Wikipedia talk:When to cite

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A few comments[edit]

  1. In general, one point that can be overlooked is "is challenged or is likely to be challenged". The second is a judgement call - the first is not. So no matter how "common knowledge-y" something is, if editors want citations, they should be there.
  2. A whole paragraph with a single cite can get confused as pieces are rearranged, reworked and so on. The reference is likely to get lost as the article is mercilessly edited - and if the reference isn't online, the reworking editors are unlikely to check it (let's be honest).
  3. Ultimately, I don't see the problem with overcited articles - which is probably why I write articles like Scott Tremaine. Underciting --- if I can't confirm something with a few minutes on the google, it's probably best that it's cited. If I can ... it's probably best that it's cited anyways. But it's more important in the latter case. WilyD 15:53, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
To reply to your points:
  1. The recent discussion that led me to move this page was that "is challenged" can apply to any part of the article, and people are stupid enough to do exactly that - challenge common knowledge, or things that we simply don't cite in practice. So, to be blunt, no, we should not be citing common knowledge.
  2. The "distance" between sequential citations to the same source is a judgement call. It should be done in such a way that it is clear from context where the information comes from. By the same token, people must exercise caution when rearranging cited material so as not to break that coherence.
  3. "Ultimately, I don't see the problem with overcited articles" - your opinion does not reflect practice. Raul654 16:03, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
  1. What constitutes "common knowledge" is very dependant on your culture, nationality, profession, whatever. People do challenge common knowledge for inappropriate reasons, but almost anything is not common knowledge to a large enough segment of the population. Any editor with more than a few edits will have seen good faith challenges to information they consider "common knowledge" - citing is the easiest way to avoid the kind of edit wars we get over things like whether North America is a continent.
  2. I agree with these principles, I don't think they're much different from what I said, except that I assumed less dilligence on editors tracking citations as they edit.
  3. This only indicates that the featured article process is having problems, not WP:V or WP:RS, which are much more reflective of widespread opinion. If anything, it probably just means more eyes are needed there. "Overcited" is a patently absurd complaint. WilyD 17:12, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
Surely you would admit that this article is excessively cited. - Merzbow 17:45, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
The short answer is : No. Citations are the key to reliability, and eventual "widespread acceptance as reliable". Unless the number of citations made something "fundamentally unreadable", I wouldn't call it a problem. Cites not only add credibility and authority, the provide guides to further specific reading (and as an editor, direct me back to sources for more info to expand articles with). WilyD 19:48, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
I don't think there is anything obviously wrong in this proposal, but it is woefully incomplete. No mention is made of the host of situations where it may not be necessary to provide a cite... but where giving a citation is a good idea. Perhaps a "When a citation is recommended" section should be added to handle the grey zones. As WilyD says... it is better to overcite than undercite. I sum the whole issue up as "when even remotely in doubt as to whether a cite is needed... provide one".
" No mention is made of the host of situations where it may not be necessary to provide a cite" - Did you actually read the proposal? The cryptically named "Situations where it is not necessary to cite a source" takes up half the length. Raul654 16:05, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
Raul, the key part of my comment is in the second half of the statement: "...but where giving a citation is a good idea". There are tons of situations where one should give a citation, even if it isn't needed. Blueboar 18:38, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
Give an example, please. (ah yes, "calling a spade a spade...") Tcaudilllg (talk) 11:07, 21 November 2007 (UTC)

Middle ground needed[edit]

This page curently outlines a list of things that must be cited, and another list of things that clearly do not require a citatiuon, and at least by implication should not be cited even if challanged. It does not discuss at all stuff in between, where a cition may be desireable but not mandatory. Obviously those are largely going to be judgement calls, but soem guideliens might help inm making those judgemets. And soem examples of the kinds of things that fall into that broad middle ground should be provided, to help editors understand where thet middle ground falls, IMO. Also some discuion or guidence on how far apart citations should be might be a good idea. Also, some discussion of the issues of what sources to cite when there are multiple availabe sources might be a good idea. DES (talk) 16:21, 13 June 2007 (UTC)

It does not discuss at all stuff in between, where a cition may be desireable but not mandatory... Some examples of the kinds of things that fall into that broad middle ground should be provided" - such as? I'd be happy to write a description how of we do things in practice, if someone can describe specific situations that are not covered by this page as it currently exists. Raul654 16:26, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
On one hand, I feel that it is a sad thing to see that this page has been written (although I fully understand why); one the other, it's a good thing because perhaps this will avoid a few edit wars. That being said, I have two observations to make here:
  • When in doubt, a person should consult one of the standard guides of style for professional researchers that discusses this issue: The Chicago Manual of Style, the MLA Style Manual Turabian. Citing your high school English teacher (or a similar unpublished authority) is not suitable because those people are not verifiable.
  • When to cite is one of those situations where, as DESiegel points out, usage is not clear-cut; to borrow the terminology from the Internet RFCs, there are situations where citations may be used, situations where citations should be used, & situations where citations must be used. This gradation is important because it appears some Wikipedians would rather think in terms of absolutes, & tag everything without a source unless told otherwise. "Must" situations are those where the fact is cited or removed; "should" are those situations where a simple {{fact}} is enough; & "may" are those where an editor could add a tag, but only a tendentious editor would insist that it is needed.
I'll try to come up with some examples to illustrate the "may" & "should" cases. -- llywrch 18:32, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
My examples, based on Roman history:--
  • The statement "Augustus was one of the greatest emperors of the Roman Empire" may need to have a citation. If the article supplies sufficient details of his reign, then finding a cite for this statement (& not a good quotation that says the same thing), IMHO, is overkill; the fact is obvious.
  • The statement "Trajan was one of the greatest emperors of the Roman Empire" should have a citation. I could see if an article was written with enough information, this statement would be a reasonable conclusion. However, I'd feel more comfortable if this statement was supplied with a citation in any case: here there one can imagine a number of opposing POVs, and the evidence is not as familiar.
One other consideration: because this version of Wikipedia is written in English, like it or not there will be a systemic bias here. Our readers will be far more familiar with Britney Spears than the equivalent pop star in Russia or China; our preconceptions over what needs to be cited will reflect this. -- llywrch 19:19, 13 June 2007 (UTC)

Summary style[edit]

The quoted text no longer matches the current recommendation in Summary style. The text was changed recently by SlimVirgin. Effectively, the old text was arguing the same point about lead-section vs body applies also to summary-article-section vs subtopic. I'm quite happy with the lead section argument because the reader can find the references in the same article. In addition, one can review (for the purposes of GA/FA) the article on its own. I support the change by SV. I don't like the idea of one WP article relying on references in another article. Have there been any FAs where a whole section was allowed to be largely unsourced because the refs were in the subtopic? Colin°Talk 17:22, 13 June 2007 (UTC)

I mostly agree. In an ideal world, all sub-articles of an article would be of the same quality and stay that way, and thus, there would be no problem. In the real world, an article like Islam can achieve FA while its subarticles remain ill-referenced and badly-written. Therefore I think it makes more sense that an article reference its own statements. - Merzbow 17:37, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
Agree with Colin; summary style doesn't exempt from citation. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 23:23, 13 June 2007 (UTC)

What to cite[edit]

(A) Is it relevant to mention WHAT to cite? For example, I've had people cite an entire book, without even giving a page number, claiming it is adequate. (B) I've also have people cite a source claiming that what it does NOT mention backs-up their statements. e.g. The study of UFOs is not studied by scientists [Source: Academic books (that do not mention UFOs). --First Base 19:35, 13 June 2007 (UTC)


I don't see how this article can be useful across the range of topics on Wikipedia. For example, citation needs, customs, and standards for medical articles are dramatically different than in many other topic areas, and I don't see how a list of what to cite can cover everything that needs to be cited in a typical medical article. Likely to be challenges is too vague, but trying to make a list of what to cite will be bound to miss a lot. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 23:27, 13 June 2007 (UTC)

