Photo of lots of academic papers

How to cite sources in a blog post

It’s important to add references to give credit to your sources, but what’s the most effective way to cite sources in a blog post for a research project, academic website or technical subject?

There’s a specific way of adding references to an academic paper which you’ll be familiar with, using the Citations feature of Microsoft Word. This results a numbered list of references at the end of the document, referred to within the document with a superscript number.

The problem is, this academic way of citing doesn’t always make sense to your target audience, and may come over as too formal and stuffy. We look at the best way to acknowledge your sources without reducing the impact it has on your website visitors.

Who is your target audience for the blog post?

The first aspect to consider is who are you trying to reach with your blog post, and in a wider sense, your website.

If you’re sure that the only people you’re trying to engage with are academics and people who are familiar with the concept of citations.

Users of Wikipedia will be used to seeing citations, but it still doesn’t mean this is best practice for all audiences.

A laptop browsing the Wikipedia website

To cite or not to cite

Next, will your citations resonate with your target audience? It’s important to prove the accuracy of your research, but if you want to make an impact with a non-academic audience, linking straight to an academic paper isn’t the best way.

After all, you’re looking to back up your research and credit your sources, but your reader doesn’t necessarily need to know the technical details behind it.

So here are a few examples of what you can link to instead that your website user may find more accessible:

  • A newspaper article about the research
  • Press release about a certain piece of research – look on the university’s website
  • A blog post on the website of the institution that published the research
  • A plain language summary (PLS) of the paper
  • Articles on sites like that present academic research in an accessible way

How to add citations to your blog post

Now you have your list of citations that have been optimised for your target audience, you can start to add them to your blog post.

An accessible alternative to the traditional citation and footnote format is to create a hyperlink directly to the reference. It’s best to create the link from the text that describes the citation, rather than adding generic links like ‘Click here’.

For example:

Many individuals and businesses are passionate about making the switch to electric vehicles well in advance of our own government’s ban of the sale of new ICE vehicles in 2030.

If you do want to use a traditional citation format with superscript numbers and links to a footnote, there are various ways to set this up for your website. Contact us to discuss your options.

If you have found this article useful, please use these social sharing buttons and share this article to LinkedIn. Thanks very much!

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *