I couldn't find anything on this one, so maybe someone has a good idea on what would be considered good practice in a scholarly context.


For a semester project, I have to observe an online newspaper and summarize their weekly topics. Each week I have to submit a short note containing my findings and analysis, and of course quote the source properly according to the Chicago style.

However, the website was down for a day or so and I would like to have that documented. But how to document and cite absence?

  • Thanks everyone for the great answers! I think all answers are valuable for answering the question. April's suggestions are helpful for precise documentation.
    – Paul
    Mar 13, 2019 at 21:05

3 Answers 3


I would follow the convention in the natural sciences to explain the extent and cause of missing data in the method section where data collection is described.

E.g.: "Data was collected by visiting www.thesite.com at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. every day from August 2nd to 8th. The website was down and no data could be collected on August 4th."

You don't need proof in the form of screenshots or server logs. Missing data is common in data sciences, e.g. when participants forget to fill in a form or one of your lab rats dies. That's the normal course of science, and all you have to do is describe your data collection in sufficient detail to make replication of your experiment possible.

  • They probably shouldn't replicate the missing data, they should be able to understand why the data is the way it is. Mar 12, 2019 at 23:44
  • 3
    @MooingDuck "...or one of your lab rats dies." Reminds me of the joke report, "1/3 of the test subjects showed significantly improved navigational skills, and1/3 showed modest improvement. The other one ran away because Josh left the cage door unlocked."
    – Amadeus
    Mar 13, 2019 at 10:07

As a former university professor at one university, and now a full time research scientist at another, I would just add a footnote for any weeks in which the site was down. As a note, which is what they were invented for.

So "Week 7: Mar 11-17[1] The following headlines were gathered:

blah blah blah

And in the footnote:

[1]The site was inaccessible Mar 12, thus no data is shown for that date.

You can do the same for any other time missing, in hours if needed, or specify the times if you wish. The above is just a formatting example.


Did you take screenshots of it being down? Does the site have an errors log? Is there a site you checked those days to make sure it wasn't just you? (https://www.isitdownrightnow.com/ and https://downforeveryoneorjustme.com/ are a few).

If the site is consistently archived on Archive.org's Wayback Machine, if you can show that on days surrounding it, there is an image of the site, but on the down-day, it shows just a (whatever) error, then that's another piece of evidence.

Whatever you use, then just cite it like any other website. If you did screenshots as evidence, then I would include those as an appendix.

(source - I used to teach Technical Writing at a local university)

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