Wikipedia talk:Citing sources

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WP:Citation overkill RfC[edit]

Opinions are needed on the following matter: Wikipedia talk:Citation overkill#Should this essay be changed to encourage more citations?. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 00:51, 9 June 2017 (UTC)

A WP:Permalink for it is here. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 00:52, 9 June 2017 (UTC)

In-text attribution and no credentials[edit]

YesY John Rawls says that, to reach fair decisions, parties must consider matters as if behind a veil of ignorance.[2]

In the first example for WP:INTEXT which is written in a white box above, the in-text attribution mentions the source for the example statement as "John Rawls", and John Rawls has a Wikipedia page about him, but what if the source lacks credentials and lacks a Wikipedia page about them? Would it still make sense to mention the name of the person in an in-text attribution? I ask this question, because I ran across this issue. I made this 15:25, 12 June 2017 edit where I removed mentioning the author's name and the title of the book in favor of mentioning that the source was a book about forensic anthropology for the in-text attribution. In my edit summary for that edit, I said, "... Mentioning the author's name in the Wikipedia page does not add to the article unless the author had their own Wikipedia page." Due to the size limitations of the edit summary, I was not able to also add in the edit summary that I thought that adding the author's credentials would be another case where mentioning the author as an in-text attribution would be sensible. In a later 05:00, 13 June 2017 edit, I added the author's credentials, but what if the author's credentials were not available? What would be the best in-text attribution then? Would the best in-text attribution consist of mentioning the book's title, Forensic Anthropology, and the author's name, Bradley J. Adams? Would the best in-text attribution consist of just mentioning the author's name, Bradley J. Adams? Would the best in-text attribution consist of just mentioning the book's title, Forensic Anthropology? Would the best in-text attribution consist of mentioning a description of the source as "a book about forensic anthropology"? Most importantly, I want to know about what people think about just mentioning the author's name without mentioning the book's name, without mentioning the book's description and without mentioning the author's credentials, because I think that an in-text attribution that just said that "Bradley J. Adams said" would not help the reader know about the perspective and reliability of the source. The reader would be wondering, "who is a Bradley J. Adams, and is he a reliable source for the statement attributed to him?" I think that this Wikipedia article should have an example like this where an in-text attribution with just the author's name for an author who lacks a Wikipedia page about them is an example, so Wikipedia editors can see if such an example is deemed good, indicated by the green check mark (YesY), or deemed bad, indicated by the red cross (N).--Ephert (talk) 18:29, 13 June 2017 (UTC)

Necessity of inline citations[edit]

I previously discussed at WT:V whether Wikipedia is using too many sources (read more there), though I nearly botched the discussion that I started. This time, I figured out what else to discuss related to this and where to discuss my curiosity about style of referencing: maybe here.

I skimmed through print encyclopedias in past weeks in libraries. I re-realized that most print encyclopedias have seldom or never practiced the style of inline citations. Such practice has been meant usually for academic journals. Over years, inline referencing, by either footnoting or parenthetical referencing, has become a common practice throughout Wikipedia. In print encyclopedias, especially old ones like one of Walt Disney encyclopedias and World Book Encyclopedia, a section or toward the end of an encyclopedia, references, and/or bibliographies has merely been used to merely list references used for sourcing. Those print encyclopedias usually lacked inline citations (footnoting or parenthetical).

However, Wikipedia articles prevalently display inline citations all over articles. Maybe the "Citing sources" guideline is needed to probably combat inaccuracies and vandalism. However, if that's not it, I'm not sure then why else inline referencing has become the growing prevalent style used by most editors. Why not do what most experts have done in the past: merely put sources in "References" or "Bibliography" section, or put them toward the end of the book?

One Citizendium article uses inline referencing, done by experts of the topic. So does one of them, which heavily uses inline citing. In contrast, one Scholarpedia article (didn't know about Scholarpedia until one or two weeks ago) uses the "References" section to list sources, but it doesn't use footnotes or parenthetical referencing. Well, there's WP:NOTPAPER saying that Wikipedia is not a paper encyclopedia. Still, why not do what past print encyclopedias did: just list sources and not make at least one footnote? Since Wikipedia is not paper, why not reformat references to mere list format and no footnotes? --George Ho (talk) 08:50, 15 June 2017 (UTC)

