MLA and Other Styles Guide for Documentation of Online Sources
    By Janice R. Walker, Georgia Southern University

Special Issue on Texts and Technology (Fall/Winter 1999)
Guest-edited by Janice R. Walker and John Barber)

APPENDIX ONE (print version, pages 129 +)

(Editor's Note: For documentation of print sources, follow samples in  the electronic and print versions of Readerly/Writerly Texts)

For several years now, my students and I have been conducting more and more of our research online. However, most traditional style guides do not adequately address the wealth of information now available to us via the Internet. The Columbia Guide to Online Style, based on the "Walker/ACW Style Sheet for Citation of Electronic Sources" endorsed by the Alliance for Computers and Writing, fills the many gaps left by most major style guides and offers a thorough and easy-to-use alternative for authors who need to cite non-traditional sources of information.

As we move out of the Gutenberg era and into the electronic age, more and more work is being published electronically that may never appear in conventional print medium. The pages that follow give specific examples for citing some of the most common of these electronically-accessed sources following the COS (Columbia Online Style) humanities style format for MLA-style papers and projects. For more information on COS, including information on citing sources in scientific styles such as APA, see the Web site at or email the authors at

Parenthetic (In-Text) Citations

Many electronically-accessed sources do not include basic information necessary for citing sources in the text, such as the authorís name or page number. When available, electronic sources should, of course, include this information. However, for files with no designation of author or other responsible person or organization, use the file name instead (for example, cgos.html). Navigational aids such as page, section, or paragraph numbers, should be included as well if they are designated in the original text. For most electronic sources, however, such navigational aids as page numbers are not included. Parenthetic references to these sources should thus include only the authorís last name or the file name if no author is designated.

In citations of print sources, subsequent references to the same work need not repeat the author's name, instead giving the different page number or location, if applicable. With electronic documents that are not paginated or otherwise delineated, however, repeating the author's name is necessary to acknowledge when information is drawn from a given source. Of course, to avoid the awkwardness of repeated parenthetic notes, authors can instead include references in the text or reserve parenthetic references until the end of a paragraph, as recommended by the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. For more information on citing electronic sources in the text, see also The Columbia Guide to Online Style.

Preparing the List of Works Cited

The list of works cited for electronically-accessed sources follows the format for whatever style is used for print sources, i.e., humanities styles, such as MLA or Chicago, or scientific styles, such as APA or CBE. COS is designed to work with these styles, replacing only the recommendations in these guides for citing electronic sources. One important caveat to note, however, is that COS does not use underlining to designate titles, since underlining is used by most newer word processors and WWW browsers to designate hypertext links. If you are using COS style in combination with MLA style citations for print sources, for instance, use italics rather than underlining to designate titles, foreign words, or other text that needs to be so designated.

The basic format for citing electronic sources in COS-Humanities Style is simple:

Authorís Last Name, First Name. "Title of Document." Title of
        Complete Work
[if applicable]. Version or File Number [if
        applicable]. Document date or date of last revision or
        modification [if applicable]. Protocol and address and
        access path or directories (date of access).

Note that, for online sources where information may change or disappear without notice, the date of access is essential since it may be the only indication of the specific "edition" or version consulted by an author. Also note that some word processors will automatically reformat Internet addresses, changing their color and/or underlining them, automatically creating hypertext links. For papers designed for print or electronic publication, do not attempt to reformat these addresses; for submissions to publishers, you may need to check with your editor about how to handle this.

The following examples are grouped according to method of access, or protocol, which is a key element in locating and accessing electronic documents and files. These examples provide the general format for each type of source. For a more complete listing and further information, see The Columbia Guide to Online Style.

World Wide Web

To cite files available on the WWW, give the author's name, last name first (if known); the full title of the work, in quotation marks; the title of the complete work (if applicable), in italics; any version or file numbers; and the date of the document or last revision (if available). Next, list the protocol (e.g., "http") and the full URL, followed by the date of access in parentheses.

