This one got me electrified
In the first post of the series on referencing in scientific works we saw what to cite, in general. In the second one, we focused on how to cite title identifiers and how to apply the author-date system. In the third one, we offered some info about major world naming systems. This fourth and last post rounds off the series with a short overview on how to handle references to electronic sources.
Web sites, e-mails, DVDs, journal articles (on the web) are all electronic sources, to name but a few. As a rule of thumb, when it comes to reference electronic sources, they are to be handled with the same criteria as printed media.
For in-text citations, Harvard suggests naming the author, the year of publication, and the page number(s) when available; for detailed information on the Harvard style, see the second post of this series.
The thing gets a little more complicated when listing the references at the end of your work, as it is not always that easy to know, what to include in your reference and where to find this information. Basically, you should give as much data as possible on the authorship, source location and availability. Remember that, when some data are missing, there are appropriate abbreviations to indicate so, such as [s. n.], for sine nomine (i.e. no name of publisher), [s. d.], for sine datum (no date of publication) and [s. l.], for sine loco (no place of publication).
As we already learned in the second and third post of the series, citing styles are all quite alike but they tend to differ to some extent from each other. When no guidelines are provided, being consistent is even more important than the style you choose; that’s still valid for referencing of electronic sources: While Harvard, for example, recommends giving additional information on the electronic access, location (such as URL or a data base) and on access data (that is, when the source was viewed or downloaded), APA proposes citing the latter extra information only in case of a web site which frequently moves to another (virtual) place. To put some order in this chaos, a numbering system to identify electronic documents has been established that is becoming increasingly popular. Here you will find some information of the Digital Object Identifier system.
Check the four main styles addressed in the other posts of the series, APA; Chicago; Harvard; and MLA. In any case, the location and availability of the document are additional pieces of information which should be provided, perhaps also their DOI number when available. The date of consultation is also important, for many documents disappear after a while, specially after website updates. If you ever look for a reference in an article and it turns out it already disappeared, do not forget to check Internet archives such as the WayBack Machine, in case they have kept the earlier version there.
The world of citing
The four posts of this series are supposed to be some kind of a map of referencing; whatever route you may choose on your journey through the world of citing, at the end of the day the most important thing is to have traveled it entirely.
by P. Klimant