Wikipedia talk:Citing sources/Example style

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The new layout for this is extremely unusable. The big table format that used to exist on WP:CITE was far more useful and much easier to use. It's too difficult to look up what the parameters are by going to each template definition. I can't tell which one of the various templates I need just by looking on this page. Please consider restoring it to the old layout. --Howcheng 22:35, 11 August 2005 (UTC)

This page isn't about the use of templates. Those are documented in Wikipedia:Template messages/Sources of articles/Generic citations, which is also linked to from Wikipedia:Cite sources. —Steven G. Johnson 18:42, August 12, 2005 (UTC)
Excellent. Thank you much. --Howcheng 18:47, 12 August 2005 (UTC)

Web sites and articles (not from periodicals)[edit]

It's stated in this section that if you're citing a website as a whole you don't need to give a retrieval date - I don't agree. Website locations can change, be taken over by different groups and so on. You should always include a retrieval date. Entry changed to reflect this.

ahpook 10:53, 11 November 2005 (UTC)

Documentaries and DVDs[edit]

How can you reference these? (Smerk)

I second this question. I've been wondering for a long time now and it's not in the article. 06:25, 19 May 2006 (UTC)
I've found the video citing template! It's here template:cite_video and it's also listed in this larger article as well wikipedia:template_messages/sources_of_articles/generic_citations. 20:52, 19 May 2006 (UTC)

Book Reference style[edit]

The suggested book reference style used here seems odd to me. Isn't it standard practice to list the authors as so:
Johnson, Bob and Joe Smith.
Rather than:
Johnson, Bob and Smith, Joe.
Kaldari 19:49, 16 January 2006 (UTC)

The book referencing section includes a link to 'cite book' which has practically no information and a note telling people not to use it because it is outdated. I would like to use Wikipedia markup for citations, but having spent some time searching for help on this subject, feel I have no alternative but to hard code the references according to Wikipedia's current style, which seems to me to be a much poorer solution. Would love to hear that there is another way. 14:46, 19 April 2006 (UTC)

Proposed changes to format for Wikipedia Cite extension[edit]

Discussion at Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style#Changes to Cite.. Michael Z. 2006-02-23 18:06 Z

Proposal to change format for Wikipedia journal citation[edit]

Most journals give citation of references in this style (example; pdf file):

Author, A. 2005. Article title. Journal 1: 2–3.

Note: no quotes round the article title, and no bolding of the volume number. I suggest we change to this style, in particular to be rid of the quotes. I've never seen them used in any journal. - MPF 18:36, 5 March 2006 (UTC)

What is the basis for the assertion that "most journals" do this? In fact, I believe this is used in some technical journals, where it can almost be assumed that every citation is a journal article. In a general reference like Wikipedia this is not the case, and quotation marks should be used to very clearly distinguish articles from books for the sake of general readers.
For the same reason, it may be better to explicitly label each part, something similar to this (without checking the details of established formats).
Smith, John (2006). “Article title”, in Journal, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 3–4.
Michael Z. 2006-03-05 18:45 Z
Does the article title include a comma at the end?? That just looks plain weird. - MPF 19:07, 5 March 2006 (UTC)
I moved it outside the quotes. Or should it be removed? Michael Z. 2006-03-05 23:32 Z
  • I'm against the proposal. There needs to be something to set off the title visually from the author names. I like the bolding for the same reason. However there is a nasty little technical issue here: Some uses of the template may already have the quotes around the title field explicitly; with the template providing them as well, there may be some double-double-quotes showing up in various places. (They were there in WP:CITE itself, until I fixed it just now.) Maybe someone should send a bot around looking for these. --Trovatore 18:53, 5 March 2006 (UTC)
The date sets the authors off from the article title. So do the author's initials. No need for any quotes.
The technical comment there is worth noting too in another way - quotes can be added manually for those who want them, but they can't be removed, where they are not wanted. Forcing everyone to have the quotes is not going to encourage people to use the template - if it isn't liked and doesn't match normal conventions, the citations are going to be entered without the template. - MPF 19:07, 5 March 2006 (UTC)
The author's first name or initial (in the case of a sole author), or the last author's last name, could be confused as the first word of the title, if the year weren't there. The year usually is there, but it could also be part of the title. --Trovatore 19:21, 5 March 2006 (UTC)
Well, MPF, the date sets off either an article title or a book title. You have to find the punctuation and read the virtually the whole line before you know which. This is ambiguous, and not the best choice of formats for general bibliographic use.
Regarding adding quotes manually: it's a very bad idea to mix formatting markup in with the data. If that is done, then you may as well not use templates. Michael Z. 2006-03-05 23:32 Z

Personally, I don't like the bolding and I think it's out of place. Bolding is very rarely used in professional typography, because it is so extreme that it draws the eye from other parts of the page (italics are used for most emphasis in running text). This is why in Wikipedia it's generally used only for the title term in the leading line, and for some subheadings (notably, not even for the main section headings).

Bold formatting is definitely overkill for indicating volume in a bibliographic citation, where its intent is only to set off a single number from the adjacent elements of the line. Furthermore, it is ambiguous, because most readers have no way of knowing whether bold text indicates "volume" or "number", or something else. Michael Z. 2006-03-05 19:04 Z

I hardly think it's ambiguous; it's one of the standard styles. For example it's the AMS style for BibTeX, which I believe is widely copied, so it's relevant to people who never pick up an AMS journal.
The AMS style has another virtue that I think we ought to consider: It italicizes the title, then puts the journal name in Roman. That way the title can't be confused with either authors or date on the left, or journal name on the right, and we don't need any quotation marks. I would strongly urge that we think about adopting this style. Here's an example cite:
  • Greg Hjorth, Actions by the classical Banach spaces, J. Symb. Logic 65(2000), no. 1, 392–420. MR 1782128 (2001h:03088)
Some remarks on this:
  1. I do prefer that the first author be listed last name first.
  2. I think I agree with moving the year up between author name and title and using 65(1) for vol. 65 no. 1, as is currently done.
  3. The stuff starting with MR relates to Mathematical Reviews; while this is of interest mainly to mathematicians, I do think the template should support it, and there could be a mention of it in the style manual as well. --Trovatore 19:21, 5 March 2006 (UTC)
This seems to be an old discussion, but FWIW it's now possible to handle MR within the existing template format; see {{MathSciNet}}. —David Eppstein 03:34, 3 December 2006 (UTC)
So you are suggesting we italicize article titles and book titles? What gets italicized in a citation for an article in an anthology, or a chapter in a book—both? What is wrong with "needing" quotation marks?—they unambiguously indicate a part of a major work.
It is standard in general writing to italicize the titles of major works: movies, books, paintings, albums and to put quotations around minor works: articles, poems, chapters, songs—in both bibliographic citations and in running text. Why are on earth are people suggesting parting from this convention for just some things, and ending up with completely inconsistent formatting? This is an encyclopedia! Can't you separate yourself from your favourite technical style for long enough to see that it we have to be consistent in many different contexts? Michael Z. 2006-03-05 23:32 Z
What's wrong with needing quotation marks is, they're aesthetically ugly. I do prefer them to having nothing to distinguish the title from the authors, but I think italics are better still. I am not particularly concerned if this winds up specifying one style for book citations and a different one for journal cites, with no overarching theory connecting them; books are books and journals are journals, and we can use different styles for them if there's a good reason to do so. --Trovatore 23:39, 5 March 2006 (UTC)
There's a good reason not to: for consistency and ease of understanding for non-technical readers. (If you think quotation marks are too imposing, an alternative could be to use ‘single quotation marks’.) And you're still ignoring the question of how to format an article in a book—both italicized? Michael Z. 2006-03-06 00:47 Z
It's not really about "imposing"; they're just ugly. They'd be less ugly if you could get the directional typeset "inverted commas", but I expect that would introduce problems with availability of the fonts. I haven't checked how AMS does articles in books (I take it you mean something like a handbook, right? Ordinary books don't have "articles") but my guess is whatever they do is fine. --Trovatore 01:03, 6 March 2006 (UTC)
I'm all for using real typographic quotation marks (“...”) in favour of the yucky typewriter ticks, if that's the only thing you have against the format! I don't think there's any problem with using them, especially in a case like this where they will be part of a template, and there's no need for editors to figure out how to type them.
There are a number of parts which might be cited in one or another kind of book: a chapter or section, a story in an anthology, a poem in a collection, or an article in an academic compendium or conference proceedings. The title of a web page and name of the site are handled similarly, and there are probably other media where consistent formatting for a major work and minor part of it should work the same way (e.g., perhaps an audio track on an audio CD), and probably should be formatted consistently and be interchangeable with all of these. Michael Z. 2006-03-06 01:21 Z
I don't think the “...” marks look any better. I meant the ones that curl concave-right for the open-quotes, with the dot at the bottom, and concave-left for the close-quotes, with the dot at the top. --Trovatore 01:29, 6 March 2006 (UTC)
The journal Hydrological Processes uses the following formats for journal and book citations.
Mayo LR, Meier MF, Tangborn WV. 1972. A system to combine stratigraphic and annual mass balance systems: a contribution to the IHD. Journal of Glaciology 11(61): 3–14.
Paterson WSB. 1967. Physics of Glaciers, 1 edn. Pergamon Press, Oxford, UK.
I don't think the journal citation template should add quotation marks to article titles. Walter Siegmund (talk) 01:53, 6 March 2006 (UTC)
I really don't like the above style; author names and dates could too easily be read as part of the article title. The Journal of Symbolic Logic has a nice style using small caps for author names, but I doubt those are available to us.
Looking through the JSL, I see they do the following: Authors in small caps, article in italics, journal in bold italics. If there's a book, it's in bold italics. So a chapter of a book is italics, then the book title is bold italics. We could consider that even if we don't have small caps; the names of the authors could be roman, as they're separated by several items from other items in roman. Sample cite:
  • Hjorth, Greg, Actions by the classical Banach spaces, J. Symb. Logic vol. 65 (2000), no. 1, 392–420.
I admit the bold italics look a bit aggressive, but they do solve the consistency problem Mzajac is worried about. --Trovatore 02:05, 6 March 2006 (UTC)
If the only problem is separating the author and year from the title, then it's easily solved:
  • Mayo LR, Meier MF, Tangborn WV (1972): A system to combine stratigraphic and annual mass balance systems: a contribution to the IHD. Journal of Glaciology 11(61): 3–14.
  • Paterson WSB (1967): Physics of Glaciers, 1 edn. Pergamon Press, Oxford, UK.
There can be no confusion of the year with the title, and no confusion of the authors with anything. Furthermore, apart from the colon (my own personal preference), it's exactly what appears in many scientific journals (I bet there are even some that put the colon in). Quote marks are unnecessary, ugly, and, at least in biology, unused. --Stemonitis 10:17, 6 March 2006 (UTC)
Why is it impossible for a title to begin with a four-digit number in parentheses followed by a colon? Not that I have a plausible example in mind, but it's not really the point anyway. The point is, they're not visually distinct enough. They really should be in a different typeface, or weight, or whatever it is you call those things, so you can pick the title out easily. --Trovatore 14:55, 6 March 2006 (UTC)
That really is a bizarre argument. Who would ever interpret "Smith & Jones (1994). Observations on a fascinating phenomenon. Journal of Boring Studies 77: 89-92." as being a paper called "(1994). Observations on a fascinating phenomenon"?!??! It's entirely unreasonable. It's much more likely that a paper's title will begin with quote marks, which would look even worse inside quotes:
  • Smith & Jones (1994). ""Observations" - a scientific myth." Journal of Boring Studies 77: 89-92.
I have seen a few papers beginning with quote marks recently, but never one beginning with an open bracket or year. And I really don't understand how a title set off by a year in brackets and an italicised journal name can be seen as not "visually distinct". --Stemonitis 15:17, 6 March 2006 (UTC)
This is subjective of course, but I find that the title simply does not stand out enough from the names of the authors and the year, given the style you suggest. I think the title should be in italics or otherwise made easier to pick out. I don't really like the quote marks either, but they're certainly better than keeping everything in roman until you get to the journal name. --Trovatore 15:24, 6 March 2006 (UTC)
If an article's title has quotation marks in it, then we follow the normal rules of nested quotes: single quotation marks inside double ones. It's not quite as common, but slightly better and less obtrusive would be to use the British convention: single quotation marks for all article titles, and double quotation marks for nested quotes:
  • Smith & Jones (1994). ‘“Observations”—a scientific myth,’ in Journal of Boring Studies, vol. 77, pp. 89-92.
Michael Z. 2006-03-06 22:43 Z
Is this really a British convention? I've never seen it. In particular, the comma inside the quotes looks very un-British to me. --Stemonitis 07:51, 7 March 2006 (UTC)
British books tend to use single quotation marks for most quotes, and double quotation marks when nesting another quote inside them. I don't know if this applies to bibliographic entries for articles as well, though. Michael Z. 2006-03-07 16:45 Z
Trovatore, “ ” appear as the 66 99-shaped curly quotation marks on my system; what do they look like on yours? I think there must be a font or Unicode issue affecting your display—maybe the text is just too small for their details to be differentiated on your system. If you're on Windows, turn on ClearType font smoothing (in Control Panel→Display→Appearance→Effects), otherwise (in my experience) the font rendering sucks.
True small caps don't work because web browsers don't really support them, in turn because there are no common fonts which include small caps. Using CSS formatting we can create passable small capital letters, but they're not guaranteed to look great on every system or in every font. It's too bad (the articles' title term in the leading line would be great in small capitals).
Here's an example of fake small capitals, created with CSS.
  • Hjorth, Greg, Actions by the classical Banach spaces, J. Symb. Logic vol. 65 (2000), no. 1, 392–420.
It would look even better if the display font had text figures (Georgia specified):
  • Hjorth, Greg, Actions by the classical Banach spaces, J. Symb. Logic vol. 65 (2000), no. 1, 392–420.
Anyway, that does accomplish the formatting consistency problems, but it wouldn't be my first choice becuse, 1) I find that quotation marks for articles is the most familiar unambiguous convention, and 2) I still think using bold, especially bold-italic, is too heavy. Michael Z. 2006-03-06 04:15 Z
Here's a screencap of the way the quotes look: QuoteMarks.jpg If I look really close I can see there is some concavity in the right direction, but I still think they look horrible. --Trovatore 05:22, 6 March 2006 (UTC)
Wikispecies uses smallcaps (example) - it looks neat, and I'd have no objection to using this style. The conversion from lower case to smallcap is automatic, too (i.e., you don't have to enter the names in caps). - MPF 09:43, 6 March 2006 (UTC)
T, that's just what the designer of your default font made the quotation marks look like, and I don't see what's wrong with them. No offence, but the only solution is to change the font in your user style sheet, or learn to live with them. Perhaps you just don't like quotation marks. Cheers. Michael Z. 2006-03-06 16:45 Z

GAL (get a life)[edit]

  • JA: Do you people really have nothing better to do with your time? WP should not be in the business of making up "yet another style sheet" (YASS) -- APA has already made a full-blown cottage industry of that. It should be abundantly obvious that trying to impose a WikiWide style for citations is just asking for the alienation of scholars from all sides, who waste far too much time with this stuff in their own bailiwikis to bother rewriting citations for this one. Now go write an article or something. Jon Awbrey 18:34, 7 March 2006 (UTC)
    • No need to be unpleasant, Jon. Stylistic consistency between articles is not the most important issue facing Wikipedia, but it's a nice thing to have if you can get it. Since the outcome of the consensus here, if there ever is one, will be reflected in the templates {{cite journal}} and {{cite book}}, there is no need for anyone who isn't interested in the issue to bother reading the style manual; all they have to do is use the templates. --Trovatore 19:38, 7 March 2006 (UTC)

TIC (tongue in cheek)[edit]

  • JA: I don't know what the emoticon for "tongue in cheek' (TIC) is, but I'd probably use it on most every message. I care very much about accurate, complete, and helpful citations, which is precisely what worries about the prospect of WikiPedia falling prey to the sort of folks who created the APA style sheet industry. I have gotten used to nine or ten different style sheets over the years, each tailored to the needs of a specific type of study, and the very thing that the American Procrustean Association fails to understand is that one sheet does not fit all. So the thing that worries as I track this discussion with a semiopen third eye, is the prospect of some stylobot someday wreaking havoc with the information that I take some care to be accurate, complete, and helpful with. I know the knee-jerk response here, cause I've heard it before, people are always saying that it won't happen here, right up until it does. Ouch! I just bit my tongue. Jon Awbrey 20:10, 7 March 2006 (UTC)

Wikipedia is inconsistent[edit]

Please abandon any project of imposing a house style on Wikipedia by the consensus (even if there is one) of a few editors on this page, especially one based on your own aesthetics rather than actual practice outside Wikipedia. I do not care deeply about such issues, but many do. I do not believe there is consensus among the many on what WP house style should be.

