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Citation style

Surely parenthesis-author-year-parenthesis is an apropriate citation style for a technical paper, not a general encyclopedia? Popular works generally use footnotes, making the main text easier to read. See the following from Power outage (here altered slighly to follow the guidelines)

It has recently been argued on the basis of historical data (Carreras 2002a) and computer modelling (Carreras 2002b) that power grids are self-organized critical systems. These systems exhibit unavoidable (Carreras 2000) disturbances of all sizes, up to the size of the entire system, and attempts to reduce the probability of small disturbances only increase the probability of large ones (Carreras 2003). This has immediate policy implications (Carreras 2002a).

Compare with -

It has recently been argued on the basis of historical data1 and computer modelling2 that power grids are self-organized critical systems. These systems exhibit unavoidable3 disturbances of all sizes, up to the size of the entire system, and attempts to reduce the probability of small disturbances only increase the probability of large ones4. This has immediate policy implications1.

Andy G 18:10, 5 Dec 2003 (UTC)

I just finished writing entries for two separate printed technical encyclopedias, and both of them required the (Author, Date) parenthetical style. One problem with the numbered style in Wikipedia is that is really hard to maintain unless there is automatic support for it, which is not currently in place. As for it interrupting the flow of the text, I think the point is moot because encyclopedia articles tend to list a set of general reference and review articles at the end, and only occasionally need to refer to specific references in the text. See discrete Hartley transform, for example. —Steven G. Johnson 01:18, 6 Dec 2003 (UTC)
(In any case, the citation style is really the least of our worries; the vast majority of articles do not reference properly at all.)

(William M. Connolley 10:30, 6 Dec 2003 (UTC)) I like (author, date) myself, because: you can read it in the text instead of breaking up your reading by going to the footnotes; and its better for cut-and-paste.

I was trying to illustrate that (author, date) gets a bit unwieldy when you need to indicate sources for several brief facts. But I suppose what reads best is a matter of personal preference. Although as we've got a nice mechanism for on-web citations like this: [1], I feel it would be better to have a similar method for off-web citations. Maybe footnotes like this: (1), preferably with automated numbering. If it was easier to cite references maybe more people would do it. Andy G 22:55, 9 Dec 2003 (UTC)

If we want a numbered style, I agree that auto-numbering is a necessity. However, I don't like the current numbering mechanism for on-web citations—any numbering system should jump to end-notes that have more detail on the citation (and which can be printed), not a link. As far as getting more people to do it, you're attacking the wrong problem: the hard part is (a) consulting a good reference in the first place and (b) writing down the citation. The in-text pointer, whether parenthetical or numbered (if automated) is the easy part. Steven G. Johnson 03:50, 10 Dec 2003 (UTC)
I agree with Steven's assessment. Making references easier to add won't encourage users, but it will not discourage users. And it'll make it easier for those inclined to cite. I think end-notes would work best, as well. They probably represent the simplest solution to implement, too. Haphazard bracketed number links are inconsistent and confusing; I suggest that it was a mistake to make such a rudimentary citation method have such a polished final look. This page is too much of a backwater to fuel much discussion. Is their any way we can come to some kind of consensus, and show the wiki developers that a quorum have agreed on some system? Feel free to use my talk page, or propose another venue. — Johny 22:25, 16 May 2004 (UTC)

would it be too bold

..for a newcomer to replace “bulleted (*) list” with bulleted (*) list ([[Wikipedia:How_to_edit_a_page#Sections.2C_paragraphs.2C_lists_and_line| bulleted (<nowiki>*) list]]</nowiki>)

OK, it would be bold since it doesn't work.

What must be obvious to most is swimming in a sea of help references I have read in the last few hours, and a link like this would‘ve saved me the 5 min. of finding out that you type a bulleted list as you‘d like it to appear, as well as reinforce what I read on creating lists. P.S. How would I shorten the syntax for this link since it is internal to wiki, and still make it go straight to “lists and lines” P.P.S. So …“pipe “ character doesn’t work in Works WP?!? greentwin 07:28, 16 Oct 2004 (UTC)

OK...could someone take the time to show me why my link doesn't go straight to the part of the table that the TOC link I copied goes to? BTW...much kudos to the author of the fictitious book bib. entries...brilliant -Tao of Poop greentwin 07:28, 16 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Tools for bibliographic descriptions other than citing references

I started Wikipedia:WikiProject Books because the bibliographical standard for citations might be adapted to other needs. But then again it might not. AlainV 03:07, 2004 Apr 28 (UTC)


This community seems very sensitive to the issues of copyright. But when it comes to credit and citation, we do quite poorly. I'm surprised at the number of articles that refer to authors' conclusions and interpretations without crediting the author or citing the source.

Some may disagree with me, but I think this is a serious weakness. It only takes discipline to cite source; hunting down original sources takes time, effort and uncommon selflessness — let's face it, unless you happen to know the source, you're unlikely to invest much effort in uncovering the implicit citations in somebody's articles.

Integrity, transparency, credibility, honesty: that's what's at stake here. What do you think?

Making references easier to add might lower the activation energy. If I'm not aware of a system that's already in place to simplify this, please let me know. — Johny 21:48, 16 May 2004 (UTC)

I strongly agree with Johny. I am active in the area of the Catholic pages, although I contribute in other areas as well. In religion people are attached to their ideas, and so a citation is beneficial to clarify POV. My goal is always to clarify what different religions say, preferably with sources, so the reader can easily see who is saying what. Within each tradition the details are "common knowledge" but from 'outside' a source is helpful so people can make intelligent comparisons. This is very instructive and as a Catholic I have no problem whatsoever with other viewpoints being clearly presented. (Trc | [msg] 20:18, 12 Jun 2004 (UTC))
One thing I have noticed, in inviting people to present citations for their contributions, is that they will sometimes cite some small piece of their contribution. In other words, they may lodge an opinion in the article, and include in the opinion a fact; when pressed they will offer a citation for the fact but not for the opinion, thus averting the prospect of their contribution being scoped rather than being presented in a normalized way. Wikipedia is not intended as a platform for opinions in the first place; but, the 'grey area' is that sometimes it is useful that the factual existence of opinions be included in an article. It is perhaps a mark of editorial obfuscation to refuse to present a source when requested. It is also unfortunate when an editor will refuse to present a source for a contribution, because it is then impossible to verify whether they have even used the work correctly, which is theoretically possible if one can visit a library in the case of a print or subscription source. Trc | [msg] 20:51, 12 Jun 2004 (UTC)
This is a serious problem, as not citing references is often part of a violation of the NPOV rule, by making it sound like the information cited is being made by the article itself, thus making the article the source of opinions. There seems to be no awareness of this issue, and even some who oppose citations, and who want Wikipedia to look like authoritive encyclopedias where the article writer simply pronounces the truth, whether it be about fact or opinion. These people want articles to be the products of consensus, whatever the editors can agree on as "proper" going into the article, instead of the NPOV way of stating only hard facts, and attributing all opinions to some source. ChessPlayer 22:09, 16 May 2004 (UTC)
It is official policy to include references, see Wikipedia:Cite your sources. Feel free to point it out to anybody who gives you a hard time about adding references, and of course set a good example by adding them to existing articles. The hardcore approach would be just to delete text and articles that are missing proper references, heh-heh. Stan 22:33, 16 May 2004 (UTC)
I agree with you on all counts. Wikipedia does not include enough references, and Wiki markup does not make them easy to include. This is also a shortcoming of traditional encyclopedias, but not one that Wikipedia should emulate. Furthermore, when one does not have the chain of trust implicit in the traditional encyclopedia's choice of contributors, it's especially important that statements of fact be verifiable. Dpbsmith 00:27, 17 May 2004 (UTC)
The problem with citing sources is that we really are an encyclopaedia and not an original research project.

In research, you really do need to cite your sources, to prove you are enlarging on what others have created, you are developing what others have originated and not just copying what someone else has written.

