Before the advent of online texts, it was easy to cite material based on publication dates, editions, and volumes. All one had to do to verify your citation was to look in the reference section of your text, locate the book or journal, and then read it for yourself. One of the advantages with online texts is the fluidity, but this also creates a citation problem. Most websites have some sort of update, whether it be major or minor, and references can become invalid almost as soon as they are added.
One tool that is attempting to rectify this issue is WebCite. It offers users the chance to archive the page they are referencing and a permalink so users can provide a valid citation link that will not expire. It is incredibly easy to use and there is a simple workaround so users do not have to give any personal information to use it. Here is how it works:
- Go to WebCite Boomarklet page and enter in a valid or fake email address. Since it does not verify your email, you can use whatever you like as long as it has an @ in it and a .com or something like that at the end.
- Once you click on ‘Build my Bookmarklet’, you will see some text appear along the bottom. Drag the ‘WebCite this page’ link to your bookmark bar in your browser.
- Go to a website you would like to archive and click on the bookmarklet. You will then be taken to the WebCite archive form.
- You are welcome to add any information you would like to the archive metadata, but this is completely optional.
- Once you are ready, click on ‘Submit’ and you will be taken to the submission page with some links on it. The first link is the original link you archived. The second link starts with webcitation.org and is the link you can use when referencing. Clicking on this link will take you to a new page with the WebCite header that includes the original link in it, and the archived page below. Some pages take longer to archive than others.
- Copy the webcitation link and add it to your citation in your paper or text. People who visit this link will always get the same information, even if the website is deleted, moved, or edited.
There are some other uses for this tool that come to mind. Wikipedia has a permalink option for a certain edit version, but the link only retains the text, not the formatting or images. Also, if you want to archive a website before something gets pulled / taken down, this keeps it in its original form.
I hope that helps!