  • If there is no such consensus, an effort to impose one is divisive, disruptive, and obnoxious.
  • if there is a consensus, it will impose itself whatever is done here, even against what is done here, as each editor modifies the bibliography he is editing. It would be a shame if this process deprived WP of useful tools like {{cite journal}}.

Running a large wiki is like cooking a small fish. Please don't scorch it. Septentrionalis 20:21, 7 March 2006 (UTC)


Some editors have very good points about not imposing a "house style". It certainly would be inappropriate to invent a new citation style, considering that so many different ones already exist and are widely used. And I believe it would definitely be a mistake to pick a style used by a technical journal and impose it widely across Wikipedia, although I don't see a problem with choosing a widely familiar style aimed at general readers and using it in articles on science, astronomy, math, etc.

But since there are advantages to some consistency, but Wikipedia is inconsistent, it might be nice if the various citation templates and the cite extension had an optional parameter which lets the editor choose from several different widely-used, standardized citation styles. Something like the following:

  • {{cite book | style=Harvard ... }}
  • <references style=Chicago>

Michael Z. 2006-03-09 16:41 Z

Good points by Septentrionalis and Michael. I propose that in a day or two, unless there are major complaints, that I will remove the title quotes and volume bolding from this Cite sources project page and the relevant templates, for the following reasons:
  1. Based on checking the citation styles used in a large number of journals, title quotes are extremely rare, and bolding of volume infrequent;
  2. That if they are desired, quotes and volume bolding can be added in citations in individual articles, but they cannot be removed individually if the template imposes it.
  3. The KISS principle.
MPF 11:00, 14 March 2006 (UTC)
I would oppose that. I think that results in too spare a style, in which it's too hard to pick out the relevant items visually. However, I would prefer that as a standard style to no standard at all. --Trovatore 16:56, 14 March 2006 (UTC)
I would oppose this, too. I don't think a survey of technical or academic journals is a good basis for the bibliographic style in a general encyclopedia at all. A survey of the formats used in encyclopedias and general books on humanities subjects would be much better.
Personally, I think the quotation marks should stay, but the bold text is out-of-place. For citing journals, I would prefer a style which is completely self-documenting for non-academics, like "vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 3–4." Michael Z. 2006-03-14 17:50 Z
You seem to be missing an important point. If the title quotes are included in the template, you force everyone to use them, regardless of whether they want them or not. If they are not included, they can be added optionally with the title text for those who desire to have them. So far, the opposition to their removal does not convince me that they should stay. - MPF 01:29, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
I agree with MPF on this matter. I note that it is compatible with Michael Z. proposal (of 2006-03-09 16:41 Z) as long as one of the widely-used, standardized citation styles is the generic one suggested by MPF. I don't find bold volume numbers objectionable, probably because they are customary in the Astrophysical Journal and some other scientific journals. But quotation marks are uncommon. Occasionally, I've seen them used for the chapter title in a book citation, but they are easily added when needed.
I would like to see more discussion of Michael Z.'s idea. It seems to me that it is compatible with the various wikiprojects in that it is likely that each can choose a style that is common and accepted in the literature of that project. I think it will be difficult to gain acceptance for a style that is not similar to that used in the literature for that subject. For most editors, an unfamiliar style will look wrong. Walter Siegmund (talk) 02:22, 15 March 2006 (UTC)

I want to make it clear that we're talking about two different things here:

1. A default bibliographic style for Wikipedia should be a general one that is self-explanatory to non-academics: it should surround article and chapter names with quotation marks, and use the labels "vol.", "no." and "p./pp." instead of relying on the opaque use of position, parentheses, colons, and bolding to distinguish entities like volume, issue number, and page numbers—only academics who are accustomed to a journal's house style can distinguish these without a reference. Please stop citing your favourite academic journal as support for academic or technical bibliographic styles, because this will not sway me.

Yes, the quotation marks should be embedded in a template if an article is to be cited with them. The quotation marks are not part of the title, and entering them in a template's data field is a big mistake. It would be polluting the data set with formatting information, mixing metadata in with the data. In a template, the quotation marks are easy to add, remove, modify for all occurrences at once. In the data set, spread throughout a thousand WP articles, we woud be stuck with quotation marks in some instances and without them in others, without any embedded logic to help a bot sort out where they belong and where they don't.

2. Of course we know that Wikipedia is inconsistent. Editors are free to choose whichever bibliographic style consensus will allow. Perhaps the editors of an astronomy article will agree that an astronomical journal's style is appropriate (I would disagree, since it is an article in a general encyclopedia, but anyway...). Under this discussion subheading I am suggesting that the citation templates and/or cite.php extension be enhanced to allow editors to easily select an alternate style of choice and always have it formatted correctly according to a standard.

Michael Z. 2006-03-15 03:10 Z

The one I suggested is a default bibliographic style that is self-explanatory, and very common in non-academic work as well as in academic journals. Please stop citing (or even not citing!) your favourite tabloid as support for a style that is so unusual as to be not self-explanatory (a title is a title, not a quotation!). - MPF 14:54, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
"1: 2–3" is not self-explanatory. Which of those numbers is the volume, which is the number, and which is the page number? I did not cite any tabloids. Michael Z. 2006-03-15 18:30 Z
If so, then don't use them! No-one else does! - MPF 14:54, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
I haven't entered quotation marks into the data of any templates. Michael Z. 2006-03-15 18:30 Z
Errrr . . . not at the moment, it isn't! I'm not allowed to chose a bibliographic style that doesn't have these wierd gutter-press quote marks! My freedom has been substantially curtailed by the present {cite:journal} formatting. As it stands, I'm very strongly tempted to remove any cite:journal markup I find and make them plain text references, so that they are clear, easy to read, and follow standard usage - MPF 14:54, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
You're allowed to choose any style you like. In this section, I'm proposing that it be made easier for you. But if you feel that your human rights are being threatened by a template which follows the MOS, then you're welcome to remove cite:journal markup (I have done the same in some cases, for example to enter correct Harvard style in "T-34"; see {{wikiref}} and {{wikicite}}).
By the way, name-calling ("tabloid", "gutter-press") and hyperbole ("No-one else!") don't really help your argument. Michael Z. 2006-03-15 18:30 Z
I love this suggestion; it allows different fields (arts, sciences, social sciences, etc. etc. etc.) to use the format usual to their journals. We scientists can have no quotes and bold volumes, while the humanities people can have their own format. It seems very unlikely that we're going to reach consensus any other way. It also has the advantage that a science article will look scientific, by having a scientific style of reference list, while a history article will look historical by its reference format. It increases the perceived reliability of Wikipedia within the relevant fields. The only other option would have been different templates for different disciplines. The next question is: how many styles are required, and how should they be formatted? We are in danger of almost every user wanting his/her own style, some with quotes, some without, some in italics, some boldface, some in small caps, some upside-down. I think all of science (probably including mathematics) can cope with a single format; I don't know about other fields. How about these for starters:
{{cite journal | style=science…
{{cite journal | style=humanities…
--Stemonitis 08:25, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
I think it would be better to refer to specific style manuals, like APA, Harvard, Chicago, or the manuals of particular academic organizations, publishers or journals. That would eliminate the inevitable debate about what constitutes a particular style. Michael Z. 2006-03-15 18:34 Z

I'm a new comer to this debate, having been dragged in from my recent forays into using various cite templates. I've scanned through the debate and it seems that there is little folks want in common except this - to let the reader know that the article has been created from reliable sources. To that end I don't think it matters much if one uses one particular format or another, as long as the formats are generally compatible with each other, and that the formats are compatible with someone who is adding a reference manually. So, I think having a whole slew of templates for difference purposes, be it so that we can pick and choose whether we want/need "style=Chicago" or "style=science" or anything more specific than that, is a good thing. Any efforts at limiting those choices at this point is fruitless and will lead to religious wars. Let the citation styles flourish and let the article authors and editors pick the style that works best for them and their articles. Articles written under a specific WikiProject will likely end up having the same style of reference across the project in the end. Does it matter if a series of articles about the NYC Subway has the same citation style as a set of articles about birds? - UtherSRG (talk) 12:18, 15 March 2006 (UTC)

Agreed. Anyone know how to set this up, then? - MPF 14:54, 15 March 2006 (UTC)
In the meanwhile, I've set up {{Cite journal2}}, which is a carbon copy of {{Cite journal}}, but without the quote marks. This is, I should point out, only intended to be a temporary solution; I didn't feel up to adding extra conditionals to the template. --Stemonitis 20:44, 23 March 2006 (UTC)
Thanks! How does one set about converting existing usages of {{Cite journal}} to it? - MPF 00:41, 24 March 2006 (UTC)
What I did at Carcinus maenas was simply to do a search and replace, changing every "ite journal" to "ite journal2" (not knowing if I'd used "Cite" or "cite"), and it seemed to do the trick. [1] --Stemonitis 09:39, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

Location of web citations[edit]

Regarding cite styling for web source, it appears that the most common method is to use [http://www.domain.tld/page] at the end of a sentence. Is there a preferred location for this, before or after the period? To me, before the period makes more sense and is more readable. I can't seem to find a standard for this. Suggestions? --Kickstart70 19:03, 9 March 2006 (UTC)

I agree before the period - otherwise it reads as the reference is in, and applies to, the following sentence. - MPF 11:00, 14 March 2006 (UTC)
Ideally these should not be used; if the page's content changes or it is removed, it is difficult to ascertain what was cited. Johnleemk | Talk 17:07, 14 March 2006 (UTC)

Internal link for publication year in citation of reference?[edit]

Under the heading Books are the following guidelines:
If Wikipedia has a page for the book, make the book title a link to it... If the authors are notable (as above) and have not already been linked to from the article, then make their names link to their pages. It is also occasionally relevant to link a publisher, place of publication, etc.
What about the year? -- Thanks, Deborahjay 15:51, 4 July 2006 (UTC)

Not sure if this is what you want, but try just putting the year in brackets (i.e., [[1896]] shows up as "1896". SB Johnny 12:59, 5 July 2006 (UTC)

Thanks - knew that; what's not clear to me is whether this is recommended style, unacceptable, or discretionary. -- Deborahjay 14:46, 5 July 2006 (UTC)

I don't think it is recommended. Kaldari 21:00, 9 July 2006 (UTC)

Citing an event (i.e. a concert)[edit]

In the Lupe Fiasco article there is a reference to a live performance he did. What would be the proper format to cite an even or live performance (I'm fairly certain the current format on the article is wrong)??? --Jaysscholar 13:31, 27 July 2006 (UTC)
Also, there doesn't seem to be a template for this. Is there?? --Jaysscholar 13:32, 27 July 2006 (UTC)

According to this site, a live performance should be cited like
Cello Concerto No. 2. By Eric Tanguy. Cond. Seiji Ozawa. Perf. Mstislav Rostropovich. Boston Symphony Orch. Symphony Hall, Boston. 5 Apr. 2002.
How excatly would I use this on wiki? and how would it relate to the specific reference I'm using. Using the info that the previous user put and the url he left, I'm thinking :
Fiasco In Seattle. By Black Clouds CommitteeXGoods. Perf. Lupe Fiasco, Carter Mayne, D Shokk, & DJ Scene. Neumos on Capitol Hill, Seattle, Washington. 19 Jul. 2006.
Any feedback?? --Jaysscholar 14:01, 27 July 2006 (UTC)
Well, since nobody responded I'll keep the format I came up and use it for the article--Jaysscholar 13:47, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

Underlining is for typewriters, corresponding to italics for typeset books and computer screens. I've updated the examples here. Michael Z. 2006-08-17 00:19 Z

Thanks. I updated Lupe's article. --Jaysscholar 12:40, 17 August 2006 (UTC)

Chapter titles should be quoted[edit]

I think chapter titles should be quoted, because every formatting system that I can think of quotes chapter titles.

Also, further down on this "Citing sources" page, we say "Journal articles are formatted much as a chapter in a book would be" -- and then we give an example that has quotes around the article title. And the section on "Newspaper/magazine articles" on the article page gives two examples of quoted article titles.

I think there's a general principle across all formatting systems that all taken text is formatted, whether with italics or quoting or whatever. Titles are taken text. Dates, page numbers, and author names are pointers, not taken text, so they don't get formatted.

TH 21:23, 16 August 2006 (UTC)


I added a link to, a free tool to generate an alphabetized bibliography from a list of ISBN numbers in MLA, APA, or Chicago/Turabian format (with a permalink). It is an extremely useful tool for citing sources.Dhaluza 15:53, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

Is this an essay, guideline, or what?[edit]

Reading the page through, it seems to me ropy in places and outdated in others. Is it worth updating this or is it just someone's notes? qp10qp 04:34, 19 January 2007 (UTC)

This is not APA style[edit]

The guideline claims that the citation style is based on APA style, which is widely used in the social sciences.

