Citing a website in research or essay can be misleading and frustrating, but there are some techniques you can use to find the publication date. To find when an article or page was published, check the site and its internet address or URL to find the date. Alternatively, do a simple Google search using a special URL operator that can reveal the creation date. If you need to know when the site itself was created, you can look at the site's source code. Although you can find the publication date for most sites, this is not always the case. If you can't find the date you're looking for, cite the site as an "undated" page.
Method 1 of 4: Review the page and URL
Step 1. Look under the heading or a blog post
Most news sites and blogs list the date under the article title, along with the author's name. Check the date right under the title or at the beginning of the article text.
- There could be a sentence as a second heading or an image between the post title and the date. Keep browsing to see if the date is listed under the second heading or image.
- Some articles may have been updated after publication. In these cases, there should be a notice at the beginning or end of the article saying that it was edited and why.
If you don't see the date on the article, try going back to the home page of the site or search engine to find the article there. You may see the publication date listed next to the article link or thumbnail.
Step 2. Look for the copyright date at the bottom of the web page
Navigate to the bottom of the page and look for the information listed there. You might find copyright information or a release notice. Read this information to see if it has the original publication date. But keep in mind that this date may be the last time the site was updated rather than the publication date of the article.
- The date the site was updated is the last time something was added or changed on the site. This means that the information you are reading may have been published at an earlier date. But, a recent or updated rights registration means that the site is active and up-to-date, so the information it contains may be reliable.
- Look in the section of the article that contains a short biography of the author. Sometimes the date can be just above or below this.
A recent rights registration date is usually the year only and does not contain a specific month or day.
Step 3. Determine if the date is part of the URL
Look in the address bar and browse the URL. Some blogs and websites automatically fill in the web address with the date a post was written. You may find the full date, or you may just find the month and year.
- Make sure you are on the website dedicated to the specific post and not on an archive or index page. Click on the post header to confirm that you are on the specific page for the post.
- Many blogs edit the URL to make it shorter and easier to search, so you may not find the date there.
Step 4. Look at the date tags in the comments to give you an approximation
Although this is not the most accurate method, it can give you an idea of when the article was first published. Check next to the username in the comments to find when it was written. Browse until you find the earliest date. If the user interacted with the article when it was published, this will be the date closest to the publication date.
You cannot use this to cite the website. But it can help you approximate when the site was published and you will have an idea of how old the information is. If it appears to be recent, you may decide to use the site, but cite it as "undated."
Method 2 of 4: Use a Google Operator
Step 1. Copy the URL of the site into the Google search dialog
Use your cursor to highlight the URL, then right-click it and select copy. Then go to the Google home page and paste the URL into the search box. Don't click search yet because you're going to add data to the URL.
Make sure to copy and paste the full address
Step 2. Type “inurl:
”In front of the page URL and click search.
This is an operator that will help you find more information about the site's URL link. First place your cursor in front of the site's URL. Then type "inurl:" in front of the site. Do not leave spaces. After you add the operator, click search.
- Do not include the quotation marks.
- This might seem complicated, but you don't have to do anything special to use this operator. You just have to write it and Google will take care of the rest.
Step 3. Add "& as_qdr = y15" after the URL and search again
Insert the cursor in the browser's address bar after the URL you just searched for. Then write "& as_qdr = y15" without the quotes. Click search again to get the final list of results.
- This is the second part of the "inurl:" operator.
- You can copy and paste the code if this is easier for you.
You can use the Ctrl + L functions in Firefox and Chrome or Alt + D in Internet Explorer to put the cursor in the correct place in the search box.
Step 4. Check the results to find the date listed in the site description
Browse the results. You will see a link to the page you are trying to cite in the beginning. Look to the left of the page description to find the date. In most cases, you will find it there.
If you don't see the date there, you could add a custom search by date range to determine when the article was published. Proceed to the next step in case the date is still unavailable
Step 5. Click Tools
It's under the Google search bar on the right at the top of the page. The search bar should still contain the "inurl:" tag with the URL after it.
Step 6. Click Anytime⏷
It is the first option that appears on the left below the search bar when you click on the "Tools" button. This will display a drop-down menu that allows you to search by date.
Step 7. Click Custom Range
This will allow you to choose a date range for your article and check if the website was published within that range.
- You can also click Last year to run a quick search to see if the website was published within the past year. This is a good way to check if an article is current.
