Wikipedia talk:Citing sources

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RFC:Should all claims have a citation?[edit]


There appears to be no support at all for requiring a citation for non-conentious claims, such as the example mentioned by RfC initiator, "Paris is the capital of France". Strong support exists for keeping long-standing consensus and Verifiability policy: "All quotations, and any material whose verifiability has been challenged or is likely to be challenged, must include an inline citation that directly supports the material." Frequently referenced essay Wikipedia:When to cite is also mentioned as giving good advice for this issue. (non-admin closure) Padenton|   17:53, 25 May 2015 (UTC)

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Should all claims, even claims of the type "Paris is the capital of France" have an inline citation to a reliable source? An edit by User:WhatamIdoing and another edit by User:HaeB add the new advice partially reverted a bold change to the long-standing statement, which has been present in this guideline since Kotniski re-wrote its lead back in August 2011: "However, editors are advised to provide citations for all material added to Wikipedia; any unsourced material risks being unexpectedly challenged or eventually removed." Jc3s5h (talk) 14:41, 18 April 2015 (UTC)

Comment I am a little confused by the responses of 'oppose', when this appears to be a 'yes/no' question? Cinderella157 (talk) 06:11, 20 April 2015 (UTC)
They are opposing the inclusion of this rather strong statement. WhatamIdoing (talk) 06:46, 29 April 2015 (UTC)

Discussion of all claims having a citation[edit]

