Website citations

by Tara
(Bangkok)

Question: I'm writing a non-fiction book. I'm really struggling with website citations. What information is absolutely necessary for website citations? Author, publication date, publisher? I am under the impression that Wikipedia is not a credible source. My book's aim is to reach the general public, not the scientific community. The information I have been researching and using is meant to be amusing and/or funny. Thus, I am wondering if I can use Wikipedia for basic definitions and other info.


Thanks. I'm entirely new to this. And while I'm enjoying writing a book for the first time, completing citations has been a total pain in my butt! It's driving me nuts! Please, I'd love some help with this! Thank you!

Answer: If you want a simple guide to citations, you might try getting a copy of the MLA Handbook. The book provides s a clean, simple format for citations that is spelled out clearly. Here's their website...

http://www.mlahandbook.org/fragment/public_index;jsessionid=5CABF95575D1F85D8666DD417701CD33

Regarding Wikipedia, as an encyclopedia, it is a secondary source. You will note that at the bottom of each article on the site there is a list of the information sources used by the article writer.

If you want to have a modicum of credibility, you should at least check out these sources themselves rather than trust the wiki writers' summaries of this information. It would also be a good idea to check out sources not on wiki's list, just in case the article exhibits a selection bias.

The good news... Basic definitions often don't need citations if they are part of the general body of generally accepted knowledge within the field (like the definitions of other words in the English language). Citations are needed only if you are making claims about something - for instance, if you are claiming something is true or proven and you need to present evidence of that claim.

For instance, you can talk about gravity without having to cite Newton's Principia. But if you want to claim that Newton got it wrong, then you need to cite the evidence against it.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.


 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook


NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles


"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards



"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero