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Wikipedia talk:Citing sources

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Why doesn't Wikipedia require everyone to use exactly the same style for formatting citations on every single article, regardless of the subject?
Different academic disciplines use different styles because they have different needs and interests. Variations include differences in the choice of information to include, the order in which the information is presented, the punctuation, and the name of the section headings under which the information is presented. There is no house style on Wikipedia, and the community does not want to have the holy war that will happen if we tell people that they must use the style preferred by scientists in articles about history or the style preferred by artists when writing about science. Editors should choose a style that they believe is appropriate for the individual article in question and should never edit-war over the style of citations.
What styles are commonly used?
There are many published style manuals. For British English the Oxford Style Manual is the authoritative source. For American English the Chicago Manual of Style is commonly used by historians and in the fine arts. Other US style guides include APA style which is used by sociologists and psychologists, and The MLA Style Manual which is used in humanities. The Council of Science Editors and Vancouver styles are popular with scientists. Editors on Wikipedia may use any style they like, including styles they have made up themselves. It is unusual for Wikipedia articles to strictly adhere to a formally published academic style.
Isn't everyone required to use clickable footnotes like this[1] in every single article?
Footnotes (also called "<ref> tags") are popular but not required. The purpose of an inline citation is to provide information about where that material came from. Any system that allows someone to figure out which source supports which material achieves that goal and is therefore acceptable. Other styles, such as parenthetical citations, are simpler for new users to understand, are commonly taught in schools, and may be the style preferred by the relevant academic discipline.
Why doesn't Wikipedia require everyone to use citation templates in every single article?
Citation templates have advantages and disadvantages. They provide machine-readable meta data and can be used by editors who don't know how to properly order and format a citation. However, they are intimidating and confusing to most new users, and, if more than a few dozen are used, they make the pages noticeably slower to load. Editors should use their best judgment to decide which format best suits each specific article.
Isn't there a rule that every single sentence requires an inline citation?
No. Wikipedia:Verifiability requires citations based on the content rather than the grammar. Sometimes, one sentence will require multiple inline citations. In other instances, a whole paragraph will not require any inline citations.
Aren't general references prohibited?
A general reference is a citation listed at the end of an article, without any system for linking it to a particular bit of material. In an article that contains more than a couple of sentences, it is more difficult to maintain text-source integrity without using inline citations, but general references can be useful and are not banned. However, they are not adequate if the material is one of four types of content requiring an inline citation. The article Early life of Joseph Smith, Jr. is an example of a featured article that uses some general references.
Can I cite a sign?
Yes, signs, including gravestones, that are displayed in public are considered publications. If the article is using citation templates, then use {{cite sign}}. You may also cite works of art, videos, music album liner notes, sheet music, interviews, recorded speeches, podcasts, television episodes, maps, public mailing lists, ship registers, and a wide variety of other things that are published and accessible to the public.


Example with DOI linkEdit

IMHO the example in the section Links and ID numbers is a bad one. Instead of using as an ordinary URL, the DOI should rather be formatted as follows: doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030496. --Leyo 00:04, 1 November 2018 (UTC)

I replaced the example. --Leyo 13:40, 21 November 2018 (UTC)

User:Meteor sandwich yum/Tidy citations.jsEdit

Hi, while using the above script in this edit, in Michael Jackson article, I am continuously being reverted by user Synthwave.94 who thinks that its changing the citation style. However, all this script does is remove extra whitespaces from references and standardizes it. Doesn't it fall within WP:CITEVAR since it does not change any reference formatting but reduces whitespaces thereby reducing size? I think the issue is from the amount of whitespace present in some article which users think that maybe content is being removed. Can someone add their comments? —IB [ Poke ] 13:12, 21 November 2018 (UTC)

