Friday, April 10, 2009

Faulty example by APA for citing weblog posts

Update 25 May 2010

With corrections to the first printing of the 6th edition, APA have not only cleared up their example of citing a blog post, but added an example for citing a comment to a blog post (APA, c2010, in pdf sorry, p. 6). The examples are only slightly better: three factors are still missing without explanation:

  1. Blog title. Although the post, and comment from it, that have been chosen for examples, the blog (which remember is a periodical) title does appear in the URL - however it must be remembered that not all blogs are hosted such that their titles show in the URL, and that sometimes blogs are moved. In such cases the title of the blog in which the post appeared might make it easier for other researchers to find the post (or comment) if the blog is moved after you have cited it. While in many cases author and article title might be sufficient, authors do write in different blogs, and over time might conceivably use the same article title in two or more different places.
    *By default I would encourage people to provide the Blog Title unless it would only duplicate information contained elsewhere in the reference (such as for this blog, where my name as author is the same as the blog's title).
  2. Retrieved date. Blog posts and sometimes blog comments are editable and removable, a retrieval date is advised when our source may be changed.
  3. Precise URL, the comment APA cite was one of a multitude, and I think that commenter did comment more than once on that date, the specific URL to the specific comment would be useful.

Originally posted:

Just over two years ago I explored how I would cite and reference a weblog post in APA style.

I discovered some time since that APA published in 2007 a revised and updated version of section 4.16 (Electronic References) of their Publication Manual, however I didn't want to pay for a copy to see whether it said anything about citing blogs. So it was only recently when the library in which I work processed a print copy of the new guide that I was able to see whether my guesses are compatible with official APA style requirements.

Following the principles and guidelines spelled out in the guide, I stand by my guesses.

Unfortunately, APA provided an example labelled Weblog Post. Has anyone else seen it? What did you think?

In my opinion APA's example 49. Weblog post is a Fail ... for a start their citation is for a comment to a post, not to the post itself... but more on that later.

I first suspected a problem when I saw that APA had decided that a weblog is more like a message board, discussion group or forum than an online periodical or even a well-organised regularly updated website. I think that decision is a mistake, maybe resulting from a writer/editor who did not understand the nature of blogging, or hadn't viewed very many?

APA's example reference for a weblog post citation (p.24) does not follow APA's principles for directing readers as closely as possible to the source you used and using a retrieval date when content may be changed or updated (p.2). See for yourself:

Their example (I haven't worked out how to give the first line a negative indent):

bfy. (2007, January 22). Re: The unfortunate prerequisites and consequences of partitioning your mind. Message posted to

Reading the URL you'll immediately recognise a lack of post-specific URL... perhaps Scienceblogs did not have post-specific URLs when APA found this alleged weblog post, when was that? Oh that's right, for some reason APA have decided not to mention when they retrieved this alleged post from the weblog.

Well there is a date, so lets go to the blog and just chase down the post. Hm, the first thing I noticed was that PZ Myers is the author of the blog Pharyngula. That's odd, well maybe bfy was a guest blogger that day? Scrolling through previous after previous within January 2007 we eventually reach January 22 and find that indeed at 5:59pm that day PZ Myers himself posted The unfortunate prerequisites and consequences of partitioning your mind. What is going on?

Perhaps you guessed before I found the next problem with a text search for bfy: APA have referred to a comment to a blog post. Now maybe when APA accessed the blog its comments did not have their own URL, but how could they mistake a blog post for one of its comments? Is that like mistaking the author of a poem or short story with the editor who compiles an anthology, or a letter to a magazine with the original article on which they comment?

So, APA?
Please redo your work on citing weblogs:
  1. Distinguish between posts and comments upon those posts.
  2. First example should be for a regular post with its own URL.
  3. Is any other example necessary? ie are there blogs that do not give posts their own URL?
On a better note:
I think the example is probably almost suitable as a reference for citing a comment to a weblog.

Almost. :) But I'll write about that in an update to my earlier post on citing a blog post comment.


  1. Pharyngula has always had direct links to comments, so it can't be the reason for this. Maybe they wanted to cover the possibility?

    Even so, it would make sense to link at least to the post in question, and give the correct time for the comment

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


1. You can use some HTML tags, such as <b>, <i>, <a>

2. Apparently blogspot requires that we allow third party cookies for the darn feature to work. Sorry, nothing I can do about it - Google will lead you to instructions.

3. I don't generally post on contentious issues so I don't expect problems.
However, I will delete comments I consider:
disrespectful, destructive, irrelevant or SPAM, (even sucking up: praising my post without reason while linking to a business site).


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...