Saving Webpages Long-Term
Tips for saving webpages, blogs, and articles
Photo credit: La_Lou on pixabay
We all know people who prefer to print things they find online before reading them. For me, it’s my father.
I had to laugh when he showed me the print-outs of a travel blog he had discovered while preparing for an upcoming bicycle trip. He was happy that he could now follow the route he had found on the map from the website. This map was placed in the clear pocket of his bicycle bag.
I would have bookmarked the page in my smartphone browser and checked it on the way if I were unsure of the route.
Our goal was the same, but our methods couldn’t be more different.
The main advantage of the print-out method is security.
- Changes: the exact version of the page at the time of access is permanently stored on paper.
- Loss: even if the webpage is no longer available, the print copy is still there.
- Inaccessibility: no Internet connection or device is necessary.
So does that mean I should print out everything I read online?
No. But you should have the same sense of security, especially if you are writing a thesis or other important academic publication.
Spare yourself the feeling of panic the day before your deadline when the webpage that you cited is no longer online but you need to double-check your quotation. Save the page right after opening it. And we mean right after opening it.
Then you don’t need to worry about anything later on when citing.
Saving a copy of websites keeps you safe from changes or loss. But there’s another important reason to save webpages: guidelines. Some universities and departments require PDF copies of cited webpages to be handed in along with your thesis. Make sure to check if your institution is one of them.
How can you save the webpages you cite?
- Use the PDF printer
This is probably the easiest way to save copies of webpages. In your browser click "Print" and then select a PDF printer.
You can also save a local copy of the webpage in HTML format over your browser by pressing and holding Ctrl+S.
- Online services
Online services help you save a copy of a website under a permanent link.
When you cite the webpage, you can cite this link in addition to the original URL.
WebCite, Diigo or cc are some examples.
One caveat: permanent links are not necessarily permanent forever. They're only permanent as long as the service provider stays in business.
You can save local copies of webpages using various software tools.
Software tools like Local Website Archive or HTTrack help you manage your pages. You can create copies of a webpage or an entire website.
Reference management programs, such as Zotero, can also help.
In Citavi you can also create PDF copies of websites and save them together with their reference information, which you’ll later need for your citations.
To identify these PDF copies in Citavi, take a look at Tip number 25 for Citavi 4. The “CitaviFiles” folder corresponds to the “Citavi Attachments” folder in Citavi 6.
Are there any website archives out there?
Many organizations take part in web archiving by saving websites offline and thus preserving them for the future.
The Library of Congress collects and archives born-digital Web content in order to document certain themes or events.
For selected websites, a web crawler (for example, the open-source program Heritrix) is used to capture web content.
These archived websites can be found in the Library of Congress catalog. You can search the collections here.
An additional resource for archived websites is the Internet Archive. This non-profit organization works to preserve digital data permanently and makes it available to the public free of charge.
What’s the right way to cite online sources?
You’ve saved your web content. Now, all you have to do is cite it correctly.
Your citation style (for example, APA, Chicago, MLA) determines what information you need to cite and the appearance of your citations and bibliography entries.
The details you’ll almost always need to include are:
- Author, editor or organization
Who published the webpage online? If you don’t see any information on the page itself, take a look at the page’s "legal" link.
- Title of the page
If you’re citing a single page, use the title of the page. If you’re referring to the website as a whole, use the website title.
- URL of the page
Although some citation styles don’t require URLs, most do, so you should always save it. The URL helps the person reading your paper find the page again.
Double-check that the link does indeed lead to the page you are citing. If it does not, check the bottom of the webpage for its direct link.
- Date of last update
The date the page was last updated can usually be found at the bottom of the webpage, if available.
- Access date
The date on which you last viewed the page’s contents.
- Permalink (if needed)
If you used an online service to create a permalink for a website, use a free text field in your reference management program to keep track of it. If you want the permalink to appear in your bibliography, you’ll have to customize the citation style you are using. Here’s how to do this in Citavi.
In Citavi it’s fastest to add webpages with the Picker.
The reference type you select should fit the source content. Most of the time you’ll use "Internet document", but a journal article you find online should be added as a journal article, and an e-book should be added as a book. Reports should be added as "Report or gray literature".
Here's an example of a bibliography entry for this blog page following the APA citation style:
Votteler, J. (2018, October 9). "Saving Wegpages Long-Term [Blog post]. Retrieved from
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