Removing white space from citations makes the line wrapping of the Wikimedia source editors, and desktop-based editors that editors may like for large articles, perform poorly. I think the basic goal of the script is misguided and the whole script should just be scrapped.
In addition I reviewed the article history since April 2017 and observed you only edited the article yesterday and today. I suggest you not try to impose your source formatting views upon articles that you have no long-term interest in. Jc3s5h (talk) 17:14, 21 November 2018 (UTC)
IB: I see an issue there, and it is not about "the amount of whitespace present" – which is an extremely trivial matter – but about formatting. Particularly, what has been called "pretty printing". This was a big issue in the programming community back in the 1960s, where one camp (largely managers) claimed that programs with source code that had been "prettily" formatted with a lot of extra whitespace were more reliable and easier to maintain. On the other side, many programmers scoffed at the idea, could even disprove, that adding or removing whitespace made any difference whatsoever in the code the compiler generated. (Readers of an analytical bent will notice that the two positions don't actually intersect.) The issue was settled when it was recognized that the essential factor was clarity: code suitably formatted with extra whitespace is easier to read, easier to comprehend, and makes errors more visible.
Same for WP citation templates: "|last1=Abrahanson|first1=Caroline|last2=Beaudinger|first2=Lionel|last3=Smithson|first3=Lawrence M." is not as easy to read as "|last1= Abrahanson |first1= Caroline |last2= Beaudinger |first2= Lionel |last3= Smithson |first3= Lawrence M."
Which is why I always include the whitespace, and would revert any removal.
The amount of whitespace in an article is a very trivial matter. But its use can be very significant. I agree with Jc3s5h that the basic goal of that script is misguided. If you don't understand why seemingly redundant whitespace is present it is best to not remove it. ♦ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:16, 21 November 2018 (UTC)
Concur with J. Johnson. Before removing whitespace one should consider why it is there. Automated removal does not consider whether the whitespace in a citation template makes it more readable. · · · Peter (Southwood) (talk): 20:11, 27 November 2018 (UTC)
Additional support for J. Johnson. Some editors are of the mistaken belief that removing whitespace somehow saves space. They are mistaken to worry about performance WP:DWAP since Wiki pages are compressed at various levels. Anyone concerned about the size of the article should look at Wikipedia:Article size instead of stripping whitespace. -- (talk) 15:12, 12 January 2019 (UTC)

Discussion: Citation bot removal of publisher and location in cite journalEdit

I have begun an RFC at Help talk:CS1 regarding Citation bot's activity for cite journal publisher and location. Please provide input. --Izno (talk) 16:05, 27 November 2018 (UTC)

" Preventing and repairing dead links"Edit

This section seems a little outdated. Good info to have for DIY editors but if a new editor asked me how to resuscitate dead links, I'd sooner point them to toollabs:iabot and say to check the checkbox when analyzing a single article. The manual advice, as written, would be secondary and methinks it would sit better in a subarticle than as a section in this one. (not watching, please {{ping}}) czar 17:13, 20 December 2018 (UTC)

@Czar: What is the cue in a page history that the bot has been run? --User:Ceyockey (talk to me) 20:16, 20 December 2018 (UTC)
Ceyockey, it leaves a summary like this. I tried iabot after seeing this. It ignored the dead link that I wanted to test it on, although it added archive links to 54 citations that, as far as I have checked, were still live. I'm not sure what its usefulness is. - Donald Albury 21:46, 20 December 2018 (UTC)
  • Thanks, @Donald Albury:. I was hoping it would add a tag, and so it did: "IABotManagementConsole [1.1]" (actual tag name is "OAuth CID: 678"). Says it's made ~36,000 edits to date. --User:Ceyockey (talk to me) 15:41, 24 December 2018 (UTC)
Eh, but that dead link is an edge case—I think iabot ignores links because they only index the publication. You'd want to pull the full citation for that example.
iabot runs on all <ref>-enclosed links. So say an article hasn't been touched since 2010 and all of its links are potentially dead. The bot crawls the refs, determines which are dead and adds links to archives whenever available. (It can also preemptively add archive links, via the aforementioned checkbox.) Works in the vast majority of cases and given how this page is for beginners, I'd recommend that tool over manually figuring out archive services, at least for getting the job done the fastest. czar 07:57, 22 December 2018 (UTC)
I've been manually repairing dead links for years. I was hoping for something that would make that easier, especially when there are multiple dead links in an article. I'll give it another try. And then there are the cases where the Wayback Machine never archived a page, and I have to search for a suitable replacement for the source. It would be nice if there was a bot for that.:) - Donald Albury 15:19, 22 December 2018 (UTC)

Author prominent citationsEdit

I think the citation style guide needs to do more to distinguish between parenthetical referencing, footnotes, and author prominent citations, where the author is specifically mentioned in the text. Footnotes are the more commonly-used style in Wikipedia than parenthetical referencing for good reason. It's more than a preference, and the difference should be explained here. [Here] is an article on academic writing style. It refers to "information prominent citations" and "author prominent citations". In particular, we should discourage the use of inappropriate author prominent citations. They are for when "the focus is on the author as the source of some original idea or information". Such references are often deleted by Wikipedia editors because they appear to give undue weight to one author's point of view. And then an edit war starts. Acedemic papers use parenthetical citation much more often than Wikipedia, because academics write research papers with their peers as the audience, and the style is such that they are contributing to an ongoing dialog in their field. The author is more prominent when the dialog itself and the new contribution the paper is making in the dialog is important. In Wikipedia, the contribution to an academic discourse isn't usually the point. It's a reference on the topic based on currently accepted knowledge. I think it would be helpful to point out that parenthetical citations and author prominent citations are a more academic style for this reason and that footnotes are favored. Only in cases where the topic is discussed in the context of an evolving discourse is the parenthetical or author prominent citation more suited. To simply say it's a matter of preference misses an important distinction between Wikipedia and academic writing, and ignores that fact that footnote style is predominent in Wikipedia articles. Coastside (talk) 16:30, 23 January 2019 (UTC)

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