Citing web pages that disappear

January 29, 2010

Are you concerned that web pages and references that you cite may disappear or change? You’re not alone. According to some sources, up to 13% of web pages change, disappear or become inactive within about two years. For casual viewers and readers, this isn’t necessarily a problem. But for researchers, academics, students and the like, it’s a huge problem. At least with a book or journal article, you could pretty much guarantee that someone (or some library), somewhere would have a copy.

So what’s the solution? Well, companies like Google and libraries around the world are  trying hard to digitize printed materials, but is anyone looking after the stuff published only on the internet? Yes — and one such group is WebCite.org.

WebCite®, a member of the International Internet Preservation Consortium, is an on-demand archiving system for webreferences (cited webpages and websites, or other kinds of Internet-accessible digital objects), which can be used by authors, editors, and publishers of scholarly papers and books, to ensure that cited webmaterial will remain available to readers in the future. …

A WebCite®-enhanced reference is a reference which contains — in addition to the original live URL (which can and probably will disappear in the future, or its content may change) — a link to an archived copy of the material, exactly as the citing author saw it when he accessed the cited material.

Individual authors, scholars, students can use WebCite for free to create an archive of a web document; journal editors, publishers and libraries are asked to donate a fee (e.g. $1 for each web reference added). And for readers, it’s all free.

WebCite ensures that any page you refer people to will always be there.

[Links last checked January 2010; thanks to Monique S on the STC’s Consultants and Independent Contractors discussion list for alerting me to this resource]

One comment

  1. I tried using WebCite for a while in late 2008 but it worked inconsistently. I don’t remember all the details, but I gave up. That said, it has probably improved since then and I will look into it again.

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