Wikipedia talk:Parenthetical referencing

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Is this a preferred style??[edit]

Surely this is not a preferred style of referencing on wikpedia? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:24, 22 October 2009 (UTC)

Why not? Editors can use any citation style they like, even including styles they've made up. Wikipedia cares about the practical outcome (readers can figure out what source supports which statement), not about forcing editors in one academic field (like English literature, which uses parenthetical referencing) to use a citations style from an unrelated academic field (like hard sciences, which use numbered footnotes). WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:43, 19 April 2010 (UTC)


While I was investigating Talk:Habanera (music)#Merger proposal, I encountered a mix of footnote and parenthetical referencing methods, including sometimes both for the same reference. This made me wonder about which system to use for the merged article and therefore briefly studied the advantages and disadvantages of each system, since similar as in this old discussion, intuitively it did not make sense to me that 2 systems exist on Wikipedia.
I encountered section Wikipedia:Parenthetical referencing#Pros and cons versus other referencing systems, which points to Author-date referencing#Advantages, for an overview of advantages and disadvantages in general. (Although it was not clear to me initially that this was not a Help page but a regular article).
When I look at that Author-date referencing#Advantages I have the following observations:
  • The first 3 bullets are to a large extend in Wikipedia also covered with footnotes, because when you hover the mouse pointer on top of the footnote number it displays its contents.
  • The last 2 bullets appear to be not or for a big part not applying to Wikipedia, but to parenthetical referencing in other media.
When I look at the remainder of Wikipedia:Parenthetical referencing#Pros and cons versus other referencing systems, I have the following observations:
  • Point 1: Specifically with respect to Wikipedia, parenthetical referencing has the advantage of being very simple. It requires no special knowledge about the MediaWiki software, no arcane codes or tags, and no templates. Any person who could produce this type of reference on a typewriter already has all of the skills and knowledge necessary to produce this type of reference on the English Wikipedia.
    • Observation: For editing WP you need to have a basic understanding of using these codes, tags, etc. There are a lot of other of these needed to know, so it doesn't make a material advantage for parenthetical referencing. Also with the advent of the Visual Editor, this pro is reduced more.
  • Point 2: Parenthetical referencing may be particularly appropriate for articles about humanities, society, arts, and culture. Academics in these areas often prefer parenthetical referencing to footnotes.
    • Observation: (a) See mouse over comment above and (b) IMHO, one of the strengths of Wikipedia is that it's information is good accessible to all (including non academics and strangers to a field) partly due to the a uniform format of information. Besides referencing there are many other things that would be formatted differently in each separate academic area, but in Wikipedia in a similar way. I agree uniform format in this sense should not be too tight, but this ideal might be worthwhile to look into and not dismiss outright.
  • Point 3: Parenthetical referencing may be particularly appropriate for articles about humanities, society, arts, and culture. Academics in these areas often prefer parenthetical referencing to footnotes.
    • Observation: This may be true (although I didn't verify), but is this currently and would it need to be currently also be reflected on Wikipedia? for example in the arts and culture sub field of classical music, and actually most areas of Wikipedia so far I remember, I mainly see footnotes.
My preliminary conclusion on this quick scan seems to be that footnotes are better, because parenthetical method's advantages are not material. But than again this is just a quick scan and I'd expect this is all already elaborately discussed before, but I couldn't find it. Could someone point out if and where such discussion may exist or if not have discussion here or elsewhere? LazyStarryNights (talk) 08:50, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
Re point 1: There's a good example of parenthetical referencing which does use templates at Actuary; this uses {{harv}} extensively, but it's not perfect since the page numbers are sometimes given in the parentheses, sometimes in the full citation in the References section. In this article, parenthetical referencing is used to the total exclusion of those techniques which use <ref>...</ref> and its variants.
The mouse-over only works if at Preferences → Gadgets, you have "Reference Tooltips: Roll over any inline citation to see reference information, instead of having to jump away from the article text." enabled.
If you are the creator of an article, or the first person to add references to an existing unreferenced article, you can use pretty much any style you like. Unless the article is likely to always be short, I normally use Shortened footnotes (as used in NBR 224 and 420 Classes but others don't like that. --Redrose64 (talk) 11:04, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for the break and reply, Redrose. And thanks for pointing out the Actuary example. This is an interesting technique improving on the "traditional" parenthetical referencing by means of the link function. Still I feel the reading is a bit clogged by all the extra inline text. Maybe even slightly more than with the traditional technique, because they are all in blue now so they jump more in sight in relation with the surrounding text.
Based on my own experience, I guess the mouseover setting is by default and I'd expect most users have this activated (assuming most users don't change default setting - not even have an account)?
The Shortened footnotes technique in NBR 224 and 420 Classes looks wonderful in both easy editing and reading. Also besides clicking and going to the short footnote, the mouse over allows clicking to the long footnote at once if you wish. Do you know why others don't like this technique?
ps. That is a terrible train accident, reminds me of the poor people in Santiago de Compostela derailment. LazyStarryNights (talk) 20:53, 27 July 2013 (UTC)

By hand[edit]

"Again, notice that clicking on the inline citation highlights the full citation."