However, the examples given are clearly not APA style.

In APA style:

  • Full first names are not used (helps to protect against possible gender bias)
  • Article/chapter titles are not placed in quotations
  • Only the first word of an article/book title (but not journal/newspaper) is capitalized
  • The volume number of a journal is italicized, not bolded

So, these examples:

  • Brandybuck, Meriadoc (1955). "Herb lore of the Shire". Journal of the Royal Institute of Chemistry 10(2), 234–351.
  • Blair, Eric Arthur (Aug. 29, 1949). "Looking forward to a bright tomorrow". New English Weekly, p. 57.

Would look like this in APA style:

  • Brandybuck, M. (1955). Herb lore of the Shire. Journal of the Royal Institute of Chemistry, 10(2), 234–351.
  • Blair, E.A. (1949, August 29). Looking forward to a bright tomorrow. New English Weekly, p. 57.

I'm not sure what the style is actually called, but it seems to be a hybrid of CSE, APA, and MLA. I think that either the examples should be changed so they actually reflect APA style, or the reference to "based on APA style" should be removed because it is confusing. It is considerably different than APA style, so the fact that it was "based" on it just adds needless confusion. Also, I think there are good reasons to adhere to APA guidelines in only using author's initials and not putting article/chapter titles in quotes saves time. — DIEGO talk 17:36, 4 October 2007 (UTC)

I agree fully. This page should either follow APA style, and state clearly how and why it differs from APA style, or not claim to be "based on" APA style. That is just confusing. I tried to fix a few things, but probably it would be better to name it the "Wikipedia citation style" or something... /skagedal... 08:23, 19 November 2008 (UTC)

Historical markers?[edit]

Someone asked a question at Wikipedia:Reference desk/Humanities#Citing a historical marker, and I proposed this:

  • "George Washington Slept Here". (1974). Pennsylvania Board on Landmarks. Historical marker, corner of Maple and Broom Streets, Podunk, Pennsylvania.

I know it will come up only rarely, but would this be a good guideline format?--Pharos 19:29, 17 October 2007 (UTC)

I hate APA style[edit]

There are several things about it that shit me beyond repair. Sorry to be vulgar, but I think WP is adult-enough now to pick and choose between what is good and what APA (and CMOS, for that matter) should have modernised years ago. The first thing that sticks in my throat is the senseless insistence on a capital letter after a colon in the titles of journal articles. Why one earth? We should get rid of this "exception" to the very good guidance to use sentence case, not title case, in article (and book) titles. Tony (talk) 06:05, 2 January 2008 (UTC) But it is NEVER incorrect to follow a colon with a capital, so what is the problem? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:36, 4 February 2008 (UTC)


Using the template "Cite book" with two authors (last, first, coauthor) gives this:

Eades, Michael R.; & Eades, Mary Dan (2000). The Protein Power Lifeplan. New York: Warner Books. ISBN 0446608246.

Based on an example used in the article, I gather that there shouldn't be a semicolon between the two authors. Any idea how to fix this using the book template? Thanks. --Phenylalanine (talk) 02:12, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

Important notice needed[edit]

It should be clearly indicated in the article that the guidelines presented cannot be followed using Wikipedia citation templates.

--Phenylalanine (talk) 22:51, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

Citation style for broadcast transcript[edit]

How would one cite a transcript of a TV (or radio) news broadcast? E.g.,[2] Askari Mark (Talk) 22:48, 16 May 2008 (UTC)

Proposal for using archived webpages in web citations[edit]

I'm considering revising the discussion of webpage citation in this article to include a discussion of archived copies of webpages.

Webpages are often changed or deleted, which typically invalidates the links to them in Wikipedia articles. There are several approaches to managing this problem. The one I favor is to include a link to an archived copy of the webpage when the citation is first created. Here is the citation that is used in the present article, and that does not (yet) include a link to any archived copy:

It turns out that the present version of this webpage is quite different than the one from the access date 2007-01-26. Altogether, about 20 versions of this webpage have been archived automatically by the Wayback Machine. We can rewrite this citation to include a link to the copy archived on the date (2006-11-17) that is closest to the original date of access (2007-01-26):

As noted earlier, I think it would have been better if the archive copy had been created at the same time that the original citation is written by using an "on-demand" archiving service such as WebCite. This procedure guarantees that the archive copy is the same as the copy referenced in the article. For the present example, the archived copy and the original webpage are not necessarily identical. In addition, a citation including a link to an archived copy will be stable; it will not need to be maintained every time the original webpage is changed or deleted. Any comments? Easchiff(talk) 04:00, 24 July 2008 (UTC)

Links to Google Books[edit]

  • Are we sure we wanna be linking to Google books? I for one am very uneasy about this practice... The viral "Me too" nature of Wikipedia articles will make this practice widespread across a large number of article, and I'm not sure we've really thought bout all the ramifications, such as:
  1. Free advertising for a commercial site; favoritism for one such site over others; brings our project into the commercial sphere.
  2. May cause process creep; eventually they will become required.
  3. Doesn't the link divulge personal info? Some people say so.
Re "Free advertising for a commercial site", most academic journals are commercial sites - look at the "please log in or pay a fee" pages.
What's the concern about favoritism for one such site over others? If another site appeared that provided simialr info, I'd probably search that too.
If process creep is a concern, perhaps we should do something about the creep that has already occurred instead of worrying about what might occur in some unspecified timeframe.
Can you please explain your concern about personal info? --Philcha (talk) 22:39, 28 May 2009 (UTC)
I'd prefer to link to an open source archive (if possible, wikibooks or wikisource), but the bottom line is that we should link to the best archive, and in my experience, Google Print with its links to the page and highlighting of key phrases is currently the most user-friendly. Perhaps a compromise solution would be to develop some template or function, similar to how our links to ISBN work, that would tell the reader which online archives have this page and let them chose from it? My point is not that we should prioritize Google Print over other archives, my point is that we should encourage using the best online archive that currently exists. The bottom line, as mentioned by several editors, is that such links are helpful, both to editors and readers, and thus they are a good thing. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| talk 09:23, 29 May 2009 (UTC)
If we link to the ISBN, there's no need for a gbooks link, users can follow the ISBN link and one more click gets them to the gbook if they want it. Personally, I'd rather see OCLC links than gbook links. The only reason I see for the gbooks link is when that satisfies WP:SAYWHEREYOUGOTIT, but in reality there's little doubt that the gbook version and the book are the same except for completeness.User:LeadSongDog come howl 15:40, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
A well-made Google books link can link directly to the referenced page with key terms highlighted; this is more useful than an ISBN link, and is more intuitive to the user. Martin (Smith609 – Talk) 22:37, 11 January 2011 (UTC)

How to cite legal documents?[edit]

How should I cite legal documents? For example, I'm writing about a historic building, and some information comes from documents signed at the time it was sold. The documents themselves are freely available in archives of various city offices, like planning and zoning commissions. Your thoughts appreciated - Magpie54 (talk) 18:18, 27 July 2009 (UTC) Magpie54

Page numbers[edit]

The Rp system for page numbers (quoting the page number in the superscript rather than the footnote) is currently used on List of vegetarians, but there has been some discussion as to whether this is appropriate for the article Talk:List_of_vegetarians#Page_numbers. The alternative suggestion was to create a separate sources section, and then use a footnote for each page number. However, using the footnote system would expand the footnotes from a couple of dozen entries to a couple of hundred. It seems to me that this is where the benefits of Rp system really score. Would use of the Rp system prevent an article from attaining featured lists status, for example?

I would like an objective opinion from someone familiar with referencing styles and where the different styles should be used. The references section is a long way off being adequate, but this needs to be sorted out first. Thanks. Betty Logan (talk) 10:56, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

Proposal - make most common citation templates visible when editing[edit]

Here is an idea to make the addition of references easier:

When the editing of any page is opened, there would be the option of uncollapsing the text for the most commonly used citation templates (e.g. cite news, cite web). This would enable editors to copy and paste the template easily into the page's text, and subsequently add the references.

Another option is to be able to add this text with the click of an icon. There would be additional icons with these templates added to the existing ones above the subject/headline box. Clicking the icon would insert the template automatically where the cursor happens to be.

Making the ease of access of these templates would make it easier for editors to use them, encourage editors to place references in these templates rather than simply copy/pasting the bare URLs, and would also make it easier to replace bare URLs in existing articles (which there are so many of) with the proper citations. Sebwite (talk) 05:56, 17 December 2010 (UTC)

    • My idea is to provide access to these templates without having to open a separate window, which would make them more conveniently accessible. This would encourage their use more in the future, and make it easier for users to covert bare URLs already found in article (which there are so many of!) Sebwite (talk) 00:04, 19 December 2010 (UTC)
    • When I edit a page I have a toolbar that includes a "cite" button, which gives me the option of several reference templates to fill in. I'm using the Monobook skin. I can't remember if this is turned on via a gadget. That seems to accomplish what you're proposing. Fences&Windows 20:21, 2 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Yes, RefToolbar should be turned on by default. Kaldari (talk) 23:00, 3 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Support - I would like to see RefToolbar turned on by default. -      Hydroxonium (talk) 22:55, 9 January 2011 (UTC)

why not standardize on one format?[edit]

1. First, let's go inline cites. Most people do it, expect it. Let's just do it. It helps stop SOME of the POV pushers and ISAYSO types.

2. Let's just pick some format. I've published in a lot of different journals and I didn't mind using ANY of their formats. and they were all different. But NOT different from article to article. The publication itself was consistent. Look, just think of the HUGE amount of work needed to improve content and prose on this website. so how about at least standardizing something that is prettuy clerical like this. Just PICK ONE. I don't care which. Then all the tools would match it and EACH OTHER. And for people who think ti faster to do manual, you could memorize one system and get really fast at it! YEAH. Plus it would give the gnomes something to do, to fix back formatting.

Look, we could STILL allow people to input content with crappy format (even just a bare url). But for the article to progress, what we expect the article to be at end, would be clearly one format. Seriously, this would make us more efficient.

Oh...and SURE there will always be some tricky thing that is not in the rules, like how do I cite a jingle or something. but that happens regardless and is not the problem. The issue is why not have date formatting and all that stuff exactlu the same always, tool to tool.TCO (talk) 09:47, 5 January 2011 (UTC)

  • Support - I support a single format. Citations and references are very important to the project. Currently, there are a number of different styles and guides. This is confusing to newbies. Selecting a single standard will help and possibly encourage new users to use citations more often. -      Hydroxonium (talk) 22:50, 9 January 2011 (UTC)
    • Let's get a movement started and make it happen.TCO (talk) 22:54, 9 January 2011 (UTC)
I've left a note at the village pump so hopefully that will get others to stop by and add their 2 cents. -      Hydroxonium (talk) 23:26, 9 January 2011 (UTC)
You rock !TCO (talk) 23:47, 9 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Opport. I think standardising in general would be good. Mostly, I think preferring one style over another without good reason is not something Wikipedia needs to give too much room to (ie that there should be standardisation and it should be accepted that this has to be to some style or other arbitrarily). However, I also think that there are articles where there may be a legitimate reason to prefer a style appropriate to that article (eg standard legal citation for law-related articles, APA style for psychology articles etc). I think a standard default and a presumption that certain styles will be appropriate to certain articles would be the ideal situation if that could ever be achieved. --FormerIP (talk) 23:28, 9 January 2011 (UTC)

Some other benefits are it would better make clear what is being used in templates and toolbars, that they are the default. It's confusing even what "style" the templates are (and they clash in the details, things like date format of accessed and name display of coauthors (or maybe they are fine, but they leave open the possiublity of people running differente formats, each fine but different). Would also allow us to really promote and think through some things that are more "wiki style" but are beneficial in our context (i.e. using full journal names and a preference for showing article titles, use of urls, etc. Things that clipped academic references do different or don't worry about.) Adressing these things in the context of a single format would be much more useful than in the shifting sands of various formats.TCO (talk) 23:46, 9 January 2011 (UTC)

BTW, I'm not completely clear that using field ref styles is the way to go. I've been doing a lot of science stuff and the "citation template" style is used, not ACS or some such. And it's fine. Arguably superior (for our purposes).TCO (talk) 23:50, 9 January 2011 (UTC)

  • Oppose. If a unique standard were chosen, I can predict that it would be footnote style. That's works well for fields where the citations are scattered over lots of sources, and where you want to cite lots of individual statements. In other fields, particularly science and mathematics, you're likely to have only a small number of sources for an entire article, and you don't want to disrupt the flow by citing every little detail. In these areas, Harvard style is often more convenient (also because footnotes can then naturally be used for parenthetical remarks, which are also more likely to be useful in these fields). --Trovatore (talk) 23:53, 9 January 2011 (UTC)
COMMENT - Standard vs Requirement - I viewed this as having a standard rather than a requirement. Meaning this is a standard we strive to use except in cases X, Y and Z. -      Hydroxonium (talk) 00:12, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
Well I've published a lot of peer reviewed science. Most (all of mine, actually, and I've been in 8 or 8 places) was in numbered ENDnote style. I bet if you do some survey of journals that most go that way (I realize there are a couple high profile ones that don't). Also, it would never bother me to do one or the other depending on what they wanted. I wouldn't tell them, hey, let ME publish in a different format from the rest of your authors. Also, I will bet that if we do a random sample of science articles here, that very few of them use Harvard style. I've been surfing this thing like crazy and NEVER come accross it. Just here in guidance. But it's not practiced (much). Since we are both scientists, we could design an experiment and do some t-test or whatever for the statistics.  :) Let me go dig out my dusty copy of Box, Hunter, Hunter.  ;)TCO (talk) 00:15, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
But Wikipedia is not a single journal. It is many things to many people. I see no need to standardize this. --Trovatore (talk) 00:41, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
OK, let's make the section header formats different also!  ;) Didn't you like me dropping that DOE manual?  ;) P.s. I bet even within fields (certainly science and I bet math too), you will find different formats at different journals. And would it really stop you one iota in submitting to a particular one? TCO (talk) 01:06, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
There's a lot of work to be done, to get content developed at wiki and improve prose and accuracy. Having clear clerical formats would just be a "tool" to allow us to concentrate on something. I would even accept Harvard if it won (no chance in Hell it would, we both know that, but I would if it did.)  ;-) TCO (talk) 01:06, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
Or I would even go for one numbered endnote style, so all the templates, tools and manual typers could do same thing. And then we could have Harvard as well. Just two standards. Since like less than 1% of the wiki uses Harvard, it wouldn't bother me. I'd never see it. (peace).  ;)
I simply don't think you've met the burden of explaining why this is necessary. Clearly that burden is on you. The presumption is against instruction creep. --Trovatore (talk) 01:29, 10 January 2011 (UTC)

1. My FA (and almost every FA of people doing articles with more than one author) suffered from inconsistent format, even though we were trying to have consistent format. Becuase there is no set format. Do you want a Taylor time motion study done on this?  ;)

2. The different tools (Magnus versus toolbar versus cite templates) disagree on small points, even though it seems they are trying to agree.