  • The difference is that print encyclopedias are written by experts... while Wikipedia is written by amateurs. We do not trust ourselves to always get things right or to know what we are talking about... in line citations give us a way to fact check each other. Blueboar (talk)|
  • Blueboar states the reason clearly. Paper encyclopaedias commission experts; we rely on "the public". Inline citations are essential tools to check that opinion, personal observation and original research aren't creeping in. Peter coxhead (talk) 10:26, 15 June 2017 (UTC)
Even articles using just offline (or inaccessible) sources? Even ones using just non-English sources, like Ålgård Line (which I learned via "Random article" tool)? --George Ho (talk) 18:07, 15 June 2017 (UTC)
Yes. Encyclopedias try to summarize human knowledge, but not all human knowledge is recorded in English. And certainly not human knowledge only as found on-line. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 18:48, 15 June 2017 (UTC)
It disturbs me how often editors drift into implying that online English sources are somehow superior to any others, as George Ho seems to be doing. We must use all available reliable sources. Peter coxhead (talk) 20:48, 15 June 2017 (UTC)
Um... I also used offline sources for some articles, like Cheers (season 1), where I used microfilms of old newspapers to verify Nielsen ratings. Even I used some Chinese sources to verify some information about dandan youqing. Still, I've occasionally gone to libraries for college work and (mostly) Internet, also used for... sourcing. --George Ho (talk) 22:23, 15 June 2017 (UTC)
Just want to double check something... George, are you perhaps thinking that an "inline" citation must cite an "on line" source? That is definitely not the case. Blueboar (talk) 23:37, 15 June 2017 (UTC)
My original intent was the formatting of references in Wikipedia compared to paper encyclopedias. I'll be specific about an inline citation: an inline citation, either footnote or parenthetical, citing an information. (e.g. Example info.[1], Example info (Doe, p. 1) ) However, my original intent wasn't discussing online or offline sources. True that online sources are more efficient and faster to check than offline and inaccessible ones. However, online and offline sources are not the main issue, which we can discuss later at either WT:RS or WP:VPP. Back to the original intent, re-reading what the guideline says, a reference usually comes in two forms in one Wikipedia article: an inline citation and a section listing references in full text. In contrast, in paper encyclopedias, a reference is explained in just full detail at the end of either an article or an encyclopedia. Sorry about befuddling the issue a little bit. I hope I'm clear about the main issue as intended in the OP this time. As for the answers, Blueboar's first answer, Peter's first answer, and J. Johnson's answers help a lot and help me answer the questions I may need. Thanks all. --George Ho (talk) 01:43, 16 June 2017 (UTC)
Another note: MOS:REF redirects to this guideline, explaining another reason for coming here to discuss the formatting issue. --George Ho (talk) 01:44, 16 June 2017 (UTC)
  • I think Blueboar and Peter missed George's point: on the necessity of inline citations. (Note that he suggests having no footnotes.) Having citations in-line means attribution of specific content (quotations, assertions, etc.) to a specific source. Verifiability is greatly diminished if it requires substantial searching. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 18:52, 15 June 2017 (UTC)
I took it for granted that only inline citations allow proper checking; we need to know how to verify every part of an article. So I entirely agree with this point. Peter coxhead (talk) 20:48, 15 June 2017 (UTC)
Does the same apply to featured lists, like list of awards and nominations received by Bradley Cooper? --George Ho (talk) 19:27, 15 June 2017 (UTC)
pls see WP:LISTVERIFY--Moxy (talk) 19:33, 15 June 2017 (UTC)
Another reason is that our articles are mostly edited piecemeal, so closely associating references with the content by citing them inline improves the ‘modularity’, ensuring that the listed sources are actually relevant (or, when using Harvard & similar styles with separate footnotes & refs, at least make this more likely and easier to check).—Odysseus1479 22:14, 15 June 2017 (UTC)

Recent change to Template:Refimprove[edit]

We need some opinions on the following matter: Template talk:Refimprove#Or better. A permalink for it is here. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 01:47, 17 June 2017 (UTC)

Discussion of interest[edit]

You may be interested in this discussion, which relates to an interpretation of this guideline. Wikipedia:Miscellany for deletion/Wikipedia:Citation underkill. Scribolt (talk) 18:58, 17 June 2017 (UTC)


