Help:Citing sources

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A citation is a line of text that uniquely identifies a source. For example:

When to cite sources: Sources should be cited when adding material that is challenged or likely to be challenged, when quoting someone, when adding material to the biography of a living person, and when uploading an image.

How to format citations: While you should try to format a citation correctly, what matters is that you add your source; provide enough information to identify the source, and others will improve the formatting if needed.

How to present citations: Each article should use the same method throughout. If an article already has citations, adopt the method in use or seek consensus before changing it.

How to format citations

This section describes how to put together the text of a citation. Before you add it to a page, you may need to enclose it in tags or add an additional shortened version to the article.

Citation styles

There are a number of citation styles. They all include the same information but vary in punctuation and the order of the author's name, publication date, title, and page numbers. Any of these styles is acceptable on so long as each article is internally consistent. You should follow the style already established in an article, if it has one; where there is disagreement, the style used by the first editor to use one should be respected.

Full citations for books typically include:

  • name of the author(s)
  • title of the book in italics
  • name of the publisher
  • year of publication, and page number(s) where appropriate
  • city of publication and ISBN are optional
Full citations for individually authored chapters in books additionally include:
  • the book's overall editor
  • the title of the chapter
  • the page numbers for the chapter

Full citations for journal articles typically include:

  • name of the author(s)
  • year and sometimes month of publication
  • title of the article within quotation marks
  • name of the journal in italics
  • volume number, issue number (if the journal uses them), and page numbers (article numbers in some electronic journals)

Citations for newspaper articles typically include:

  • name of the newspaper in italics (required)
  • date of publication (required)
  • byline (author's name), if any
  • title of the article within quotation marks
  • city of publication, if not included in name of newspaper
  • the date you retrieved it if it is online, invisible to the reader: <!--accessed: date-->
  • page number(s) are optional

Citations for World Wide Web articles typically include:

  • name of the author(s)
  • title of the article within quotation marks
  • name of the website (linked to a Wikipedia article about the site if it exists, or to Website's "about page")
  • date of publication
  • page number(s) (if applicable)
  • the date you retrieved it (invisible to the reader if the article has a date of publication: <!--accessed: date-->)

How to present citations

Citations are usually presented within articles in many different ways. Below are the two most common ways:

  1. General reference: By placing the citation in a list at the end of an article.
  2. Footnote: By placing it in a footnote, with a link following the assertion (whether a clause, sentence, paragraph, etc.) that it supports.[1]

Editors are free to use any method; no method is preferred, though the use of embedded links for inline citations is not particularly recommended as a method of best practice and is not generally found in featured articles.

General reference

If a source supports a significant amount of the material in an article, it may sometimes be acceptable to simply add the citation at the end. It serves as a general reference, not linked to any particular part of the article. This is more likely to be appropriate for relatively undeveloped articles or those covering a very simple or narrow topic.

The Sun is pretty big, but the Moon is not so big. The Sun is also quite hot.
== References ==
*Brown, R (2006). "Size of the Moon", ''Scientific American'', 51(78).
*Miller, E (2005). ''The Sun'', Academic Press.</span>

Below is how this would look once the edit was saved (note book/magazine titles italicized):

The Sun is pretty big, but the Moon is not so big. The Sun is also quite hot.


  • Brown, R (2006). "Size of the Moon", Scientific American, 51(78).
  • Miller, E (2005). The Sun, Academic Press.

Inline citation

In most cases, an inline citation is required in addition to the full citation. This shows which specific part of the article a citation is being applied to. An inline citation should appear next to material that it supports; if the same material occurs more than once, the citation should be next to at least one of the occurrences.

Footnote system

Many pages, particularly the more developed articles and those which meet good or featured wiki page criteria, place their citations in footnotes. The inline citations in this method appear as small clickable numbers within the text, which link to a numbered list of full citations in footnotes at the end of the article.

For a citation to appear in a footnote, it needs to be enclosed in "ref" tags. You can add these by typing <ref> at the front of the citation and </ref> at the end. Alternatively, you may notice below the edit box there is a list of "markup" which includes <ref></ref> – if you highlight your whole citation and then click this markup, it will automatically enclose your citation in ref tags. Optionally, one may add the name attribute by using <ref name="name">details of the citation</ref>. Thereafter, the same footnote may be used multiple times by adding <ref name="name"/>. Some names require the use of straight quotation marks, and it is never wrong to use them.

The full citation will appear in an appendix to the article. If this appendix does not already exist, create the appendix and place either <references/> or {{Reflist}} in it.

The example below shows what this would look like in the edit box:

The Sun is pretty big,<ref>Miller, E: ''The Sun'', page 23. Academic Press, 2005.</ref>
but the Moon is not so big.<ref>Brown, R: "Size of the Moon", ''Scientific American'', 51(78):46</ref>
The Sun is also quite hot.<ref>Miller, E: ''The Sun'', page 34. Academic Press, 2005.</ref>

Below is how this would look in the article, once you had saved your edit:

The Sun is pretty big,[1] but the Moon is not so big.[2] The Sun is also quite hot.[3]


  1. ^ Miller, E: The Sun, page 23. Academic Press, 2005.
  2. ^ Brown, R: "Size of the Moon", Scientific American, 51(78):46.
  3. ^ Miller, E: The Sun, page 34. Academic Press, 2005.

Examples of citations

  1. Ritter, R. (2002). The Oxford Style Manual. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-198-60564-1.