3. For people trying to do work manually and match the template/toolbar usage, it's impossible to really know what to match as it's not spelled out as a format in the way that a normal journal would in the Notice to Authors.

4. We have a lot of work to do on content quality and prose quality. If we could just nail something like this down it would make it easier. Unless we want to spend time arguing about format in the most obscure manners vice putting together good educational product in an encyclopedia format.

5. I (and I expect most publishing scientists, I bet even you) pretty effortlessly submit to different journals, just using whatever style they call out in the Notice to Authors. So picking one, would be reasonable, and liveable withable.

6. A clear format would mean that tool makers would be more motivated to create tools.

7. A clear format would motivate and make easier better references by editors, who are not adroit ref users.

8. Do other encyclopedias feel the need to change ref format by field?

9. We don't even have set formats by field. It's just do whatever you want. TCO (talk) 01:48, 10 January 2011 (UTC)

  • Support. As soon as we standardize on one format, creating software tools to facilitate creating and editing citations will be easy. Right now, the only people opposed to such tools are people worried that it will cause one citation style to dominate over others, so instead, we leave them all equally difficult to use. Kaldari (talk) 01:51, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Support - The current system of trying to avoid disputes by allowing people to use whatever system they feel like is not very good. Its potentially confusing for new users and aggravating for users who edit articles on a variety of topics. It looks rather amateurish to have a consistent style for everything except citations. While the citation templates aren't perfect, we can make them into whatever we want, rather than restricting ourselves to one particular style guide, especially since many "traditional" styles are still based on the content being used in a print work, rather than online. The templates are also more understandable by bots and scripts, which will allow us to automate citation work, like we do with {{cite pmid}}. I think the best idea would be to say that for articles that rely heavily on a few references, use shortened footnotes in the text (though with just one template style, rather than 3 or so options like we have now) and then the "normal" citation templates otherwise. If anything, this is reducing instruction creep. Wikipedia:Citing sources would likely be significantly reduced by this change. Mr.Z-man 02:11, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose: such a decision would likely not represent the whole world, and would be prejudiced toward one field, and would also be unnecessary. I would be for a policy that says citation formats need to be consistent within the same article, and a guideline saying that in general psych/communications/social academic articles be in APA format, legal articles in legal format, etc. --AerobicFox (talk) 04:21, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
    • Multi-discipline journals manage to use a single format. Also even within disciplines, lots of journals use different formats. For instance plenty of non-ACS chemistry journals don't use ACS format. Same with physics. So the fields seem to manage just fine with arbitrary citation formats. It wouldn't make a head blink to go look an ACS journal or non-ACS journal. And I've never heard of someone not submitting a paper based on not liking the citation format.TCO (talk) 04:26, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
    • Also are we actually DOING THIS? Like if I go to all the psych articles, they use one format, law same? I know for hard science articles, there is no consistent format. not a nailed down one for sure. Is this really feasible? And if so, should there be some list of all the "field" styles. and we can have that at least, written and referable to?TCO (talk) 05:01, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
      • Personally, I think a different, defined style per field would be worse than what we have now. It would be just as confusing for editors, but there would be more rules to follow. And then there's all the articles that don't easily fit into a defined academic field like pop culture, companies, products, websites, etc. Or articles that potentially fit under multiple fields. Should an biography about a 19th century chemist follow the style for chemistry or 19th century history? We have to remember that not everyone editing the site is coming from an academic background. I doubt someone with a PhD is going to give up on Wikipedia because we're not using his preferred citation style, but someone without much experience in academic writing might give up if it's too complicated. Mr.Z-man 06:14, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
        • I agree that we shouldn't have a defined style per field. I don't think we need any change on this point at all. It's like ENGVAR; it's per-article. That's the way it should stay. --Trovatore (talk) 06:39, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
          • To clarify my position. I think an article should be consistent within that article on the type of citations used, and if there is question on which of the citations to follow then there should be a list of recommendations depending on the subject. For example: Lets say Random Psyche article goes up for GA status. I think the citations before it reaches GA status should all be in the same format for that article. If there is a debate going on as to which citation format should be used, then a general guideline on what types of citations go for what academic subjects could be a reference to help end any potential debate, but the guideline wouldn't have to be necessarily followed(it would just help end debates or act as a reference for those curious). --AerobicFox (talk) 18:14, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
            • Well, we've been trying it that way for the last 10 years and it's not working. Stuff is not consistent within articles. And the precense of no common clear standard (even an optional one) is what causes the glitches. People come in and don't know if the dates should be numeric or alpha, different tools do it different, etc. It's hard even when you're trying. Bottom line is we've tried it your way and the results are in front of our eyes.TCO (talk) 20:55, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Support We can hash out which style we need, but I see no reason NOT to have a "house standard" style of citing references, beyond "We've always had many styles, so why change now." The ENGVAR analogy is somewhat of a red herring. Wikipedia is one website, one work, so should have a unified referencing style. If we follow the ENGVAR arguement to its conclusion, we should throw out the entire WP:MOS and just allow anyone to do whatever they want. The reason is that we use a set of pre-approved styles for layout and format of articles, and referencing style is a formatting issue, not a linguistic one. Just like we have preferences for how the lead is layed out, or which appendix sections come in which order, referencing can be standarized. --Jayron32 13:45, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
  • partial support impossing a standard on human editors will just lead to unneeded drama and biting of newbies. However setting up a common standard for templates and bots to follow (although good luck with working out how Template:Cite sign should be formatted) seems like a reasonable idea.©Geni 17:58, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
    • Templates are, for the most part, already standardized. The problem is that not all articles use templates. We allow people to use basically any style of hand-written citations and we give the option of using <ref> tags or parenthetical citations. I think the only thing we don't allow anymore is plain external links with no other content. Mr.Z-man 20:47, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
      • This would be a big help. I'm not some rule debater. I think more time squaring the articles away and less year long debates would move this thing to a better standard. So, if we could just get one "standard" even if not mandatory, it would be helpful. I would use it and I bet a huge amount of other people would. Those who really don't want to, vaya con dias. It's not like I'm trying to control them, but even when I WANT to collaborate with others and use same style (or gosh knows, not have to learn a new one every article), then I get messed up. I bet you would see a lot of "opt in" to even a voluntary standard. Progress is fine with me. I'm not all or nothing. Not (purely) a debater. Want to make it easier to do articles and have them look better for readers. Not just policy "wars".TCO (talk) 20:55, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
The problem is that experence suggest that a formal standard will result in people jumping on the fingers of newbies for getting it wrong. My experence is that in most well developed articles the refs go through templates so that is where the issue is best addressed without generating newbie biting issues.©Geni 22:01, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
Is it newbie biting to correct a spelling mistake? Is it newbie biting to clean up a newbie-created article for WP:WIKIFY problems? Then why would it be newbie biting to fix a referencing mistake? --Jayron32 22:06, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
Because people don't get attached to their spelling mistakes but they can get attached to their reffing style.©Geni 00:23, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
The current mess isn't much better with regard to newbies. We're not biting them, but we are confusing them. The simpler we can make editing, the better. Not having a dozen different formats used inconsistently across fields and even within articles will go a long way toward simplification. If things are standardized then we can make things easier with scripts and automated systems like {{cite pmid}}. Mr.Z-man 23:22, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
I disagree that with Geni that it is the newbies who are hurt by standardization. In my experience, it is typically long time (pre-2007) editors who object to standardization. These are the people who hate citation templates, or who love to format citations in LSA or MLA. I think most of the repeated calls for standardization come from newbies. Most newbies are surprised when they discover that no standards exist. Standardization helps newbies and hurts long time editors who don't like being told what to do. ---- CharlesGillingham (talk) 07:28, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Theoretical support. There are lots of benefits to standardizing wherever we can, and I would welcome efforts to find everything that we can agree on standardizing. I don't for a minute believe that it will be as easy as declaring one standard by handwave and fiat, though. If that were true the date format wars would never have happened. I also have to echo Geni's comment above mine: we must allow inexperienced editors (which includes all casual editors, which is by far most editors) to add sourcing in any way they can manage, and improve the citation of those sources on our own time, because asking every casual editor to be familiar with the fully specified {{cite book}} in order to say they got their information from a book will not work. We also must not fall into the trap some tendentious editors use of claiming that references formatted in something other than their preferred style render an article "unreferenced". Getting anywhere with this sort of proposal would be a long slog, but it's woth making efforts. Gavia immer (talk) 22:17, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Strawman-destroying comment: Nothing in having a consistent standard to aim towards would prevent newbies from plopping down bare urls. I agree that is way better than an unsourced statement. And the gnomes can follow along and upgrade the work of the researchers. But as is, gnomes have no real clue what to upgrade how. And we have this mess, that we live in. Having a format allows people to build towards eventual (even in article) conformity. New to Wiki writers who are sophisticated will not be slowed down a bit (and will welcome) having a standard format to use for their citations. As it is now, even sophisticated writers of academic papers have no clue what standard to use and it varies form article to article and for the vast majority of articles (below FA) there's not even an IN article standard. Adopting a "journal standard", even opt-in would make it so much easier. Plus jhaving a clear standard would allow people to learn it, to learn citing in general. I'm pretty unmotivated to learn a mishmash of standards, but if there were one, I could really get into it, get into all the tricky situations of what to do when.TCO (talk) 23:31, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
  • COMMENT - TCO brings up a good point. I don't want a standard so that I can force it on others. I want a standard so that I can follow a "best practice" and make better articles. I think many others would also feel more comfortable using a "suggested standard" once it has been defined. -      Hydroxonium (talk) 03:06, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. See "holy war", "waste of time" and "why isn't this on WP:PEREN already?". More substantively, different citation styles exist because different subjects have different needs. For example: If you're relying heavily on a single source, parenthetical citations are a bit more immediately honest with the reader than a string of different numbers. "I keep citing different pages in Smith's book" is right there in front of the reader with the parenthetical citation, with no need to finish click anything, scroll to the end, or even to finish the article, to discover that all those numbers point to the same book. If the source is particularly notorious—think Peter Duesberg of HIV denialism—then that, too, is right there in front of the reader, even if the reader doesn't intend to look at the sources (and few readers do look at the sources).
    But other times, the source's identity is less important than managing the connection to dozens, or even hundreds, of good, but non-(in)famous sources. In that situation, I very strongly prefer <ref> tags.
    I have personally written articles using both FOOT and PAREN styles, based on the needs of the subject. I do not want those options taken away in the name of a mindless consistency. WhatamIdoing (talk) 04:14, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Support a standard, pick the standards later. We can establish a house style to use generally, and then discuss areas that would benefit from alternate styles, but first we need to agree that having some standards would be beneficial. I believe it is. Imzadi 1979  04:16, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose in the absence of a specific proposal and a comprehensive survey on how this would effect our existing articles. We are currently using a wide variety of citation styles and it would be a lot of work to standardize them. There is some benefit to consistency, but it is impossible to evaluate the cost-benefits when we don't have a clear idea what the costs are, especially the costs of making our articles worse by fitting them to a Procrustian bed that does not suit their subjects. —David Eppstein (talk) 04:26, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Strong Oppose: the proposal demonstrates an extreme lack of understanding about the reasons for a variety of referencing systems in publishing. It isn't just because of "house-style." Fifelfoo (talk) 04:38, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
Could you edumacate me? I've done a thesis and published a lot of academic papers. Never bothered me that journals had different formats, but at least they were set. Maybe expand a little on the true benefits of format by field. Also realize your argument is undermined if there are encyclopedias that use a single style (and helped if they go by field). Also same point wrt the field argument. If I go look at history, say, and find that various formats are pretty normally used across journals and that people seem to function fine (don't refuse to submit to one, or read one because of the format). P.s There goes my "support".  ;-) TCO (talk) 06:05, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
  • No. You are being uncivil through cutsy condescension and through dominating the discourse by over replying. Fifelfoo (talk) 07:16, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
  • strong Oppose - WP is rather heterogenous voluntary project and as such it should stay away from enforcing any standardization that is not really required for the project goals. Authors should work with what they are comfortable and learn to live with heterogenous nature of WP (no more "style nazis" please).--Kmhkmh (talk) 04:54, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
    • By that logic, we should delete the entire manual of style and only require that articles be coherent. None of our goals require that our content look nice. Articles are not all written by a single author. Why should what happened to be comfortable for the first editor dictate what future editors have to use? Or are you suggesting that people should be allowed to switch formats in an article because they like their format better? Mr.Z-man 06:59, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
      • Personnally yes I wouldn't mind to abolish a few (imho overregulated) things in various style guides, in particular since "looking nice" is often a rather subjective assessment. Yes of course are people allowed to switch formats of articles (as long as there is consent and they are really contributing the the article's content rather than just hopping from article to article performing format changes only). What I'd really like to see is people focussing on or fighting for the quality of the content rather than this constant (and pointless) bickering over formats. The current established style rationale is not great either but merely an attempt to reduce that constant tug of war over the style. And yes having the first or most active authors of an article "dictate" its style is better then the community dictating it to all, because the first version actually provides some leeway to those providing the actual content over those fixing the layout and frankly that's fine by me.--Kmhkmh (talk) 13:23, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Weak support. This issue has come up many times. Last month, I wrote this at WP:CITE:
Standardization has both positive effects and negative effects. Among the positive effects are
  1. Standardization shortens learning curve for new editors. It simplifies the documentation and gives new editors clear directions.
  2. Standardization helps bots and other editors to find typos and minor errors and correct them. Articles with unusual citation methods tend to be loaded with mistakes (See, for example {{wikicite}}, where I corrected over 1,000 articles with faulty wikilinks, leaving only 100 articles that used the template correctly.)
Among the negative effects are:
  1. Standardization stifles innovation. New citation mothods are, by definition, non-standard. See list defined references, {{sfn}} or {{vcite book}}, all of which are "non-standard" but all of which are (arguably) "better" in some way.
  2. Standardization invites edit-warring. There are editors who hate certain citation methods and other editors who love them. These editors have, in the past, caused needless strife that does not help the project. The only way to keep these editors in check is to make it clear from the start that you can't change citation methods without consensus. ... Standardization, out in the article space, always means changing an article from an unpopular style to a popular style, and, as the guideline should point out at every turn, this is a dangerous practice that can lead to trouble and should only be carried out with caution.
The primary reason we don't have a standard citation method is the last one above: some editors get really angry if you try to impose a standard on them. To be honest, I don't see why anyone could get so angry about such an insignificant thing. To me, as long as it uniquely identifies the source, it is a good citation. There are advantages to standardization. So why not standardize? That's my view. ---- CharlesGillingham (talk) 06:35, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
Assuming that the opposition to this proposal comes from irrational anger seems to me to be a textbook violation of WP:AGF. —David Eppstein (talk) 08:10, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
I'm not saying it's irrational; all I'm saying is that I don't understand it. Why are some editors so married to some particular citation styles? Why do some editors hate popular (flawed, but perfectly effective) citation styles? (I didn't understand all the fuss over date formats either.) There are just some debates in Wikipedia I don't get. ---- CharlesGillingham (talk) 08:53, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. No citation style can be all things to all people. E.g., I do math, so I never cite law review articles and law review articles never cite me. If I use a style that's popular within my field, then other mathematicians can read my citations easily, and since they're the most likely audience, I'm saving them time and effort. If I really need to decipher a legal citation, then I can learn how to do that, but the lawyers shouldn't be forced to conform to my preferred style just because it might be convenient for me some distant day in the future.