It will get better over time and with input from more users. It's a big step in the right direction from what we currently have, and to be blunt, I'll take "not quite perfect" over nonexistant any day. Raul654 14:38, 14 June 2007 (UTC)
Well, the idea that we can summarize what needs to be cited in a medicine-related article scares me; the short answer is that almost everything needs to be cited in anything related to medicine, and I don't really know how to address examples in this format. Perhaps someone else knows how to get a start on it, but the idea of uncited statements in the realm of medicine makes me uneasy. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 18:21, 15 June 2007 (UTC)
It appears to me that some standardization of practice here would be worthwhile, so we should give it a shot and see if consensus can be reached. As an FA newbie the one thing that gave me the most heartburn was worries about referencing, given the number of extremely contentious threads on this issue that I've seen. Certainly any citation standards specific to narrow subjects like medicine and modern music are best handled via Wikiproject-specific guidelines (like Wikipedia:WikiProject_Music/MUSTARD), but I think there is much commonality. - Merzbow 04:48, 14 June 2007 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Can I offer my encouragement in your efforts to create a guideline on this. I have witnessed quite a few edit wars and squabbles over citations in articles, with people forming camps ranging from the 'citations get in the way and should be avoided if at all possible' to 'even general knowledge needs citing' and every possible place in between. (Check out Talk:Medieval cuisine if you want an example of a debate which keeps flaring up). It would be good to have something to indicate Wikipedia-wide consensus. Gwinva 14:12, 14 June 2007 (UTC)
Talk:medieval cuisine is a perfect example of polarized debates where one side is relying entirely on extremely partial interpretations of policy to get their pointless arguments across. There's no logic logic or common sense in all those random "THIS ARTICLE SUCKS BECAUSE I CAN'T COUNT ENOUGH FOOTNOTES"-claims. I'd rather put up with random bouts of whining than to honor drive-by fact-taggings by people who aren't going to verify those sources in the first place.
Peter Isotalo 15:05, 14 June 2007 (UTC)

I think that this is a really important concept to work on and I think it is one of the sources of confusion with the No Original Research issue. Wiki has tonnes of articles on readily accessible things where people are applying WikiLawyering approach to citations. It should be perfectly reasonable to take a book or product that is generally available and invent a description of it because any reasonable person can look for themselves - it is not research it is observation. So different styles of articles need different approaches in part because of the accessibility of the source data. History - historians have better access to source material than the public, so will tend to have more verifiable information, science, there are specialists, Harry Potter, its out there on a plate for all to see. Spenny 19:12, 14 June 2007 (UTC)

Yes, in practice we should create those sorts of articles (pop culture articles, product articles) by using our brains (in other words, what some incorrectly criticise as WP:SYNTHESIS). But Wikipedia:Notability also requires (to precis) that there should be multiple independent published works about the article's subject, in order to legitimately have a WP article about it at all. So for these pop culture articles like Harry Potter articles, if citations are requested, it should be possible to provide independent sources for at least part of the article, and to fall back on citing the actual subject of the article, and/or the original book wherein that subject is introduced, where necessary.—greenrd 21:21, 15 June 2007 (UTC)
The problem with the Notability test is that it works against structuring articles. For example, I spawned off an article about [album cover]s. It sort of borders on the trivia, but in the gamut of articles about record players and records, it seemed like some useful expansion without bloating the main articles. Are album covers notable? To my generation perhaps they are, but whilst there are lots of articles about album cover art, no one seems to have taken the trouble to document what an album was physically wrapped in and why. Consensus seems to show that it is notable enough not to die. Although it is a debate for notability, it should not really be a problem for Wikipedia to err on the side of triviality - we are not cutting down rain forests - and one of the joys of Wiki is to see the depth and quality of some frankly unimportant topics. My point really though is that in evolving Wiki into something unique, it is the ability to form articles out of little acorns which makes Wiki special. Being overly prescriptive can hinder the creative process. I think it is also behaviour which has changed over the last couple of years and this prescriptive approach is irritating to the point that it is potentially undermining Wikipedia. Taking me as an example, its made me put my head above the parapet. Spenny 14:55, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

Will this conflict with WP:REF?[edit]

I note that a lot of this is already dealt with at WP:REF#When_to_cite_sources. This worries me. One thing that you will need to do if this proposal is ever going to be accepted is to make sure that you are not creating a conflict between two similar guidelines (I have seen this happen... for example: those working on WP:RS making edits that end up conflicting with WP:V). I am not saying that there is a conflict as the proposal stands now, just that the potential for it to do so is there. That potential exists whenever you have policies and guidelines that deal with similar topics. Please make sure you contact the folks who work on WP:REF to make sure that cross policy consensus is reached. You will also have to check the WP:REF guideline frequently to make sure that some future edit does not conflict.

One thing that is different between that guideline and this proposal is that this proposal attempts to answer the question: "when DON'T you need to cite?" I am not sure I agree with everything the proposal currently says on the subject, but I do like the attempt to answer the question. Blueboar 14:05, 14 June 2007 (UTC)

The problem, as is stated in the first sentence, is that "All material that is challenged or likely to be challenged needs a source." is a terrible standard. It is hopelessly vague, and doesn't address the obvious (and recurrent) problem of 'what happens when people demand citations for everything?' Raul654 14:13, 14 June 2007 (UTC)
Understood... that's why I think this is a good proposal, even if it ends up not being accepted. It is a question that needs to be asked. I just wanted people to be aware that there is a guideline that deals with this (however poorly) in existance, and to express my concern about the potential for conflict. The creation of or changes to one guideline have impact on others.
I agree with you that some citation requests are just silly, and should be ignored ... But we probably disagree about where to draw the line (ie I draw the line much closer to "cite everything" than it seems you do). Blueboar 14:29, 14 June 2007 (UTC)
I think the eventual hope is that this article would become the main article for WP:REF#When_to_cite_sources, which would be a summary. - Merzbow 17:58, 14 June 2007 (UTC)
Yes, exactly. Raul654 17:59, 14 June 2007 (UTC)

Can you give an example of challenged material that may not require a source? As far as I can see, "common knowledge" may fall into this category, though sources will easily be available. --First Base 21:18, 14 June 2007 (UTC)

I have seen real-life, on-wiki instances of people requesting citations for every scenario listed in the "Situations where it is not necessary to cite a source" section. Raul654 21:29, 14 June 2007 (UTC)

Apply to only above B-Class[edit]

It takes a lot of effort to find and add an in-line citation, but little to no effort to remove it. Given that most articles below B-class and some B-class articles lack citations, I don't think we should have a policy/guideline that gives examples of situations where it is not necessary to cite a source for B, Start, and Stub-Class articles. In particular, we should encourage (or at least not discourage) that every sentence in B, Start, and Stub-Class articles be cited (except for the lead paragraph). I think that use of this policy/guideline should be for those who decide the GA, A, and FA class rating and to assist them in resolving their citation disputes. And yes, it is something we need at the GA, A, and FA class level (perhaps as part of their criteria), so kudos to your efforts, Raul and Merzbow. -- Jreferee (Talk) 22:01, 14 June 2007 (UTC)

I find that an eminently reasonable suggestion. Raul654 22:02, 14 June 2007 (UTC)

EVERY SENTENCE?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?! Interesting: this place is turning into a joke. It's certainly intriguing to watch it happen, though I wonder what's going to replace Wikipedia.... That's a concern, obviously. Tcaudilllg (talk) 05:39, 23 November 2007 (UTC)

"Challenging information" section[edit]

If I'm guessing Raul's intentions correctly, this section is intended to contain guidelines for challenging material in an article and for responding to those challenges. Would this be a good start:

  • Any editor has the right to query why a statement is uncited. Those editors who believe the statement should remain uncited must respond in a timely matter, and indicate which category in the "Situations where it is not necessary…" section they think the statement falls under. If no response is forthcoming, the editor may remove or fact-tag the statement.
  • If a response is made, and the editor who made the query disagrees, then that editor can challenge the statement. A challenge must be an informed argument, not a simple demand for a citation. A challenger can argue why he thinks a statement falls under a particular category in the "Situations where it is necessary…" section, or why he doesn't think it falls under the claimed category in the "Situations where it is not necessary…" section.