  • No. Citing well-known uncontroversial claims adds a clutter of footnote numbers or parenthetical citations for the reader, clutters the wikitext for editors, and makes it very difficult for editors to edit because they may not have a collection of elementary school textbooks to support claims that are too well known to be mentioned in reference works intended for adults. Jc3s5h (talk) 14:41, 18 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose The existing policy, which has been in force for as long as I can remember, is that all facts are "attributable", i.e. editors must provide sources to back them when requested to do so. (talk) 15:06, 18 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose the edits for being ambiguous, incomplete, and even over-arching, and certainly undiscussed. A rollback might be appropriate. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 19:42, 18 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Comment: Did we not formerly have a clear summary statement that citation is required for direct quotations, close paraphrases, controversial claims, and material challenged or likely to be challenged? Have we not formerly distinguished verifiability (as potentiality) from actual attribution (citation)?
    There has been a long chain of edits, but especially in the last three weeks, which however well-intended, and however obviously good they seem to individual editors, have not been discussed, and are not reconciled with other viewpoints. All these divergent interpretations of material poorly conceived in the first place has led to a large increase of muddledness. It seems necessary to have yet another deep, intense discussion of interpretatons and concepts, and of structure and approporiate level of prose. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 19:42, 18 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Jc3s5h, you have inadvertently mis-reported the facts; I have corrected the RFC statement accordingly. I have no love for this sentence or for its distortion of the line between what is verified and what is verifiable. However, I didn't write it, and if you (all) didn't notice that it's been present in this guideline for the last four years, then that's certainly not my fault. WhatamIdoing (talk) 22:44, 19 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Requiring citaton after every sentence or every individual "fact" or piece of information no matter what context is imho the notion that we can have a foolproof formal verification approach, but that is in practice hardly workable and just creates a formalistic bureaucratic mess.--Kmhkmh (talk) 23:22, 19 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Comment: I support the notion that everything in Wikipedia should be verifiable at the point of reading (verifiable in place = citation in close proximity). However, the current citation system makes that difficult without detracting from the readability of the articles, as well as degrading their writability. There are two main problems with the citation system which, if solved, could go a long way toward satisfying everyone. The first I'll refer to as the "text block boundary problem". Citations typically follow assertions they support, and punctuation provides a visible boundary in English which helps to separate those assertions. However, in an electronic medium, we need not be limited by English punctuation as the delimiter. If we could arbitrarily designate text blocks which are supported by a citation, that would, for instance, allow us to cite at the paragraph or section level, which would go a LOOONG way toward decreasing citeclutter. This is sort of the opposite approach to deconvoluting text into discrete facts; it's rather saying "write it so it is good, then overlay citations to support what you've written ... we are not there with the current citation system. The second I'll refer to as the "citation reusability problem". Citations are only reuseable within a single article at present. Relieving ourselves of that so that one citation can be reused across multiple articles would reduce the amount of wikitext required in each article, thus reducing citeclutter further; though the impact of this would be much less than the first citation approach revision. --User:Ceyockey (talk to me) 02:07, 20 April 2015 (UTC)
  • No In an article I had been working on, I had referenced (as a footnote 3 key references. I then provided specific citations for critical details abd for material from other sources. This was deemed unacceptable. In consequence, the article citations increased from about 300 by about 2.5 times. There are other ways to skin a cat. Linked articles must be verifiable but are not considered verifiable? The current criteria (in their application) are somewhat arbitrary and arbitrarily applied to assess the quality of an article. An article with a citation at the end of each paragraph is nominally fully referenced - even if the reference only supports (or doesn't) the last sentence. But two paragraphs, where the second is a quote (complete with citation) that supports the first paragraph isn't properly referenced unless it too has the (same) citation added. I would add that, as well as quotations: dates, times and specific numbers are also critical pieces of information and need to have citations in line where the information is given. Articles should be able to withstand scrutiny wrt the 'accuracy' of information; however, it should not become an absurd, pedantic, dogmatic exercise. Cinderella157 (talk) 06:50, 20 April 2015 (UTC)
    • I think it is accepted both in Wikipedia and in scholarly writing in general that if a claim is repeated (for the readers convenience) in more than one location in an article, it is only necessary to provide a citation for one instance. That's assuming the claim even needs a citation; widely known facts don't need citations at all. But it's also accepted that each Wikipedia should be self-sufficient with citations. As for Cinerella157's question "Linked articles must be verifiable but are not considered verifiable?" indeed, Wikipedia is not a reliable source so a link to another Wikipedia article doesn't count as a citation, it's just a navigation aid. Jc3s5h (talk) 14:39, 20 April 2015 (UTC)
      • This was not a question but an observation. I understand the argument that is made for not relying on links. As an example, I refer to the following sentence: " Colonel Leif Sverdrup was awarded the Silver Star[76] and the Distinguished Service Medal[77] for his efforts in reconnaissance and construction of air strips in New Guinea, including those at Fasari, Embessa and Pongani.[78]" I do not believe this to be particularly controversial. Initially, I presumed this was supported by the link, which covered the matter in detail and is fully referenced. The three references were subsequently added when it was pointed out that the link was insufficient.
      • On the presumption that something (claim, direct quote, paraphrase, etc.) needs to be cited, I think every instance should be cited. This is partly to avoid the problem of a shared citation being deleted, but also because citations should be close to the material cited, so that the reader does not have to search through the article for them. But perhaps you were thinking of full citations? Only one of those is needed per source, with specific citation [verb] using a short cite to the full citation. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 23:38, 20 April 2015 (UTC)
        • I have referred to a section (and sub-sections) in an article which was a sequence of events compiled from three sources, which are themselves, sequences of events. These were cited once for the section with the note that the section had been compiled from these sources. In line citations were then added for 'critical' information or information drawn from other sources. Some paragraphs may not have had any in-line citation but were supported by this note. This was replaced with more 'conventional' (by WP standards) in-line (short) citations. In consequence, virtually every sentence and sometimes individual phrases had to be individually cited - frequently linking to multiple references. There was no increase in verifiability. It was more a matter of appearance and satisfying a particular interpretation of the WP policy which appears to be widely held. Furthermore, this 'standard' appears to be applied quite arbitrarily as a big stick, without reference to the actual verifiability or controversial nature of material. Cinderella157 (talk) 03:55, 21 April 2015 (UTC)
  • No. Inline cites for noncontroversial basic knowledge interfere with readability and exposition. When the same fact appears in nearly identical terms in 15 different basic references, it's kind of silly to pick one over the others. This is an especially acute problem in articles on mature areas of mathematics and science, which should use facts distilled from general references. For material closer to the state of the art, a greater density of inline cites may be useful. --Trovatore (talk) 23:57, 20 April 2015 (UTC)
    • An inapplicable comment, as "noncontroversial basic knowledge" does not require citation in the first place. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 00:20, 21 April 2015 (UTC)
      • The current version of the guideline says otherwise. Well almost. The current version says "editors are advised to provide citations for all material added to Wikipedia" [emphasis added]. Jc3s5h (talk) 00:56, 21 April 2015 (UTC)
  • No - the following two essays explain it well: Wikipedia:When_to_cite and Wikipedia:You_do_need_to_cite_that_the_sky_is_blue Atsme ☎️ 📧 00:44, 13 May 2015 (UTC)