    I have a prediction: If we impose a standard citation style on Wikipedia, then we'll periodically get newcomers who come by and impose a format more common in their field. They'll be reverted and told that Wikipedia has a standard citation style. That'll make them angry, because after all they just fixed things and now they're being told that Wikipedia doesn't want their good work. Eventually it'll blow up into a big discussion like this one and the standard citation style will be overthrown. Ozob (talk) 12:08, 11 January 2011 (UTC)

  • Oppose for the reaons that Ozob gives. Unless of course I am allowed to write the guideline for my own preferred style and allowed to run a bot to enforce it on everyone else without having to worry about gaining a consensus do so. (BTW This reminds me of the debate over where to place a footnote next to punctuation, in that debate I was opposed to the style adopted and thought the guidelines should be more accommodating to other style options). -- PBS (talk) 15:09, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose per the preceding. I have my pet style hates, and my own favourite way of doing things, but surely we want people to write articles, more than we want them to learn the "rules"? Consistency within an article is all I expect to see, when reading WP myself. Nortonius (talk) 16:38, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
  • 1/4 support. Currently there is chaos. There are citation templates which by default separate several authors from each other by semicolons, and then separate the last author from completely different information by a comma. The {{Citation}} template sometimes formats a page or range of pages by preceding it with "p" or "pp.", and sometimes without. Example:
  • Doe, John (2011), "What a nice title!", My Journal (1): 42 .
  • Dough, Jane, My first book, p. 42 .
These quirks make it very hard to format things professionally, and I believe they occur because the templates have been programmed so as to allow every little minor preference that someone might have. This also makes them so bloated that for some large articles page generation takes a minute or longer. (Basically only logged-in users are affected because for each of them the pages must be regenerated.)
We can reduce this chaos without making impossible the real stylistic choices that make sense. We should have a small number of distinct citation styles. Two or three are probably enough, and half a dozen would be plenty.
All of this has nothing to do with whether we are using footnotes, Harvard-style citation, or a mixture of both (as I usually do for big articles). The two questions are completely unrelated, and putting them together into a package deal as has been done here guarantees that nothing will happen at all. Pure footnotes are best for most articles, Harvard style (with or without footnotes) is much better for some articles. Hans Adler 20:14, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
This seems largely based on misunderstanding to me. What you list as "quirks" (specifically using "pp" for citations from books but omitting it for citations from journals) are there not because of a confusion of preferences, but because it's a standard style in academic publishing to do exactly that. And one reason for the variety of options in citations is that there's a big variety of idiosyncratic information that needs to be presented for different kinds of references (e.g. publisher, publisher's address, series, volume within a series, isbn for books; volume and issue numbers and ids of papers in various academic databases for journal papers; urls and access dates for web sites; other types of citations with yet again other formatting requirements include newspaper articles, patents, chapters within edited volumes, entries in online databases such as IMDB, etc). Your "two or three are probably enough" sounds laughably naive to me. The important points are that sources are identified verifiably and unambiguously, and that individual articles are formatted consistently within each article. We don't need a new stricter formatting policy to achieve that. —David Eppstein (talk) 21:16, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
Seriously? Are you telling me that there is a single citation standard that starts page numbers with "p." for some entries but not for others? If that's true, then it's atrocious and can only be explained with size/clarity constraints, i.e. leaving out "p." only when it's clear from context. We don't have these size constraints, so we should never accept such a hodgepodge.
Yes, the standard APA style does this for instance. In the official examples of references using this style, compare the Lang, Bradley, and Cuthbert entry or the Raz entry (chapters in books, with "pp") with all the previous journal article entries (no pp).
With "two or three" I was referring to two or three complete sets of citation rules. How a reference is formatted will always depend on what kind of reference it is (journal, book, dictionary entry, website, news report, patents, ...) and which information is available. In addition, it's OK if you can choose style A, B or C, each of which sets certain parameters consistently depending on all the other variables. But it's not necessary that you can set the separator between authors to be a semicolon in an underlying style that separates different kinds of information by a comma. And it is absolutely necessary that each style is internally consistent and at least one style is fully implemented.
What I am asking for is a small number of consistent citation formatting styles as in BibTeX, working out of the box, and with no manual tweaking required. Hans Adler 22:27, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Gentle oppose. Consistent stylistic choices within each article is the spirit of this multi-faceted encyclopedia. Different choices may be more appropriate for different articles, and calling some choices "exceptions" to an arbitrary standard is contrary to our inclusive spirit. Geometry guy 21:11, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Oh wait a minute are we just talking about the format of the citation itself, rather than how it's referred to from the text? I guess I'm not as opposed to standardizing that. In that case, though, I still think the ones currently used are pretty suboptimal, and I'd want these points to be addressed before I bought in:
    1. Current majority style seems to be last-name-first for all authors. I was taught last-name-first for first author only; after that it goes back to last-name-last. The reason is that last-name-first is not really for reading but for quickly finding an author in a list.
    2. Somewhat related point: Periods (full stops) are bad for separating lexical elements in a citation. Instead we should use bold or italics. Current citation template has a very bad effect of putting a double period when you name an author with a middle initial punctuated American-style. Note that this effect is somewhat ameliorated if we go to last-name-last for all authors but the first, but is still a problem for single-author works. --Trovatore (talk) 22:06, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Support as a guideline but not necessarily its unilateral enforcement. If there is an article where editors are indifferent to the citation style (probably most articles), then let's be professional about it and have them looking consistent. If there is an article that is owned by an editor with a strong preference, then let's not encourage aggravation by insisting on a (relatively) small detail. I would suggest that the largest benefits will come if we recommend that editors use templates to create their citations; that way, editors don't have to worry about making things consistent (the template does it); and bots can add missing data to citations. Martin (Smith609 – Talk) 22:34, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Incidentally, why is APA format better suited to psychological articles than legal format? Surely the aim of a citation format is to allow a reference to be located; I don't see why this should be achieved differently in different fields - surely lawyers and psychologists alike both use libraries (and google scholar etc)? Martin (Smith609 – Talk) 22:34, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. I think an official citation standard will cause unnecessary wrangling. Rather, I see the challenge as getting people to use references in the first place. I think there should be a guideline suggesting that inline citations beat other citations hands down, since it's so easy for the rest of the community to check. I like the idea of a suggested citation guideline. I'm used to a certain citation model which I'm very adept at; getting me to shift gears at this point will make this old guy have to learn new tricks; you know about the difficulty with old dogs and new tricks?--Tomwsulcer (talk) 22:55, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
    • Actually inline citations are often overdone. Some articles look like legal briefs or postmodern master's theses. It's distracting; it interrupts the flow. --Trovatore (talk) 22:58, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
      • Question. Can we program bots to automatically format citations in the correct way?--Tomwsulcer (talk) 23:21, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
        • If there was such a thing, probably. Right now, the "correct way" for a particular article is just whatever the predominant format is in the article. At the moment, I don't think there is even an official "preferred way." There are wrong ways like plain external links, but as long as essential information is included, people can use whatever format they want. Mr.Z-man 23:45, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose until the Cite family of templates is much improved. I don't use them at all (unless I'm copying a citation within Wikipedia, a trivial case). Nontemplated referents permit stylistic consistency within an article. A journal title appearing after the volume number looks bad, and was due to a Cite family template. Another example of how the templates can be improved is field-specificity; e.g., one might cite "Yale Law Journal, vol. 13," in a science article but "13 Yale L.J." in a law article, because I imagine a large percentage of Wikipedia readers are students in the respective fields who are learning the norms of citing in their fields and expect to see them. Nick Levinson (talk) 08:07, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose for now. I'd have no problem in principle with picking one citation style, but this proposal has not been thought through—inline citations are already mandated, for example. Plus, you'd have to change all the templates too. Also, the discussion would have to take place in a more central location; it's not clear why it's being held here and not at WT:CITE, though that isn't central enough for a change like this either. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 17:35, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Support in principle; Oppose in reality—In a Wikipedia of the future, all references will be entered in templates, and the user will be able to specify which citation format they want to see by clicking a button in their preferences. Until that time, trying to get several thousand users to agree and three million articles to conform to a standard citation format is a recipe for 100s of cumulative wasted man-hours and needless drama. Sasata (talk) 18:36, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
  • What are we voting on? #1 (inline cites), #2 (standard format), #1 OR #2, #1 AND #2? Seems like we have some very mixed discussion here. - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 23:50, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
I'm not sure anymore. The conversation here seems very confusing to me. -      Hydroxonium (talk) 00:46, 13 January 2011 (UTC)
  • What I think we are voting on
The original question mentioned (1) inline cites and (2) the format of individual citations.
Inline cites are already mandated except in cases where they are truly pointless (such as an article about an uncontroversial topic that is covered in a short section of any textbook on the subject. Here, using a general reference for that section makes more sense).
So I assume we are really only talking about (#2). Should we have a standard citation style (for the individual citation)? In Wikipedia, the plurality of citations are formatted by the {{cite *}} family of templates. There are also a substantial number of citations formatted by the template {{citation}}, which differs only in punctuation from {{cite *}}. Then there is a large number of citations which are hand written in many different forms: Chicago, Harvard, MLA, APA, LSA, etc. These differ slightly in punctuation and the order of elements. There are a relatively small number of articles which use other templates, such as {{vcite book}} (Vancouver) or {{harvrefcol}} (LSA). There are also many articles which use idiosyncratic styles unique to a particular editor. And then there are several hundred thousand articles that have a hodgepodge of bad citations and non-citations which need to be fixed. The question is this: should Wikipedia just go ahead a choose "house style" and begin the work of moving all of our articles to one style?
There are other standization issues which are not addressed by the original question above, but seem to be part of the discussion. These have to do with the mechanisms we use to create inline citations and connect them to sources. Should we have both parenthetical references and shortened footnotes? Should we "fix" the 9,000 or so articles that still use {{ref}}? Should we eliminate {{rp}} in favor of (the more common) shortened footnotes? Should we stamp out idiosyncratic citation techniques when we see them? Should we bundle citations wherever possible? And so on. There might be as many as forty of these questions.
These are the specific questions that need to be answered if we intend to give Wikipedia a standardized citation system. As I said above, there are strong opinions on both sides of these questions, and for this reason, it is unlikely we will have consensus on any of them. This debate does not consider any of these questions specifically. (And please, let's not start debating any of them now.)
I think we are voting on this: in principle, would it be better if these things were standardized across all of Wikipedia? Would be a good thing if people were willing to compromise on (at least some of) these things? Do the benefits of standardization outweigh whatever benefits there are with these alternatives? ---- CharlesGillingham (talk) 18:44, 13 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Incremental
We don't have to fix everything at once. Much of the idiosyncratic referencing could be converted to one of the standardized forms, though to be civil an agreement first would be desirable. A dated template message to the general effect of "It has been proposed that references in this article be standardized to (form X). If you object, please remove this template." If it's still there after a month, fair game.
While I'd prefer to see the use of templated citations for purposes of translation and of automated data validation (e.g. citation bot), the specific templates chosen don't matter much so long as they are well implemented. There is a lot to be said for tools that separate the page numbers from the rest of the citation, particularly when citing mammoth tombs, but the rest seems like much ado about nothing. Any form that doesn't confuse the reader is good, consistency is merely a tool to that end. To that extent, fewer formats would be an improvement, but not worth a great fuss (or lost editors). LeadSongDog come howl! 20:45, 13 January 2011 (UTC)

Thanks to Charles for clarifying all the forgoing. It seems to me the discussion here has been interesting, but the topic unfortunately broad, and even ambiguous. I think we don't have to resolve everything at once, and perhaps we could resolve some of these questions incrementally. - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 23:37, 13 January 2011 (UTC)

[Outdent] Personally I'm in favor of standardization, though I think that a lot of resistance will be met unless the user preferences are upgraded to include a citation style switch, which should be quite extensible (there are many, many, many citations styles with very minor differences; e.g. the American Anthropological Association and American Archaeological Association both have their own citation styles that neither match each other nor any other citation style on the planet exactly). All that said, this is an okay place for initial discussion, but it's unlikely to gain traction until a cohesive proposal is made at WT:MOS, since style matters are the scope of the Manual of Style. WP:CITE is a how-to exploration of citation methods, not a style guide. A further problem is that the various citations templates are not even consistent with one another. And some are poorly documented – literally thousands of editors, for example, believe that the |publisher= parameter in {{cite web}} is for the name of the website (that parameter is actually |work=, of course) rather than the company that publishes it. I have no idea how anyone would come to such a conclusion, but they do; it's like confusing a record label with an album it released!. <shaking head sadly> — SMcCandlish Talk⇒ ʕ(Õلō Contribs. 03:34, 17 January 2011 (UTC)

  • Oppose per Kmhkmh. The more important thing is making a sure a style is consistent within an article and provides all the relevant information. If all the info needed to find attribution is there, whats the need of haggling over the particular style its presented in? Don't we have better things to do? AaronY (talk) 12:04, 2 February 2011 (UTC)
  • Strongly oppose both provisions. What is important is that the source of all information be available; what is less important, but nice, is that the visible form of each article convey that information in a consistent manner. Whether that information is (in edit space) done by formating or by citation templates (which some people find a useful crutch, and others unnecessary inconvenience) is utterly unimportant. That it be in the same format from one article to the next is actively, if unimportantly, harmful; conventions differ between fields, in part because fields differ. A whole maths article may be reasonably cited to two pages in some standard source - all sources would agree on content and most of them on notation; to do the same for a country history would be lazy and POV. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 18:45, 8 February 2011 (UTC)

Proposal: that use of citation templates be strongly encouraged[edit]

In order to better resolve some of the issues discussed in the prior section, I propose the following: that the use of citation templates be strongly encouraged. This is not to select any particular citation template or style, and is subject to the caveat that in some special contexts there may be a need for specialized formats which do not yet exist.