We should probably also add guidelines about how to challenge/respond to a challenge against cited statements. - Merzbow 22:54, 14 June 2007 (UTC)

My specific intent with that section was to stricly prohibit fact bombing (case and point) If people want to use that section for additional guidelines, that works for me too. Raul654 03:12, 15 June 2007 (UTC)
Heh, amusing diff. I find Jreferee's suggestion above relevant; an article that's at GA class and above has already passed a certain bar of quality, and thus the burden of proof should be on challengers to demonstrate why something should change. - Merzbow 03:28, 15 June 2007 (UTC)

Proposal motivation not clear[edit]

It might help to have a clearer idea behind the motivation for this proposal placed at the top of the proposal. Why do we need to clarify the Featured Article Criteria and Wikipedia:Verifiability statements and their interpretation? Really, what is wrong with requiring every sentence in a Featured Article be cited? As stated at Wikipedia:Featured article criteria, a featured article exemplifies our very best work and features professional standards of writing and presentation. I'm guessing the battles over this issue relates to attribution vs. professional presentation/professional standards at the Featured Article level. A statement such as "1 + 1 = 2" in Featured Article can be attributed with a footnote, but is it really a professional presentation or even professional writing to do so? The "sequential facts taken from a single source" portion of the proposal seems more of a proposed professional presentation for Wikipedia Featured Articles. However, the above comments seem to focus on attribution concerns. I think the proposal needs some clarification that it is meant to balance Wikipedia need to present its Featured Articles in a professional manner with Wikipedia's attribution policy (if that is in fact what the motivation is). -- Jreferee (Talk) 03:23, 15 June 2007 (UTC)

Your first question ( Why do we need to clarify the Featured Article Criteria and Wikipedia:Verifiability statements and their interpretation?) is already addressed on this page - Both of these are hopelessly vague, and have led to a number of disagreements in their interpretation. If anything, this is a great understatement.
Your second question (Really, what is wrong with requiring every sentence in a Featured Article be cited?) is because doing so produces articles that, frankly, look idiotic. (And, as I noted above on this talk page, are challeneged at FAC on that basis and don't pass) Raul654 17:13, 15 June 2007 (UTC)
As to your last comment ("I think the proposal needs some clarification that it is meant to balance Wikipedia need to present its Featured Articles in a professional manner with Wikipedia's attribution policy") - as I said above, I find this a reasonable thing to do, although I wouldn't limit it strictly to featured article. I would say it's designed to balance presentation versus attribution in all high quality articles, including B, GA, and A class articles. Raul654 17:16, 15 June 2007 (UTC)

Common knowledge[edit]

At the risk of a death spiral of definition, I think the concept of common knowledge needs discussion. Elsewhere I noted the idea that the test is that of what a reasonable person might know. The reasonable person test runs throughout Wiki, and seems to be one of the pitfalls that Wiki is battling with. For example, anyone can challenge whether something is known based on their own lack of knowledge, but there has to be a (vague) test to avoid the spurious. One example I came across (which I won't cite as I know the other person was acting in good faith) simply didn't have the common knowledge that you would have if you were of a certain generation, with certain interests. It was interesting how the edit war evolved, where I could point to a Wikipedia article which was entirely consistent with my statements, yet I was citation trumped with a dictionary definition (which did not understand modern usage). So common knowledge also has to be mindful of the specialisation.

I guess the question is how big does the pool of knowledge need to be, and in what context? Statements such as Napoleon being a French leader really should not need citation - it makes Wiki look stupid, I'd be quite happy with a statement about Winston Churchill being a great wartime leader, I'd be quite happy with comments about George Bush being derided as a leader by some people because it is so widespread, even if the supporters would be irritated by the comment and seek to censor it via citation lawyering. In the end that is what we want to stop, citation lawyering.

As has been coming out elsewhere, one of the objections to cite everything is that it makes Wikipedia look stupid. If the result of Wikipedia is that articles are full of proofs that the sky is generally blue it sends a message that the editors have little confidence in their own knowledge.

So there always has to be some consensus. Remember the purpose of avoiding citation nonsense is in part to protect evolving articles and newbies. People here are thinking in terms of citation as verifiability whereas I am concerned about the citation brigade who use it as a means to destroy articles where they disagree with content. Spenny 08:08, 15 June 2007 (UTC)

I note that this conversation is fragmented... with some people talking at WP:ATT (where it seems to be focused on what constitutes a legitimate "challenge" and what does not), some people talking here (focused more on when you don't have to cite) and some (I am sure) at other places. May I suggest that we pick one common place to discuss the issue, and let everyone know to discuss it at that place... so we don't end up with differing senses of consensus and decisions reached. Blueboar 15:03, 15 June 2007 (UTC)

Added section for grey zone situations[edit]

given some of the comments above... I think there is agreement that there are some situations that fall into a grey zone... where a citation should be given, even if one is not required. so... I have added a section for these kind of situations. It is far from perfect, and far from complete ... so feel free to rewrite or add to it. Blueboar 17:33, 15 June 2007 (UTC)

I don't particularly care for this section for two reasons - first, the other situations listed here have been quite specific (quotations, lead paragraphs, Sequential facts taken from a single source, 'etc). This new one - "contentions articles" - is not very helpful. Furthermore, the guideline itself - "You may want to use more citations on these" is not very helpful. While I don't disagree with the premise itself (that contentious articles could use more citations), but I'm very strongly leaning towards deleting that section unless it can be greatly refined from how it currently stands. Raul654 17:36, 15 June 2007 (UTC)
I also disagree with the section as written. The "Opinion" category above already makes it clear that statements disputed by reliable sources should be cited. Demanding citations in an article for undisputed statements is disruptive editing, no matter how controversial a subject. This is not to preclude editors being responsive on talk, which I think can be expanded upon in the "Challenging information" section. - Merzbow 17:50, 15 June 2007 (UTC)
Don't take it as written... It was meant as a start. The point is that this issue is not always black and white, yes or no, "you have to site this, but not this". There are situations where the same statement can go uncited in one article, but not in another - for example, a statement such as "Catholic's are not supposed to have an abortion"... you probably do not need a citation for this in an article on Catholic Dogma, but you probably should give one in the article on Abortion. (perhaps a bad example as this statement should be presented as an opinion and attributed as "according to the Church" ... but I hope you see my gist).
Some discussion of situations where a citation should be given (as opposed to must be given) should be included in the proposal. Even if you don't give an example... you need to acknowledge that such situations exist. Blueboar 18:51, 15 June 2007 (UTC)
Your "Catholic" example is covered under "Subject-specific common knowledge". When "Abortion" is the subject, that fact is not subject-specific common knowledge, so it should be cited, but if the subject is "Catholic Dogma", then it is subject-specific common knowledge, so it should not be cited. Note that this proposal is intended to be a guideline, not an absolute. A guideline is by definition something that isn't required to be applied as written, only suggested (albeit strongly). - Merzbow 19:49, 15 June 2007 (UTC)

Relationship to the policy[edit]

Is there a danger in creating a page to "clarify and interpret" policy? The whole point of the policy wording — that "material that is challenged or likely to be challenged" needs a source — is that it's deliberately vague so as to allow ample room for common sense. Any further pinning down may open loopholes for edit warriors. SlimVirgin (talk) 18:23, 15 June 2007 (UTC)

The problem is that there have been innumerable fights over subjective interpretations of policy - *especially* on featured article review, and to a lesser extent on featured article candidate. (I'm no expert on GA, but I suspect it's happening there, as well as on innumerable talk pages on Wikipedia). People come in and demand citations for everything, {{fact}} bombs the article, etc. Another person reverts. Unpleasantness ensues. The goal of this page is to reduce this. Raul654 18:28, 15 June 2007 (UTC)
If that's the goal, I fear the page may only open broader and more bitter disputes, whereas current citation differences are generally confined to few editors. But, time will tell. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 18:31, 15 June 2007 (UTC)
I'm inclined to agree that there aren't that many editors who ask for unnecessary citations. I know it happens, and I've seen it happen to FA candidates. But I'm not convinced it's a big enough problem to risk opening up loopholes — and the people who ask for citations foolishly will continue to be silly no matter the wording. SlimVirgin (talk) 19:56, 15 June 2007 (UTC)
People who ask for citations foolishly can be very disruptive, because when current policy is literally interpreted, these people can force everyone else to run as fast as they can just to stay in the same place. "You obey me or I blank large sections of the article," is a powerful weapon for disruption by anyone who is willing to insincerely demand citations, and such people are being actively enabled by current policy. Sure, these people are silly, but our rules don't allow such silly people to be ignored. Ken Arromdee 17:31, 16 June 2007 (UTC)