Burka, Lauren P. "A Hypertext History of Multi-User Dimensions." MUD History. 1993. (2 Aug. 1996).

Email, Listserv, and Newsgroup Citations

Cite the author's name (if known) or the author's email or login name (the part of the email address before the @ sign), followed by the subject line of the posting, enclosed in quotation marks; the date of the message if different from the date accessed; and the name of the discussion list (if applicable), in italics. Next, give the address of the list, or the protocol and address of the newsgroup, followed by the date accessed in parentheses.

Crump, Eric. "Re: Preserving Writing." Alliance for Computers and
        Writing Listserv
. (31 Mar. 1995).

FTP (File Transfer Protocol) Sites

To cite files available for downloading via FTP, give the author's name (if known), last name first; the full title (of a shorter work in quotation marks; of a larger work, in italics); and the document date (if available). Next, give the protocol (i.e., "ftp") and the full FTP address, including the full path needed to access the file. Last, list the date of access, enclosed in parentheses.

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan. "Little Machines: Rearticulating Hypertext
        Users." 3 Dec. 1994. (14 Aug 1996).

Telnet Site

List the author's name or alias, last name first (if known); the title of the work (if applicable), in quotation marks; the title of the full work or telnet site (if applicable), in italics; the date of publication or creation (if known); and finally the protocol (i.e., "telnet") and complete telnet address, any directions necessary to access the publication, and the date of the visit, enclosed in parentheses. Separate any necessary commands or links from the address with a single blank space.

traci (#377). "DaedalusMOO Purpose Statement." WriteWell. 7777
         help purpose (30 Apr. 1996).

Synchronous Communications (MOOs, MUDs, IRC, etc.)

Give the name of the speaker(s) and type of communication (i.e., Personal interview), the address if applicable, and the date in parentheses. Include the name or alias of the author or speaker (if known); the type of communication (i.e., "Personal interview") or, for synchronous conferences, the session title (if applicable), enclosed in quotation marks; the site title (if applicable), in italics; the protocol and address, including any paths or directories; the command sequence (if applicable); and, in parentheses, the date of the conversation.

Kiwi. "Playing the Jester Is Hard Work." DaMOO.
        telnet:// (4 Dec. 1996).


List the author's name (if known), last name first; the title of the paper or file, enclosed in quotation marks; the title of the complete work (if applicable), in italics; and the date of publication (if known), including any previous publication information (if applicable). Include the protocol (i.e., "gopher"), the address, the gopher search path or directories followed to access the information (if applicable), and, in parentheses, the date the file was accessed (if applicable).

African National Congress. "Human Rights Update for Week No. 10
         from 5/3/96 to 11/3/97."
        (1 Jan. 1998).

Electronic Publications and Online Databases

List the author's name, last name first (if known); the title of the article in quotation marks; and the title of the software publication in italics. Next, list any version or edition numbers or other identifying information, the series name (if applicable), and the date of publication. Finally, cite the name of the database (if applicable) and the name of the online serviceóboth in italicsóor the Internet protocol and address, any other publication information, the directory path followed (if applicable), and, in parentheses, the date accessed.

Christopher, Warren. "Working to Ensure a Secure and
        Comprehensive Peace in the Middle East." U.S. Dept. of State
        Dispatch 7:14, 1 Apr. 1996. FastDoc. OCLC.
        File #9606273898 (12 Aug. 1996).

Software Programs and Video Games

Cite the name of the author or corporate author (if available); the title of the software program, in italics; the version number (if applicable and if not included in the software title); and the publication information, including the date of publication (if known).

ID Software. The Ultimate Doom. New York: GT Interactive
        Software, 1995.

Works Cited

Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 5th ed. New York:  

Walker, Janice R. "Walker/ACW Style Sheet for Citation of Electronic Sources." Vers. 1.3.
        1999. (2 June 1999).

___, and Todd Taylor. The Columbia Guide to Online Style. New York: Columbia UP, 1998.
        "Basic CGOS Style." (2 June 1999).