@Jc3s5h::@Trovatore::@Kmhkmh: please see here - [1] or else just WP:POLCON - on disagreement in understanding guidelines and policy. Since it's possible the wikipedia pages are in conflict in any case, which means nobody is relying on a sound agreement to begin with, unless they understand that fact.
  • No: Claims that are not challenged or likely to be challenged are probably common knowledge or obvious, and thus, an inline citation just is unnecessary. For the "Paris" example, very few reasonable people will ever challenge the fact that Paris is the capital of France, and the article on Paris can be wikilinked for the tiny minority that challenge it. Esquivalience t 23:52, 15 May 2015 (UTC)

Relevant policy[edit]

The following information represents things which i thought important for the discussion - including the locations and some copies (with highlights) from within wikipedia which i found relevant to a discussion on whether claims should have citations, which i made in order that any discussion might proceed on the basis of evidence and actual facts of the subject under discussion, which all interested persons might together be able see easily, therefore obvious and known to everyone. Whalestate (talk) 20:37, 19 April 2015 (UTC)

key words[edit]

verifiable[edit] - "Make sure or demonstrate that (something) is true, accurate, or justified" - Middle English (as a legal term): from Old French verifier, from medieval Latin verificare, from verus 'true'.

synonymous meaning - - substantiate, confirm, prove, show to be true, corroborate, back up, support, uphold, evidence, establish, demonstrate, demonstrate the truth of, show, show beyond doubt, attest to, testify to, validate, authenticate, endorse, certify, accredit, ratify, warrant, vouch for, bear out, bear witness to, give credence to, give force to, give/lend weight to, justify, vindicate; make sure, make certain, check

see also :

Five pillars[edit]


The fundamental principles of Wikipedia.....

pillar 3. An essential part of something that provides support.

Second pillar[edit]

Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view ...

All articles must strive for verifiable accuracy, citing reliable, authoritative sources, especially when the topic is controversial or is on living persons.

Third pillar[edit]

Wikipedia is free content that anyone can use, edit, and distribute ...

Respect copyright laws, and never plagiarize from sources. Borrowing non-free media is sometimes allowed as fair use, but strive to find free alternatives first.

Fifth pillar[edit]

Wikipedia has no firm rules ...

Wikipedia has policies and guidelines, but they are not carved in stone; their content and interpretation can evolve over time. Their principles and spirit matter more than their literal wording, and sometimes improving Wikipedia requires making an exception





The English Wikipedia does not have a single, definitive statement of the community's values and principles

Wikipedia:Core content policies[edit]


2.Verifiability (WP:VER) – Material challenged or likely to be challenged, and all quotations, must be attributed to a reliable, published source. In Wikipedia, verifiability means that people reading and editing the encyclopedia can check that information comes from a reliable source.

3.No original research (WP:NOR) Wikipedia does not publish original thought: all material in Wikipedia must be attributable to a reliable, published source. Articles may not contain any new analysis or synthesis of published material that serves to advance a position not clearly advanced by the sources.



"This page in a nutshell:Readers must be able to check that Wikipedia articles are not just made up. This means that all quotations and any material challenged or likely to be challenged must be attributed to a reliable, published source using an inline citation."

"Even if you're sure something is true, it must be verifiable before you can add it.[1 - This principle was previously expressed on this policy page as "the threshold for inclusion is verifiability, not truth." See the essay, WP:Verifiability, not truth

Wikipedia:Verifiability, not truth[edit]

This page in a nutshell: Any material added to Wikipedia must have been published previously by a reliable source.