In an encyclopaedia, you are referring often to what is in the public domain anyway. What is more, continuously citing others makes it so much more unreadable for the often casual reader. If you look at other encyclopaedias, how often do you come across: “(such and such) is the case, according to (author So-and-sos)?
It is different, of course, if you are actually writing about a particular concept, article, book or theory originated by another author. Of course, you must refer to every part of his work if you want to describe it.
However, take a geographical entity, when all you want to do is describe its settings, its famous buildings and scenery, it borders on the ludicrous to keep citing what other people have said about it unless their views throw a different light on what you might have seen yourself. All you need do is walk out the area concerned, clap eyes on what it is famous for and its sights and describe them.
Take an article by Tiscali Reference, an encyclopaedia, about ‘’Garcia Marquez, Gabriel (Gabo). You would look in vain for any source, where the information has come from. And why would you? It doesn’t matter whether the writer of the encyclopaedia article has read all the works of the author himself, and therefore knows them. He doesn’t have to quote himself as the source, or whether he has gleaned it from other sources. Surely, it is something that is more often than not commonly obtainable knowledge open to all of us?
After all, an encyclopaedia is a work of convenience for all of us, which if we try hard enough, we can search for laboriously ourselves, but that is what it does. It helps us find all the facts in one place and saves us time.

Dieter Simon 01:08, 17 May 2004 (UTC)

Dieter writes, "In research, you really do need to cite your sources, to prove you are enlarging on what others have created, you are developing what others have originated and not just copying what someone else has written." In an encycopedia, you need to cite your sources, to prove you are not arbitrarily enlarging on what others have created. -- Jmabel 03:42, 17 May 2004 (UTC)
Yes, Jmabel, I see your point. If you are actually quoting the words someone else has used to describe a subject, of course, you must cite this source. I was however referring to the adoption into the encyclopedia of a generally known subject, such as bibliographical details of a writer, geographical locations (often you can find this in brochures), technical details of a car engine, etc. Yes, if you are citing a specific aspect of someone else's research and findings of a subject, and you find it apposite to it, or an aspect of an article which only another source has given, then that has to be cited in detail.Dieter Simon 11:19, 17 May 2004 (UTC)

No, even for "generally known" facts a citation is a good idea. For one thing, it tells someone where they can go for more information. For another thing, even if you know something off the top of your head, searching for a good reference to cite forces you to check your facts, which might be wrong or incomplete. I could go on, but reasons for citations are already described in the article. —Steven G. Johnson 21:23, May 17, 2004 (UTC)

I'll be the first to admit that I do poorly in this area, and have to wonder where to begin to improve my referencing skills. And how does one reference what one personally knows and has observed, anyway? POV or not, one of the things that makes Wikipedia great is that it can draw on so many people's knowledge. Hmmm. ;Bear 02:16, 2004 May 18 (UTC)

Remember, the main point of references is to help the reader, not to give a map of your psyche. If you personally have knowledge of something, then that should make it all the easier to identify a good reference book/article/site for the information, both to provide a way for people to check the veracity of a Wikipedia article and to give a resource to go to for more info. Remember, you're not necessarily going to be around if someone wants clarification etc. (And when you look it up, you might surprise yourself and learn something too...often, even experts can find that they have learned only a small corner of a field.) —Steven G. Johnson 02:43, May 18, 2004 (UTC)
OK, this is all good, but how about this case in point: I can put a lot of (hopefully interesting) detail into the history of Madrid, New Mexico because I lived it. For instance, the population over the winter of 1974-75 was exactly 80, up from a low of 10 in the '60s. I did the census myself (the 80). How do I cite that? Publish it elsewhere on my own website and cite that? ;Bear 21:19, 2004 May 20 (UTC)
Remember, Wikipedia is not for original research, and your personal census counts as such. You should publish it through a normal channel, e.g. your local newspaper, and cite that. (If something is too trivial to ever appear in any print publication, then it's not encyclopedic enough for Wikipedia, for the same reason that we don't allow people to put up pages about themselves.) —Steven G. Johnson 00:09, May 21, 2004 (UTC)

My main problem with the citing of sources is that it seems to rarely be done in the body of the article. Its hard to tell if the ==References== section at the end of some articles are the actual references used to write the article, of if they are simply potential references that could be used (sort of a suggested reading). Considering we may have objections to "suggesting" reading, I propose that ==References== be potential, and that ==Sources== be actual (as I have been marking article to which I add sources). Hyacinth 00:11, 20 May 2004 (UTC)

Instead, you shouldn't add references unless you have checked them for consistency with what the article says, in which case the question of whether they were a "source" is irrelevant. (Note also that this is the standard practice for scientific publications: in many cases you might come up with an idea independently, and only later do you perform a literature search and cite the related work. Both to give credit and, again, to help the reader. But you shouldn't cite something unless you've read it, or at least know for sure what it says.) —Steven G. Johnson 00:23, May 21, 2004 (UTC)
I've repeatedly watched my in-text and end-of-article citations be deleted. It seems that no one really wants Wikipedia articles to have good documentation. It's quite discouraging, actually. —Vespristiano 13:34, 2004 May 20 (UTC)
I've never had that happen, so I suspect your case is exceptional. —Steven G. Johnson 17:33, May 20, 2004 (UTC)
Once or twice I have seen a contribution – reference pair get broken during subsequent edits. I suspect that usually it is accidental. Trc | [msg] 20:07, 12 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Web pages that are periodicals

I'd like to propose adding the following text to the policy, under the section "Web pages (not periodicals):

===Web-only periodicals===
Make the article title a link to the web page. Provide the date with as much precision as the website provides. Refer to the publication by name (Salon or Slate), not by address (salon.com, slate.msn.com), unless, of course, the publication's name is its address (e.g., News.com). If the article is part of a column, give the name of the column (e.g. "Moneybox" above) after the title. Do not make the title of the publication a link. Be careful of linking to very new articles; it is common that an article's URL will change or disappear entirely.

Agree, or disagree? — TreyHarris 06:57, 2 Jun 2004 (UTC)

The more detailed the instructions are, the less likely people are to follow them...remember, the main difficulty is in getting people to cite in the first place. So, the main focus here should be on what information should be listed, not how. (Your recommendations above, while salutory, seem to focus more on the how; e.g. Salon can be inferred from salon.com etc. It seems unlikely that more time precision than the day of publication will be useful, although ultimately people have to apply common sense on a case-by-case basis.) I think the current simple comment about web periodicals (... for online articles, make the article title a link to the URL; it may not be possible to supply a page number in this case) is sufficient and has the advantage of brevity. —Steven G. Johnson 01:19, Jun 3, 2004 (UTC)
(If we want to be very picky about reference-formatting styles, we should be using BibTeX or the like, anyway.)
The more detailed the instructions are, the less likely people are to follow them...
Do you have a source for that statement? I would think the opposite would be true. — TreyHarris 02:15, 3 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Just common sense and experience, although I'm sure references could be found in the usability community. People find reams of style guides, policies, and instructions off-putting, and aren't going to read them, much less remember them or follow them. You want to make citations as easy as possible, since it's hard enough getting people to do them already. —Steven G. Johnson 02:24, Jun 3, 2004 (UTC)
By the way, if your response is along the lines of, but what if people are confused because they don't know the precise way to cite XYZ?, then the answer is to make it clearer that they should just enter something reasonable and not worry about whether to list Salon or salon.com. —Steven G. Johnson 02:33, Jun 3, 2004 (UTC)

References at the end?

(William M. Connolley 11:14, 12 Jun 2004 (UTC)) I see the page says, put your references at the end. Even for citing web pages? This is unnatural to the flow of the page. If I write:

Stoats are very nice (square bracket)http://www.stoats.org]

am I breaking the style? What would fit standard journal practice is for the text above to generate a ref [1] in the text (as it does at the moment) but also automatically puts "# [1] www.stoats.org" in a section headed "auto generated refs" at the bottom of the page.