No it doesn't. There is no CSS styling to highlight the target as there is with the templates. ---— Gadget850 (Ed) talk 14:01, 5 March 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── It would highlight if it were handcoded as: (Ritter 2002)

AFAIK, it used to highlight OK if coded as stated in the article. If the nonhighlighting is the result of a recent change, that change must have broken the highlighting in some number of existing handcoded cites. That would not be a good thing. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 02:37, 6 March 2010 (UTC)

See MediaWiki talk:Common.css#Coloring of the cited source missing. ---— Gadget850 (Ed) talk 04:50, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
Related discussion now underway here. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 21:42, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────and at Template talk:Citation#Coloring of the Cited source?. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 21:52, 7 March 2010 (UTC)

Re: By hand: does not highlight the full citation[edit]

Re this edit, my guess is that it has something to do with Mediawiki:Common.css. 2002a> Note the following two examples: [[#Ritter2002a|Ritter 2002a]] and [[#Ritter2002b|Ritter 2002b]], rendering as: Ritter 2002a and Ritter 2002b.

*<cite id=Ritter2002a>body of cite for Ritter2002a.</cite>, rendering as

  • body of cite for Ritter2002a.</nowiki>

and *{{wikicite|ref=Ritter2002b|reference=body of cite}}, rendering as

  • body of cite for Ritter2002b.

In Template:Wikicite, I see <span class="citation wikicite" id={{{ref|"Reference-{{{id}}}"}}}>{{{reference}}}</span>

In MediaWiki:Common.css, I see:

/* Styling for citations */
span.citation, cite {
    font-style: normal;
    word-wrap: break-word;


/* Highlight clicked reference in blue to help navigation */
ol.references > li:target,
span.citation:target { 
    background-color: #DEF;

I'm not a CSS jock, but this looks like it's involved. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 05:36, 27 September 2010 (UTC)

See MediaWiki talk:Common.css/Archive 12#Coloring of the cited source missing. ---— Gadget850 (Ed) talk 06:18, 27 September 2010 (UTC)
I completely forgot about the discussion above. I re-noticed the issue while reviewing the page. ---— Gadget850 (Ed) talk 06:20, 27 September 2010 (UTC)

Page references[edit]

Anyone else find it odd that this guideline and the article Parenthetical referencing both use numeric in-text referencing instead of the reference system they discuss? ---— Gadget850 (Ed) talk 19:21, 31 December 2010 (UTC)

Move to Help[edit]

Propose to move this page to Help:Parenthetical referencing and make it a how-to. ---— Gadget850 (Ed) talk 16:33, 23 September 2011 (UTC)

Strange example[edit]

Any thoughts on this edit? The added "Bauchet" case study doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the page. Does the deleted "MediaWiki extension" section still belong here? -- John of Reading (talk) 15:40, 24 September 2011 (UTC)

The example is puzzling and perhaps spam; it certainly does not illustrate parenthetical referencing. m:Extension:HarvardReferences is neat, but is not installed, thus not useful to our editors. ---— Gadget850 (Ed) talk 17:51, 24 September 2011 (UTC)

Harvard references[edit]

The {{harv}} template is up for deletion: see Wikipedia:Templates for discussion/Log/2012 January 24#Template:Harvard citation. Please comment there. --Redrose64 (talk) 00:03, 25 January 2012 (UTC)

Move to Help[edit]

Since this is really a how-to page, propose this be moved to Help namespace. ---— Gadget850 (Ed) talk 13:27, 6 February 2012 (UTC)

