As you undertake research for your next paper or project, you will likely encounter both websites and online journal articles. But, what’s the difference between these two types of sources? In this post, we discuss the main differences between websites and journal articles.

What is a website?

A website is a set of web pages grouped together under one domain. Typically, when you think you are citing a website, you are actually citing a web page: one page of the website that likely has a single author (a blog post) or a corporate author (a government webpage).


  • Have a URL
  • Typically have multiple web pages that are linked together, and that can be individually cited

Examples of common, credible websites are:

Online newspaper articles should not be cited as websites. Follow the appropriate style guidelines for online newspaper articles to create correct citations for this source type.

What is a journal article?

Also known as scholarly articles, journal articles are secondary, peer-reviewed sources that you can use in your research papers. They are published in journals, which are periodicals, published on a regular basis, that include multiple articles.

Today, most of the journal articles that you find are online or in a digital format, and this may cause some confusion over whether a work is a website or a journal article.

Journal articles:

  • Have a DOI
  • Are hosted on a platform, database, or digital repository, but are not websites
  • May be in the form of a PDF
  • May also be available in a traditional print format

The most important thing to remember is that an online journal article is not a website. A journal article that you find online should be cited just like a printed article, with the addition of a DOI. A DOI is a “digital object identifier” and represents an article’s permanent location online. While URLs often change, DOIs do not.

How do I know if the work I'm citing is a website or a journal article?

Check the address

Pay close attention to the address of the source. If the address ends in .pdf, for instance, it is likely a journal article that is available online in a downloadable form. Also, most online journal articles have permalinks, or DOIs, that represent their permanent location online.

Although an online journal article may appear to have a URL because it's hosted by an online database, that address does not actually point to the article's official location online. In other words, if you list an online journal article as a website with a URL in your bibliography, your instructor will not be able to get to that article to verify if it's a credible source.

Check the origin

Take note of where you found the source. If you encountered the work on Canvas or Blackboard, it’s not likely that it originated there.

Look carefully for signs that the work is a journal article or website: does it have a cover page, with publication info, including a DOI? Is there any info at the bottom (footer) of the work that gives you clues to its origin? When in doubt, do a brief Google or Google Scholar search to see if you can pinpoint the work's origin or ask your instructor or a librarian.

How to use BibGuru to cite online sources

Use the BibGuru searchbar to find both website and online journal article sources for your bibliography. Select the correct tab for the source type and input a URL (for websites) or DOI (for journal articles).

BibGuru allows you to create accurate citations in APA, MLA, Chicago, and many other styles. You can find online sources easily with the search bar and instantly add them to a bibliography.

Frequently Asked Questions about differences between websites and journal articles

🔰 Is a website considered an article?

No. Although many articles are hosted on websites, they should be cited as articles.

🔈 What is a web page vs a website?

A website is a set of web pages grouped together under one domain.

🐖 What is a website example?

Examples of common, credible websites are:

👒 How do you identify a journal article?

Journal articles are published in journals, which are often hosted online by a platform, database or digital repository. Online journal articles:

  • Have a DOI
  • May be in the form of a PDF
  • May also be available in a traditional print format
☂️ What is the difference between a journal and a book?

A journal is a periodical that is published on a regular basis, while a book is typically published once. Journals feature different journal articles in each issue. Books, even when they are published in multiple editions, typically feature the same general content.


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