At the end please. That's how you know you're writing an encyclopedia entry and not a journal article. :-) But seriously, a journal article has to defend itself line-by-line, since its goal is to add to the sum of human knowledge, while the encyclopedia is just repeating what people already know.
(William M. Connolley 14:02, 12 Jun 2004 (UTC)) I don't know what pages you're writing, but thats not true of, say, Global warming.
I'm sure people do that, but it's against policy; see point 10 of Wikipedia:What_Wikipedia_is_not. Perhaps I need to go over to global warming and start deleting the stuff that's not already written up in existing publications? Stan 19:06, 12 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Please realize that, occasionally, in-text pointers to the reference are helpful even in an encyclopedia article. This is true when there are a number of references and it's not clear which reference to look up for more information on a specific item of information that the user might be interested in. I agree that, as a general rule, it's better to list a small number of comprehensive textbook/review-style references at the end so that specific pointers aren't needed, but sometimes it's unavoidable, especially in newer topics. (I've written articles for print encyclopedias, and the same guidelines applied there.) —Steven G. Johnson 20:03, Jun 12, 2004 (UTC)
I don't think print encyclopedia experience is a particularly good guide here; print works will tend to encourage longer articles and less cross-linking, so as to minimize the page-flipping, and when you do that, you're right, the links at the end won't be well-associated with relevant points in the text. But I take that as evidence that a long article needs to be broken up for the sake of the poor reader. For instance, newer topics should be split out so the back-and-forth can be addressed better, and editors can fight over them without trashing main articles that stick to the settled information. Stan 21:50, 12 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Actually, I would argue that, in Wikipedia, citations are far more important than in a print encyclopedia, because in a print encyclopedia there are editors and a company who stand behind the content and who give some assurance that the article authors are experts in a topic. Obviously, you have to use your judgement in particular cases, but I don't understand why you are digging in your heels and insisting that in-text references are never helpful or appropriate. —Steven G. Johnson 22:15, Jun 12, 2004 (UTC)
I wouldn't go so far as to say never; if you have an article that's gotten overly long and haven't had a chance to reorganize it into multiple articles, and there's a technical point with a single source in the middle, then an in-text citation would make sense. I just don't want to open the door to putting a citation in every sentence or every clause, as for instance the ridiculous example currently at the top of this talk page. I think for some people there's a great temptation to try and make an article look more authoritative by sprinkling literature citations throughout (99.9% of readers will not have access to the literature being cited, so it certainly doesn't help them in any way), but if the in-text refs really are necessary and not just for showing off, I think that bespeaks fundamental flaws in the overall article design and content. So I'd say I'm in favor of allowing but deprecating the practice. Stan 05:58, 13 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Not only that, but in a print product a clear POV is known from the outside, which fact is valuable interpretive information. Trc | [msg] 22:22, 12 Jun 2004 (UTC)
The county library where I live does not charge for interlibrary loan, so 100% of Lewis and Clark County residents have access to the large majority of references available at no charge, especially the ones I have added, as they were through ILL at that library. Hyacinth 09:00, 13 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Readers will read the article, then decide if they're interested enough to look outside WP for more. Presumably stoats.org is useful for more than the single statement; if not, it might be better to refer to a more generally informative web site instead. If by its nature the statement only comes from the one place, then it's more like a quote rather than received knowledge, and for quotes I think the inline ref is OK.

First of all, please don't confuse the full citation listing (Janet Q. Webauthor, (1999) "My favorite animal pests", retrieved June 2, 2004 from www.stoats.org), which belongs at the end of the article, with the in-text pointer (Webauthor, 1999). The former is necessary to give a full description of the reference, especially if the website disappears in the future. The latter is often not necessary, but is sometimes useful if it is not clear which reference the reader should look up to find more information on a specific topic in the article.

Second of all, please don't use the current [1]-style auto-generation of web link references, which was very poorly thought-out. First, it is inconsistent, because a reference is treated differently just because it happens to reside online. Second, the autogenerated reference, with just the URL and no descriptive information, not even a title, is insufficient. —Steven G. Johnson 14:39, Jun 12, 2004 (UTC)

&sup1-3 and above

Question: (¹ ² ³ &sup4; &sup5; &sup6;) Why does the footnote solution work through #3? Am I doing something incorrect? Trc | [msg] 00:27, 15 Jun 2004 (UTC)

References/Books/Further reading/Bibliography (from Village Pump)

There seems not to be any standard regarding the terminology of what I would prefer to call "Further reading" at the foot of articles. At the moment, there is a wide variety of headings in use.

The "standard" is currently References. Whether people follow this is another matter. (For a reader, there is essentially no distinction between sources for further reading and sources from which the information was derived, and we shouldn't impose an artificial one.) —Steven G. Johnson 01:37, Jun 22, 2004 (UTC)

Secondly, there are many (especially history/biography related articles) incorporating 1911 Britannica text which have also incorporated wholesale the 1911 bibiography. With the exception of primary sources (which should be separately noticed and headed), I think these should be removed.

And thirdly, many contributors use headings conflatable with "Further reading" etc, usually headed "References" to note the publications from which they derive the information. These, I think, ought to be the province of numbered footnotes.

Whatever may be decided, I do think that a degree of standardisation is advisable. Djnjwd 22:58, 21 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Djnjwd, I have been trying to get people interested in the Wikiprojects concept for several days now, so that a group of people working together on the same subject can 1) follow the same formatting, as you suggest - ie Bibliography instead of Further Readings where applicable, External Links vs Resources, etc etc... and also so that 2) Categories can be smoothed out, lists can be made complete, the linking between categories is more organized and rational, etc. So far I have gotten little attention and only noticed arguments over what kind of categorization system to use... so it might be a while yet until your suggestions are noticed. It seems very hard to bring people together here on a specific topic, and there are also members opposed to such organization. My only answer for now is to encourage people you know are working on the same subject, to follow a single format/ structure. -- Simonides 00:02, 22 Jun 2004 (UTC)
What I personally think is that there should be an automatic way to generate numbered footnote references. E.g.;
     X is Y <ref>Z - How X is Y (1996), ISBN 0123456789</ref>,
     P isn't Q <ref>W - How P isn't Q (1997), ISBN 9876543210</ref>
would display as:
X is Y [1], P isn't Q [2]
and at the end of the article there would be an auto-generated references section with a list:
  1. Z - How X is Y (1996), ISBN 0123456789
  2. W - How P isn't Q (1997), ISBN 9876543210
There's a billion ways formatting and syntax could be done, of course. Fredrik | talk 23:13, 21 Jun 2004 (UTC)
The whole auto-numbering question has been discussed ad nauseam on Wikipedia talk:Cite sources. One problem with your style of proposal is that you assume each reference will be cited in the text exactly once. A more typical case is for a reference to be listed at the end only. (Or a reference might be pointed to from the text more than once). In any case, the main problem is getting people to cite good references in the first place; the whole auto-formatting argument is a red herring. —Steven G. Johnson 01:24, Jun 22, 2004 (UTC)
Wikipedia:Cite sources seems to come down on the side of ==references== rather than any other header. Yes, an automatic way would be ideal. You'd certain get my vote. Dieter Simon 23:47, 21 Jun 2004 (UTC)
I am quite opposed to the idea of using ISBNs, because they are misleading. An ISBN usually points to a single edition of a book, not to a title - the edition may be out of print, it may only be available in a certain country, it may be more expensive, it may be harder to find than other widely available editions, it may be out of date, it may not be in the original language, and so on. I think everyone should include only the title and authors, and the year of printing should refer either to 1) year of copyright on latest paperback copy or 2) year of copyright on first printing (perhaps both) and the language should be specified (ex. do not include original copyright year of German publication for a translated English title.) -- Simonides 00:02, 22 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Citation in academic work (essays, theses, research work, etc) does indeed normally preclude ISBN numbers for precisely the reasons you have given, why should you in a work of reference, Simonides? So, I suggest don't use these numbers. As long as you give the details of the particular edition/publication of the work cited plus all the other details, all should be well. Dieter Simon 01:04, 23 Jun 2004 (UTC)
An ISBN may in some sense be misleading, but in the case of some book-related servers, interconnections are easily accessible. Titles and authors are hyperlinked, for example. Usage of ISBNs facilitates book finding quite handily in this environment. Trc | [msg] 05:25, 23 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Linked ISBNs fit nicely with the hyperlink concept -- they're the closest we can get as long as books are not published free of charge on the Internet.
If a book has been published in many editions, there is probably something at least slightly notable about it; in that case I suggest writing a separate article about it and putting the ISBNs there. Fredrik | talk 11:05, 23 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Citing legal sources

