Referencing websites: access date and copyright date


Most websites I searched and added to my bibliography long time ago, now(naturally) changed their copyright year. At the time of my first access, date let's say was 11 December 2005, but the website now shows copyright date as 2007. So would this be ok:

Author Name (2007). "This is the title" [online] Available at: , [Accessed 11 December 2005]


The date in brackets is the date the article was published, so it doesn't make sense to say you accessed it in 2005 but it was only published in 2007!

Copyright dates shouldn't matter to be honest (legal stuff is always being updated). Just really when it was published and when you accessed it, thats plenty of info.


Unless it has been modified and you went back to check, just change both dates.

Oooh how annoying.


Thanks H. The reason I get confused is, I looked at several Harvard style guides, and they say year should be the copyright year. For the date of access, some just say "access date" and others "date of first access". So my dilemma is that it would be silly to put the year 2007 and put an earlier access date; this doesn't sound logical (as you suggested). But the copyright dates always change.

But if copyright dates don't matter, how else do you find out the date of a website information?

I'm sooooooo confused... I am beginning to hate references.


sorry to the style guides, but having 'date of FIRST access' just seems silly, given that websites change. Date of last access makes more sense IMHO. If you have checked the site and got updated copyright info I'd go with the date you did that as 'date of access'. At least, that is what i am doing, i am checking sites as i am writing and putting that as date accessed.

With my MA dissertation, I had a half day near to submission when i went through and double checked web refs, and then just put a statement 'all websites last access on ...'. I might end up doing that for the PhD.

BTW, i have a lot of sites where there is no copyright date or other obvious date, are you finding this 404 and what do you do? It is meaning i have a lot of 'undated' stuff, which i am worried about.


aliby, I think what you say makes sense. I have so many websites from 2005 that were saved with access date 2005 and the copyright date whatever it showed at the time. I think I'll change all of them to date. It's a bit silly but, won't it make me look like I've done all my research in the last minute?

In most cases you can get the date of the website by right clicking on the page, and get the page info (in mozilla) or preferences (in most browsers). I understand that the "last modified" date can replace the "copyright" date, if the copyright date is not available (considering "those" Harvard guides are correct.) But that brings me to my first question... these dates get updated regularly. Therefore copyright date must be more reliable.


Oh, wow, thankyou! didnt know about the right click thing, that will be sooo useful.

i see what you mean about making it look as though research was done at the last minute. I suppose putting (date LAST accessed xxxxx) might make it clear that we are being diligent in checking refs (having done research earlier (??).

i like you am beginning to hate referencing, esp websites.


I think you are right. I'll change them to last access dates too. A few things I gathered from the University libraries' guides:

- On web pages, year should be the copyright year. If it's not available, then the "last modified" date. If none available, put (n.d.) (for ‘no date’, both on citations and bibliography).

- On web documents, same as above, but if there is a date quoted in the document, different than the website's date,.. use that one.

- Access date should be the "last" access date.


Ooh, that makes more sense! Thanks 404, useful for me too!


The whole point of a reference is that the quote or whatever can be located from the info given. So if you accessed the site and found the info in 2005 or whatever then that should (as far as I can make out) be the date you put in. If the site is the same then it doesn't matter I suppose, although the point about last minute stuff may well be valid, but if it has changed or is no longer there for some reason then the former date, which is when the info was there, is the important one - that is why you should keep a hard copy of material you find on a website, so you can prove that it existed. . anyway thats the basis I work from!