parenthesis). For magazines, the issue date suffices (as in the example above from Lingua Franca). Then a colon should introduce the page numbers for the article (if those are available, as in the Fisher sample entry above), or the number of pages (if the electronic version displays print pagination) or the number of paragraphs (if the source has numbered them, as in the Heaney sample entry above)
  4. For a Web site, the date of the most recent update (if available)
  5. For a category #2 source (like the Fisher example), the name of the database or subscription service and the name and location of the subscribing library
  6. The date of your access to the source
  7. The electronic location (URL) of the source, enclosed in angle brackets; or, if access came through a database or subscription service, the URL of the main page of that service (as in the ProQuest illustration above)

The sample entries offered here, as well as the general description of MLA “Works Cited” forms for electronic sources, are based on the more detailed explanation available in the MLA Handbook (6th edition) or through the MLA Web site. For more detailed information, consult one of those sources.

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