Getting smacked with a plagiarism accusation is not good for your academic or professional career.
This is true regardless of the channel, medium, or publication you’re referencing. If you’re using someone else’s original work to support yours, you have to give them credit for it. Yes, this is even true of video-sharing site YouTube.
But how do you cite a YouTube video? It’s not a newspaper, magazine, or an entry from an encyclopedia. With new inventions come new rules and standards to keep us honest. When someone puts the work into creating a YouTube channel, they deserve credit for their videos.
If you’re interested in using a YouTube video in your professional or academic research, use the following guide to ensure you cite the source properly.
Compiler/poster’s username. “Video Title.” Online video clip. Website Name. Name of Website’s publisher, date posted. Web. Date accessed.
The specific format you use to cite anything will rely on your boss or professor’s standards. Be sure to check your rubric, prompt, or other identifying information to see if you’re expected to use MLA, APA, or Chicago style citations.
Regardless of the specific style you use, you should know a few details right off the bat. Information that will be pertinent to your YouTube citation includes:
For our example, we’ll use a clip from a show called Adam Ruins Everything. “Adam Ruins Everything - A Big Bed of Lies I truTV” is the video's title. Although Adam Conover is the host, TruTV is the channel on which this video is published, and that’s what you’ll use as the YouTuber’s name or username. Underneath the publisher’s name is the date the video was uploaded to YouTube: Dec 1, 2018.
Let’s talk about how to cite a YouTube video in MLA format. An MLA citation is essentially a paragraph with a hanging indent in Word. The order in which you list information helps the reader understand what it means.
For a YouTube video, you will begin by listing the channel name of the publisher or compiler and following it with a period.
Continuing with our sample video, we’d begin our MLA citation with:
For some channels, this will be a person’s name. For others, this will be the name of a brand or publication.
Next, include the name of the video in quotation marks. This will always be what is listed on the video.
truTV. “Adam Ruins Everything - A Big Bed of Lies | truTV.”
This step is exactly as it sounds: you have to include copy to indicate you are citing an online video clip.
truTV. “Adam Ruins Everything - A Big Bed of Lies | truTV.” Online video clip.
Now you need to tell the reader where you found the clip from by specifying it came from YouTube. Do so in italics, and follow with a comma.
truTV. ““Adam Ruins Everything - A Big Bed of Lies | truTV.” Online video clip. YouTube,
In this step, you’ll include the date the video was posted. Date should be written in the format day-month-year.
truTV. ““Adam Ruins Everything - A Big Bed of Lies | truTV.” Online video clip. YouTube, 1 December 2018.
Just as you’d indicate “print” on another citation, you need to indicate “web” on a YouTube citation.
truTV. ““Adam Ruins Everything - A Big Bed of Lies | truTV.” Online video clip. YouTube, 1 December 2018. Web.
After this, your final step is to record the date you made use of this video. This is usually a pre-emptive tactic. If you use a research paper one month and then that author changes their findings six months later, you’re not in trouble for your data being outdated or considered false.
Again, the date should be formatted as day-month-year.
truTV. “Adam Ruins Everything - A Big Bed of Lies | truTV.” Online video clip. YouTube, 1 December 2018. Web. 4 December 2018.
Having a date of retrieval also covers you if the creator deletes the YouTube video or changes privacy settings to be unlisted, or changes their YouTube name.
There you have it, that’s what an MLA style YouTube video citation should look like after all is said and done.
Let’s talk about citing a YouTube video in APA format. Again, we will use the same video as our example.
Begin by identifying the YouTube publisher or creator’s name. Follow it with a period.
After the name, identify the date this video was posted. The format should be year-month-day, and the date should be in parenthesis followed by a period.
truTV. (2018, December 1).
Next, you’ll identify the name of the video. Be sure to only capitalize the first letter of the first word, as well as proper nouns.
truTV. (2018, December 1.) Adam ruins everything - A big bed of lies | truTV
If there is a colon, the first letter of the first word after the colon would be capitalized. This title does not go in quotation marks.
Citations require you indicate the type of file you’re citing. Because this is a video, you’ll indicate within brackets that it is a video file. Be sure to follow the final bracket with a period.
truTV. (2018, December 1.) Adam ruins everything - A big bed of lies | truTV [Video file].
This is where the URL comes into play. Because the content is digital, you want readers to easily be able to access the file. Write “retrieved by” or “retrieved from” and then include the URL. There is a period after the URL.
truTV. (2018, December 1.) Adam ruins everything - A big bed of lies | truTV [Video file]. Retrieved by https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8pFqdn1r5s&t=21s
That is the end of the process for citing a YouTube video in APA format!
Lastly, let’s dive into how you can cite a YouTube video using Chicago style formatting. We will, again, use the example above.
In Chicago style citations, the video’s name comes first. It should be in quotation marks with title case and followed by a comma
“Adam Ruins Everything - A Big Bed of Lies | truTV,”
Next, label the video as content derived from YouTube. Simply label it “YouTube video,” followed by a comma.
“Adam Ruins Everything - A Big Bed of Lies | truTV,” YouTube video,
Here, you’ll tell audiences how long the video is. Do this in the format of Hours:Minutes:Seconds and follow it with a comma.
“Adam Ruins Everything - A Big Bed of Lies | truTV,” YouTube video, 1:54,
This is where you tell readers who published the video. If it’s an individual, you’d put their name. If it’s a brand, you put the brand name. Be sure to put this in quotation marks.
Follow the style formatting that the channel uses. What I mean here is if the brand/publisher is called “xPECTATION$,” spell it that way in your citation.
Follow the publisher’s name with a comma inside the quotation marks.
“Adam Ruins Everything - A Big Bed of Lies | truTV,” YouTube video, 1:54, “truTV,”
Now it’s time to include the date the video was published. You’ll do so in a month-day-year format. Again, you’ll follow this information with a comma.
“Adam Ruins Everything - A Big Bed of Lies | truTV,” YouTube video, 1:54, “truTV,” December 1, 2018,
Lastly, you will include the video’s URL. Follow the URL with a period, indicating this citation is complete.
“Adam Ruins Everything - A Big Bed of Lies | truTV,” YouTube video, 1:54, “truTV,” December 1, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8pFqdn1r5s&t=21s.
This style of citation works for footnotes and endnotes in Chicago style. If you’re looking to create a bibliography, you’ll replace the commas after the video’s title, time and date published with periods.
For example, that would look like this:
“Adam Ruins Everything - A Big Bed of Lies | truTV.” YouTube video, 1:54. “truTV,” December 1, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8pFqdn1r5s&t=21s.
Now you can rest easy knowing your sources have been properly attributed in your professional or academic projects.
For more ways to make your YouTube research easier, learn how to embed a YouTube video in PowerPoint before sharing your thoughts on YouTube with other real users!
Grace Pinegar is a lifelong storyteller with an extensive background in various forms such as acting, journalism, improv, research, and content marketing. She was raised in Texas, educated in Missouri, worked in Chicago, and is now a proud New Yorker. (she/her/hers)
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