Answered By: Elaine M. Patton
Last Updated: Jul 19, 2022     Views: 2898

NASA's webpages are, let's say, layered. There are frequently sub-sites and spin-offs and sectioned-off articles and things that look like website names but are really the article, technically... messy! This makes it confusing to write the citations for sometimes. Citation tools get these wrong a lot, too, because the info they use to build citations was created with people saving bookmarks or sending links in mind, which are a very different information role than citations, so they get things wrong.

So, for example, this page about Pluto

 

Important thing to remember before we go farther: citations are an art, not a science.

Breaking this down into citation parts:

Website Name: Solar System Exploration

Usually it's safe bet to get this from the logo that appears in the upper-left corner of the page (English being read from left-to-right, that's usually where logos are). Now, judgment call time! We could name this site NASA Science: Solar System Exploration or just Solar System Exploration. Pluto is not the name of the site, it's the start of the article title, nor is it simply NASA.

 

Article/Page Title: "Pluto: In Depth" *

Usually this is a little more clear and obvious. In this case, we have something about Pluto that's broken into several parts, like Overview and In Depth. Let's take a look at the URLs for a clue:

  • https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/dwarf-planets/pluto/in-depth/
  • https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/dwarf-planets/pluto/overview/

So, we've established that these parts are separate pages with separate locations, as opposed to pieces of one big article with only one URL. (An example of that would be career info pages from the Occupational Outlook Handbook.)

We use a colon to indicate where a title has multiple pieces to it, even if that's not quite how it was written originally. The page above is "Pluto: In Depth." Another page might be "Pluto: Overview."

*In MLA. APA does not use quotation marks for the references page and it alters capitalization, so this would be: Pluto: In depth.

 

Publisher: NASA

This one is easy at least. What their pages lack in clarity for site and article, they make up for by being an obvious publisher! When you're looking for this info typically, though, scroll down to the very bottom of the page you're on and look for the copyright info. (Sometimes contact info, sometimes you may even have to look for an About page or separate Contact page.)

 

Author?

In this case, not really. If you scroll all the way down, they do have some names given about various responsible parties, but it's not clear who wrote or edited the page...so we'll just ignore them.

You could also use NASA as the author, and skip including them as publisher. Benefit of this is your in-text citation would be (NASA), which is more obviously authoritative than ("Pluto")... but if you have several pages from NASA, you'll have to make the distinction in your parenthetical citations (NASA "Pluto"), (NASA "Kuiper Belt") and so on, to help keep each NASA article distinct from the other. Art, not science!

 

Final MLA Citation(s): Either of these would be correct.

"Pluto: In Depth." Solar System Exploration, NASA, 19 Dec. 2019, solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/dwarf-planets/pluto/in-depth/.

"Pluto: In Depth." NASA Science: Solar System Exploration, NASA, 19 Dec. 2019, solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/dwarf-planets/pluto/in-depth/.

 

APA Citation Possibilities:

Pluto: In depth. (2019, December 19). Solar System Exploration, NASA. https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/dwarf-planets/pluto/in-depth/

NASA. (2019, December 19). Pluto: In depth. Solar System Exploration. https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/dwarf-planets/pluto/in-depth/

 

The urls above are deliberately formatted with MLA not linked but APA live and clickable, by the way. And yes, the APA italics are backwards compared to MLA.

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