User:Beetstra/On linking

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Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit.[citation needed] The information in this encyclopedia is therefore not always reliable, and since we don't know which information is reliable, we should regard all of its information as unreliable.[1]

Improving the reliability of wikipedia as a source can be achieved by citing sources and linking to external sources that contain more information about the subject. Here we discuss the reliability and appropriateness of all links to sources, i.e. links to every form of data either contained on mediawiki sources,A other online sources, or to non-online sources (books, magazines).

Throughout this document, links are any form of pointer that relate a statement to a source not contained in the same document, internal links are links to documents within mediawiki, links that contain a hyperlink to the external source are called external links. (needs clarification)

The document contains generic references (which do not lead anywhere), all formatted as ref. External links which are meant as an example link to

Policies and guidelines[edit]

With regard to links to external information we have several policies and guidelines that (in whole or in part) discuss linking to sources:

  1. What wikipedia is not (policy)
  2. Attribution (policy)
  3. Verifyability (policy)
  4. Reliable sources (guideline)
  5. External links (guideline)
  6. Spam (guideline)
  7. WP:COPYRIGHT (policy)


Links should never be meant to tunnel people away from the wikipedia. This means that proper use of links is:

  • to attribute the information contained in the wikipedia. That is, the text in the wikipedia should be sufficient to understand the subject, the link to the source is meant so that we are able to verify a statement, not that the link is needed to read or verify the statement.
  • to provide a resource that contains more, on-topic, information that gives a broader overview or covers the subject in a broader context ('further reading'), or documents that provide information that is on-topic, but that can not be included into the document ('external links').

Other reasons to minimise external linking[edit]

Although wikipedia is not a paper encyclopedia, information on external links would not be available in CD and paper versions of the wikipedia. People who do not have an internet connection would be void of this information. This again argues for including information in the wikipedia and refer to reliable sources when necessery. That means that information in the wikipedia is reliable, and that the information can be verified (though that should not be necessary).

A breakdown of types of links[edit]

Links to sources can take several forms:

  1. Internal links
  2. In the actual text (references)
    1. Links to a unique resource
    2. Links to non-unique resources
    3. Links to related resources which are not fully on-topic.
  3. In further reading or similar sections ('further reading', 'sources', 'references', etc.).
  4. In external links or similar sections ('External link', 'external links', 'links')

Internal links[edit]

The statement "grass is green" (in the document grass) does not need a reference for the color green, that is covered by the internal link. The statement could/should have a link to a source that proves that grass is generally green. That information should be provided by an external source.

References, further reading and external links sections[edit]

Many statements in the text of a document need to be attributed. This means that a link has to be provided to a resource which can be used to verify the information in that statement. The reference in general directly follows the statement, thus (on the article grass): "Grass is green.ref", not "Grass is green. More information on the colour of grass can be found here."B

Resources that provide a broader overview, or provide information that can not be included into an article is often encountered in further reading or external links sections.

Links to a unique resource[edit]

In cases where sources are unique, a link to that unique resource should be provided. This can be done without or with a hyperlink to the document:

  • "Jennifer Couzin wrote an article about opening doors and native knowledge.<ref>Jennifer Couzin, Science, 2007, volume 315, issue 5818, p. 1518-1519</ref>"
  • "Jennifer Couzin wrote an article about opening doors and native knowledge.<ref>Jennifer Couzin, Science, 2007, volume 315, issue 5818, p. 1518-1519, DOI</ref>"

Both uniquely identify the document one is referring to.

Links to non-unique resources[edit]

  • Official, but non-unique
Deeplinks to online copies of books on library websites should be replaced by links to internal (special:booksources) or external (other wikis (wikisource), {{dmoz}}) 'linkfarms'.
  • Non-official, 'genuine copy'
Links to a only copy of a source on e.g. a google group which is not available anywhere else as a online copy (or not vailable at all anywhere else).
  • Non-official, non-unique
Link to a copy of a document that is widely available, and where this non-official site (e.g. Google group) is one of the copies. Note that information on these sites is only verifyable by the original source, which is then a better source than this document.

Links to related resources which are not fully on-topic[edit]

Convenience link[edit]

Other language rules: External links policy on DE wikipedia

A breakdown of adding links[edit]

Ways of adding:

  1. References
    1. Writing a piece of text, and adding a source at the moment of writing
    2. Adding a source to an already written piece of text (including replacement of a {{fact}}-tag
  2. Further reading
    1. Adding a source to a further reading section
  3. External links
    1. Adding a source to an external links section

Spam vs. 'spammy' addition of links[edit]

One of the big problems of the wikipedia is spam. This is mainly the addition of links to external sources to sell products, but can also be a good-faith addition of a link to a number wikipedia documents.

Different forms of spam:

  • links added to directly make money;
  • links added to promote your company;
  • links added to promote your (non-profit) organisation.



  1. Limit the number of links in external links sections to a maximum (e.g. 5; see de:Wikipedia:Weblinks) and make this a policy. All other links must be used as a reference.
  2. (need a way to handle/define e.g. further reading sections as opposed to external links)
  3. Convert all inline links ("link") to references using the mediawiki reference-tags ("link<ref>link</ref>")
  4. Replace references that do not link to a reliable source, or that do not link to a unique resource. When replacement is not possible, either remove the reference and replace it with a {{fact}}-tag, or consider moving the statement with the reference to the talkpage.

This will in the beginning lead to documents which were earlier FA or GA-status being degraded to only A or B class, but in the end it will result in a wikipedia that is more reliable.

References and notes[edit]




  1. Dirk Beetstra T C