It's been several times Rockypedia added vertical citation style in articles under my watchlist and that after I cleaned up after them, Rockypedia reverted all my edits as it was, according to them, a violation of WP:CITEVAR. A previous discussion about this problem ended up as a non-consensus discussion. As the horizontal format is, as far as I know, used more often than the vertical format, I don't find it helpful to add an extra citation style to an article. Rockypedia doesn't share my opinion and I therefore wanted to know if WP:CITEVAR was actually relevant regarding this issue. I mean WP:CITESTYLE clearly says : "While citations should aim to provide the information listed above, Wikipedia does not have a single house style, though citations within any given article should follow a consistent style", which seems to contradict WP:CITEVAR, while other editors clearly stated the vertical format is virtually only used for infoboxes. WP:CITEVAR also states that "imposing one style on an article with inconsistent citation styles (...) [is] an improvement because it makes the citations easier to understand and edit", which also contradicts what is previously stated. Synthwave.94 (talk) 20:17, 19 June 2017 (UTC)

WP:CITEVAR is about how citations appear once rendered, not how they are coded (save for templated vs non-templated). However, traditionally on Wikipedia, when two equivalent things exist, and nothing but opinion differs, you defer to the first major editor. "vertical" citations have many advantages over "horizontal" ones. Vertical citations are much easier to parse, edit and review, while horizontal citations take much less space in the edit window. When there's disagreement over that kind of thing, defer to the style first used consistently / style of the first major editor. Headbomb {t · c · p · b} 21:14, 19 June 2017 (UTC)
Thank you for your answer. Considering I am the first major editor of the three articles where there is a disagreement between I and Rockypedia ("Money for Nothing", "99 Luftballons" and "Rock the Casbah"), I suppose that I made the right decision to keep a consistent horizontal format within these three article. Can you confirm it ? Synthwave.94 (talk) 22:02, 19 June 2017 (UTC)
If I'm reading Headbomb's answer correctly, when he says "first major editor", he's not talking about someone who claims ownership over a particular article, or in your case, every article in the entire English Wikipedia having to do with 1980's music (see this paragraph). I believe he's talking about whoever made the edit in the first place. Just as I don't go around changing peoples' horizontal cites to vertical ones, neither should anyone go around and do the reverse, as WP:CITEVAR (as Headbomb explained) has to do with citations once rendered, or templated vs. non-templated, and neither of those apply to horizontal vs. vertical. Rockypedia (talk) 23:14, 19 June 2017 (UTC)
Looking at before either of you got involved, most references were horizontal [1]. Neither of you get to claim to be the 'first major editor' here. Headbomb {t · c · p · b} 23:33, 19 June 2017 (UTC)
I don't claim ownership over every article I edited so far. I simply clean up after other editors and revert vandalism and similar LTA, which is something numerous editors like me do. Anyway the same thing can be said about "99 Luftballons" and "Rock the Casbah" : most references were horizontal before either of us were involved. Synthwave.94 (talk) 23:45, 19 June 2017 (UTC)
So keep them horizontal. Headbomb {t · c · p · b} 23:50, 19 June 2017 (UTC)
Or... ask some other, neutral, editors to look at the articles and tell you which style they would prefer. Let them decide. And abide by their decision. Either way... stop edit warring about it. Blueboar (talk) 00:43, 20 June 2017 (UTC)
I'm not looking for the article to have hidden text conform to one style or another; the entire issue here is whether or not that needs to be the case. I'm fine with every editor's horizontally-formatted references staying that way. I'd like the same courtesy in return; to wit, just leave the vertical formatting alone. In my opinion, WP:CITEVAR is clear on this: horizontal and vetical formats can co-exist, it's fine that they co-exist, and one editor should not change references from vertical to horizontal just because horizontal is the way they like it. That's what Synthwave has been doing. There was already a discussion about this, most editors in that discussion agreed that the two formats could co-exist, none stated that they couldn't. Rockypedia (talk) 12:30, 20 June 2017 (UTC)
I agree with Rockypedia. Paul August 15:32, 20 June 2017 (UTC)
Based on what Headbomb said, I restored all versions of the three articles before Rockypedia decided adding a vertical format (and therefore before edit wars started). I then cleaned them up, as I regularly do. Synthwave.94 (talk) 19:57, 20 June 2017 (UTC)
I don't believe horizontal and vertical formats should be used together in the same article. There should be a consistency in horizontal/vertical citation style over an article. Synthwave.94 (talk) 20:23, 20 June 2017 (UTC)
I think you're both edit-warring over something pointless, trivial, and extremely lame. If you don't stop it now, you will likely both get blocked. DrKay (talk) 20:30, 20 June 2017 (UTC)