Editors may not add or delete content solely because they believe it is true. actually i just re-wrote this statement, since it is written incorrectly, i'm sure, in edit 18:35, 19 April 2015

the statement now reads:

Editors may not add content solely because they believe it is true, nor delete content they believe to be untrue, unless they have verified this firstly with a source

the 18:35, 19 April re-write is in no way a change of policy, it is just the correct wording of the policy, as it stands. Whalestate (talk) 18:49, 19 April 2015 (UTC)

  • Comment – I think there are a few problems with the "Editors may not..." part. As a minor point, "Firstly" is kind of stilted. Also, the "unless" doesn't follow. If editors have verified the content beforehand, then they aren't adding or deleting solely because of what they believe. Finally, I don't care so much for "Editors may not..." as the nutshell of this policy. I contributed to Wikipedia for several years before I got around to reading the policies, and nobody complained. Instead of the policies, I read the MOS. That's because the MOS contains information that is actually useful for someone who wants to contribute to the encyclopedia, instead of being a list of things that are forbidden. I think it would be nice if we had more suggestions about how to write good content and less of the "Editors may not..." attitude. That is, if we want editors to actually read the policies. – Margin1522 (talk) 19:59, 19 April 2015 (UTC)|

Zero information is preferred to misleading or false information (statement of Jimmy Wales 2006)[edit]

"...There seems to be a terrible bias among some editors that some sort of random speculative "I heard it somewhere" pseudo information is to be tagged with a "needs a cite" tag. Wrong. It should be removed, aggressively, unless it can be sourced." (note 5 of — Preceding unsigned comment added by Whalestate (talkcontribs) 18:45, 19 April 2015

@Whalestate:, you have inserted a third-level heading, Relevant policy, under the second level heading RFC:Should all claims have a citation?, which makes your stuff part of that discussion. But your stuff seems to have nothing to do with the RFC; indeed, I can't figure out what it is about. Compose an appropriate introduction to your stuff and move it to an appropriate heading. Jc3s5h (talk) 20:29, 19 April 2015 (UTC)

@Jc3s5h: I have added a comment at the place you linked Whalestate (talk) 20:40, 19 April 2015 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Formatting titles of journal articles and book chapters in references[edit]

I've asked a question on the above over at WT:MOS. Aa77zz (talk) 17:08, 18 May 2015 (UTC)

How should I avoid the "citation needed" item on inline links to web pages.[edit]


Paragraph "Language Support" shows a typical reference to a computing source that is entirely web based.

A typical example is:

The C language library math.h provides the function nextafter to calculate the next double.[citation needed]

and displays the "citation needed" at the end of the line.

However the link itself is the citation (and it known 'good'), so the comment is unhelpful clutter.

Adding a ref that would generate a superscript number means lots of duplication of information and doesn't help the reader at all.

(The other links are similar).

Please can someone advise how this should better/best be handled.

Thank you.

Paul A Bristow (talk) 13:23, 26 May 2015 (UTC)

There are two problems.
The first problem was with the "Unit in the last place" article as it existed before your edit today. As an example, the "Language support" section has three claims, and some editor marked each of them with the {{fact|date=March 2015}} template. You say "However the link itself is the citation". What link? All the links in that section, except Math.ulp(double) and Math.ulp(float) are links to Wikipedia articles, and Wikipedia articles are not considered reliable sources; they don't count as citations.
The second problem is that your edit today caused the citation needed template to be associated with a different claim than before your edit, but you did not resolve the problem with the original claim. Jc3s5h (talk) 14:33, 26 May 2015 (UTC)

OK - I see now that you don't allow 'self-reference' to anything in Wikipedia.

So does the float_distance reference 5 now meet the Wikipedia desiderata?

(The one below on ulp below does still need a citation, but this will only be possible when the next Boost version comes out and a full link can be provided).

(We still have a problem with providing an up-to-date link to the most recent version, but that's another issue that I am persuing elsewhere - now fixed). Paul A Bristow (talk) 11:52, 27 May 2015 (UTC)

WP:CITEVAR and "changing reference style"[edit]

Any comments on this and this as edits?

We have a policy that says we "should not attempt to change an article's established citation style ". As I read this, it's about the presented format of a citation for the reader. There are good reasons for this.