In general, Support, but it's never been clear to me when how-to pages should be in Help: and when they should be in Wikipedia: I did develop the impression that Help: contained the shorter get-you-started versions, whereas Wikipedia: contained the longer this-is-the-real-story versions. This impression has become fuzzier with time. --Redrose64 (talk) 16:11, 6 February 2012 (UTC)
In my opinion: Help pages tell you how to do some process, whereas Wikipedia pages are policies and guidelines. Help pages reference and perhaps interpret policies and guidelines, but do not create them. Help pages were originally transcluded from meta until the meta help pages fell way out of date and became very customized. ---— Gadget850 (Ed) talk 00:23, 7 February 2012 (UTC)
I changed the header from essay to how-to. This page is certainly not an essay. ---— Gadget850 (Ed) talk 17:56, 8 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Comment (tending towards split): I think there is much to be said for "get-you-started" tutorials in Help namespace, where some of the material should be moved. There is also a great need for an in-depth, comprehensive review of various aspects of referencing, for which WT seems the better namespace. However, in both cases I see "parenthetical referencing" a misnomer. The difficulty could be finessed in WT namespace, but in Help there should be a better name.
  Would it be appropriate to make an alternate proposal in this discussion? ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 23:14, 6 February 2012 (UTC)
Sure. ---— Gadget850 (Ed) talk 00:23, 7 February 2012 (UTC)
Okay. Let's see if I can shape some concepts.
  1. I think there is no doubt this "project page" currently suffers from confusion of focus. I think we do need an essay about "parenthetical referencing", describing and clarifying it. But that is distinct from describing how-to use some such system of referencing; that should be in Help space. Wherefore I suggest a split of some form, details pending.
  2. Problem: "Parenthetical referencing" is a misnomer, as the use of parentheses is not the key characteristic of this system of referencing. But what the Help tutorial should be named is unclear, because of a bigger problem: the overall topic (of citation/referencing generally) is confused. Before we can clarify that I think we need to better see what pieces we have. I don't know if we have any kind of map showing all the different pieces (do we?), so my second suggestion: let's build a map of all the pieces we have, or should have, pertaining to the general topic of citation. With that kind of big picture we can better see how to handle particular cases like the current one.
  3. Revising the current page as an essay (i.e., removing the tutorial parts) could proceed independently of writing the tutorial, with the understanding that an improved tutorial of some form is needed,
Are those points generally agreeable? ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 19:48, 8 February 2012 (UTC)

Proposal has been flagged as failed, but I would comment that it wasn't totally without merit, and we should continue discussing how to better organize all this stuff. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 00:39, 22 February 2012 (UTC)

True, but it was apparent this had stalled. Certainly open to other ideas. ---— Gadget850 (Ed) talk 00:43, 22 February 2012 (UTC)

Parenthetical referencing[edit]

Addressing point 3: "Parenthetical referencing" is the standard name for this citation style. It is used in our article on Parenthetical referencing and by a number of style guides. I am not sure wht else we would call this. ---— Gadget850 (Ed) talk 20:02, 8 February 2012 (UTC)

  The problem I have (and I suspect many other people have, though they may not be conscious of it) of parenthetical is that it can be any kind of reference in parentheses (not necessarily author-date style), and implicitly is not any kind of reference (including author-date) not in parentheses.
  The principal style guide that uses this term is Turabian. The fifth edition (1987) noted in the preface that it was introducing "a new chapter on parenthetical referencing and reference lists" (I don't know if it used the term previously). However, CMS-13 (from which Turabian-5 was derived) does not use the term (except incidentally, once or twice?), preferring the more specific "author-date system". Similar for CMS-15. In the limited views I have of CMS-16 the relevant usages (see sec. 15.1 snippet, see also Ch 16 pdf) seem to be predominantly "parenthetical author-date references".
  So is "parenthetical" merely a synonym for "author-date" referencing, which can be used with parentheses, but does not require them? Or does it refer to a more restricted use of author-date that is limited to use in parentheses? I find neither of these satisfactory.
  Indeed, I find it curious when you refer to "this citation style ... used in .. Parenthetical referencing", because both there and in WP:Parenthetical referencing a numbered note system is used. And neither really gives a good demonstration of either parenthetical or author-date referencing use (outside of the examples). That author-date and notes can be, and are, used together further confuses matters. So when you refer to "this citation style" I am perplexed: just what is this style? I don't know what to call it, either, but "parenthetical" doesn't seem helpful. Unless it is qualified "as used in Turabian", which itself seems to have some unstated qualifications.
~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 23:31, 9 February 2012 (UTC)
Did you even read the article? The intro specifically notes that the term "parenthetical" encompasses both the author-date system (which comes in various different flavors: Harvard, versions of Chicago, etc) and the author-title system notable for its use by MLA. Certainly, different proprietary referencing versions are going to use their own lingo. We're aiming for a more broad description of referencing styles in this article. II | (t - c) 01:21, 10 February 2012 (UTC)
Chicago encompasses two systems: Notes and bibliography (NB), similar to our Footnotes system, and author-date which does use various permutations of parenthesis. Author-title and author-page systems are very similar. ---— Gadget850 (Ed) talk 13:04, 10 February 2012 (UTC)
Yes, I have read both the article and the project page. and find both to be inaccurate and misleading. I agree we need a broad description of referencing styles; I am working on it. The point I was addressing was the statement about "parenthetical referencing". I agree with Ed that it is commonly used. But, as I remarked, I find it poorly defined, and even ill-conceived. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 00:27, 11 February 2012 (UTC)
I've written an essay which I hope might clarify both some of the broader issues and the specific issue with "parenthetical referencing". Comments? ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 00:55, 12 February 2012 (UTC)
Your comment on parenthetical referencing is this:

