When you’re doing research on a topic, it’s vital to ensure your sources are up to date. If you’re writing an academic paper, dates of publication are often required in the citations.
The majority of the time, getting the date is easy: simply look on the site and find the published date to find how recent it was. Things get a little more complicated when there is no date listed on the webpage. When this happens, how do you know when the page was published?
In and Around the Page Itself
The first port of call when looking for the publishing date of a webpage is on and around the page itself. Most of the time the publishing date of an article should be written alongside the author’s name just above the article. In rarer instances, this information could be below the article.
A less precise, but still useful, way of estimating the publishing date of a webpage is to look at the comments. When was the first comment written? This will give you an idea of how dated an article is and therefore how relevant the information is that is contained therein.
Finally, some blogs and sites automatically format the article date into the page URL, so sneak a peak at the address bar to see if you can find any clues.
Via the Source Code
1. Go to the website of the article you wish to cite and open the webpage for the article.
2. Right-click on this webpage and a list of options will appear in a pop-up menu. Scroll down this list until you see the “View page source” option and tap on it.
3. The layout of the webpage will be rearranged and a panel will open to the right revealing the source code for the page. This is the HTML code that is executed by the browser in order to display the version of the page that appears on your screen. Every detail regarding the creation and layout of the webpage is mentioned in the source code if you know what to look for.
4. After opening the page source, use the shortcut Ctrl + F to open the search bar.
5. In the bar, type “Publish” to highlight every line in the source code where the word is used.
All you have to do is read the full line wherever the word “Publish” is included. One of these lines will carry the date of creation of the webpage.
Also, you can search for “Modified” and follow the same steps as above to discover the dates the article was modified.
You can get Google to display the publication date of webpages via a simple search. First, head to the Google site. Then, type
inurl: and plug in the webpage immediately after it. This will bring up a search result with your webpage in it.
Go to the address bar and add
&as_qdr=y15 to the end of it, then press Enter. When the page loads, you’ll see that the search result for the website now has the publication date assigned to it.
Using the Wayback Machine
The Wayback Machine is a site that keeps tabs on how websites progress over the years. If a webpage isn’t too popular, it might not appear in the Wayback Machine; however, if you do get a hit from the machine, you can get a rough estimate of when the webpage was published.
First, head to the Wayback Machine, then enter the address of the site you want to check into the address bar on the site.
When you click “Browse History,” the Wayback Machine will do a check to see if it can find logs of the website. If it does, it’ll display a calendar showing all the snapshots it has collected. Find the earliest possible date for a rough estimate of when the page was published; at the very least, you’ll know the page at least existed during that period!
Using Carbon Dating the Web
Carbon Dating the Web is a handy tool that gets a rough estimate of when the webpage was created. When its developers tested it on pages where the creation date was known, it had a 75 percent success rate when guessing when it was made. It’s very easy to use: simply plug the webpage’s URL into the box and click “Carbon Date!”
The site will then give you an estimated creation date for the site you provided.
You can even download the Carbon Dating the Web application for local use, should you find yourself doing a lot of searches. Just click the link on the site to download.
- Sometimes the section of the webpage that carries the short bio of the author of the article can have the date of publication of the article mentioned directly above it.
- The URL of a website might mention the date of publication of the article if it is a detailed URL instead of a shortened version that many sites use.
- The comment section can also give you hints. Look for the oldest comment underneath the article; chances are the article was published within a few days of that comment being posted.
Regardless of whether you’re doing research for a paper or just want to know how current a webpage is, it can be frustrating when the webmaster doesn’t add a date to their articles. Thankfully, there are ways to get a rough idea of when a page went up. It may not be precise 100 percent of the time, but it can give you a good idea how topical the article is.
Which method do you like the best? Do you know of a method that we missed? Let us know below.