How do we do this? I can't find much info on Wikipedia about this and there are several articles that need proper referencing. - Ta bu shi da yu 12:45, 30 Jun 2004 (UTC)

How is it done in print? And online? Is there an issue with Wikipedia copying what is done elsewhere? Citing science papers is the same on WP as anywhere else. You could also ask User:Alex756 - he is a lawyer so may have an opinion. Pcb21| Pete 20:26, 30 Jun 2004 (UTC)
You might want to take a look at Brown v. Board for an example. -- Jmabel
In the citation of Supreme Court cases, it is sufficient to name them by their case titles alone. For example, Brown v. Board of Education is sufficient. There is no need to add case numbers, etc. For Congressional documents, it is sufficient to cite them by their formal names. For example, Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act. It can also be referenced as their official legislative file numbers. For example, the Hawai'i Overthrow Apology Resolution passed by a joint session of Congress can be referenced as United States Public Law 103-150. Statutes of individual states and charter amendments of individual municipalities and counties should be referenced in the same way. Gerald Farinas 15:02, 1 Jul 2004 (UTC)
I've discovered the following PDF document for Australian legal citation: http://www.law.unimelb.edu.au/mulr/PDfs/aglc_dl.pdf - Ta bu shi da yu 12:36, 4 Sep 2004 (UTC)

We should make a formal standard for this. I'm actually in favour of giving a full citation for cases which are the subject of the article, as is done at the start of Brown v. Board of Education. A gray area for me is whether or not to give cases which are mentioned in the body of the article a full citation. Most legal style guides (including the one from my University that Ta bu shi da yu linked) would put the case name in the body of the text and the full citation in a footnote. That would be ideal, giving full citations for each of the numerous cases mentioned in an article looks cumberson (see brown again as an example) but making lots of footnotes is not only time consuming for the writer but might look cumbersome too. Whatever is felt, there should be a proper recommended style and it should be on the citation page. Psychobabble 07:19, 28 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Legal citation is an encyclopedic topic as well as a MoS concern

I think we probably should start articles about legal citation for each country -- after all, it's an encyclopedic topic -- and then base our standards on our own research. We should be covering both statute and case law. Right now Court citation has good material on the U.S. (and to a lesser extent Canadian) case law, but nothing on citing statutes. I've started German legal citation because I needed it when translating Paragraph 175. Other thoughts? -- Jmabel 18:50, Sep 12, 2004 (UTC)


I'm a little confused by what capitalization we should follow for the reference links at the end of an article. The "Books" examples only have the first word capitalized, even though it says we should follow the APA style. The "Journal Articles" section says specifically not to capitalize the article title, but the example leaves the journal title capitalized.

Is this to conform with the Wikipedia article titling rules? The thing is that the Wikipedia:Naming conventions (capitalization) page says you should capitalize proper nouns, and leave book titles, so if these articles, journals, and books are in Wikipedia, they're probably going to be capitalized.

Should we just capitalize the titles of artices and books normally?

(Disclaimer: I added the "Examples" to the "Naming conventions (capitalization)" page myself, because I thought it would be helpful and they seemed to reflect common usage. The examples are thus not evidence on this issue ^_^)

Creidieki 01:03, 24 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Whoops, the first "books" example was erroneous; fixed, thanks. In general, you only capitalize the first word of article titles (including articles in a journal or edited book), but you do fully capitalize book titles (including the titles of journals, magazines, etcetera). This is not just Wikipedia article titling; it is standard for many citation styles, including APA. —Steven G. Johnson 01:52, Jul 24, 2004 (UTC)
Well, I've done more research. It appears that, in the APA style, capitalization is different between the body of text and the "Works Cited" list. In the "Works Cited" list, for everything except the name of a journal, you only capitalize the first words of titles, proper nouns, and things after a colon. In the body of the text, and for journal titles in the Works Cited list, you capitalize all "important" words. MLA and Chicago want all important words capitalized both in the text and in the references.
So, according to APA, the first "books" example was actually correct. According to the others, I think you want the article titles capitalized in both. Personally, I think the APA method is silly in this case, and that we should capitalize all of the important words of both titles. The name of the article and the name of the journal are both proper nouns.Creidieki 02:53, 24 Jul 2004 (UTC)
Pardon the AOL-ism, but I agree with you Creidieki. DocWatson42 11:07, 15 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Displaying URLs separately

I've changed the standard for citing websites, because it was inconsistent with guidelines stated elsewhere which take into account the print stylesheet which writes URLs out in full when the article is printed. gracefool 11:06, 24 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Sources in foreign languages

I'm using a pair of books I brought back from Peterhof to expand the article about that location. I figure the citations should reflect the fact that they're written in Russian. How do I do this? --Smack 23:46, 29 Jul 2004 (UTC)

If you give a citation for the book with the title in cyrillic characters (and probably with a publisher located in Russia), it should be obvious to the reader, right? --Michael K. Smith 15:22, 31 Jul 2004 (UTC)

tool for citing sources

redlightgreen is a free tool for citing sources and can also be used to gather ISBN numbers for each specific edition of a book (shows all editions). it can reference in MLA, APA, Chicago and Turabian styles.

I think that Wikipedia should look to it's own way of citing based on one of the existing standards. when citing I also give an isbn number, providing a quick way to buy the book if someone is using Wikipedia for research purposes.

lastly if Wikipedia ever make it into print citations will be more usefull than hyperlinks. Ohka- 22:02, 30 Jul 2004 (UTC)


User:Stevenj, your revert was confusing. Are you against wikipedia having guidelines for citations? You quite obviously did not read the link you removed, as it does not simply "deconstruct" authorship, but discusses issues and guidelines regarding the quality, rather than simply the style, of citations. The readdition of Weasel word was unecessary as Avoid weasel terms is already linked to, in addition to creating a two word section (not even one sentence). Also, please see: Wikipedia:Village_pump#Cite_sources. Hyacinth 21:30, 3 Aug 2004 (UTC)

I'm not against guidelines for citations, but I don't think your one-sentence guideline was worth a separate section, nor did it seem to add much compared to the introduction which also contains guidelines.
Regarding the external link, I did look at it, and it is mainly deconstruction of the social implications, etcetera of citations...this is not a criticism, I just don't think it is very helpful here. Moreover, what guidelines are given are often not very relevant to an encyclopedia, where citations are much different from in a journal article.
Regarding the weasel terms, I already tried to delete it and Dieter Simon gave an argument for why both links should be there...see the edit history. —Steven G. Johnson 22:55, Aug 3, 2004 (UTC)

Proposed guidelines

If we are to have a informative, verifiable, and neutral encyclopedia, then, in my opinion, we need to think more seriously about citations:

I don't agree that primary sources should be preferred. This is true for original research on a topic, but in an encyclopedia that only summarizes the existing views of a subject, a reference to a more-accessible review/reference work, such as a textbook, is far more appropriate. We are not trying to contribute new scholarly knowledge here, nor to participate in debates...only to summarize. —Steven G. Johnson 22:47, Aug 3, 2004 (UTC)
Wikipedia is a secondary source, but that doesn't mean we can't, or shouldn't use primary sources. Hyacinth 22:58, 3 Aug 2004 (UTC)
Primary doesn't mean better. Primary sources are good if you are trying to contribute new commentary or understanding on the history of a subject, but that's not the purpose of Wikipedia so this advantage is not so relevant. In fact, primary sources are often harder to find, harder to read, and harder to connect with existing knowledge than a good textbook or review...which is why the latter are often preferred. —Steven G. Johnson 23:10, Aug 3, 2004 (UTC)
Yes, I see now, thanks. How about now? Hyacinth 23:16, 3 Aug 2004 (UTC)
I don't understand this explanation, and I don't think that there is any reason to discourage citation of primary source material on Wikipedia. Wikipedia:No original research, a principle with which I think we all agree, requires Wikipedia articles not to be primary sources, but it doesn't and shouldn't require articles not to cite them. Also, Wikipedia can (and should!) present new commentary, summary, and synthesis of previously existing knowledge, legitimately and without conflict with Wikipedia:No original research. Don't confuse citation of primary sources with creation of primary research. -- Rbellin 05:10, 4 Aug 2004 (UTC)
I'm not confusing creation and citation of primary sources. Read what I wrote: I explicitly pointed out several of the disadvantages of citing primary sources in an encyclopedia. In contrast, the advantages of primary sources are often relevant mainly to original research. —Steven G. Johnson 15:50, Aug 4, 2004 (UTC)
Having read your comments, I disagree and feel that Wikipedia should, in many cases, encourage the citation of primary sources. I do not feel that Wikipedia's goal to be a reference work requires it to prefer to cite reference works. The reasons you give are good reminders that Wikipedia should aim for a general readership, but the goals of a "Further reading" section for general readers' information and a "References" section for verifiability and citation may, in some cases, conflict. And in such cases I'm in favor of retaining both, separate, priorities for the article. The terms "primary" and "secondary" are general and vague enough that we may be operating with different understandings of them. An example of why I feel primary source citations are important: Think of articles about philosophers and thinkers. In an article on the work of a philosopher, I think it borders on the ridiculous to prefer a citation to a biography of the thinker over a citation to his work. -- Rbellin 16:22, 4 Aug 2004 (UTC)

I would suggest something much shorter, so that it can go directly in the introduction, such as:

It is often preferable to cite recent authoritative textbooks and/or review articles instead of large numbers of primary sources, as the former are often more accessible and will usually have exhaustive citations themselves. Remember that Wikipedia is not for original research, so primary sources are not necessarily better.

—Steven G. Johnson 23:26, Aug 3, 2004 (UTC)

Proposal A Proposal B
It is often preferable to cite recent authoritative textbooks and/or review articles instead of large numbers of primary sources, as the former are often more accessible and will usually have exhaustive citations themselves. Remember that Wikipedia is not for original research, so primary sources are not necessarily better. Citations should be chosen and evaluated with respect to appropriate authority, timeliness, relevance, and Wikipedia:Verifiability."
Secondary sources are preferred to tertiary sources.
Contemporary primary sources are preferred over later primary sources.
The most recent secondary and tertiary sources are preferred over older secondary and tertiary sources.
See also: Wikipedia:No original research, Wikipedia:NPOV_tutorial#Attribution_and_citation, and Wikipedia:Check your facts.
Word count: 48 Word count: 56
Total: 104

Not only is B longer, but it is also more complicated and less colloquial. I think it's counterproductive to be that detailed and formal, because it will scare people off. People shouldn't have to worry about whether a source is secondary or tertiary, or which things are contemporary to what, they should just use their judgement about whether it is authoritative and helpful. (To me, the main need for a guideline is just to discourage people from thinking they should cite reams of primary sources.) —Steven G. Johnson 23:48, Aug 3, 2004 (UTC)

A is better. It wouldn't hurt to add a warning that primary sources often assume context and can be misinterpreted by the unaware; secondary sources are useful in supplying the context. Stan 04:05, 4 Aug 2004 (UTC)

A is not guidelines, however, but a guideline. Hyacinth 20:47, 4 Aug 2004 (UTC)

External link

  • The Citation Functions: Literary Production and Reception by The (In)Citers1, featuring full position statements and citation bibliography (1. These statements will be part of a roundtable discussion at the University of Tulsa's 1998 conference, "The Sociomaterial Turn: Excavating Modernism," held March 5-7.)

Hyacinth 21:30, 3 Aug 2004 (UTC)


How long will the style guidelines already in the article remain "proposed"? Will they ever be "adopted", and if so, how? Hyacinth 21:30, 3 Aug 2004 (UTC)

I think people will have to vote with their feet...i.e., when a citation style becomes anything like consistent in Wikipedia, it can be formalized. Moreover, calling it merely "proposed" serves an important purpose — it prevents people from worrying about formatting details too much, when right now (and for the immediate future) the quality of citations (or just having them in the first place) is far more important than formatting. It's not worth worrying about voting, or whatever, on an "official" style at this point. —Steven G. Johnson 23:07, Aug 3, 2004 (UTC)

Templates for citations

Readers of this page might be interested in some new templates that I have just opened up. Their aim is to make citation style easier to standardize. See Template:Book reference and its talk page. There is an example usage at Template:RefAudubonMarineMammals. Pcb21| Pete 09:19, 17 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Ok to Use Rumors as Sources in Wikipedia?

On the main page the anniversary of the patenting of the spork is listed, along with an illustration. However, I was dismayed to find this in the article:

"According to a rumor, the spork was invented in the 1940s by the United States Army, which introduced them to occupied Japan. It was hoped that the use of the spork would wean the people there from the use of chopsticks. This pointless hope did not come true; yet the spork that was spurned by the Japanese found a home in the United States of America, where its versatility and disposability were well adapted to the cuisine of the United States."

Am tempted to delete it, but maybe not? Is it really okay to cite a rumor as a source? Seems like there ought to be some factual basis, not just "according to a rumor..." H2O 07:07, 11 Aug 2004 (UTC)

If its a notable enough rumor (for example the folk etymology of posh is quite famous and has been published in books and such), its probably encyclopedic as a rumor, it should be included and noted as a rumor (hopefully with some reasoning for how it started/spread). Of course if a rumor is fact, it should be given as fact. In this case, there should be some more investigation probably. siroχo 07:42, Aug 11, 2004 (UTC)
I looked around and everything seems to point back to one guy's comment on a spork newsgroup some years ago. Hardly encyclopedic. Probably another urban legend. I deleted the rumors. If someone wants to verify this with something more than some newsgroup chatter, fine. H2O 07:48, 11 Aug 2004 (UTC)
If you are feeling confident about your facts and if you think it is important, then you could debunk the rumor as a rumor on the page itself. "Many web sites indicate that the spork was unsuccessfully introduced in Japan following WWII. However this rumour appears to originate from a single newsgroup posting [here]." Pcb21| Pete 10:06, 11 Aug 2004 (UTC)
I am not confident enough in my "facts" to include a debunking of a "rumour" in an encyclopedia article. That would be like starting another rumour. However, I have enough doubt that I think the rumour should be left out of the article until more evidence is available. Maybe someone knows of a person who lived or served in Japan around that time or has more knowledge of WWII history than I do. They could confirm or deny this rumour. H2O 15:58, 11 Aug 2004 (UTC)
Proper treatment of rumors, which by nature accumulate small mutations, includes IDing any near-truth in them, e.g.:
  1. In "the anniversary of the patenting of the spork", almost certainly distinguishing that from "... of a new design for a spork". ("Prior art" aside, popular culture has a pathetic misunderstanding of the incremental nature of invention and patenting.)
  2. Thinking not in terms of whether sporks were invented for Japan, but of whether there was a specific plan to introduce them there with the intent already stated.
And don't forget to copy this discussion to Talk:Spork.
--Jerzy(t) 17:26, 2004 Aug 11 (UTC)
I think it is fine as long as you can cite a good source describing the rumor (i.e. it is not just a rumor started by a random Wikipedian). e.g. "One rumor, according to the American Dictionary of Slang (1983), is that the "spork" originated as...." —Steven G. Johnson 22:39, Aug 11, 2004 (UTC)
Because incorrect folk etymologies accumulate around works like spork, I think that it is much better to discuss it intelligently within the article rather than to leave it out. Include rumors from suspect sources if you don't have better evidence and if you can establish the rumor as widespread, and verifiable, and label it as such. E.g. do a Google Groups search for it. If you turn it up, say, "The story that the spork originated in thus-and-such way has been widely repeated on the Internet in the USENET newsgroups. However, the first such mention is in the year 1998, and the absence of mentions prior to that time makes it unlikely ..." Readers can judge for themselves whether they trust USENET or like your methodology. Later on, if someone finds a better piece of information they can replace yours. If you just leave it out, people will keep reinserting versions because everyone wants to know the origin. If you can find a dictionary that says "origin uncertain" be sure to say "The so-and-so dictionary says origin uncertain." Say what you believe about the rumor, give verifiable reasons for your belief, and supply information that lets the reader judge the soundness of your statement. My $0.02. [[User:Dpbsmith|Dpbsmith (talk)]] 13:32, 12 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Non-English references in the English Wikipedia (copy from Village Pump)