  • strongly oppose - tumbleweed rolls by; the mournful tolling of distant bells. No offence, but... Nortonius (talk) 22:52, 14 January 2011 (UTC)
    I'm not sure I understand your comment. Could you perhaps relate it to the proposal above? Kaldari (talk) 00:52, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
It was intended to convey my feeling that this proposal has as much life in it as, say, bones in the desert! Firstly, I have tried using citation templates, and came to loathe them for their shortcomings, inconsistencies etc.: I accept that such issues can be overcome with time, but from what I've seen that time has not yet come, and I personally am comfortable with writing citations without using templates. Secondly, I would think it enough that their availability be indicated: unlike me, some might find them a boon, e.g. newbies, or anyone newbie or otherwise who finds any of them just right. Overall, however, the last thing I want is someone telling me that I really ought to be using them: if their use were to be "strongly encouraged", then soon enough their use will be expected. I think talk of a possible "need for specialized formats" underestimates the variety of styles that are out there, and that people reasonably adopt, and the gap between them and the available templates. It's instruction creep, and I'm strongly opposed to it. Nortonius (talk) 22:59, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
The problem is, you create an article using your preferred format, then later a newbie comes along and wants to edit it. Current guidelines prohibit them from using any style other than yours to add more citations, regardless of whether or not they're familiar with it. Editors are at the mercy of whoever added the first reference to the article. If there are problems with the citation templates, please, bring them up somewhere (like the talk pages of the templates). Problems aren't going to get fixed when the people who can do the fixing don't know what the problems are. Mr.Z-man 23:24, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
So you're saying that it's a problem adapting to a style, when there will be, in this hypothetical instance of "newbie-meets-alien-citation-format", a number of existing examples to follow...? Sorry, I don't see that as a problem, I see it as "learning", of a kind much less intimidating to a newbie than the learning involved with using citation templates; and, as I think someone else might already have pointed out somewhere in this discussion, is it not likely that someone interested in contributing to a particular article will already be familiar with styles that may be associated with a given topic? I follow what you say about people who make templates being unable to fix them or create ones that you might use if you don't tell them about it, but I already explained how I feel about that: i.e., not bothered! I don't like citation templates. Sorry. Nortonius (talk) 01:21, 17 January 2011 (UTC)
It isn't Wikipedia's place to teach people citation formats. The harder it is to edit, the more people give up and the fewer people edit. Its counterproductive for our purposes. References are one of the facets of editing that new users struggle the most with, even before they actually get to the point of formatting it.
"is it not likely that someone interested in contributing to a particular article will already be familiar with styles that may be associated with a given topic?" - No. We shouldn't assume that newbies know anything because they often don't. Not everyone that edits Wikipedia went through college recently. It might have been 20 years since they last had to cite anything.
My point was that you said you didn't like the citation templates because of some unspecified shortcomings that haven't been fixed. But you haven't told anyone what your issues with them are. Template programmers are not mind readers. If they don't see any complaints, they'll assume that everything is fine. Mr.Z-man 02:56, 17 January 2011 (UTC)
I think perhaps you misunderstand what I meant about "learning" - I said that I believed adopting an existing style within an article, i.e., simply mimicking it, to be "'learning', of a kind much less intimidating to a newbie than the learning involved with using citation templates": either way there is some learning to do, and I made explicit my belief - based on experience - that the use of citation templates involves another kind of learning. In other words, if someone hasn't cited before, or recently, there is inevitably an element of learning involved; and, the code for a citation template does, to me at any rate, look a lot more confusing and intimidating than simply mimicking what's already there. You might compare the comments made below by SlimVirgin at 23:28, 16 January 2011, and Fifelfoo at 23:39, 16 January 2011. I don't actually think there's much difference between where you and I stand on encouraging newbies - I'd say we both see that as an ideal - it's just that, as I understand you, you like citation templates and see them as a way forward, and I don't. Not any time soon, anyway. The "unspecified shortcomings" of citation templates that I mentioned have been things that, obviously, prevented me presenting a citation in a style that I was aiming for at the time. I'm sorry, but I didn't keep a diary of what those things were, and to be honest, though I have devoted a fair amount of time to WP in the past, I don't these days, for reasons that I won't bore you with: consequently the tendency has been for me to struggle with a citation template, give up on it, and enter the information manually, so that I can dive out of WP again asap - and, as I indicated previously, I'm comfortable with entering citations manually. On the other hand, I do still look in fairly regularly: the only reason I bothered to comment here was because of the proposed wording "strongly encouraged". I do see that as instruction creep, and that's exactly the kind of thing that would "encourage" me to be still less involved. Peace? I honestly feel that I've now explained the "tumbleweed", and the "mournful tolling of distant bells", to the point that I'm repeating myself. Yours truly. Nortonius (talk) 13:48, 17 January 2011 (UTC)
I don't quite see the problem here. A new editor that expands the content of an article may use for his inline reference any format he's comfortable with (content over form!). If the original editors are not happy with the format of those new references, they are free to reformat them afterwards. So nobody is kept from contributing here. The only thing that really follows from the "established style" is that you don't block other editors from aligning the format of new contribution to the "established one" and that you don't run around changing of format of articles you have nothing contributed to just because you personally prefer a particular format. The rationale is not to understood as "you can only add content if you follow the established style".--Kmhkmh (talk) 23:31, 20 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Weak oppose. I will from time to time convert an article with inconsistent and manually formatted citations so that instead it uses the citation templates, and I think it would be a mistake to have a strong form of WP:RETAIN that prevented me from doing that. But on the other hand it's not entirely trivial to learn to use the templates well and I think that it's more important to allow new editors to figure that out gradually than to start hammering them when they don't do it immediately. And I think that in general our time and energy would be better spent on more important issues, like all the articles with inadequate sources or no sources. —David Eppstein (talk) 00:47, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
    I don't see how "strongly encouraging" the use of templates is the same as "hammering" editors who don't. Kaldari (talk) 00:52, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
    What I expect would happen if anything is "strongly encouraged" is that people will start going around randomly implementing it everywhere they can, including new articles. Perhaps that is what David Eppstein meant. — Carl (CBM · talk) 00:56, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
    While it seems there are many editors that are are habituated to hammering out citations in the manner they learned in college, it appears there are also many editors that struggle with the niceties of "properly" (pick your poison) formatting citations. It seems to me that the basic use of any citation template would be much easier and save much more time and energy than any valid alternative, for both new and experienced editors. It certainly would not prevent you from converting citations; did you perhaps misread that? - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:10, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Strong oppose. The citation templates are still in development, as being altered for better features and performance. As you might know, some {{Cite journal}} references have 9 or 16 authors, but only 8 can be shown by the citation templates. In fact, it is impossible to extend the templates to show 16 separate authors (due to the MediaWiki expansion limit), even if a committee of 16 NASA astronauts authored a paper and someone wanted to list all 16. A rewrite of the templates could overcome that general performance issue, without requiring users to change articles to list extra authors as "others". Years ago, an essay was written with the unwise title "WP:Don't worry about performance" (WP:PERF), with the main issue being that even poorly structured articles could not affect the response time seen by users working on other articles. Unfortunately, some people began claiming "WP:PERF" to ignore performance of anything, and even though the essay was later expanded to note what performance issues needed worry, a chill developed on Wikipedia to generally quash, or even censor, discussions about performance. Now, years later, some medical or chemistry articles have become too big to fully display, when using the citation templates, due to performance problems with the intermediate preprocessor post-expand size limit for the templates. Rewriting the citation templates could reduce the size, perhaps by 60%, allowing more than twice as many references without hitting the preprocessor size limits. Long story short, all these issues require more time, so we should not be strongly encouraging use of templates which still have major performance problems now. -Wikid77 (talk) 07:06, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
    Why is there any issue of rewriting any templates? Are you saying that use of the various citation templates as they currently exist impose such a heavy processing overhead that they should not be encouraged?
    And why should there be any issue of extending the templates to accommodate some number of authors? I have several instances of ten or more authors (and possibly one with 16), and I am fine with simply stuffing them into 'coauthors'. That none of the citation templates is perfect is no bar to using them, and I think no bar to encouraging their use. - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 20:47, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
    Improving the templates can be done concurrently to using them. We shouldn't hold back a concrete proposal for some hypothetical future improvement (the slowness of the templates has been known for a long time, but no one has actually done anything about it). "The perfect is the enemy of the good." The vast majority of articles are short and infrequently edited; a handful of citation templates are not going to have a significant impact on loading time. It's only the articles that have tens or hundreds of citations where it becomes a problem. Currently, about 31% of articles already use either {{Citation}} and/or the Cite_* templates; they're already heavily used. Mr.Z-man 21:31, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
    An editor at Talk:Pain#Cite_ref converted all of the then-used citations (currently 95) to manually formatted citations, and says that it made a noticeable-to-the-user improvement in the time needed to load that page. WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:55, 17 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. They slow down load time, clutter articles, encourage people to add unnecessary information, and it's often faster to write the citation manually. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 23:28, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
You said, "it's often faster to write the citation manually" - you bet it is! And I'm with you on the clutter aspect, too. Nortonius (talk) 01:24, 17 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Strong oppose per Nortonius, Wikid77 and SlimVirgin. The core citation problem is editors who do not understand the core elements of a citation, and the need to impart these to the reader. The Templates _impede_ this learning process. Fifelfoo (talk) 23:39, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose While I normally use citation templates (because tools that convert an ISBN or PMID to a Wikipedia reference use citation templates, and I'd rather get a citation template in two clicks than a manually formatted citation in two minutes [and with a greater potential for typos), I'd actually be happy having a bot replace them all with the resulting, properly formatted text. I think that plain wikiformatting text is more accessible to new editors, who can usually figure out what the italics button does, but are baffled by the mess of citation templates. WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:55, 17 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Support - though I would prefer to simply say "that use of citation templates be strongly encouraged supported". A fill-in-the-blanks form filler like dibberi's is far easier than memorizing formatting details. The more important issue, however, is encouraging editors to cite at all. I'm in favour of any method that gets them off the mark in providing a clue as to where they got their assertions. That is more important than the form in which they provide said clue. If all that they do is write an inline parenthetic of the author's names (Smith&Jones) with nothing more, that is still helpful. If they give (PMID 1234567), that's even better. Some other editor or bot can usually track down the details. But if we must lay down elaborate rules on how to cite we must be much more careful than we have in order that we don't drive away novices in the process. As Jimbo just this week told the BBC, Wikipedia has become too intimidating to new editors. Making citation friendlier is a clear opportunity to address this. LeadSongDog come howl! 16:41, 17 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Support. Otherwise editors have to make up formats, and a unconventional format can almost be a way to WP:OWN. With tools like refTool, it's easy for even newcomers to build citations by filling the blanks. --Philcha (talk) 21:31, 17 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Support, for whatever that is worth. - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 23:05, 20 January 2011 (UTC)

This has been interesting. Three "support" (including myself) and three "strong oppose", plus three more "oppose"; I had not realized there was such vehement opposition. There are points here that I think really need clarification, and I will look for more acceptable approaches of resolution. - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 23:05, 20 January 2011 (UTC)

  • Oppose by the various arguments above, also i find some of the templates slightly cumbersome to use.--Kmhkmh (talk) 23:20, 20 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Support (although I suggest that the word "strongly" be removed from the proposal as unnecessary) On behalf of newbies, I'd say that {{cite templates are easier to use, I don't know what punctuation follows after an author.  I can also say from experience in computer-language standardization, that performance is at the very bottom of the list of considerations.  This is because changing technology can and will sweep away any decisions made based on performance.  Further, the rest of the world is moving on using {{cite * and {{citation templates, where Wikipedia is considered to be a new citation format:
  1. {{cite news OR {{cite web: (BBC)
  2. {{citation, for complex articles and non-books: (Worldcat)
  3. {{cite web:
  4. {{cite news: (click on "Cite")
  5. {{cite book: (Google books)
RB (talk) 03:06, 1 February 2011 (UTC)
"Strongly" is admittedly more provocative than essential. I was a little surprised by some of the issues raised, including that of performance. If that was a strong factor it would seem to be an argument for removing citation templates, but if it is in issue at all suggests that more information is needed. This could a wholly separate discussion. -- J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:54, 1 February 2011 (UTC)
  • Weak support (Strike the word "strongly".) The plurality of Wikipedia's editors prefer this format, and there are benefits to standardization. ---- CharlesGillingham (talk) 06:22, 1 February 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose per Nortonius and especially SlimVirgin. AaronY (talk) 11:48, 2 February 2011 (UTC)
  • Strong oppose Citation templates waste space in articles, take longer to produce, and are a crutch for those unable to mimic formats. It is good to have such crutches; to "encourage" everybody to use them is the world view of Harrison Bergeron. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 18:54, 8 February 2011 (UTC)
    I suppose the question comes down to one of choosing between facility of typing and completeness of citation. wp:BTW and for that matter wp:V argue for the latter, but not everyone chooses to work at weaving the Cat's Cradle. That's fine with me, so long as those who want to tackle it are unhindered. LeadSongDog come howl! 20:54, 8 February 2011 (UTC)
    Not for my comment: It takes longer than writing it manually to produce a citation template for the same level of completeness. And any editor who distorts a citation to make it fit a template should be subject-banned. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 21:03, 8 February 2011 (UTC)
    Perhaps I've missed it, but I can't recall seeing a lot of manually written citations that generate COinS (or hCite) metadata. WP has grown far beyond our ability to accurately vet everything manually, we ought to use the best bibliographic power tools that we can bring to bear in order to ensure sources don't just get cited, but that they actually get verified. That means facilitating any process that gets the source texts in front of editors' eyes. LeadSongDog come howl! 23:08, 8 February 2011 (UTC)
    I haven't seen a single article verified by "advanced bibliographic tools"; I have seen articles verified, often, by those who read the article - and knew something about the subject. They are helped and encouraged in this by not having to struggle with citation templates in the process of rewriting - and, oddly enough, they often know how to write citations.Septentrionalis PMAnderson 00:45, 9 February 2011 (UTC)
Aye, e.g. WP:RS says "It is useful but by no means necessary for the archived copy [of a reliable source] to be accessible via the Internet" - or indeed via a trip to your local bookshop, short of ordering what you want and waiting for it! Point is, if you want to verify something, this can mean getting off your arse bottom and doing it yourself! Citation templates are irrelevant in that sense. Nortonius (talk) 01:23, 9 February 2011 (UTC)
 Ah, so many issues! But the bit about distorting a citation to make it fit a template — ah, come on, you're pulling my leg, right? And just what do you mean by distort? If you mean errors in the bibliographic data (e.g., spelling errors), well, I doubt that using a template increases errors. On the other hand, it can be used to find errors. (E.g., with a template and suitable format I can process the data to find anomalies. Which is hardly verification by "advanced bibliographic tools", but it helps me to find and correct errors.) So what is this "distortion"?
  The "speed (or ease) of typing" argument seems insufficiently framed. E.g., it is a lot faster (and easier) to simply not bother with citations at all, right? What we really (maybe) want is the minimum effort to meet some requirement. (Alternately, to be no harder or cumbersome than necessary.) Ideally we would first determine the requirements, then the "best" (fastest, easiest, lightest, simplest, etc.) way of meeting the requirements. "Fastest" (etc.), by itself, is an inadequate criterion. - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:32, 9 February 2011 (UTC)