Example of citation density in a science article[edit]

I think we should aim to reproduce the same level of density of citations in Wikipedia as in the best-quality review articles seen in any particular subject. An example of citation in a biochemistry review is seen here Review article - Ubiquitin-binding domains. Here the general rule is that if you make a statement based on somebody's work, you cite their publication. In practice, this means most statements of fact are backed by a citation. TimVickers 18:55, 15 June 2007 (UTC)

Yeah I think it's a good criteria for wikipedia. Also, in case of multiple possible references for a statement, the "best sources" should be used; I think this should be an explicit requirement for Featured Articles.--BMF81 19:16, 15 June 2007 (UTC)
BMF81, I like that suggestion. Maybe it can be worded something like "If more than one source is available to support a statement, only the highest-quality source should be cited"? The exception of course is when one is trying to demonstrate specifically that a given opinion is widely-held, like "The album was positively received by critics", or "Stalin was a dictator" (don't ask, look at the edit history for Stalin). - Merzbow 19:52, 15 June 2007 (UTC)

There is a succinct rule of thumb for citing scientific articles in the text above, that could be incorporated to the Rule of Thumb section; In science articles, when you make a statement based on somebody's work, you cite their publication. In practice, this means most statements of fact are backed by a citation. In case of multiple possible references for a statement, the "best sources" should be used. Can someone add something along these lines under Rule of Thumb ? SandyGeorgia (Talk) 15:46, 17 June 2007 (UTC)


I've removed the bit about leads not needing sources. Leads need sources the same way any other section does, namely if they contain material that is challenged or likely to be challenged, or quotations. WP:V makes no exception for leads. SlimVirgin (talk) 21:05, 15 June 2007 (UTC)

This has never been the case. The lead is a summary of the rest of the article. The citations belong there, in the main body. This is a long-standing consensus on FAC, and the part about leads should be put back in. — Brian (talk) 12:49, 17 June 2007 (UTC)
In practice, though, leads often contain facts that are not in the body of the article.—greenrd 14:02, 17 June 2007 (UTC)
I concur with Brian. It is long-standing practice that the lead is a summary of the rest of the article, and generally (though not absolutely) does not require citations. Raul654 14:42, 17 June 2007 (UTC)
Indeed. They are completely redundant in a lead (with exceptions for sourcing direct quotes and ultra-controversial points, according to circumstance). - Merzbow 15:39, 17 June 2007 (UTC)
Agree with Brian, Raul and Merzbow; in general, the lead isn't cited, although extraordinary statements and quotations are. The lead should be a summary, and shouldn't have data which isn't discussed elsewhere in the article. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 15:48, 17 June 2007 (UTC)
If you want to change that, please change the policy, which is WP:V, and the relevant guideline, WP:LEAD; it can't simply be changed here as though the others don't exist. Raul, I reverted your tagging of this as a guideline, because this is a page that has the potential to cause a lot of confusion given that it might contradict the policy. We've had trouble before because of extra sourcing pages springing up e.g. WP:RS. I also restored the bit about it sometimes making sense to source every sentence because paragraphs can get broken up by others; it's particularly true on heavily edited pages. SlimVirgin (talk) 17:30, 17 June 2007 (UTC)
I still think text cited elsewhere in the article is still cited (just summarized in the lead), but I concur that this page is a long ways from being a guideline, and should remain an essay until it has received very broad input. I find it very difficult to list when to cite, and am not sure this essay will ever be comprehensive, even if it is helpful. I'm also concerned, still, that it will generate even more bitter disputes about citation than we've seen in the past, particularly since WP:V is policy. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 18:01, 17 June 2007 (UTC)
I agree with your last point. When to cite is a matter of editorial judgment, and I think trying to create a list of when to do it is going to store up trouble for the future. I know it's very annoying when people asking for citations for obvious things, but it doesn't happen that often, and those people are likely to be irritating no matter what any policy or guideline says.
As for the lead, people who don't want to add citations to leads can write leads that don't require them (that contain no quotations and nothing likely to be challenged), but not everyone writes leads that way. Introducing a guideline that says leads need not contain citations is, in effect, to tell people how to write, because they'd then have to avoid anything in a lead that did need a citation. Also, the point of a good lead is that readers should be able to read it and nothing else, and still get a fairly good idea of what the article is saying. That means they need to be able to click on some sources to get a fuller picture, and to be able to judge how reliable the article is. SlimVirgin (talk) 18:11, 17 June 2007 (UTC)
I strongly disagree with the bit suggesting that every sentence should be cited, even repetitiously. Editors who split up material and move it around are responsible for ensuring it's properly cited, there's no need for us to overcite to anticipate carelessness. Even citing every sentence isn't enough to protect from careless editors, since many edits break apart sentences and rearrange the pieces. - Merzbow 22:48, 17 June 2007 (UTC)
I agree with Merzbow. Sourcing on a Wiki is important, but it can be a nightmare. It's the responsibility of editors who change sourced passages ensure that they remain properly sourced, and for those who write or expand articles to keep an eye on them and ensure that material and source citations stay together. There's no need to recommend overciting of text simply because another editor down the road may get sloppy. — Brian (talk) 23:00, 17 June 2007 (UTC)
Re Slim's assertion above "That means they need to be able to click on some sources to get a fuller picture, and to be able to judge how reliable the article is." Not really - if a reader wants more information or to judge reliability, they should read the rest of the (fully referenced) article. The lead is essentially a synopsis of the article proper, repetition of references is an unnecessary redundancy. --Joopercoopers 19:21, 8 August 2007 (UTC)

Just to give a non FAC perspective: The lead may often summarise the article on a FA quality article. But for the other 99% of wikipedia, it usually contains information not repeated elsewhere. Two examples come to mind:

  1. Most lists (including Featured Lists) give an introduction to the topic that is not a summary of the list body.
  2. A short biographical article may include birth/death details not repeated in the body (DoB, nationality, location of birth/death, cause of death).

Where the lead does summarise the body, then I agree it may be acceptable to avoid an explicit inline citation provided the it is straightforward for the reader to locate the place in the body text that supports that summary statement.

Another example of redundant citations could be text in an image caption that is supported by bodytext. Colin°Talk 12:42, 10 July 2007 (UTC)

FYI - a recent discussion regarding citation in leads can be found here. Modest attempts were made to describe the current thinking regarding leads. Slimvirgin and Jayg asserted they had a consensus that WP:V applies everywhere on wikipedia, others argued the lead was a special case - the page was eventually protected but the issue remains and I find it doubtful the opinions of two editors represents a consensus. Any suggestions for getting a better airing? --Joopercoopers 19:21, 8 August 2007 (UTC)

I don't know where to go for the discussion, since I've seen this come up in several different places without consensus. However, I agree that leads are in practice rarely cited, and I see no problem with that. I never cite anything in a lead unless requested to by a reviewer; I might make an exception for a truly controversial statement about something like global warming, but I don't usually work on controversial articles. I do think every fact mentioned in the lead should be cited somewhere in the article, but I regard the lead as a summary, and both details and citations belong in the body except in exceptional circumstances. I'd be glad if policy were explicitly changed to reflect this, but in practice it seems to be the case in most articles already. Mike Christie (talk) 13:16, 6 September 2007 (UTC)

Privilege of Peerage[edit]

Is it really necessary to have a footnote when the obvious, online, source citable supports the assertion directly? The article in the header is one of Lord Emsworth's usual careful pieces of work. It asserts that the robes for the 1953 Coronation of Queen Elizabeth cost 1250 pounds; one of the references, and the only one that is at all likely to mention robes, is *Cox, N. (1999). "The Coronation and Parliamentary Robes of the British Peerage." Arma. (Vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 289–293), which does in fact assert exactly this sum (footnote 9 to the linked article). Can't we rely on the reader having enough initiative to actually bother to look at the references?

