Research is slowly moving into the real world, with studies being done using data from social media websites and interaction with the public. But what do you do when you need to cite someone’s tweet? How do you cite a Facebook post in your journal article? Is it enough to give the URL? We’ve compiled the best-practices to help you organize your citations.

For social media the same rule applies that also goes for websites and other types of sources: you have to use in-text citations and a listing in your references. Be aware that publication details may vary between citations styles. If they’re not included in the official citation guide you’re using, you can adhere to the best practices we’ll discuss in this blog.

Best practices for referencing social media

You want to credit the person posting the information, so include their full last name followed by their initials. (Thaler, R.). If they have a screen name or post privately, for example on Facebook you can include those names in brackets: Thaler, R. [MisbehavingBlog]. If it’s an organization their full profile name is sufficient.

Provide the date when the post was created: the year, month and day, or use n.d. if this is not known. When the content of the citation can change, such as a webpage, you need to add the date of retrieval. This is not necessary when the date is a part of the post, for example as in a tweet.

The content of the post or the caption (if it exists) can be used as the title up to 40 words, and you should include in brackets the type of social media post e.g. [Tweet] [Facebook status update].

If the content you’re sharing are images and not words, you can describe the image in brackets e.g. [Cartoon of a scientists presenting during a conference].

In the end, it should look like this:

Last name, Initials. [screen name]. (year, month, day). Title or content of the post. [type of social media post]. Retrieved from [url].

Let’s look at some more specific examples for various social media.


Author, or Username (as written). (Year, Month Day). Status update [Facebook update]. Retrieved from URL.

In-text citation: (Krauss, L. M. 2017)

Example of a Facebook reference:

Lawrence M. Krauss. (2017, October 20). All politics is local, so they say.. And clearly we need to ensure science literacy at all political levels, since we cannot now depend on that at the highest levels. Therefore happy the group I help direct,, is now instituting science policy questions for candidates of all sorts! [Facebook update] Retrieved from


Twitter username (as written). (Year, Month Day). Entire text of Tweet exactly as it appears in Twitter [Twitter post]. Retrieved from URL

In-text citation: (Thaler, R. H. 2017)

Example of a Twitter reference:

Thaler‏, R. H. [R_Thaler] (2017, August 4). .@NPR interviewed a “rational addict” today. She said she was clean but had a relapse. Then said “no, no relapse, I just changed my mind.” [Twitter post]. Retrieved from


Title of entry. (Date). In Wiki Name. Retrieved Month Day, Year, from URL

If there is no date, use n.d.

In-text citation: (“Nobel Prize”, 2013)

Example of a Twitter reference:

Nobel Prize. n.d. In Wikipedia. Retrieved July 29, 2017, from


Author, or Username. (Year, Month Day). Title of blog post [Blog post]. Retrieved from URL

In-text citation: (Goldacre, B. 2016)

Example of a personal blog reference:

Goldacre, B. (2016, September 23). Taking transparency beyond results: ethics committees must work in the open. [Blog post]. Retrieved October 26, 2017 from


Author and/or [Username]. (Year, Month Day). Title of the Video [Type of Work]. Retrieved from URL

In-text citation: (TED, 2008)

Example of a YouTube reference:

TED (2008, April 15). Militant atheism | Richard Dawkins. [Video file]. Retrieved from

For more information on how to cite social media check out this APA blog:

Or take the publicly available Wageningen University e-learning course that we developed, on information literacy for scientists.

About the Author: Liesbeth Smit

Liesbeth combines her knowledge of science communication, technology and design to explain difficult topics to a wide audience. You can use her practical tips immediately in your (poster) presentations to create a bigger impact. She developed dozens of websites, infographics and animated videos, and regularly gives workshops about design at The Online Scientist.

Search for more scicomm tips: