Websites are an accepted reference for most academic papers and research articles, but citing the publication date can be tricky. Some websites provide a copyright date while others display an electronic publication date. There are even some websites that supply both. Luckily, the APA and MLA style guidelines provide advice about which date to use and what to do if no date is visible.
Find Electronically Published Date on Website
The APA style, which is published by the American Psychological Association, is recognized as a standard for citing sources in academic papers and research papers. APA style includes the year of publication as part of the standard format for references. For articles published online, the first place to look for the publication date is right beneath the article title. The date may also be displayed at the end of an article, near the author biography. As a last resort, check the footer area of the website where the article is published. Unfortunately, this date may be the same on every page of the site, meaning it's not specific for the article in question.
Using Browser Hacks for Website Date
There are a number of browser hacks mentioned online for finding a website's publication. For example, you can select "View Page Source" from the right mouse button menu in the Chrome browser and then search the website's source code for a publication date. You may also find articles about using the string "&as_qdr y15" in the browser address bar as a web page date finder. However, the dates returned by these hacks may reflect the initial domain publication date rather than the publication date of the current content, so they are not entirely reliable. You could try using an online tool like the Wayback Machine to search an archive of the web and look at the update history for website, but this method is also unreliable for determining a website publication date.
No Date Found? Use N.D.
If a reference found on a website seems reputable in all other ways but is missing a date, that doesn't mean you can't use it. As long as you've made some effort to find the date, the APA guideline says it's acceptable to use the notation "(n.d.)", for "no date," in place of a date in the reference. MLA style, which is published by the Modern Language Association of America, recommends using the date when a website's content was last updated. If no date for publication or update can be found, MLA recommends using the date when you accessed the site.