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How Do You Cite a Tweet in a Peer-Reviewed Paper?

Do you remember when more and more medical professionals started blogging 5-6 years ago and the Modern Language Association published a guide about citing a blog? Now here is the new format for citing a tweet in an academic paper.

Begin the entry in the works-cited list with the author’s real name and, in parentheses, user name, if both are known and they differ. If only the user name is known, give it alone.

Next provide the entire text of the tweet in quotation marks, without changing the capitalization. Conclude the entry with the date and time of the message and the medium of publication (Tweet). For example:

Athar, Sohaib (ReallyVirtual). “Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).” 1 May 2011, 3:58 p.m. Tweet.

The date and time of a message on Twitter reflect the reader’s time zone. Readers in different time zones see different times and, possibly, dates on the same tweet. The date and time that were in effect for the writer of the tweet when it was transmitted are normally not known. Thus, the date and time displayed on Twitter are only approximate guides to the timing of a tweet.

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. I strongly urge that “username” include the @!

    (epatientdave) or (berci) is nowhere near as clear as (@epatientdave) and (@berci).

    I respectfully reject the assertion that a well informed reader will know that the @ is implied. Clarity trumps logic every time, especially when all it takes is one byte.

    March 8, 2012
    • You are right! Do you think this and other suggestions should be submitted to the MLA?

      March 10, 2012
  2. Agree with @epatientDave, citations are not addressed only to social media geeks, they are also read by people not involved. They should be given the opportunity of full usability that is the full twitter handle!

    March 8, 2012
  3. Thx – valuable post! The “new” Twitter focus more on real names, but mostly recognition of ppl is via @names – so citation of both makes sense

    March 8, 2012
  4. @docjtor #

    The MLA’s format of citing a tweet seems to be flawed. Is one purpose of citing a reference to allow readers to locate the source? If so, there is no way one can locate the exact tweet with the MLA format. As with anything published on Web, why not include the tweet’s URL? It can be easily discovered by mouse-over the open link on a tweet (if you are using the web interface). Here is an example of the tweet URL:!/Berci/status/178217510909382657.

    March 10, 2012
  5. cammiejustus #

    Reblogged this on Two Dogs and One Tent and commented:
    Thankfully MLA is on top of it. Can you cite facebook posts too or not?

    March 10, 2012
  6. This also assumes that all tweeters provide their real names. I agree that the complete handle should be provided, including the @., and also essential should be the URL, and, as in other online resources, the date it was accessed (in case URL leads to broken link in case the tweet or account are later deleted). When one counts with the permission of the tweet’s author I would even say proper evidence is only provided by embedding or inserting a screen shot of the actual tweet.

    March 12, 2012
  7. Laura McLellan #

    MLA style is for the humanities. Medical articles should refer to the AMA style: . For social/behavioral science, the APA style: .

    October 4, 2012

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