I received a complaint that I used Dutch references in an article in the English Wikipedia. I used it because that is was all that I had. I also regularly add German and sometimes French references to the English Wikipedia when I do not have access to an English version. I try to replace them as soon as I can. Using non-Dutch references is very common in Dutch scholarly tradition. Is it allowed here? Thanks in advance. Andries 17:03, 15 Aug 2004 (UTC)

If you have the choice the english sources are preferred here, as that'd be the one easiest accessible to most user here. However if there is no such source (e.g. if you write about a Dutch city and add the dutch website as your source) it is better than none, you just should add a short remark about the language - a "Dutch" in brackets is enough. Wikipedia:Cite sources does not mention anything about non-english sources, so there seems to be no official policy. andy 17:32, 15 Aug 2004 (UTC)
"Using non-Dutch references is very common in Dutch scholarly tradition." That's because there is hardly such a thing as a monolingual Netherlander; and I sometimes feel like there is hardly such a thing as a multilingual American or Brit. Clearly, given the number of monolingual English-speakers in our readership, English-language references are strongly to be preferred. On the other hand, I myself have probably cited about 500-1000 non-English web pages in the last year. When I place them the "external links" section of an article, I always note "in Catalan", "in Romanian", "in German" etc. I try to avoid citing them in passing in the body of the article, because explanatory language is hard to insert without breaking the flow, and a lot of people will be annoyed to click to something they can't read. If you have to do this, it's best to do something like (as discussed on IDESCAT's Catalan-language site [http://www.idescat.es/]) ==> (as discussed on IDESCAT's Catalan-language site [2]) instead of just [http://www.idescat.es/] ==> [3] -- Jmabel 06:37, Aug 16, 2004 (UTC)
Agreely strongly with all that of that, but I just wanted to emphasise that it is standard scientific even in English practice to quote foreign language papers if that is the best reference on a particular point. Wikipedia is less specialist; but shouldn't be afraid to do the same where appropriate. Pcb21| Pete 07:59, 16 Aug 2004 (UTC)
Use the best reference, whatever language it's in. English scholarly papers frequently cite papers written in languages other than English. As a courtesy to English-speaking-only readers, a short phrase describing the article in English wouldn't be out of line, and, of course, including similar references in English would be fine. There is a legitimate objection to articles in the English Wikipedia that are written entirely in languages other than English, but a complaint about a reference sounds inappropriate to me. The article in question gives three references, two in English. Without knowing the complaint I can't judge, but I'd be inclined to shrug it off as xenophobia. [[User:Dpbsmith|Dpbsmith (talk)]] 12:24, 16 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Sources and articles should be separated in MediaWiki 02:28, 19 Sep 2004 (UTC): As anyone who spends any time with wikipedia knows, conventions within articles for credited sources range from exhaustive and intrusive to suspect or nonexistent. As anyone who uses google knows, wikipedia and its "licensees" are appearing more highly-ranked in response to searches. These two facts are eventually going to make wikipedia a victim of its own success: the greater prominence of wikipedia will cause more people to refer to its content, yet the lack of any requirement for adequate documentation of source material will render some articles suspect and through guilt by association, color people's perceptions of other articles.

One answer to this is editorial approval of content changes. You see versions of that in other colloborative efforts such as http://about.com/ or http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/, but there are good reasons why wikipedia won't follow either of their models. The community has undertaken a debate about Wikipedia:Approval mechanisms which may lead to a consensus about how some form of editorial control gets introduced.

Regardless of what happens in the approval mechanism debate, I think first class support for citations is required. MediaWiki needs to be enhanced in a way that tracks source material for articles. Each version of an article needs to have a set of citations that gets maintained in parallel with the article itself.

A simple form of this is to have the citation page be nothing more than editable text. But I'd like to argue for a more structured approach, which contributors would fill out when they save a new page or article. A form supporting each style of citation mentioned in this project article could be filled out by the user. But saving them in a structured form, you'll make it possible in the future for all sorts of neat tricks, such as automatic validation or comparison of contributions with sources (for web pages), automatic inclusion of ISBN numbers (for published works), etc.

The importance of sources should be demonstrated in the user interface as appropriate. For example, in the monobook skin you would get a fifth tab at the top of the page to go along with article, discussion, edit this page, and history.

What made me suggest this after having contributed to wikipedia anonymously since May 2003 (over about 350 online sessions), is the issue of reliability of sources from the world of genealogy. If you try to collect your family history, you don't bother at first recording sources. But as your list of ancestors and relatives grows, you start to get conflicts in some data, you begin to wonder who it was that told you about great-great-great uncle so-and-so who settled the land that the old farm was built on, or you find it hard to corroborate the oral histories you've recorded with stuff you find in cemeteries and http://familysearch.org/. Pretty soon you don't know what to trust any more.

References vs. External Links

I'm having trouble figuring out the difference between "References" and "External Links". I see a lot of articles using External Links exclusively, simply because all of their references are online. Is there a difference between the two categories? I couldn't find any pages that talked about this. -- Creidieki 22:35, 22 Sep 2004 (UTC)

In my opinion the major difference between anything and a reference or source is that a reference is cited in the article. Thus an "External link" may be a reference, if cited. A link to an informative article that is not cited is never a reference or source, but simply an "External link" or at best "Further reading". Hyacinth 20:54, 4 Oct 2004 (UTC)
That may be your opinion, but it doesn't really correspond to actual usage. In something like an encyclopedia that is summarizing well-established knowledge, in-text citations are often superfluous, but references are still important. (I've been involved in print encyclopedias that used "References" sections in precisely this way.) In the real world (i.e. most scholarly articles that have reference lists), there's usually no clear-cut distinction anyway between references that are "sources" and those that are "further reading" — most references serve both purposes. —Steven G. Johnson 05:48, Oct 5, 2004 (UTC)
I think that making an artificial distinction between online and offline references is a bad idea, and I would therefore discourage External Links sections in most articles...but it's not really an important enough issue to spend much effort fighting for consistency on. Realize that the various section titles are partly a historical artifact, and don't try to hard to retrofit a coherent explanation onto pointless distinctions. —Steven G. Johnson

Speaking of opinions: "Actual usage" is not always preferred usage. What you seem to propose, a complete lack of distinctions between references, sources, further reading, and citations, allows little to no verifiability. I am not arguing for an arbitrary distinction between on and offline "references" (ie, further reading), and thus am little interested in that debate, I was simply arguing for verifiability. If you reread my above comments you'll realize I don't care how "sections" are labelled. In response to the following comment:

"In the real world (i.e. most scholarly articles that have reference lists), there's usually no clear-cut distinction anyway between references that are "sources" and those that are "further reading" — most references serve both purposes."

