For the majority of students, citation and referencing are like flooding and life jacket at the same time. Over the years of studying and writing, you will be researching and reading tons of works done by others to help formulate your ideas and arguments. Believe me, any piece of academic writing that is not properly cited will incur your professor’s anger and most probably will result in an accusation of plagiarism which is the worst academic sin a student can ever commit.
In this article, we will have a look at how to cite social media in MLA style, how to cite Instagram in APA style and how to cite an Instagram post at all. You might think “Hold on, Instagram is not an academic source and has nothing to do with article writing or research paper”. Well, you might be right. However, the students of the 21st century do not sit in the libraries for hours anymore, they do not use only printed books or magazines. They write research papers on feminism, the power of social media, and the influence of plastic cups. For modern research papers, they use up all the sources. Moreover, for public figures and celebrities, Instagram is a way to make their point and change the mindset of others. You need to keep in mind that academics and professionals are making use of multiple platforms to disseminate their work. So, you really should not discount any of these.
Therefore, we will be specifically looking at citing an Instagram photo, video or post. We are fully aware that Instagram is not the only social media platform out there. We will show you the conventions of citing it, and you can apply it to just about any social media platform you like. Believe me, whether you are using MLA (Modern Language Association) Style or APA (American Psychological Association) Style, citing Instagram is a relatively easy process. But before we dive in, let us look at the basic features of a webpage to understand how to cite Instagram properly.
Referencing and Citing a Webpage
I suppose you know the difference between those two terms. While “citing” means in-text citation, “referencing” is the list of the used sources at the end of your paper.
So, the first aspect of a webpage is its URL. Of course, there are billions of web pages on the Internet, so when you cite or make reference to one specific webpage, you will have to make use and sure to give a specific URL. Furthermore, it is important to show in your reference what the webpage deals with and for this, you will need a title. Then, as you would come to expect, the reference to your webpage would need to be attributed to an author or authors. This could be a person or cooperation.
Scrolling down on the webpage also revealed a date of publication or review to be used alongside the author details. Lastly, you will need to note the last date on which you personally access this webpage. The reason why this important is that the web is ever-changing, and a website that was available one day might not be available on a next visit even if you make use of the correct URL.
As a side note, social media and Instagram, in particular, is even more fickle when it comes to date of access. People delete posts and you need to make sure that you recorded the date on which your citation was still available.
Let us look at an example of a referencing a webpage in APA style.
Bonnet, L. 2012. Community radio: the new tree of speech. [O]. Available: http://www.capecameleon.co.za/printed-issue/issue-13/news-arena2/. Accessed on 2018/02/24
So, the structure will look like this:
Author, B. B., Author, C. C. (Publication’s date). Title of the online book/ article. Title of Online Periodical. [O]. Available: http://www.someaddress.com/full/url/. Accessed on XX/XX/XX.
The example of in-text citation of a webpage in APA style:
Before choosing to use direct quotations, please make sure they are significant. Keep in mind that it is highly essential to use in-text citations, where necessary (Bonnet, 2012, 34-35 pp.).
The example of the referencing a webpage in MLA style:
Last name, First name. Title of the online book/ article. Title of Online Periodical. City of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication. [O]. Available: http://www.someaddress.com/full/url/. Accessed on XX/XX/XX.
The example of in-text citation of the webpage in MLA style:
Insert the text of your essay here. Use in-text citations properly and indicate the page numbers, if available (Author pp) or (Title of the Article pp).
How to Cite Instagram
Why did I write so much information about citing a webpage but not about citing an Instagram photo? First of all, you will find a guide on how to cite Instagram in MLA style and how to cite Instagram in APA style below. Secondly, it looks pretty much the same as a webpage reference and in-text citation with the exception of the inclusion between block brackets of the social media platform’s name.
To reference the information from a publicly available profile, you will create an entry form in your reference list. The entry will include the name of the author, the screen name of the author in brackets, followed by the date of the post and the content of the post up to 40 characters. You will follow with the URL that the reader can follow to find the original source. The in-text citation will include the last name of the author and the year. Ok, let’s slow down and connect the dots.
To cite an Instagram post correctly, you will need to take the following steps and find the next information:
1. The name (or username) of the person/organization on Instagram (upper line).
2. Description or the title of the photo.
3. The date of publication on Instagram (grey line at the bottom).
Sometimes Instagram does not show the exact date for posts that are more than 1 week old. The recent ones will have a description of the date (“3 days ago”, for example). But pay attention, your citation should include the exact date (14 December 2018).
4. Uniform Resource Locator (URL, without http:// or https://)
How to Cite Instagram in MLA Style and APA Style?
Once you have already known the basic structure, it will be easy to cite Instagram in any style of academic writing. Just use the following structure:
Last name, First name or username. “Description or the title of the photo.” [Instagram], The date of publication on Instagram. Available: URL (without http:// or https://).
A few things to take note of – if the post does not have a title, create a simple description by your own and place it without quotation marks.
To make it easier, here is the example of how to cite Instagram in MLA:
TED Talks. The global refugee crisis. [Instagram], 14 Dec. 2018. Available: www.instagram.com/p/BrX9RXbnNrZ/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=e2xucctcl26n.
APA Style is not much different, you just need to use another sequence:
Last Name, First Initial (Year, Date Published). Photo title or description. [Instagram]. Available: URL (without http:// or https://).
Please, note, that in APA style if the account holder’s full name and username are both available, you need to place the full name first and then the [username] inside brackets.
So, the citing of the Instagram post in APA style will look like this:
TED Talks [@ted]. (2018, December 14). The global refugee crisis. [Instagram]. Available: www.instagram.com/p/BrX9RXbnNrZ/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=e2xucctcl26n.
Now, you can cite any social media by following the exact pattern:
National Geographic [@NatGeo]. (2018, December 17). Fly through the Orion Nebula—without even leaving Earth. [Twitter]. Available: twitter.com/NatGeo/status/1074651928192278529.