List of arguments opposing use of citation templates[edit]

From the previous section I have extracted the following list of what appear to be the main arguments in opposition to using citation templates (such as {{citation}} and the {{cite}} family). Please add any I may have missed. Some of these could use a little more specification. Once the list is reasonably complete (and organized?) I would like to create subsections in which the arguments themselves can be stated. - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:15, 10 February 2011 (UTC)

  1. Unspecified "shortcomings". (Nortonius)
  2. Need for specialized formats??
  3. Instruction creep. (Nortonius)
  4. More confusing and intimidating than simply mimicking what's already there. (Nortonius)
  5. Prevents editor from using preferred style. (Nortonius)
  6. Not entirely trivial to learn to use well. (David Eppstein)
  7. Time and energy better spent on more important issues. (David Eppstein)
  8. Citation templates are still in development. (Wikid77)
  9. Only eight authors can be shown. (Wikid77)
  10. Performance issues: intermediate preprocessor post-expand size limit. (Wikid77.)
  11. Performance issue: time to load page. (Whatamidoing)
  12. Templates clutter articles. (SlimVirgin)
  13. Encourage people to add unnecessary information. (SlimVirgin)
  14. Faster to write citation manually. (SlimVirgin)
  15. Templates impede learning elements of a citation(?). (Fifelfoo)
  16. More baffling than the italics button. (WhatamIdoing)
  17. Waste space in articles. (Septentrionalis)
  18. A crutch for those unable to mimic formats. (Septentrionalis)

Specific problems with citation templates[edit]

I think the following is relevant to the discussion on this page. We are just now in the middle of a debate on Talk:Shakespeare authorship question about the use of citation templates (in this case the {{cite book}} template) for our "References" section (essentially a bibliography). Not infrequent in literary bibliographies is the need to list a section of a book—not the entire work—as a source, and this would include the range of pages it occupies in the larger work. Here is where some problems have emerged.

This is an example I used to show how we might want an entry for such a work to appear (which I can represent only with manual formatting):

Believing that there are advantages to using a template (and I'm not saying there aren't), we decided, a long time ago, to use the {{cite book}} template. So the above entry comes out like this:

The most obvious problem here is "Free Press. pp. 103–25." Either there should be a comma after "Free Press" or the initial "P" in "pp." should be capitalized to conform to standard English spelling and punctuation. I pointed out that we could use the "separator" keyword in the template to control punctuation. It was objected that if we intrude punctuation into any specific field, such as "Stephanie," then we are disturbing the integrity of the data, which should be left clean so data-gathering software can at some future time pull these items into some kind of database (or something like that). So that would undermine one of the purposes of using a template. In addition, it is impossible to order these elements in a logical, standard manner, in which the page range would immediately follow the title of the book.

To summarize, we are discovering now that the use of this template does not meet the needs of some literary articles, at least not this one. As someone above stated, we need different kinds of templates to enforce different kinds of styles for different disciplines. In this case, I'm not sure that any of these templates really provides the kind of formatting that we would find ideal. And in the case of "Publisher. pp. 23–4" I'm not sure it's really satisfactory at all. Perhaps programmers could create more sophisticated kinds of templates; but right now, we are seeing problems introduced with punctuation, capitalization, and ordering. With all this, and although we may end up sticking with this template for now, I certainly wouldn't recommend any rigid enforcement or even strong encouragement of template use for Wikipedia bibliographies. There are too many different needs for different disciplines, and the templates are currently not flexible enough. Feel free to summarize any of this in the list above; I refrained, as I am new to this discussion and might not have enough background to be sure how relevant this is. --Alan W (talk) 04:07, 16 February 2011 (UTC)

The answer is that trivial problems like this can be fixed. The benefit of templates is that when they are fixed, they are fixed in millions of articles in one go. I've passed your criticism along to the editors at {{cite book}}. Would you mind stopping by there later and checking the status? ---- CharlesGillingham (talk) 18:41, 16 February 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for the action. I see your post but don't see any response yet. Yes, if this particular problem can be fixed, it can be fixed in millions of articles at one go. The potential downside that always lurks is that something else might break as a result of the change, and then that problem will affect millions of articles. (Forgive me, I work in quality assurance, and I can't help thinking things like this. :-) But I'm hoping for the best, and I'm glad I brought this up here. --Alan W (talk) 00:25, 17 February 2011 (UTC)
Good point about the downside. I think the poor performance issue, discussed above, is an example. ---- CharlesGillingham (talk) 01:30, 17 February 2011 (UTC)
  I wonder if the essential problem in what is presented here is confusion between pointing to a a source or work referenced, and pointing to some point in that source. E.g., "{Bate [...] p. 103}" and "{Bate [...] p. 104}" are not separable sources, they are different points in one work. I would say that a "citation" of a work (the complete bibliographic details) should be to the work as a whole; referral to any internal details is inappropriate. In the citing of specific details, I suggest a form of "{Bate [...]}, p. 103". That is, page numbers (etc.) outside of the citation template. Which incidentally gives the editor complete control of such sub-references. In this regard I deem the existence of the "pages" parameter to be the problem, in that it encourages poor usage. - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:54, 17 February 2011 (UTC)
In theory, your idea does make sense, J. Johnson. But I don't see it working well in practice. Here is the above entry without the page range inside the template but moved outside of it:
"Scenes from the Birth of a Myth" is "in" Shakespeare's Face: Unraveling the Legend and History of Shakespeare's Mysterious Portrait, on pages 103–25. So the page numbers should logically follow the book title. In addition, even if we accept its coming at the very end of the citation, this leads to the kind of punctuation mess I see being caused by using this template (at times, anyway). "ISBN 9780743249324., pp. 103–25."—a period followed by a comma, where the period does not terminate an abbreviation—is, to my mind, unacceptable. This is contrary to all accepted bibliographical punctuation practice, at least in this field of study. That kind of messy and sometimes inconsistent appearance is the very reason why I have raised these questions here and why some of us are beginning to feel it would have been better to format manually instead of using a template. --Alan W (talk) 02:56, 18 February 2011 (UTC)
“Bate p. 103” and “Bate p. 104” are indeed not different works; but “Nolen p. 103” refers to Bate while “Nolen p. 104” may well refer to Bradley. The key bit of information is that this is regarding cites to individual chapters within an essay collection, where the overall work has one or more editors while each individual chapter has one or more authors. It is then standard bibliographic practice to give the page numbers for the chapter, much like it for cite journal is normal to give the page numbers within the journal for the specific cited article. --Xover (talk) 08:00, 18 February 2011 (UTC)
  On your first point I was going to defer to anyone more knowledgeable, but then I noticed while tinkering that that if you use {{citation}}, or even just "cite" (without the "book") the extra period goes away. So there is a simple remedy. (And I will still leave the explanation to anyone more knowledgeable.) I see also a "postscript" parameter that may be of use.
  In the latter point, what you describe is where the "book" is actually a collection of works (such as contributed papers) by different authors. where the work cited is the paper, not the whole volume. These are more like papers (reports) in a journal than chapters in a standard book (although I have seen some intermediate forms). There is a "contribution" parameter (in {{citation}} and cite, but not vcite) which, along with "editor" parameters, works well here, so you can get something like:
  In this case I put the page numbers that apply to the entire reference (Bate's paper) in the citation form itself, and the page number(s?) for the specific location in the reference outside of the citation. This is the particular usage that justifies having the "pages" parameter, nevermind that it is generally misused. Does that work for you? - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 00:49, 19 February 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for jumping in, Xover. (JJ, Xover has been working with these templates in the SAQ article much longer than I have.) Thanks for the experiment, JJ, but I don't think that that eliminates the underlying problem. It was already decided that the {{citation}} template did not suit our purposes as well as {{cite book}}. Xover knows more of the background, as, in fact, he was the one who took the trouble to change all of the one kind to the other, and it's a long bibliographical section at the end. With {{citation}}, even if you keep "chapter" instead of "contribution", the punctuation is a comma, not a period, so that was never one of the problems with that template. And if you use "contribution" with {{cite book}}, then the "Publisher. pp." problem does not, unfortunately, go away. --Alan W (talk) 10:49, 19 February 2011 (UTC)
  Why was {{citation}} not deemed suitable? - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 20:10, 19 February 2011 (UTC)
I don't know Xover's original reason, and I'll let him speak for himself about that. I know that to me, it is inadequate in a literary biography to separate all elements with a comma. Some traditionally get periods. This is only in a bibliography, though. Unfortunately, adding to the confusion, there is no consistency in usage of the word "References" in Wikipedia. Sometimes it means, roughly, "footnotes"; other times, "bibliography". I'm not necessarily saying that one way is better than another, and I'm in favor of allowing flexibility. But we have to be careful what kind of thing we are talking about. Here I am talking about bibliographies. Usually—and even in printed literary works practice does vary somewhat—there are periods separating some of the elements, e.g., "Smith, John. A Study of the World. Kansas City: Pastoral Press, 1996." {{citation}} separates all elements with a comma. {{cite book}} allows some flexibility, in that you can choose with the "separator" keyword. But then it has to be only that one punctuation mark separating all of the elements. (Except in a few standard places, such as "Johnson, Susan.") These are my own opinions, anyway; if Xover cares to add his, you'll know why we changed originally (before I started to edit that article). --Alan W (talk) 04:32, 20 February 2011 (UTC)
  Yes, there is a lot of confusion due to ambiguous (is there a form of this word that replaces bi with many?) use of terms. I would like to start a movement to reform these usages, but find myself getting sucked into a whirlpool of other burning issues (what a metaphor!). The Chicago Manual of Style notes that all the hundreds of citation styles can be grouped into two main families ("style A" and "style B"), where a principal distinction is the use of commas vs. periods. The 'separator' may suffice to make this optionable in {{citation}}, though I am as yet inexpert in that. At any rate, I wonder if citation might actually be suitable for you all. Hoping to hear from Xover. - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 20:45, 20 February 2011 (UTC)


Based on an on-going discussion, it appears that the statement "A good guideline is to list author names as they are written in the original article/book, without further abbreviation" may contain an ambiguity. Some readers may take it literally to mean that "John Q. Smith" in the original article/book should be written "John Q. Smith" in the Wikipedia article, rather than, say, "Smith, John Q." for consistency with the author layout in the remainder of the citations. Please could this be clarified? Thank you.—RJH (talk) 19:31, 17 March 2011 (UTC)

Keeping it simple[edit]

The convention when citing a list of authors has been, and still seems to be, to embellish it with flurries of ugly and entirely unnecessary punctuation, a common practice in Victorian times.

Vicsek, T.; Czirok, A. M.; Ben-Jacob, E.; Cohen, I. & Shochet, O. (1995). "Self-driven particles", Physical review letters, 75:1226–1229. 

Apart from scholarly citations, these practices seem to have been discontinued. Perhaps editors think afflicting citations in this way confers scholarly gravitas. However, I have noticed a trend away from this, as follows...

Vicsek T, Czirok AM, Ben-Jacob E, Cohen I and Shochet O (1995) "Self-driven particles", Physical review letters, 75:1226–1229.

My question is, is this format acceptable on Wikipedia? --Epipelagic (talk) 10:26, 24 July 2011 (UTC)

