Wikipedia:Embedded citations

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An embedded citation or embedded link uses an unnamed link to a URL for an inline citation. The link creates a full-size bracketed number within the rendered text of the sentence, e.g., [1], that takes the reader directly to the external website of the reliable source, rather than to the references section at the end of the article. The term embedded here refers to an external link, while inline refers to any shorthand part in the text which is a referent to the full citation at the end of the article.

An embedded citation offers a one-click-away presentation of the source to the reader. (It does not use reference tags to create a link to a footnote, where the reader is then presented with a link to the source.) Unfortunately, this creates two problems. (1) It is then possible to have only the inline part of the embedded citation without the full citation part of the embedded citation in the appendix of the article. (See below for how the full citation is important for article maintenance.) (2) Also the association between the inline part of the embedded citation and the corresponding full citation part of the embedded citation, in the list at the end of the article, is not readily apparent from the rendered text. All the reader sees is a number in square brackets.

Embedded citations that fail to include the full citation part are better than no citation and are easy to implement, but the use of embedded links for inline citations is deprecated. For details about the other inline citation methods see Wikipedia:Citing sources.


Embedded citations are offered as one option for citing sources on Wikipedia. This approach is to place a numbered external link in the text of the article like this: [2] and also put a full citation in a References section.

  • This style of external link should only be used as a citation for a specific section or fact. Other external links should go in an External links section as described at Wikipedia:External links.
  • A separate entry in the References section is required. It should include as much information as possible about the source! If the link breaks, other editors must still be able to find the source, either as a paper copy or at another URL.
  • A full citation might include the link, quoted title, author, title of publication, volume, issue, page, the date of publication, and the date retrieved.
  • An embedded external link is placed after the period at the end of a sentence, or, when within a sentence, after the comma or semicolon at the end of a clause, without intervening space.
  • Embedded links in references do not have to comply fully with the Wikipedia:External links#Links normally to be avoided guidelines. For example, in the case of an academic journal article, do not omit an external link in a full reference solely because the reference is not freely available to all readers. When multiple links are available for the same content, please choose the link that best complies with the guidelines.
  • If you are not yet familiar with external link syntax, read Wikipedia:External links#How to link first.


For every source, you need to add two links. The first link is a plain URL after the statement that it supports, and the second is a full citation in the references section.

In article[edit]

Adding this text during an edit:

In 2009 scientists reached one trillion electron volts.

Would appear as the following, in the article, after the edit was saved:

In 2009 scientists reached one trillion electron volts.[3]

Do not use this style:

In 2009, Scientists reached one trillion electron volts.

In references[edit]

A full citation may be composed by hand or using one of the citation templates developed for aiding in this process. Both techniques are shown and used below with the same result.

Adding this text during an edit:

* Rincon, Paul. "[ Large Hadron Collider sets world energy record]", ''BBC News'', November 30, 2009. Retrieved on November 30, 2009.
* {{cite news 
|last=Rincon |first=Paul 
|title=Large Hadron Collider sets world energy record 
|work=BBC News |date=November 30, 2009 |accessdate=November 30, 2009}}

Would appear as the following, in the article, after the edit was saved:


One advantage of embedded links is that it is easy for readers and editors to check sources by clicking on the links and jumping immediately to the cited articles. Another advantage is that links are easy to create and maintain.

A disadvantage is that many embedded links soon become dead links, often without sufficient information being available to find another copy, since many editors fail to include a copy of the full citation at the end of the article. Another disadvantage is that the full citation is not easily connected to the statement. To find the full citation, the reader has to determine which URL is at the relevant statement in the article, and then search through all of the references to figure out which one includes the same URL. Finally, it is difficult or impossible to use "dead tree" reliable sources anywhere in these articles, since there is no URL to place at the end of the statement. This style is therefore more commonly used in under-developed articles, and a more flexible style is chosen when the article is expanded.