I propose that you check your condescension at the keyboard. I live in the real world, if that doesn't go without saying, and I've read real books. More importantly, you have created a disagreement where there is none. Hyacinth 18:42, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)

You may not care how the sections are labelled, but I disagree that the references should be broken into sections in the first place. You seem to think that sorting a bibliography into "sources" and "further reading" (plus "references" and "citations") is helpful in verifying an article. For one thing, as I said, the distinction is typically artificial, and a source that is "further reading" can often equally be used to verify an article, even if it's not a "source" that was originally used to write the article. For another thing, if it is really important to let the reader know which particular reference is the basis for a particular statement (e.g. if a particular fact is found in only one place, or if sources disagree), that is the circumstance where an in-text parenthetical citation (Foobar, 1973) is appropriate — having separate lists of sources and further reading is immaterial, because you still need the in-text citation to find which source goes with which statement. —Steven G. Johnson 20:09, Oct 5, 2004 (UTC)

To me, "external links" are "what I can click on right now" while "references" are "visit the library or bookstore". I suspect that if you officially merged the two types of entries, after a while editors would get tired of hunting for clickables among the book titles, and would spontaneously start to segregate the two kinds of things, eventually titling each group, and voila, the wheel is reinvented. Compare to "further reading" vs "references" - editors have no idea how to characterize one vs the other, so typically they all get thrown into a single section. Stan 19:16, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I agree exactly with the sentiment in your first sentence, except that for me, substitute "Further reading" for "References". To me, "References" means "list of specific citations for specific facts cited in the article". If you look at a real scholarly book, in addition to references (usually called "Notes", or "Footnotes" - although academic papers invariably call them "References", go figure), it also has a section called "Bibliography", which is more akin to our "Further reading" sections. I would strongly oppose use of the term "References" for anything except i) lists of specific sources for specific statements, or ii) definitive reference works (e.g. the "PDP-10 Processor Manual" on the PDP-10 page).
(a) In the textbooks I have on my shelf (e.g. Jackson, "Classical Electrodynamics"), typically each chapter has a "cited references and further reading" section, and sometimes there is a bibliography chapter at the end of the book...but in this case the bibliography is just the full citation for abbreviated citations (e.g. "Landau and Lifshitz") in the aforementioned sections. Furthermore, in shorter scholarly publications (e.g. journal articles), references "used" in creating the article are almost invariably mixed inextricably with things included for context or further reading. So, I don't really agree with your first statement. I don't think we should cite any source that isn't credible and respected, but requiring it to be "definitive" is going too far — for example, listing an introductory textbook is likely to be very helpful to a beginning reader, but an introductory textbook is unlikely to be the "definitive" work in a field, nor need it be. —Steven G. Johnson 00:34, Oct 29, 2004 (UTC)
Your textbook example matches my wishes exactly - specific citations go in "References", and the example you cite (an introductory textbook) would go in the "Further reading" section. Noel 01:48, 29 Oct 2004 (UTC)
I agree that an unambiguous breakdown into "references" and "external links" is possible according to whichever happen to be available online. However, I haven't had any practical problem in scanning a list of references and spotting the links...so, I'm not sure that the problem that this solves (spotting the links) is so great. Furthermore, if there is an in-text citation to a source, it makes things harder if you have to go through to lists to find Foobar (1973) than if you have to go through one. Furthermore, the implications of saying that a source is not a "reference" just because it is online irk me...it seems to imply a qualitative distinction in the content and not just the location, which isn't necessarily the case. And should we continually re-sort the two sections as references become available (or unavailable) online? —Steven G. Johnson 20:09, Oct 5, 2004 (UTC)
As in all things, there are exceptions. If an article like Linux has a very long list of web sites that are loosely associated with it, but aren't directly related to the article content per se, then a separate external links section may make sense. But as a general rule I don't think separate sections based on the location of a citation are worthwhile. —Steven G. Johnson
(See also my commments to Stan Shebs, above.) I would strongly oppose melding "Further reading" and "Links" not just for the immediacy, but because "Further reading" implies a level of quality control (as is usual with printed books, etc), permanence, etc that is one level above many (most?) web pages. How many times have you clicked on a link and found that the target wasn't there any more? Now, how many times have you gone to find a book listed in a biblio and found that it doesn't exist in the world anymore? And I won't even get into the editing, etc, etc. Look, I have nothing against the Web (see my bio :-), but in practical terms there is a real difference. Noel 18:48, 28 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Online references - valid?

Some time back, when I nominated a bunch of my works on WP:FAC, they received a great deal of support. However, there was one objection which was never removed (this held up I Want To Hold Your Hand; even when I personally contacted the objector on his talk page after fixing the objection, it was not withdrawn, nor was any reason given). The objection? That I made too liberal use of online references (i.e. Hey Jude and Something, both already featured articles). I think this should be resolved in policy, somehow. I mean, if it's some site on Tripod with no bibliography or references, and practically unknown anyhow, that's okay, it's reasonable. But the sites where I got my material from do list their references, and both score extremely high on Google when searching for "the Beatles". This site is the second result for "the Beatles", just behind the official Beatles website. This site provides a bibliography. Clearly if the references are proven credible, they should be allowed to stand, whereas referencing some teenybopper's Frontpage-designed Geocities site shouldn't. Sorry if I'm rambling here, I'd just like to hear others' opinions on this. Johnleemk | Talk 15:39, 18 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I don't know about FAC, but I don't see why online references should inherently be a problem. Maurreen 02:20, 29 Oct 2004 (UTC)
(William M. Connolley 11:19, 29 Oct 2004 (UTC)) Me neither. I use them extensively on, say Global warming. Online refs (if respectable) are more useful to 99% of people than offline ones.
I don't think there is any general problem with online references. On the other hand, it is desirable to check an article against professional, authoritative, reviewed, and time-tested sources, and in many (not all) cases these reside offline. When all of the citations are online, there is sometimes a knee-jerk reaction (perhaps unfair, in your case) that the sources are superficial or non-authoritative. There is an argument that looking at a few offline sources is a good idea, because (a) it makes sure you haven't missed some systemic weakness in the online references and (b) it combats the perception that the article is weakly researched (even if it's not the reality in your case). —Steven G. Johnson 21:44, Oct 29, 2004 (UTC)

(Let me also sound a general note of caution about using Google rankings as a measure of a site's authoritativeness or accuracy. —Steven G. Johnson)


It's not a big deal, but I'd like to say why I had added this: "Sources are especially important when stating any opinion and stating anything that is disputed." There is a dispute concerning the Style guide article. I have asked for a source for more than 10 days. Maurreen 17:47, 31 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I agree that sources should be cited in disputes. The reason it's not important to admonish this prominently here is that almost everyone agrees on this. When you challenge someone on a fact, especially if you cite an explicit source that supports your position, they pretty much have to cite something to the contrary. The main problem comes from the fact that people often don't cite sources until they are challenged.
(In the Style guide article you mention, I notice that the other side has cited various places in style guides, and various quotations about them. You don't find these arguments persuasive, but that is another matter entirely. We can't simply say "make good arguments" here.) —Steven G. Johnson 19:29, Oct 31, 2004 (UTC)
Thank you for reinforcing the part about opinions. Maurreen 20:29, 31 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Journal citations

I've just been taken to task for doing these 'wrong', when I use the standard scientific journal style. Being referred to here, I found this style:

  • Brandybuck, M. (1955). Herb-lore of the Shire. J. Royal Institute of Chemistry 10 (2), 234–351.

What I am used to seeing in scientific journals (numerous examples) is as follows; I'd suggest we change to this style, which is the de facto scientific journal standard:

  • Brandybuck, M. (1955). Herb-lore of the Shire. J. Royal Institute of Chemistry 10: 234-351.