Your perception that "these practices seem to have been discontinued" is quite at odds with my perception. Perhaps you have some particular area in mind? I tend to range broadly across the sciences (also some philosophy, history, and law), and though I have seen that condensed style, it is so uncommon that I would be hard put to say where, or when, I have seen it. (I think it was mostly some typographical experiments in the late sixties.) Even the journals with the tightest space that abbreviate ruthlessly retain all those abbreviating periods. My experience is that full punctuation is not only not discontinued, but the norm across most fields.
Whether this punctuation is "entirely unnecessary" is also questionable. It is not done for scholarly gravitas, but for clarity. E.g., using semicolons to separate authors avoids confusion with the use of commas to indicate reversed surnames (although styles vary on this usage).
Whether periods ("full-stops") are required after initials may be somewhat a matter of American vs. British style (see WP:MOS#Abbreviations), although WP:MOSABBR#Initials says "[a]n initial should be followed by a full stop...." General Wikipedia style is to expand initials (instead of concatenating them), on the grounds that more information is better, but in regards of citations this is a complex issue. The argument for abbreviating generally is to save space, but disk space is considered cheap, and trumped by the policy of providing fuller information.
So a simple answer to your question could be that such a condensed format, though non-standard, might be arguably acceptable. A better answer, I think, is to look at why you object to the fuller style. Hopefully this has been some assistance. - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 23:10, 24 July 2011 (UTC)
I was referring to the way punctuation was used generally in earlier times, not just in the citation of names. Is not the point of using punctuation to introduce clarity and avoid ambiguity? Seriously, is there any other point to using punctuation in a string of names? I object to the fuller style because it just seems to add unnecessary clutter. I wouldn't argue so much that the condensed style saves space, rather that it is cleaner and easier to read. I don't see the simplified form is less clear or introduces ambiguities that are not present in the fuller style. If there is a rational case for not simplifying, I would love to know what it is. If there is no trend towards simple punctuation, then I suppose we just have to accept the way things are. But if there is a trend towards simplifying, then perhaps we can allow it on Wikipedia. At the moment if I cite using the simple style on Wikipedia, it is not long before someone does a "cleanup" and announces they have "fixed typos".
I think there is a good case for citing the full name, or at least including the forename, providing there are only two or three names. Perhaps there is a case for citing, say, the first two names in full with the rest abbreviated. The whole citation area is such a mess. I would like to see citations brought under full software control. A competent programmer should be able to develop a system that allows people to cite pretty much any way they want. There could be a preference button somewhere on the article that allows readers to see the citations formatted the way they want, the way the editors entered them or Harvard or whatever (as well as cluttered or uncluttered :)). --Epipelagic (talk) 00:35, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
Editors at any given article may use whatever citation style they want, including a style that they have completely invented. If the editors at the article want to type a bunch of periods after people's initials, they may. If they want to delete the periods, they may. We do not take sides in the citation holy wars. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:53, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
The problem with automatically adding periods after initials (single letters) is that there are people with single-letter middle names, even last names; the period would then be incorrect. In many areas (not all) the standard is to follow the author's preference in regard of abbreviation; in such cases the editors may not "use whatever citation style they want".
Typing a few periods in each reference is really a very tiny thing compared to the effort of typing in the whole reference, and formatting it ("properly", by some standard of "proper") and proof-editing it. This is the kind of nit-picking thoroughness which many editors abhor, but if an editor shorts it the reader is quite justified in wondering what else has been shorted.
Reader control of formatting style is possible, but it would require use a citation template. And I rather wonder if editors that balk at typing a few extra periods would use a template. - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:36, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
Actually, reader control of formatting style does not require editors use citation template. If I thought that was true, and if I though that further down the track well written software couldn't clean up the citation messes we have on Wikipedia, then I wouldn't be arguing with you. It is perfectly possible for a competent programmer to parse citations entered by editors (without using a template) into internal computer data structures (equivalent to templates), and store those in a manner that is invisible to the user. Then it would just be a matter of the reader selecting a parameter value which will determine how the citations are displayed. This is the ultimate software solution to these vexing issues about citations, and all that is really at issue is how long it is going to take before it is implemented. The technology and capacity exist for doing it right now. We could do it now, or we could ignore it for another 10 or 20 years, with all the unnecessary frustration, waste of time and loss of real editor productivity that entails. (As an aside, consider the huge and ultimately wasted effort made by the editors who endlessly groom citations according to their personal preferences, adding and subtracting commas, periods and colons, and en-dashes and non-breaking spaces, or converting them to templates.)
Some of the reasons I find current citation templates unhelpful are
* all too often, they will not let you format the citation the way it needs to be formatted
* they take significantly longer to type out, unnecessarily wasting editor time
* they introduce more clutter into the source text, making maintenance of complex article unnecessarily difficult
The last point can be mitigated a bit by using Harvard citations (which is not always appropriate) or the group method where you list all the citations in one place. But however you approach it, the net result is that citation templates add to editor frustration and reduce editor output, and offer not very much in return. --Epipelagic (talk) 05:23, 26 July 2011 (UTC)
(Some of my comments will have to be defered till later - watch below.)
  • Your last point - on cluttering article text with bibliographic detail - is not a template issue; it is an issue regardless of whether it all is neatly packaged into a template. I strongly (!!) favor putting all the bibliographic details in a separate section (in part so they are easier to find and maintain), and linking to them with Harv. Which citation templates facilitate.
  • Your second point is trivial. I have "boiler-plate" template text I can just drop in which avoids a lot of typing, and the remainder is no more than would be done if I tried to manually "format" a citation.
  • Your first point - on formatting a citation "the way it needs to be" - is misplaced. What citations "need" to do is to present certain information, and pretty much all citation styles, and citation templates here at Wikipedia, do a reasonable job. The real issue is editor preference for various little stylistic preferences. In your case, what you want (condensed abbreviations) isn't even a formatting issue, it is a matter of data. E.g., whether the author's fist name is given as "Robert", "R.", "R", or even "Bob". Use of a template in no way constrains you in this regard.
Gotta' run. More later. - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 23:58, 26 July 2011 (UTC)
Yes: the point of using punctuation is to introduce clarity and avoid ambiguity. But simpler does not always mean clearer; some times a little complication is necessary to resolve ambiguity. A case in point: one difference in your examples above is using commas instead of semi-colons to separate authors. Now I grant you that semi-colons are visually more cluttering than commas. But in regard of meaning (meta-data), to use commas for separating authors, where commas are already used for indicating inversal of the surname, creates ambiguity. There are two levels, and the little extra "complexity" (clutter) at the visual level is the trade-off for clarifying the meaning. J. Johnson (JJ)
There is no ambiguity at all if you are just using initials as I was in the examples above. But I agree with you that there can be ambiguities if full names are used. --Epipelagic (talk) 05:36, 26 July 2011 (UTC)
J. Johnson,
I repeat: On Wikipedia, the editors at the article may use any style they want, including a style that they have completely made up. Your assertions about "In many areas (not all) the standard is to follow the author's preference in regard of abbreviation" are utterly irrelevant. Editors are not required to follow those standards, full stop. Please consider reading the FAQ, paying careful attention to the sentences that say, "Editors on Wikipedia may use any style they like, including styles they have made up themselves. It is unusual for Wikipedia articles to strictly adhere to a formally published academic style". WhatamIdoing (talk) 04:15, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
How about you paying some attention to what I am actually saying? Up to now I haven't disagreed with anything you said, certainly not that editors are free to use any style they want. (You are getting heated up for nothing.) But just because one can (is free to) do any crazy thing doesn't meant that one should. One could (e.g.) use all caps, but that would hardly be useful. Which leads to the one point where I will disagree with you, that standards are "utterly irrelevant". Standards reflect the lessons learned, often from a vast experience, of what seems to work well. Note that I did not say that editors are required to follow those standards (any of them). But would be foolish to utterly disregard them. - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 18:11, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
That's my point: On Wikipedia, we do utterly disregard the real-world standards, whenever we happen to feel like it (which, it turns out, is most of the time). This might well be "foolish", but it is what is done.
The fact that a real-world standard exists, or that it does something different from what's in the article, is a completely useless argument in these discussions. If you think the real-world standard is better than whatever is being done in an article, then you can have a discussion about changing it—but if you want that discussion to result in a consensus for change, you'd be wise to focus it on the specific benefits to the change as seen from the in-wiki-universe perspective, not on the fact that the change would be endorsed by some irrelevant, off-wiki authority figure.
So "I think we should follow each author's personal preference for punctuation after initials, because it's more respectful of their self-identification, and the author in ref 27 only has a middle initial, not a middle name, so it would be more accurate" is likely to result in other editors agreeing with you. "I think we should follow each author's personal preference for punctuation after initials, because that's what my favorite authority figure says to do" is not likely to result in a consensus. WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:36, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
Perhaps you utterly disregard everything anyone else has learned (more fool that you are), but it is most certainly not true of every Wikipedian. Not only are editors encouraged "to follow consistent usage and formatting" (see WP:MOS, whose basic principles are derived from the standards you despise), they are "encouraged to familiarize themselves with other guides to style and usage...." Epipelagic raised a question of whether a certain style might be acceptable, and I have tried to show considerations of why it might (or not). Your disparagement of any reference to other standards as "utterly irrelevant" and "completely useless" (not to mention your misreading) is not helping the discussion here, and verges on the uncivil. Please desist. - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 20:35, 28 July 2011 (UTC)

Reader controlled formatting?[edit]

Though we're veering from the original topic, I think this sub-issue of reader control of formatting is interesting. I have said that it would require some kind of citation template, while Epipelagic says no, and particularly: "It is perfectly possible for a competent programmer to parse citations entered by editors (without using a template) into internal computer data structures (equivalent to templates)...."

Whether a "programmer" (or other editor?) attempts to parse a citation directly, or (more likely) write software to do that, the key problem is the extraction of information (meaning) from the data. (E.g., is the "Jr" in "Ewing, Jr", the improperly capitalized first and middle initals, or does it stand for "Junior"?) This is hard enough for humans with a broad grasp of contextual subtleties; trying to encode an algorithm to do it automatically is quite treacherous. The general approach to this kind of problem is to have data entry accompanied by entry of the meta-data that describes the data. This is inherent in using a template: writing "last1=Smith" identifies "Smith" as the last name of the first author (and so forth). The template fields are effectively the "internal computer data structures", so we really do end up at the same place. The difference is how to get there.

I think what you really want is a way to get these data structures filled without effort of the editor. To a certain extent there is. There are tools (see WP:Citation tools) that, given a DOI or PMID or such, can return a filled out template. I haven't found them very useful, but YMMV. Note that it is also quite possible to have a drop-down form on the editor that would insert the bare template form, so the editor doesn't have to do any more (?) typing than formatting a citation manually. If tools like these can eliminate the objections to creating templates, then I think there would be very little objection to their existence. And that could be the basis for reader controlled formatting. - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 00:05, 28 July 2011 (UTC)

  • Citation styles are not just presentations of datasets, they are also rules regarding what data ought to be entered, and where that data ought to be derived from. You can't change bare bones Bar F 1977 Title J.MedRes 4:40 into a Turabian style because it is missing the page span, the subtitle, the correct expansion of the journal. Fifelfoo (talk) 01:30, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
True - the underlying data has to be adequate for any style that is to be generated. (E.g., full names, not just initials.) This is where use of a DOI or ISBN is handy, as they could be used to access the complete data from the publisher. - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 17:33, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Publishers rarely supply adequate data for this. Fifelfoo (talk) 23:40, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
I wouldn't agree with "rarely", at least in respect of science and medical journals, where DOI and PMID (resp.) are pretty much de rigueur. But I can't speak for other fields; perhaps your experience differs? Certainly these schemes are often inadequate, and so not completely useful. But they are nonetheless significantly handy, and (assuming a suitable tool) offer the prospect of the editor having to type only the identifier to obtain the complete citation. - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:09, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
I agree with you JJ about supplying a DOI or ISBN if it is available. That alone should be sufficient base from which good software can automatically construct the citation. Then it would be enough for editors to just enter a DOI or ISBN, or alternatively, the title of the article or book and name of the lead author (and maybe year) should suffice. Ideally, editors shouldn't have to provide more data about a citation than a librarian would require to locate the publication for you. Imagine how that would simplify and speed up the development of articles!
Btw, when I initiated this thread, I hadn't considered that there is no reason why full names shouldn't be used if only two or three authors are involved. The "simple" style works only with initials, so I've dropped my position on that. That leaves the issue of whether it is a good idea to use templates. I still think no, that they get in the way more than they contribute, and at some time in the future they will be made redundant by suitable software. But in the meantime we are left with this huge, and completely avoidable industry on Wikipedia trying to clean up messy citations, and sometimes just making a bigger mess. --Epipelagic (talk) 00:20, 30 July 2011 (UTC)
Yes, software to automatically construct the citation would be nice. Supposedly we have it already, and I suppose I ought to look at it closer. More work to do!
As before, think it's not so much the templates that get in the way as putting bibliographic details (templated or not) in the text. That is fixed by putting the templates - however they are generated - in a separate section, and using Harv to link. - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 20:39, 1 August 2011 (UTC)
I believe that if you type {{cite journal |doi=whatever }} into an article, that User:Citation bot will come fill in the rest of it for you. WhatamIdoing (talk) 23:48, 1 August 2011 (UTC)
So I have heard; I am still exploring these possibilities. There is an intriguing list of similar tools at WP:Citation tools. - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 20:52, 2 August 2011 (UTC)

Regarding rarely, I have observed imports of multiple thousand line sets of STEM paper data for current year data and appreciable failure rates in correct supply of Journal Name, Author Names and Paper Title. Indexation services are not adequate. In the Humanities, Social Sciences and Creative Arts I have personally observed the failure rates of indexation services including national deposit libraries to correctly maintain title, edition, year, publisher to a standard adequate for automated citation based on data extraction. The ISBN database is notoriously irrational. Ulrich's regularly gets elements wrong (though does far better than deposit libraries, or the journal publishers or journal committees themselves). Speaking as a sometimes active citation editor on wikipedia at FAC and MILHIST-A, citation data needs to be replicated with automatic links at any point in the wikicode where it could be edited. Right next to the statement demonstrated?—ought to be editable. Footnotes section?—ought to be editable. Bibliography?—ought to be editable. I've noticed a failure rate of DOIs at about 10% in the HASS fields; mainly as a result of poor journal archive maintenance by journal publishing conglomerates. This has included mistitling, misauthoring, cutting the PDF incorrectly, wrong years, wrong issues, wrong seasonal or month assignment. Relying on an automated process is bad in this area. I deeply wish it were otherwise. Fifelfoo (talk) 03:55, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
Perhaps your idea of a good day's work is to spend it arguing the definition of "rarely"? (Sorry, I have better things to do.) You seem to have a "mad dog" attitude towards using any kind of referencing system because (you say) 10% of DOIs are incorrect. Well, perhaps you wouldn't mind allowing that the other 90% might be of some use to the rest of us? Or would you prefer to shutdown Wikipedia because so much of it is incorrect and/or uncited? What you seem to have missed is where I said the "use of a DOI or ISBN is handy, as they could be used to access the complete data from the publisher." (Emphasis added.) For sure, I would hope that whatever data is accessed and downloaded (which is already automated, through the http protocols) should, like any other data, not be "automatically" accepted by an editor without some overview. But that is really a standard expectation, and not what we have been discussing here. - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:28, 2 August 2011 (UTC)

Samples of APA/MLA/etc. styles?[edit]

Would it be useful to provide some side-by-side comparative samples of APA/MLA/etc. styles? (I checked the MLA style and APA style articles, but they seem to be ignoring each other.) - J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 20:30, 20 August 2011 (UTC)

New to Wikipedia... How Do I Get My Citations To Show Up As Text Versus Just as a Number???[edit]


I wrote my first article the other day. I followed the template as I created citations. The citations under references are only showing up as NUMBERS (1,2,3, etc.) instead of FULL TEXT. What am I doing wrong? How can I fix this? I need SPECIFIC instructions because I am new and my knowledge is very limitied. What is the formatting to get the full text to show up? Thanks for any help! P.S. The article I am referring to is about Mary McCleary. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Norlns22 (talkcontribs) 22:40, 29 November 2011 (UTC)

<ref>[ Author (2011) "Example Page" MuseumName]</ref>
Wikipedia doesn't automatically generate names from http links, you'd need to find out the author, year of publication (ie: copyright date), page title and museum name and add them yourself. You'd add them in like in the example above, after the web address, but before the closing ]. Fifelfoo (talk) 22:50, 29 November 2011 (UTC)

The style on this article page[edit]

I'm not concerned with issues of standardization or templates, so I don't want to reinitialize debate there. However, the title of this page, Example style, does imply at least a suggested style for WP. As was stated in a previous post on this talk page, the style given is not APA style. Of course the header says it is "partially based" on APA. So in other words, the examples shown are either, 1. the suggested WP manual of style for citations, or 2. a poor bastardization of other styles that someone randomly came up with for this page. I would suggest that if many editors oppose a suggested WP citation style, which seems evident in reading this talk page, then we stick strictly with APA style for this page and provide links to online style manuals for MLA, Chicago MOS, etc. The way it stands currently is quite misleading, or at least confusing to me as an editor. — Parsa talk 18:06, 30 December 2011 (UTC)

Other guidelines on Wikipedia now disfavor bare links[edit]

It looks like the examples need a good bit of updating to catch up with current referencing practice here. -- WeijiBaikeBianji (talk, how I edit) 02:39, 22 September 2014 (UTC)