  • Having read the previous discussions, and the above, I would suggest the following. 1) before either Rocky or Synth edit an article, they should both agree on what the pre-existing citation style was (and thus what the style will eventually be). 2) While they edit they may each use the style they each prefer... but 3) when done editing an article, they will both work to conform their edits to the agreed upon pre-existing style. Blueboar (talk) 20:46, 20 June 2017 (UTC)
Blueboar offers a good solution here. Edit how you want, but when you're done, it's perfectly fine to cleanup and bring them inline with how they were before. I much prefer vertical citations myself, but it's extremely simple to convert them to inline after I'm done if people object. Headbomb {t · c · p · b} 23:20, 20 June 2017 (UTC)
The difference of opinion here isn't whether vertical or horizontal cites should be used in a given article. The difference in opinion is whether an article needs to have all vertical or all horizontal cites. Synthwave contends that it does. I contend, per WP:CITEVAR, that it does not matter if an article has horizontal and vertical cites mixed. That's the crux of it. Does every article on Wikipedia need to have all vertical or all horizontal cites throughout? Rockypedia (talk) 17:16, 21 June 2017 (UTC)
No, it's a trivial and hidden coding change that has no impact on the read display. DrKay (talk) 19:53, 21 June 2017 (UTC)
Not trivial. Even under the hood, so speak, out of sight of the reader, it still matters to have clarity, both in legibility and format. (A position instilled by many years of writing code, and, more importantly, checking code.) Little things like closing up pipes (|) and equal signs with the the parameter name, but setting off the values with spaces, makes a BIG difference in readibility. (And that is regardess of horizonatal or vertical style.)
Now I find that a generally vertical style works for me. But I also find that it is a lot easier, and a lot faster, to check (e.g.) author's names if the first and last name are on the same line. Likewise with volume/issue/page: they fit together. So that's the way I put them in. If I was just passing by, and had a good source to throw in but don't plan to be back, I don't mind what that article's habitues do with it. But when I am maintaining an article (likely because, having done a deep dive into researching and writing/revising it in the first place, I am the editor with the best grasp of the topic), I find it really annoying when some bot comes along and makes all my templates all vertical or all horizontal, just because some bot writer prefers it that way. Likewise for some pass-through editor who is unlikely to stick around and work in the mess he makes.
So these matters do have an impact. Not on the superficial aspects of text display, but on the more subtle aspect of making the editing clearer, and incidentally easier.
Where two or more editors disagree on how formatting is to be done it can be difficult. If the matter cannot be resolved on any other basis (such as original style, or as a courtesy to somoene who has done substantial work on an article), then we should probably handle the matter of how citation is done just as we do for "style" overall: be tolerant. However, we do not need consistency of method where that does not affect consistency of display. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:44, 21 June 2017 (UTC)
No bot is approved to switch citations from horizontal to vertical, or vice versa. If you see those, please follow WP:BOTISSUE and notify the bot's operator. I note that some bots will fill citations in a specific way, but you always have the freedom to convert them to the established format. Headbomb {t · c · p · b} 23:49, 21 June 2017 (UTC)
So far, I've seen several editors that have expressed that vertical and horizontal-formatted cites can co-exist on the same page ("under the hood", as it were), and none that have stated that a page needs to have all vertical or all horizontal. Would you say that's accurate? Rockypedia (talk) 03:58, 22 June 2017 (UTC)
No policy— certainly not CITEVAR— requires that citations be either all vertical or all horizontal. Paul August 16:35, 22 June 2017 (UTC)
That is true, but there is also a (somewhat unfortunate) clause that says it is "generally helpful" to be "imposing one style on an article with inconsistent citation styles (e.g., some of the citations in footnotes and others as parenthetical references): an improvement because it makes the citations easier to understand and edit;". So, in the long run, this tends to encourage editors to take an article with a mixture of styles (e.g. both horizontal and vertical formatting of templates) and impose one style. — Carl (CBM · talk) 17:14, 22 June 2017 (UTC)