One instance is "parenthetical" because it is set off in parentheses, the other, being set off in a note, is ... notical? At any rate, the use of "parenthetical" as synonymous with "author-date" is incorrect, and unfortunate in confusing what is basically a simple matter; such use should be avoided, even rejected. Also incorrect is the widespread conception that use of the author-date method (of linking the basic reference of a citation to the full reference) and the use of any note system (of moving citations out of the text) are antithetical or exclusive.

First - who is confusing parenthetical as synonymous with author-date? I haven't seen it. Parenthetical is clearly a super-set author-date and author-title, so it is not incorrect to say that someone using an author-date system is using parenthetical referencing. Second, who uses both author-date citations and note citations? I can't recall ever seeing it. I know this was batted around as an idea at Wikipedia, and it might be buried within the thousands of pages at the CMOS, but I've never seen it in practice. I was taught that one of the advantages of author-date is that it makes it more natural to use notes for aside comments. II | (t - c) 17:32, 12 February 2012 (UTC)
  Yes, "superset" is more accurate than "synonymous" (I may revise that). But most editors seem to not make that distinction, and use "parenthetical" interchangeably with "author-date". As to who is confused, we can start with WP:Parenthetical referencing – the parent of this talk page – which starts by making a broad distinction between parenthetical referencing and note systems. And concludes the lede with: "The remainder of this essay focuses on the author-date method." This is also where WP:HARVARD – very much an author-date system – is redirected to. And similar for the Parenthetical referencing article.
  Re your second point: I use both. I use author-date style short citations as links to full references, and endnotes as the places to put those citations. "Author-date" and "notes" are really solutions to different problems, and, contrary to common perception, not mutually exclusive. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 23:13, 12 February 2012 (UTC)
I believe you are referring to Shortened footnotes, which is generally considered a hybrid between Footnotes and Parenthetical referencing. I consider it a separate system, although some mix Footnotes and Shortened footnotes. If this help page is not describing parenthetical referencing, what is it? ---— Gadget850 (Ed) talk 23:28, 12 February 2012 (UTC)
No, neither in what I was referring to, nor Shortened footnotes as a hybrid. But truly a good question, as to what this project page is describing; I ask that myself. "A subset of citation practice on Wikipedia" seems as good as any, but as description it suffers from all of the misconceptions and confusion of its topic. This is why I am trying to revamp our conception of citation. Straighten that out, and a lot of the confusion would go away. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 00:06, 13 February 2012 (UTC)


A comment was made about a map of related topics. How about {{Wikipedia referencing}}?

---— Gadget850 (Ed) talk 16:13, 10 February 2012 (UTC)

That could work. Can we be pretty sure that it is a comprehensive view of citation/referencing? Any notable omissions? ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk)
Everything is a work in progress, but I think it covers most of it. ---— Gadget850 (Ed) talk 00:17, 11 February 2012 (UTC)

Move to Help:Author-date citation style[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: not moved. Jenks24 (talk) 08:28, 7 October 2012 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Parenthetical referencingHelp:Author-date citation style – Request made 5 July 2012 by user:Gadget850 using template:movenotice. Reason given by Gadget850 is "The previous thread wandered off, but there was a lot of merit in the core discussion." -- PBS (talk) 08:42, 8 September 2012 (UTC)

The previous thread wandered off, but there was a lot of merit in the core discussion. I propose we move to Help:Author-date citation style. ---— Gadget850 (Ed) talk 12:18, 29 February 2012 (UTC)


A similar process (in that case a merge) was carried out for Help:Footnotes and Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Footnotes see history of MOS/Footnotes. The intention (as discussed at Manual of Style (footnotes): Merge) is that guidance should be in WP:CITE and the mechanics of the process in the help pages, because having two guidelines that covered the same issue can lead to inconsistencies between the guidelines which leads to confusion on article talk pages.

However as parenthetical referencing does not involve the same level of technical issues and covers more style issues, I am not sure that it is a subject that it should be moved into [[Help:]] -- PBS (talk) 09:20, 8 September 2012 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.