This is, of course, an unusual case: Emsworth notoriously included only the facts he had found, and his references included everything he put in the article; but surely this sort of scholarliness should be encouraged? We are more likely to retain the next Emsworth if it is. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 19:13, 11 October 2007 (UTC)


Good page, Raul. I'm concerned that the section titled "Challenging another user's edits" isn't explicitly connected with citations. I can't understand the relevance. I'm also concerned that there's no general rule of thumb concerning what is too little and what is too much citation in an article. I see FACs in which every sentence is cited. Sometimes two citations, the same one, have appeared in a single sentence. We need to get across the disadvantages of cluttering (such as with overlinking), and the accepted rationing of citations, because that is what is comes down to. Tony (talk) 10:30, 27 October 2007 (UTC)

Episode titles[edit]

There is a minor edit war happening over in the Survivor (TV series) section articles at the moment regarding citations for episode titles. An anonymous IP is adding [citation needed] tags to the approximately 220 episode titles on the articles pertaining to the season articles, e.g. Survivor: Cook Islands. It is the view of several editors, myself included, that this is not a case of when to cite. Could we get some clarification on that? Regards, -- THE DARK LORD TROMBONATOR 20:32, 3 November 2007 (UTC)

I agree with the Dark Lord Trombonator in that such small parts of the article should not have to be referenced. There are a lot of episode titles for Survivor, and to reference each would mean an incredible amount of sourcing, and the particular anonymous IP does not wish to edit himself, but rather asks other editors (such as the two of us) to include such information for him. Survivorfan101 02:26, 4 November 2007 (UTC)
I can agree that this is probably gratuitous nit-picking. Has the editor given any reason for the citation demands, or just repeatedly tagged the statements? An episode's title is easy to verify by looking at the episode itself. I suppose there could be legitimate reasons to challenge the title of an episode... an individual episode might have been retitled at some point, or different titles could have been used for broadcast in different countries... but I think we have to have a real reason to request a citation for something as mundane as this. Ask the IP editor state his reasoning for the challenge on the talk page. If legit, then cite to the ep. if not, then you can always invoke IAR. Blueboar 20:39, 4 November 2007 (UTC)
This is already covered here: Plot of the subject of the article - If the subject of the article is a book or film or other artistic work, it is unnecessary to cite a source in describing events or other details. It should be obvious to potential readers that the subject of the article is the source of the information. Raul654 20:54, 4 November 2007 (UTC)
I agree. I don't think I've ever seen episode titles cited as it is obvious information. -- Gogo Dodo 21:00, 4 November 2007 (UTC)

It would help to mention that the series in question does not show a title during the show 01:39, 7 November 2007 (UTC)

Politics of ...[edit]

Hello everyone! Currently another editor consistantly changes a section on the page Politics of Wales, and removes my sourced information. Following the guide here, and with my training as a journalist, I thoroughly cited my sources, and when contraversial comments or points of view are presented I cite who's point of view it was. The editor removes information, and I feel it is based on a bias, but that is not the point. I have always added his sourced information to other articals where he and I have presented each other, but now as he dissagrees with my source, he edits them out and has began to attack me personally. Are there any further avenues open to me? Can others review the artical and comment on the sourcing? Thanks~ Drachenfyre 21:52, 10 November 2007 (UTC)

This is incorrect in fact. You have reverted my sourced edits several times.Normalmouth 23:37, 10 November 2007 (UTC)

Proposal to make this page policy[edit]

I think that given the emergence of a general extreme citation movement, it would be prudent to elevate this guideline to actual policy, or perhaps to something in between. I'm concerned that by asking for citations of many details on many articles, some editors may be trying to exhaust the energies of those communities which are in favor of fiction articles, specifically to compell an ideosyncratic viewpoint regarding their notability and secure their deletion over the wishes of the communities. Tcaudilllg (talk) 06:11, 23 November 2007 (UTC)

No. We have the policies. The point of this page is to provide guidance on interpreting those policies. Colin°Talk 08:11, 23 November 2007 (UTC)
No. "Extreme citation" is a construct that has a POV (in the broader sense of the word). "Challenged or likely to be challenged" is a minimum standard, NOT a gold standard. --Ling.Nut (talk) 10:25, 23 November 2007 (UTC)
With all due respect, belief in consensus itself, is a POV.
The problem with leaving the pages as "guidance" is that they are nonbinding. The extreme citationists (that's what I'm going to refer to them as, because that's what it is) take the view that rigid enforcement of the policy trumps guidelines.
Besides, you haven't addressed the concerns I raised, either. Tcaudilllg (talk) 11:44, 23 November 2007 (UTC)


  • You seem to be implying that individual editors are gaming the system. If they are, then the community can deal with them on a case by case basis, particularly if they are being disruptive. Moreover, your "point" in this case sounds a lot like specualtive fingerpointing....
  • Scholars deserve credit for their work; they should be cited when we present their ideas.
  • It's true that inline cites/harvard refs don't prevent sneaky vandalism, but that is a straw man argument at best and a Chewbacca defense at worst.. the goal of cites is not and never has been to prevent vandalism; it is to make it easy for dedicated editors to track down the exact wording of the reliable source in question in order to correct vandalism (and to give credit, see above). Ling.Nut (talk) 12:06, 23 November 2007 (UTC)

Proposal to move back to an essay and subject to broad community input[edit]

  • Comment, this page is incomplete, the arguments made very early on its history with respect to citation in, for example, medical articles were never incorporated, and if anything, it should be moved back to an essay. It was moved to a guideline without broad community input, and I do not support it even as a guideline, much less as a policy. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 14:27, 23 November 2007 (UTC)
  • I am still unhappy about the opening "rule of thumb", which gives the green light to those misguided folk who insert a citation at the end of every (or almost every) sentence. "Not every statement in an article needs a citation, but if in doubt, provide one." Tony (talk) 15:14, 23 November 2007 (UTC)
Agreed. Some people are always "in doubt". —Preceding unsigned comment added by Tcaudilllg (talkcontribs) 20:30, 23 November 2007 (UTC)
  • This should stand as an essay... There is no reason we need a guideline or policy on citations.--Isotope23 talk 14:38, 24 November 2007 (UTC)

Summary style (again)[edit]

I'd like to remove the whole bullet-point on summary style (BTW: WP:SS is a guideline, not policy). Of course not "all the references for the subtopic" will appear in the main "summary style" article. That is common-sense due to level of detail. However, the main article should stand alone (as must all wikipedia articles) wrt its sources. If the sub-topic article was deleted or rewritten, then the main article would remain adequately sourced as-is. I see no reason to exempt a summary style section from the usual requirement for citations. The "unless they are required to support a specific point" clause is logically nonsense. The sentence effectively says citations are not required, unless they are required. It should go. Colin°Talk 08:11, 23 November 2007 (UTC)

Why does this page exist?[edit]

Christ, I didn't even know it existed. We seemed doomed to redundancy and unnecessary Wikipedia space pages... Marskell (talk) 19:50, 23 November 2007 (UTC)

Actually, I did know, upon consideration—but I recall it had been specific to FA. Marskell (talk) 19:51, 23 November 2007 (UTC)
I have moved this back to essay; I see no discussion that led it to become a guideline. Marskell (talk) 20:00, 23 November 2007 (UTC)
It's curious that someone suggested above that we would have a policy page to explain a policy page. The policy is WP:V; examples are examples. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 20:09, 23 November 2007 (UTC)
Um hm. I don't disagree at all with the motives of this—when to cite? is certainly a vexing question that could have better answers. But it must proceed through V. Start a thread there and see where it goes. The RS fork(s) are bad enough. Our policy on sourcing is Wikipedia:Verifiability. It's four years old, but quite stable now. Marskell (talk) 21:22, 23 November 2007 (UTC)