So is a revert, like the series noted above, a good or bad thing? If a new ref is added, and (for reasons of easy source code editing) it's laid out as a {{Cite book}} template within the {{Reflist}}, with line breaks between parameters, should that be reverted as "don't mix WP:LDR with normal named refs; and the article wasn't using LDR before, so please don't introduce it without discussion"? Is that preserving "an article's established citation style ", or is it just nitpicking too enforce the reverter's personal whim upon other editors? See also User talk:Andy Dingley#The Bristolian (train)

Thanks for any comment Andy Dingley (talk) 09:24, 28 May 2015 (UTC)

I certainly don't read CITEVAR as only referring to the style as visible to readers. Like most editors, there are some styles/templates I can use and others I can't. If a driveby editor changes the style (normally without changing any actual text) I would be prevented from making future edits consistent with the "new" style. This has happened in the past when I did not spot a template bandit until after many intervening changes. Equally CITEVAR doesn't imo support reverting a useful text addition using a different citation style (I have to admit I sometimes do these). I'm not wholly clear what's going on here, & can't be bothered to excavate, but I think I agree with the reverter, as you seem to be templating up an existing ref, no? This is a bit clearer, & I agree with him. Johnbod (talk) 11:21, 28 May 2015 (UTC)
As stated already, this was the addition of a new reference. I have a narrow interest and a large personal library. So I make a lot of edits that are to add new references. I find that a couple of other editors (not many, but these few are persistent) keep changing the format of my added references.
The point in this particular case was about list-defined refs (WP:LDR), where the bulk of a citation is placed at the foot of the article, making it easier to find for future editors. In both cases, it used the same {{cite}} template. As LDR is invisible to the reader, and irrelevant to anyone editing the other refs (it affects each ref separately, not "the article" overall), there is no reason at all it should fall under CITEVAR, other than an admin pulling the "my way or the highway" attitude.
As to your other point, then editing should be accessible, so technical arcana are a problem. However I don't see this as a problem for editing existing template calls. It's quite easy for someone who has little idea about templates to take an existing example and change its parameters - changing a page number, title casing a pasted-in uppercase title, turning a newspaper name into a wikilink, that sort of thing is obvious. Easier even than remembering the Harvard ordering for citation parts, or hand-editing MARC. I agree that the vast pile of {{efn-lr}} / {{refn}} / {{sfnp}} / {{harvid}} / {{harvnb}} / {{harvp}} can be confusing as to which to choose, but even there: once added it's quite easy to work with them or change the parameters.
As to whitespace in ref template calls, then this has clear readability benefits for future editors having to do manual editing. A linebreak between parameters is clear and size-efficient. One byte for a linefeed character consumes less space than the space padding that many editors place around the param bar |. Andy Dingley (talk) 11:59, 28 May 2015 (UTC)
I'm afrwid that I don't regard WP:CITEVAR as applying just to the visible citation as presented to readers, but to the citation markup as well. Converting a manual citation to a Cite XX template that produces the same output (until the template changes, at least) is a change in citation style. I happen to like LDRs and on several occasions when I have drafted an article using LDRs throughout I placed a note on the talk pagr not to change this without discussion leading to a changed consensus. Moreover, LDRs are not an unmixed benefit -- they are not friendly to section editing. There is no way to add a new ref using LDRs without either editing the entire article (usually a bad idea for large articles) or else having a cite error present briefly. As for line feeds in a cite template, i would like them in an LDR, bit not inline. They separate the parameters nicely, but they take up far too much vertical room in the edit box for my taste. Diferent editors have different prefernces, but local consensus should govern on any given article. DES (talk) 12:24, 28 May 2015 (UTC)
I believe consensus is required to use LDR in an article that does not yet use that technique. Help:List-defined references says "After gaining consensus, reference styles may be converted from or to List-defined references". It also states "List-defined references and references defined in the body of the article may be mixed on a page - this is not a technical limitation of the template. However, this may be confusing to ongoing editors."
In the "Avoiding clutter" section of this guideline, it mentions LDR as a method to avoid clutter, and goes on to say "As with other citation formats, articles should not undergo large-scale conversion between formats without consensus to do so." Jc3s5h (talk) 12:30, 28 May 2015 (UTC)