Step 8. Enter the start date next to "From:
"and the end date next to" To: " You can use the calendar on the right to select a date or you can manually enter a date in the field. You can enter the full date (mm / dd / yyyy), just the month and year (mm / yyyy), or just the year.
Step 9. Click Go
This will search for the URL within the date range. If the website was published within the date range, it will be listed with the date below the URL. If you receive an error message that the search does not match any documents, it means that the web page was published outside of the date range. Click on Clean up below the search bar and try to search again with a wider date range.
Method 3 of 4: Search the Source Code
Step 1. Right click on the page and select “View page information”
Once you click on the option in the menu, it will open a new window or tab filled with the site's code. It might look heavy, but you don't need to understand it to find the date.
Depending on your browser, the option in the menu may say "View page source."
the keyboard shortcut to open source code directly is Control + U on Windows and Command + U on Mac.
Step 2. Open the "Search" function in your browser using control + F or command + F
The "find" function will allow you to easily find the date in the source code. If you are using Windows, type Control + F to open search. For MAC, use Command + F to open this function.
You can also access the search function by clicking Edit at the top of the menu bar and clicking "Search …" in the waterfall menu.
Step 3. Search for the term “date” or “published”
Type in any of these terms and hit Enter. The function will search the entire code on the page to find the term you are looking for. Then you will navigate directly to where the information is located.
- If none of the terms work, type "datePublished", "publishdate" or "published_time" in the search function. This may lead you to the information in the post.
- If you want to know when the page was last modified or updated, look for “modified” in the source code.
Step 4. Find the date listed in the day-month-year format
Read the part of the code that the search function found. The date will be immediately after the term you searched for. The year will be listed first, followed by the month and the day.
You can use this date to cite the site or to determine how old the information is on it
Method 4 of 4: Cite the website
Step 1. Include the author, title, website, date, and URL for the MLA format
Write the author's name, starting with the last name and then the first name, separated by a comma. Put a period, then follow the title in capital letters surrounded by quotation marks, followed by another period. Add the website name in italics, followed by a comma and the date in day-month-year format. Write a comma, followed by the URL and end with a period.
Here's an example: Aranda, Arianna. "Understanding Expressive Poems." Poetry Scholar, Nov. 7, 2016, www.poetryscholar.com/understanding-expressive-poems
if there is no date, don't worry. You can instead use the date you accessed the site, which you will put after the URL. Here's an example: Aranda, Arianna. "Understanding Expressive Poems." Poetry Scholar, www.poetryscholar.com/understanding-expressive-poems. Accessed April 9, 2019.
Step 2. Write the author's name, year, title, and the URL to cite in APA format
Write the author's last name, a comma, then their first name followed by a period. Then put the site's publication date in parentheses, followed by a period. Add the title written in a sentence, followed by a period. At the end, write "obtained from" and write the URL by which you accessed the site. Don't put an end point.
This is an example: American Robotics Club. (2018). Building Complex Robots. Retrieved from www.americanroboticsclub.com/building-complex-robots
if there is no date, you can use "n.d." instead of the year. For example, you would write: American Robotics Club. (s.f.). Building Complex Robots. Retrieved from www.americanroboticsclub.com/building-complex-robots
Step 3. Use the author's name, page title, website name, date, and URL for the Chicago style
Put the author's name starting with the last name, a comma, and the first name. Put a period after the title of the page beginning with capital letters framed in quotation marks, followed by another period. Add the site name in italics. Put a period, then write “Last Modified” and put the date of publication of the site as month, day and year, followed by a period. At the end, write the URL and put a period.
Here's an example: Li, Quan. "Examining Art." Insights into Culture. Last modified February 12, 2015. www.insightsintoculture.com/examining-art
If you don't have a date, then you can use the date you entered the site. Use the same format, but write "Accessed at" instead of "Last modified" before the date. For example: Li, Quan. "Examining Art." Insights into Culture. Accessed April 9, 2019. www.insightsintoculture.com/examining-art.
- Some websites have different dates associated with them. For example, the date the site was originally created, and the date a specific page was published. Use the date that is most relevant to the information you are citing, which is usually the date of the individual page.
- Checking the date of the site will help you to know if the information is current or if it is out of date.
- Some sites hide their publication date so that their page appears current even if it is not.