Example (from Processor)[edit]

"In a computer, the processor is the component that executes instructions"

This example text does not exist (anymore) in any article. If someone cares, maybe she can find a different example --Cspan64 (talk) 13:39, 7 March 2008 (UTC)

Summary style[edit]

I removed the following from the section listing examples of when sources might not be needed, because it's not entirely clear what it's saying:

SlimVirgin (talk)(contribs) 09:00, 10 March 2008 (UTC)

Removing challenged material[edit]

Made an edit to make explicit what the guideline seems to be saying implicitly, that unless the material falls into the class that should be removed without discussion, challengers should await a timely response rather than immediately removing material. Best, --Shirahadasha (talk) 19:11, 19 March 2008 (UTC)

essay or guideline?[edit]

While the process for something to achieve guideline status on Wikipedia is notoriously ill-defined, I think there at least needs to be some discussion and general notice on the appropriate pages, such the WT:MOS and VP:Policy. Through the vast majority of this page's existence, it has not been marked as an guideline and for the most part has been marked either as an essay or as under development.

Apart from the edit history, previous discussion on this page here, here, and here seem to indicate little support for this being a guideline. olderwiser 02:10, 21 March 2008 (UTC)

Right now it is a very nice essay ... it needs much more exposure and discussion before it can be promoted to guideline. Blueboar (talk) 03:06, 21 March 2008 (UTC)

It can go two courses: (1) remain an essay, or (2) be marked as a proposal. One person declaring a guideline without demostrating a broad consesnus is really not an option. Essays offer non-binding advice, guidelines are actionable. --Kevin Murray (talk) 15:50, 21 March 2008 (UTC)

Citation in lists[edit]

Is citation necessary when all the information and source of an item are already available in the item's main article? Is there need to repeat the citation in the list? --Kvasir (talk) 14:58, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

To some extent this depends on the list. Some lists have strict inclusion criteria that require citation (even if it repeats a citation in the main article), others do not. Local consensus should govern here. Also, if someone is challenging whether a particular entry qualifies for the list, then the citation should probably be repeated. Blueboar (talk) 15:10, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
Someone is insisting that a citation is needed for ALL items in List of missing ships, whereas I feel it's only needed when a wiki article isn't available, similar to List of shipwrecks. Thoughts? --Kvasir (talk) 15:16, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
Wikipedia is not a reliable source. The List of missing ships should be sourced, as necessary, independently of any linked-to articles. The only place where citations are not required is in the automatically generated Category:Disappeared ships, where the source for an article's inclusion in that category would in the article itself. Colin°Talk 18:37, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
Database theory says that storing roughly the same information in two different places is a Very Bad Thing; and that's even true when the information is updated automatically, by people who are getting a paycheck and can be counted on to maintain the two lists. Some of the reasons are: people think they're referring to one when they meant the other, the data gets out of sync and therefore pulls down the credibility of both, it's much more work to update the data both places and continually check the two lists against each other, and people have to learn separate sets of rules for data representation in the two different locations. Therefore, I don't like the idea of requiring the same information to be cited twice. However, as Blueboar points out, different lists follow different guidelines, and local consensus tends to rule. - Dan Dank55 (talk) 18:51, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
P.S. to clarify, a sentence that occurs in two different articles is capable of conveying different information with the same words, so to be safe, Wikipedia allows the demand for citation in each article. I'm talking here about a list, where inclusion in the list follows directly from the cited information in a set of articles. - Dan Dank55 (talk) 20:39, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
Regarding "Wikipedia is not a reliable source", that turns out to be a more interesting discussion than you'd think. A few years ago, that was almost a mantra, and even now, it seems like a natural consequence of "anyone can edit". But the statement in WP:V that "articles and posts on Wikipedia may not be used as sources" has more to do with the Telephone game, that is, the problems that occur when information is repeated from one article to the next, than with asserting that Wikipedia isn't reliable. See WT:V for details. - Dan Dank55 (talk) 19:02, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
OK from what i gathered from this discussion I'm concluding that any item collected from Category:Disappeared ships and others (I also found other similar categories such as Category:Missing submarines of WWII and Category:Missing U-boats) implies that the ship is missing and therefore does not require repeat citation. I have also checked all the articles in the categories to confirm they are in fact missing. I have found some ships in those categories were actually ghost ships. Any additional entries and infomation not in those categories and the ship article itself will need citation. Thankyou all. --Kvasir (talk) 20:24, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

(unindent). For starters, this is the talk page of an essay. I suggest this discussion is continued over at WT:V. Wikipedia policy is quite clear on this: "Articles and posts on Wikipedia may not be used as sources." The "Database theory" issue is a red herring. If you want to get technical about how a database would implement it: the source citation would be held as a record in a table and both the article and list would refer to that record using the same foreign key. Wikipedia no table of citations that we can refer to, nor does it have any mechanism for enforcing the integrity of its links.

Wrt to the shipping list, you are completely wrong. You cannot use the inclusion in a category or another article or the existence of a source citation in another article to avoid having to cite what you write in your article/list. There is no exemption from policy for lists. You will not find any featured lists that are sourced from their linked articles or from categories. Colin°Talk 22:33, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

