Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


How to Better Cite Blogs

Via BoingBoing, we learn that the NIH has a guide to citing blogs. Cool! Respectworthy! And a little lacking as a citation format. Here’s their first sample:

Bernstein M. Bioethics Discussion Blog [Internet]. Los Angeles: Maurice Bernstein. 2004 Jul – [cited 2007 May 16]. Available from:

There are at least two major problems with this citation format.

Firstly, the URL to the post itself is missing. I might want to cite ““How to Cite Blogs” by the NIH / National Library of Medicine” on Kidney Notes. In which case, I should print the URL “” It strikes me as rare to want to cite a blog in general, rather than in particulars. We get to example 29 before we see this.

Secondly, I should include a real, full date. When I cited is uninteresting. When I visited might be. When the post was posted certainly is. Only a small fraction of the citations include a date of publication, and those refer to (say) June, 2006.

4 comments on "How to Better Cite Blogs"

  • Nicko says:

    I think your article demonstrates another serious issue that comes up with many citations; the author not having read the full article before citing it 🙂 You complain about the system citing Blogs not articles, and about dating your citations; both of these are explained in detail on second and third pages of the discussion. See examples 24-27 for date issues and examples 29-30 for citing comments.
    It’s also worth noting that the sort of date you want to apply to the citation probably depends on if you are citing a comment or a whole blog.

  • Drew Thaler says:

    Actually, if you were only going to pick ONE date, the date of citation is probably the most relevant. The claimed date of posting is only second place. Why?
    1. Authentication. The citer knows that it’s a real date and that the content they are citing existed at that time. Any other date is malleable. Blog post dates can be faked, edited after the fact, or just wrong.
    2. Archive retrieval. Posts can be edited. The content when you go back to visit it may not be the same as either the original post, or what it was when it was cited. (Imagine citing a post and then having the person completely reverse their position!) But if a spider like ran across it they may have stored the history of what it looked like when you cited it.

  • Adam says:

    Nicko: touche!
    Drew: While it’s true that things can be faked or edited, in terms of finding and contextualizing a blog post, I think the posted date is the better one to use. Bloggers who silently revise their posts tend to get caught (or so I believe) and it makes them generally poor choices for citation anyway.

  • Mr. Gunn says:

    It’s still a poorly written and unclear standard, and I read it. They make an arbitrary distinction between websites, “homepages”, blogs, and wikis, fail to take into account the fact that a page can change in content but not in URL, and fail to mention DOIs.
    I would strongly advise against following their style guide if you want people to find your content later.

Comments are closed.