Online material

General principles for online material

Most online sources included in a reference list need the same information as printed references (ie author, date of publication, title, publisher and place of publication), which is presented in essentially the same way. In addition, a URL (universal resource locator) or DOI (digital object identifier), and the date the source was cited can be included:

  • Date – the date the webpage was loaded (and therefore published) can be difficult to find. Use the abbreviation nd if no publication date is available and provide an access date.
  • Title – sometimes difficult to determine; if it is the homepage of a website, it may be the name of an organisation. Look for the largest writing on the screen or the title bar of the web browser.
  • Publisher – the entity that produces the site; sometimes difficult to find but often at the bottom of a homepage or part of a copyright statement. Use the name as it appears on the screen. In the case of organisations, the publisher may also be the author. 
  • Location of publisher – where the entity producing the site is located. The information is often at the bottom of the webpage or in a ‘Contact us’ page.
  • Access date – include for online material that has no publication date or is likely to change (eg homepage).


Before including URLs in a reference list, consider whether they are useful. For example, in a printed document, URLs may lengthen and clutter the reference list; also, they are not permanent. Because the URL cannot be clicked on, it can be just as quick for the reader to type the title in a browser search field.

Keep in mind the following:

  • If including URLs in a reference list, check that they are all current and correct. If not, search online for the correct website. If you cannot find it, or if there is doubt about which is the correct site, check with the author.
  • Because all URLs are checked before a document is published, it is unnecessary to include the date the site was last accessed as an indication that the URL is current. However, information on a webpage may change between the time the site was accessed by the author and the time it is accessed by the reader of the publication, so including the date of last access by the author ensures that the correct version’ is referred to. On the other hand, the content of a PDF document that is accessed from a webpage will not change, so the date of access is not needed.

URLs in HTML pages and online PDFs

In HTML pages and PDFs intended to be read online, hyperlink the titles, and present the hyperlinks underlined and in blue font.

URLs in printed documents

When including website addresses in a printed document:

  • do not include http:// in addresses that begin with www; however, https:// must be retained if the URL does not work without it, and http:// should be retained if there is no www
  • avoid using URLs that are longer than 1 line of text (eg by shortening it using a service such as TinyURL), or break the URL before or after a slash
  • if the URL will fit on a single line, avoid breaking it by starting it on a new line
  • remove the underlining of URLs to improve the appearance of a printed document, especially if the document includes a large number of URLs.
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Online-only journal article

Articles in many online-only journals have no volume or page numbers. In this case, follow the journal title with the DOI:

Hirsh Å, Nilholm C, Roman H, Forsberg E & Sundberg D (2020). Reviews of teaching methods – which fundamental issues are identified? Education Inquiry, doi:10.1080/20004508.2020.1839232.

Some journals use document numbers, sometimes preceded by a letter. Place this number after the volume (or volume and issue) number; use the notation used by the journal:

Smale DA & Wernberg T (2013). Extreme climatic event drives range contraction of a habitat-forming species. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 280:20122829, doi:10.1098/rspb.2012.2829.
Daskin JH, Bell SC, Schwarzkopf L & Alford RA (2014). Cool temperatures reduce antifungal activity of symbiotic bacteria of threatened amphibians – implications for disease management and patterns of decline. PLoS ONE 9(6):e100378, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0100378.
Ridgway KR (2007). Long-term trend and decadal variability of the southward penetration of the East Australian Current. Geophysical Research Letters 34:L13613, doi:10.1029/2007GL030393.

If no DOI is provided, include the direct URL for the article:

Sumaila UR (2010). A cautionary note on individual transferable quotas. Ecology and Society 15:36,
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Treat the name of a website the same as the title of a book – that is, with minimal capitalisation and italics:

Biotext (2023). Australian manual of style, Biotext, Canberra, accessed 18 Nov 2020,

When including homepages of websites in a reference list:

CSIRO (2015–20). CSIRO, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Canberra, accessed 18 Nov 2020,
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Webpage with an author

Webpage without author

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Online reference work

Online reference work cited as a whole

Editor AA (ed) (date). Title of reference work, XXth edn, Publisher, Place of publication, doi:xxxxxxxxxx [or web address].

Online reference work with no editor

Macquarie dictionary online (2014). Macquarie Dictionary Publishers, an imprint of Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd,

Section of online reference work

Author A (date). Title of article or segment. In: Editor AA (ed), Title of work, XXth edn, Publisher, Place of publication, doi:xxxxxxxxxx [or web address].

Section of online reference work with no author or editor

Title of entry (date). In: Title of reference work, XXth edn, Publisher, Place of publication, doi:xxxxxxxxxx [or web address].

Australian word map (2014). In: Macquarie dictionary online, Macquarie Dictionary Publishers, an imprint of Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd,

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The words online database can either be included or omitted, depending on whether it is clear that the reference is a database from its name:

Species Profile and Threats Database (2007). Boehmeria australis var. australis – tree nettle, nettletree, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Water Resources, Canberra,

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Social media

Do not include comments to social media posts in a reference list; instead, cite them in the text. Include the time if more than 1 comment is made by the same person:

Highnett (12:47 pm, 26 Jun 2020) commented on Tyers’ (2020) post that growing season rainfall is …

Blog post

Tyers P (2020). AI relieves data drought for farmers, 26 May, CSIROscope [blog],

Video blog

Max & Lee (2019). Lost in the Colombian desert, 11 Mar, Van life South America [video blog],

Forum post

Umbradiago (2014). Why are people predominantly right-handed?, 21 Mar, The Science Forum [online forum thread],

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