That needs repeating, with emphasis: There is no exemption from policy for lists. -- Boracay Bill (talk) 23:02, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
We can talk about it on WT:V if you like, but after re-reading WP:Lists and browsing [[Category:Lists]], it seems to me that most people have it pretty much right, so I'm not sure how much "education" we need to do. I wasn't refusing to give a cite when asked; I said "I don't like the idea of requiring the same information to be cited twice", and I gave well-known principles for why that's undesirable, that is, why it's a bad idea to challenge inclusion in a list and require a cite, under some circumstances. This really doesn't have a lot of relevance to most featured lists, which often cite one or two sources that provide everything in the list all at once. I haven't looked at List of missing ships, so what I'm saying might not be relevant to that, either. But the general principles I mentioned are taught in a first college database course; good information design is not a red herring or black magic. - Dan Dank55 (talk) 03:06, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
I cannot stress this enough: write and source your article/list as though all your wikilinks were red. Forget the articles you link to. Forget the categories. Find reliable non-wiki sources for your text. WP:Lists just repeats that WP:V applies to lists too. Don't assume that because lots of inferior lists lack references that this is OK: most of WP is unreferenced and that is not OK. There are plenty feature lists that have nearly one citation per entry. Please drop the database thing. Think of the citation as a foreign key, albeit a rather verbose one. Colin°Talk 07:57, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
If we are to follow the policy word for word, the nature of List of missing ships will require every single item with correponding citation since it is not a statistical list. Any idea on how to shorten the citation section? In light of citation police out here this section will be as long as the article itself, since 95% of all entry has a corresponding citation. I can only see this as counter productive and prevent it from being a Featured List, not that the list is currently a candidate since it's less than 60 hours old. --Kvasir (talk) 06:06, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
Please don't label fellow editors with derogatory phrases like "citation police". You don't need a separate citation per entry if a source can be found that lists several ships -- then the same citation can be reused. Colin°Talk 07:57, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
Last time I check, police is a respectable profession, at least that is the case in my country. There are wikipedians who pride themselves as being police who rather spend time tagging things than actually improving the article, as evident in this userbox and other similar to this:
--Kvasir (talk) 18:04, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
Okay, now I've read the list ... I probably should have done that first! ... and Colin is right on all counts, Kvasir. It's perfectly reasonable to ask for citations for all ships (and one citation that establishes several ships is fine, of course), and he's just doing his job, that doesn't make him the "citation police". If you see other lists that don't have that many citations, there can be several reasons for that. One is that no one has asked for citations yet, or they asked, but they didn't push it. Another reason is a quote from Carl from the most recent archive over at WT:V: "The policy doesn't require that everything has to be individually cited - far from it. Most things only need to be 'verifiable' in theory. Only contentious material, quotes, and material likely to be challenged are required to be individually cited. — Carl (CBM · talk) 17:03, 10 March 2008 (UTC)". In this case, it's reasonable to ask for evidence that the ships belong in the list. What I saw over at [[Category:Lists]] is that it's quite common to have lists of, say, wikilinks, that have no or few references; but the elements of these lists were unlikely to be challenged. And Colin, here's where good information practices enter the discussion: in such a list, the kind that Blueboar referenced above as a list where there's a consensus that individual cites aren't needed for, say, the wikilinks, and where suitability of inclusion could be determined in a few seconds simply by clicking on the links, it would be bad design for someone to come along and require individual citations ... even though, in theory, they'd be within their rights to do it. That's all I'm saying; sorry I didn't keep the focus clear. - Dan Dank55 (talk) 17:30, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
It doesn't matter if the editors of some obscure list have come to some private consensus that WP:V doesn't apply. They are wrong. Nowhere does WP policy allow wikilinks to substitute for proper sourcing. Whether it "is quite common" to have lists that "no or few references" is irrelevant in the face of clear policy -- such lists break policy and need cleaned up just the same as unsourced prose needs fixed.
Suitability for inclusion cannot be "determined in a few seconds simply by clicking on the links". It may take the reader some time to determine which (if any) sources that article has used that justify inclusion in the list. There's nothing bad about a design that requires individual citations. We're not asking folk to quote the sources in full! Dan, I think you've really got WP:V confused here. WP:V doesn't care that this is a wiki and has internal links. Every article and list must stand on its own two feet.
With lists, most entries constitute "material likely to be challenged". It is very hard to come up with a useful and interesting list that contains only the totally obvious. Colin°Talk 17:51, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
With the huge backlog at WP:GAN, I should get back to spending my time on articles and lists at a relatively high level of maturity, rather than thinking about "boundary cases" and lower-maturity lists. But let's see if we can at least understand each other. Consider wikilinks in a See also section; they almost never have citations justifying their inclusion, and that section functions as a kind of list. You could say "that's because we don't need them in See also" ... but why don't you need them in See also? It's because, if you want to know if that's a useful link, you can always click on it and find out; you don't need a separate cite to prove it. And if you did add separate cites, then as soon as the cites or the information on the linked page changed, the two pages would be out of sync. (And the other "database theory" concepts are relevant, too.) There are many short ... and, I'll concede, not very mature (in the sense of wikified) ... lists that don't have citations on all the wikilinks, for more or less the same reason.
The next time I'm faced with a relevant example, I'll alert you to give your input. I think we are probably largely in agreement on the general principles, but I think in individual cases, it's possible you would reach a different conclusion than Carl or Blueboar might, judging from their statements above. and in all the policy discussions I've read, I've never seen either of them lose an argument. (Strike that, it makes them sound combative, which isn't true; I'll just say that they are both widely respected on policy matters.) Please do the same, and alert me if you see an article or list that you feel pulls these issues into focus. - Dan Dank55 (talk) 19:58, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
Let me clarify my comments above as they relate to the current conversation. If a list does not specifically state that citations are needed in its inclusion criteria, you have the luxury of making a judgment call as to whether and addition is "likely" to be challenged or not... you can wait until it actually is challenged. If, however, the agreed upon inclusion criteria for a list states specifically that citations must be given (as is the case here), that means that any addition is not only likely to be challenged if one is not provided, but has been challenged automatically. Therefore, under WP:V you must provide a citation. Blueboar (talk) 20:03, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
Could you please give an example of a useful standalone list that does not require sourcing. Failing that, I think your argument is clouding the issue. Colin°Talk 20:35, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
If I say "list X doesn't need citations", you might say "yes it does", and then we've got a Monty Python skit. So instead, I offer 95000 lists that you will agree don't need citations: everything in [[Category:Disambiguation]]. You can define them to be DAB pages rather than lists; you can define an alligator to be a kitten, but it's still an alligator. DAB pages don't need citations for all of the reasons I gave above. For lists which don't qualify as DAB pages (say, because they're trying to disambiguate a concept rather than a word or phrase), but have the same function as DAB pages, wouldn't it make sense to follow the same logic that DAB pages follow and not ask for citations? - Dan Dank55 (talk) 22:10, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
DAB pages are not stand-alone lists (they have a quite separate style guide) and their purpose is navigation, not information. Their inclusion criteria are inherently self-referential and they are not allowed to include information that would require sourcing. I'm trying help an editor of a normal stand-alone list know when to cite. I'm not interested in debating philosophical thoughts on how database theory affects WP:V. I think this discussion has gone on long enough and I refer anyone still confused to WP:V. Colin°Talk 08:07, 1 April 2008 (UTC)

Additional example[edit]

Could "Information that relies on a certain date" be included, because this is vital for articles before 1900, as there have been many that have included wrong dates and other such things. Plus, authorship, timing, etc, can be contentious and it is best to ensure that the date is right to begin with. Dates should be easy to source to a legitimate source. Ottava Rima (talk) 04:03, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

At face, this looks like a good idea. But do we really need to cite the 4th July 1776 in the American declaration of independence day and other 'common knowledge' dates. I think the guidance is pretty good as it stands - if the claim is not widely known and is key, or in dispute then it should be cited - a blanket 'cite all dates' isn't necessary. --Joopercoopers (talk) 22:06, 6 May 2008 (UTC)

Essay or Guideline (again)[edit]

The page was, once again, unilaterally promoted to a Guideline (this time by User:Joopercoopers). That is the wrong way to go about it. A consensus for promotion needs to be demonstrated before it is made a Guideline, and looking at the discussions above, that has not happened... at least not yet. Joopercoopers is correct in saying that consensus may change... so past debates are not always an indication of current thinking. However, one user should not arbitrarily declare a new consensus. I have changed it to "proposed" status. Let's see what the current consensus actually is. Should this be promoted to Guideline Status, or remain an Essay? Blueboar (talk) 12:50, 6 May 2008 (UTC)

Proposed guideline seems entirely appropriate here. My !vote is the page reflects the general practice for our highest standard articles and as such, should be adopted. --Joopercoopers (talk) 13:04, 6 May 2008 (UTC)
I think all the reasons for leaving it as an Essay that are listed in the discussions above are still valid. This is an excellent Essay, but has problems as a Guideline. Blueboar (talk) 13:12, 6 May 2008 (UTC)
Shall we redux them here then and see what shakes out? --Joopercoopers (talk) 13:45, 6 May 2008 (UTC)
I see a lot of arguments about why it shouldn't be policy (which is correct), but fewer that say why it shouldn't be a guideline. I don't see any problem with it being a proposed guideline, for now. - Merzbow (talk) 16:31, 6 May 2008 (UTC)
I believe this page should strive to become a guideline, because we need a guideline on this particular topic. However, as it stands I don't believe it's complete or has wide consensus behind it. Let's make it a proposed guideline for a while and get some expansion, clarification, and additional support. Dcoetzee 20:43, 6 May 2008 (UTC)
What do you believe is currently lacking from it? - Merzbow (talk) 20:46, 6 May 2008 (UTC)

One might argue that this is already a guideline: WP:CITE#When to cite sources. This whole page might easily be merged into that, which is not too much shorter now. However I support new guideline as a backup !vote. A slight concern is that "Contentious material about living persons must be cited every time", referring to the lead, must be interpreted with reference to the fact that the lead often restates cited body material and thus it technically is cited (the citation text can be found via the table of contents). This is permitted per WP:LEAD and also due to the editorial discretion involved in text-source distance. Lead footnotes should be reserved for the strongest or most contentious cases. But that's no reason not to promote it by merging or tagging. JJB 15:44, 7 May 2008 (UTC)

Yes, the presence of that section is an issue. There's two solutions, it seems; either that section can be shrunk to summary-style size, leaving the link to this article (which becomes a guideline), or the material in this article is merged as necessary, and it stays an essay or is deleted. I'm not sure yet. - Merzbow (talk) 22:22, 7 May 2008 (UTC)