"Imposing one style on an article with inconsistent citation styles (...) [is] an improvement because it makes the citations easier to understand and edit" contradicts with what most editors here (including Rockypedia) say about the mixture of horizontal and vertical formats. If you want to introduce a new style or format then you should reach an explicit consensus first (instead of blindly edit warring) before changing everything. Please do not forget I'm the main editor of these 3 articles and I entirely cleaned them up way before Rockypedia started editing them for the first time. While I appreciate the addition of new sources in an article, I cannot accept the fact editors like Rockypedia almost instantly revert my clean up edits for personal preferences only (let's not forget the horizontal was entirely used in all three articles, apart from the infobox, before they started making their own contributions). I'm sorry but it doesn't work like this at all and you cannot accuse the main editor of an article of "ownership" just because they want to keep a consistent format thorughout the article. Synthwave.94 (talk) 19:15, 22 June 2017 (UTC)
This is one reason that I think that language in the guideline is unfortunate. It seems to me that editors who arrive at an established article should ensure that newly added citations match the style of the existing ones; if they don't to do so, the resulting inconsistency should not be a reason to change the older citations to the format introduced by the more recent editor. — Carl (CBM · talk) 19:24, 22 June 2017 (UTC)
If you read that section, the portion that states it's "generally helpful" to be "imposing one style on an article" is talking about different styles of citations, such as "switching between major citation styles, e.g. parenthetical and <ref> tags." To me, that pretty clearly defines what it means by "style". By contrast, horizontal and vertical is defined as a "format", not a style. The horizontal and vertical cites are already the same style. They're just formatted differently. Rockypedia (talk) 20:23, 22 June 2017 (UTC)
For the purposes of CITEVAR, both the outward appearance and the formatting used in the wikicode count as part of the citation style. — Carl (CBM · talk) 20:58, 22 June 2017 (UTC)
I tend to agree, but (like others) have a little problem in that "style" does seem to be more the display aspects. Perhaps we should say that CITEVAR applies to the "style and method" of citation? ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:43, 22 June 2017 (UTC)
There was an inconclusive RFC last year, so finding the right language for the guideline may be challenging [2] . The middle way is that key kinds of formatting do count - particularly vertical versus horizontal templates - but not every triviality. But the situation in this thread shows the reason for CITEVAR to apply equally well to formatting: we don't want people to waste time arguing over the formatting, when no version is better than any other, so it's better to just have an easy rule of thumb: use the existing method when you start editing another article. — Carl (CBM · talk) 21:48, 22 June 2017 (UTC)
How about an even easier rule of thumb - when an article uses <ref> tags, you should also use <ref> tags, but vertical vs. horizontal formatting doesn't matter because it's not part of the outward appearance of the page. Rockypedia (talk) 22:03, 22 June 2017 (UTC)
If it doesn't matter, perhaps you should allow the other person to simply change the page to match their preference, and then leave it the way that they change it? That is to say: if CITEVAR applies to horizontal / vertical, then as the newcomer to the page you should match the existing style. If it does not, then you should not complain (or use CITEVAR as a reason to change it back) when someone changes it. — Carl (CBM · talk) 22:04, 22 June 2017 (UTC)
Except that if it's content that I've added and sourced, and I revisit it later, I could ask the same question of the other editor: if it doesn't matter, why not just leave it alone? I don't go changing other cites to vertical format, even on pages that I've created. Why would anyone need to change vertical cites to horizontal? I also point out that WP:CITEVAR, when talking about styles, is very specific about what constitutes a style: the example even specifies "e.g. parenthetical and <ref> tags"; it doesn't say "vertical <ref> tags", just <ref> tags. That's the style. The horizontal vs. vertical is just a format, not a style. Rockypedia (talk) 22:16, 22 June 2017 (UTC)
My point is that, if someone wanted to that claim CITEVAR doesn't apply, then they can't use CITEVAR to complain if someone changes it... But, really, CITEVAR does apply to these things, and as a new editor of a particular page someone should take care to match the existing formatting in new citations, or at least be ready for someone else to clean up the new citations to match the existing ones. Beyond CITEVAR that is also common courtesy as a newcomer to an existing page; CITEVAR just formalizes this courtesy. — Carl (CBM · talk) 22:19, 22 June 2017 (UTC)
I think CITEVAR does apply. And that it's pretty clear it applies in cases of "parenthetical and <ref> tags", which are different major citation styles. Rockypedia (talk) 22:33, 22 June 2017 (UTC)
If CITEVAR does apply to the formatting under discussion here, then new citations should (eventually) be brought into accord with the existing citations, of course. It seems like you are arguing that CITEVAR doesn't require you to match the existing formatting, but that it does prevent anyone else from changing the different formatting. That isn't how it works: if it applies to your formatting, then it applies to the previous formatting just as well. — Carl (CBM · talk) 22:35, 22 June 2017 (UTC)