Comment. *sigh* Please don't add yet another guideline. We already have a citation guideline at WP:CITE. Feel free to propose changes if they are needed. Vassyana (talk) 02:01, 8 May 2008 (UTC)

I suspect the 40kb+ of instructions at CITE is one of the reasons why a succinct page like this is necessary - 40kb+ and it still doesn't actually tell you when to cite. CREEP is always used to argue against any change, but WP needs clarification regarding when to cite - we need this guideline - I'm not bothered if it's here or in the main CITE guideline, although I note CITE is a 'style guideline'. --Joopercoopers (talk) 12:50, 8 May 2008 (UTC)
Since this is already covered under WP:CITE#When to cite sources, then there is no need for this page. It makes more sense to just take any good material from here and add it to WP:CITE. That way editors who have citing questions can go to one single location for answers. If we promote this to guideline, we end up with two guidleines covering the same topic - and that can lead to contraditions and confusion. Blueboar (talk) 13:55, 8 May 2008 (UTC)

Common knowledge?[edit]

Text: Subject-specific common knowledge – Material that anyone familiar with a topic, including laypersons, recognizes as true. Example (from Processor): "In a computer, the processor is the component that executes instructions." The example is not common knowledge, it is axiomatic. That means it proceeds logically from the definition itself: The statement may be phrased, "the processor is defined as the component that executes instructions." Many such axiomatic statements in articles are thoughtlessly challenged with citation demands all the time; how much more difficult, then, if axioms aren't even recognised in the "When to cite" suggestions. --Wetman (talk) 05:30, 26 May 2008 (UTC)

Depends if anyone disputes the definition. I doubt anyone would dispute that definition. But when it comes to things like, say, defining what a "massacre" is, then all hell breaks loose. I don't see any such language definitions as being axiomatic in the same way that "2+2=4" is. - Merzbow (talk) 06:38, 26 May 2008 (UTC)
"Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana".Groucho Marx, but also see Natural language processing#Concrete problems--Philip Baird Shearer (talk) 23:07, 17 June 2008 (UTC)


Nothing happened with this proposal in the last 6 months. What's the status? Is it adopted or not? Xasodfuih (talk) 16:38, 14 January 2009 (UTC)

When a source is needed[edit]

WP:V (policy): "Editors should provide a reliable source for quotations and for any material that is challenged or likely to be challenged, or the material may be removed."

This guideline: "Material that is actually challenged by another editor requires a source or it may be removed; and anything likely to incur a reasonable challenge should be sourced to avoid disputes and to aid readers (See policy WP:BURDEN)."

IMHO, this guideline should more closely reflect the policy. -- Boracay Bill (talk) 23:21, 15 January 2009 (UTC)

Hindustan Express[edit]

Hindustan Express is the leading Urdu daily of North India having a large number of readership in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Uttaranchal. Now is in the third year of publication. In these years it has created a need for Indian Muslim to read this newspaper withers via print or on net. Its net edition is also very popular among those who give priority to read news on net rather than its hard copy. Its net edition is very popular among NRI because this is the only newspaper of India WHICH PRESENTS THE TRUE PICTURE OF EVERY STORY. (kindly note:URL change,now u can It is the only newspaper which no any bent to any political party. That is it is every popular among the readers and is regarded as the only unbiased newspaper. In this very limited period we have break many stories which given a chance to an Urdu reader that an Urdu newspaper too can break story. BBC Urdu website regularly gives the references of Hindustan Express it shows that in news selection Hindustan Express is number one. It design is according to need of the reader. It has been designed in that manner which gives a reader a easy way to search and read the news. Its front and last page design is very popular among the readers who not only like to read news but they also take interest in layout. Hindustan express is getting regular advertisements from DAVP and DIP. Because of its wide reach it is very popular among the advertisers. Its weekly edition is also very popular. The weekly edition Qauso Qazah publishes the story about education, career, film and the other good things like nazm, Ghazal Afsana and the material for women and Children. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Shahid.hindustan (talkcontribs) 00:44, 24 April 2009 (UTC)

Single citation for whole paragraphs[edit]

Re [1], I think placing a single citation at the end of a paragraph is bad practice. Articles are dynamic, and additional sentences not based on the same source may be inserted in the paragraph by various editors as the article matures, the paragraph may be split in two, leaving the first half unreferenced, another paragraph may be inserted between the two halves, etc. We may end up with apparently unreferenced paragraphs that originally were referenced, or with unsourced material that appears referenced. All of this makes the task of verifying an article for a GA or FA review much more difficult – the reviewer will have to check and double-check whether or not a sentence is perhaps covered by the source after all, and will have to guess which source a now unreferenced passage may have come from. Checking the edit history to see when additions, insertions or deletions were made is a very time-consuming process. So I still think we should definitely not tell editors that placing just a single reference at the end of an entire paragraph based on the same source is good practice. It creates verifiability problems. JN466 13:23, 25 May 2009 (UTC)

The paragraph you dislike is about providing value to the reader, instead of being "mindless" and "silly" when providing refs. Contrary to your view, it directly encourages the use of more than one citation when that makes sense.
There's also nothing here that prevents a future editor from placing the ref in multiple paragraphs if copyediting moves cited facts around, so your worry about "apparently unreferenced paragraphs that originally were referenced" is misplaced. The worry about "unsourced material that appears referenced" is also misplaced: that can happen just as easily by having an editor copy over any ref that's handy to "support" a statement, or by placing a new statement between the actual supported text and its ref (and I have seen this done, dozens of times).
We have an actual problem that I'd like to see solved: FA-quality articles are being cluttered up with redundant and wholly unnecessary footnotes because people mistakenly believe that this guideline requires a ref after every single full stop even when that would be silly, despite a core policy against mindlessness. Consider a paragraph like this one:

Smith classifies students into three groups (Smith 2009:124). The first group is those students that do their homework. The second group is those students that don't do their homework. The third group is those students that don't even realize that they were supposed to do any homework.

This is one fact, presented in four sentences. Do you really think that we need to name the source at the end of each and every sentence? Do you really think that later additions to this paragraph wouldn't seem like they were about a different fact, and thus be appropriate, non-silly candidates for naming the ref for the separate information? Do you think that you, as an experienced editor, wouldn't be able to figure out, with a high degree of certainty, what the source is for the second, third, and fourth sentences here? Do you candidly think that the encyclopedia is improved by copying and pasting "(Smith 2009:124)" at the end of three more sentences? WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:56, 25 May 2009 (UTC)

A single citation for several paragraphs is thin, but two should do the trick. Paradoctor (talk) 02:42, 10 January 2010 (UTC)

Citations needed for translations of everyday words in foreign languages?[edit]

Should citations be required for stating the meaning of a common word? There is a disagreement over this at Talk:List of Avatar: The Last Airbender characters#Fact tag necessary for common language knowledge?. Thanks, rʨanaɢ talk/contribs 04:01, 2 December 2009 (UTC)

reference when the statement in one article is linked to another article in wikipedia[edit]

My example: In the article "kunduz hospital air strike" I made a statement regarding the first Geneva Convention, I linked to the article "First Geneva Convention", and there are references to the needed documentation. Do I have to repeat this references in "kunduz hospital air strike" or can I trust on the link leading to the in detail coverage of the subject in the article I link to?Jochum (talk) 03:46, 18 November 2015 (UTC)

The source of the material should always be clear[edit]

The essay includes the following suggestion:

When different sources are used within a paragraph, these can be bundled at the end if desired, so long as the footnote makes clear which source supports which point in the text.

Surely adopting this practice only makes more work for the reader - let alone the writer? Our first objective must be to write clearly, so that the reader may understand our articles without any more effort than the subject matter intrinsically demands. Adopting the suggestion given above would automatically fail this test. So, I'd rather offer the following suggestion instead:

When a paragraph uses different sources, each one should appear as near as possible to the point in the text that it supports.

This will help maintain the close connection between text and source that the essay recommends:

The source of the material should always be clear, and editors should exercise caution when rearranging cited material to ensure that the text-source relationship isn't broken.

yoyo (talk) 18:44, 8 September 2016 (UTC)