MPF 10:01, 10 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Actually, the standard format in all of the journals I use is something closer to:
  • M. Brandybuck, "Herb-lore of the Shire," J. Royal Institute of Chemistry 10 (2), 234–351 (1955).
Overall, it depends a lot on what field you are in. I don't really care too much what format we recommend, but I don't think we should keep switching back and forth as each person comes along and changes it to what they are used to in their field. (It's also important to give the option of including the issue number as well as the volume; some journals, for example the IEEE journals, are harder to look up online without the issue number.) —Steven G. Johnson 15:28, Nov 10, 2004 (UTC)
If it depends on which field you are in, I don't think we should force everyone to adopt the standards of a different field; botanists and zoologists (whose journals mainly use colons) shouldn't be required to use the standards set by arts & humanities (as far as I know where commas are more used). Point taken on the part number though, I've no objection to that being included. - MPF 16:18, 10 Nov 2004 (UTC)
We're not forcing anyone to do anything. (As the article stresses, the first thing we care about is that the references get cited in the first place; the format is a very distant second.) The suggested style is mainly there for people who aren't sure what style to use and want some help in picking one, and also to give an example of what information a citation should provide. The secondary purpose is to provide a starting point if people ever want to standardize the format in Wikipedia (a distant prospect, at this point). It's not helpful, however, to suggest multiple styles. —Steven G. Johnson 18:51, Nov 10, 2004 (UTC)
If it isn't compulsory, then it should be made much clearer that other widely used styles are also acceptable; the style sheet looks pretty prescriptive to me - MPF 19:11, 10 Nov 2004 (UTC)
I agree. If the citation format is a proposal, then alternative proposals should be described in the same place (rather than just this talk page); if it's a guideline, then it should be backed by some measure of consensus (more than I think there is, at least for the formatting details). However, it's also important to note that a guiding principle of this place is Wikipedia:Ignore all rules, and all "rules" should be considered in that light. In fact, the citation formatting guideline might profit from a link to that page. -- Rbellin 22:17, 10 Nov 2004 (UTC)
I'm going to third this. If some fields use ":", and that's acceptable here, then we should say so. The way to handle people who come to this page who don't know what to use, and are looking for guidance, is to say "if you don't know what to do, use this format", not leave all the other ones out. Now, perhaps we need to have a conversation before deciding which one to recommend. I have no opion there, personally. Noel (talk) 12:02, 19 Nov 2004 (UTC)
I'm fine with saying, There is currently no firm policy on citation format in Wikipedia, but if you can't decide what style to use or don't know what information to include, use this one. However, I am against giving examples in all possible citation styles in the article. What purpose does that serve? (a) This page is not a survey of styles (which might make a good Wikipedia entry, however). (b) The Talk page is for discussion and debate, while the article is to help contributors now. (c) Users who are used to an alternate style (like colons) already know the style, so this does not help them. (d) Putting long lists of alternate styles in the article just makes it longer and more confusing and therefore less helpful to users who don't know a style. —Steven G. Johnson 17:40, Nov 19, 2004 (UTC)
(And putting no style suggestion in the article until there is a Wikipedia-wide consensus is also not helpful to users. —Steven G. Johnson)

I don't think a Wikipedia-wide consensus is needed, just a consensus here. Maurreen 05:50, 20 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Is this policy or "Style and How-to series"?

Normally, articles are either "policy and guidelines" or in the "Style and How-to series". This seems to be in both. Please fix this, for the sake of the organization of the Wikipedia Namespace. Thanks! JesseW 14:01, 17 Nov 2004 (UTC)

This page is non-binding guidance. At least at present. This is evidenced by it being the in "Style and How-to" series, but not being in Category:Wikipedia official policy. The project page itself does not describe itself as policy. Also, if it were policy, it would be called Wikipedia:Manual of Style (citing sources) or the like. jguk 19:47, 17 Nov 2004 (UTC)
I've removed the line at the top that said it was part of Wikipedia policy and guidelines, so now it's firmly in the catageory of "Style and How-to series". So is the Manual of Style policy? I hadn't realized. What does that mean, exactly? JesseW 13:10, 18 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Wikipedia should allow MLA documentation

There's a site called EasyBib that makes it really easy to generate MLA-compliant bibliographies. I think that simply based on the existence of that site, Wikipedia should allow MLA documentation. I'm going to recommend the use of that site to newbies who aren't inclinded to write references lists all by themselves.

Vespristiano 18:48, 2004 Jan 10 (UTC)

It looks like this is a for-pay site?? I don't think Wikipedia should rely on such a thing. Besides, it's not like formatting references is hard. The main thing is to encourage people to enter the information; it can be formatted in a canonical way later, if necessary. —Steven G. Johnson 20:47, 11 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Why APA?

Why does the "proposal" for Wikipedia citation call for APA style? Without wishing this discussion to become pedantic, I'd like to observe that author-date citations are most useful for citing recent research by practitioners in a single scholarly field (in this case, the date is unambiguous and significant information). When citing sources that have been published in multiple editions and translations (historical documents, scholarly texts pre-1950, etc.), the date used in the citation (date of publication of the cited edition) can be very misleading to readers. In this case you often see things like (Hegel 1983) referring to recent translations of 19th-century texts. That's not appropriate for a mass readership, I'd say, and I'd propose that MLA style is easier on the reader in such cases. -- Rbellin 19:55, 25 Feb 2004 (UTC)

I entirely agree regarding the undesirability of adopting APA as the citation standard for a general encyclopedia. To quote from the back cover of the 4th ed., "The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Assocation is the style manual most used by writers and students in psychology, the other behavioral and social sciences, nursing, criminology, and personnel areas." And that's it. It was not intended for use in, and (in my opinion) has no place in, history, literature, religion, law, or the arts. I am also not aware of any subdivision of the physical or natural sciences (including medicine), nor of technology, where APA or any similar "short citation" system is used. APA was intended for use by a relatively small scholarly group for very narrow purposes. I object particularly to the notion of including only an author's first initial rather than the entire first name -- and especially for older sources. (Why would you want to cite a work by "Freud, S." or "Asimov, I."?) Having said all that, I personally would recommend the Chicago Style Manual (or Turabian, which is its subset) and/or MLA, both of which are intended for use in much wider areas of knowledge than APA. Michael K. Smith 16:44, 3 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Regarding author/date citations, the main common alternative is numbered citations, and the latter is impractical without technical support in the wiki software. Given author/date citations, it makes most sense to use a style organized with the author last name first, and date soon thereafter. Regarding using initials, note that the article already recommends using the full author names, or the names as printed in the source, since we are not limited in space. The recommendation was only for a style "based" on APA, not slavish dedication to APA guidelines. Anyway, this whole argument is besides the point, because hardly anyone follows any consistent citation style at the moment; the real battle is to get people to cite sources in the first place. —Steven G. Johnson 18:08, Jul 5, 2004 (UTC)

Of course, we all agree (I hope), it's most important to get citations into Wikipedia in any form whatever. But that doesn't prevent us from discussing what form they should ideally take, and eventually working out a good solution. Author/date (i.e. APA-esque) and numbered endnotes are not the only (or the only "common") alternatives. The two comments above suggest two or three other choices (Chicago, Turabian, MLA) which I believe to be better than author/date citation for a general readership and a broad range of topics. There are good reasons not to use author/date citation outside of journal articles in a single, relatively coherent scholarly field; the biggest, to my mind, is that it gets mighty confusing to all readers (even specialists!) when the date of the cited edition/translation doesn't match even the century of the original publication. -- Rbellin 05:20, 4 Aug 2004 (UTC)

I see your point about APA-style not being the best option for a general readership. I agree that this is a good reason for switching to an alternative style that's easier to understand. On the other hand, I think that your objection about dates of citations in text not matching the date of original publication is based on a misunderstanding. According to the APA-style manual (fifth edition, p.254-255) authors should also cite the original year of publication of a republished work. Example: Charles Darwin (1859/1998) wrote that sexual selection is an important selection mechanism. So, the issue with the years is actually caused by people *not* adhering to APA style. -- Sietse 11:43, 29 Oct 2004 (UTC)

MLA style is superior, IMO. [[User:Neutrality|Neutrality (talk)]] 20:37, Sep 20, 2004 (UTC)

I also think the APA style is ugly. For "Further reading" entries, I prefer some variant of the Turabian "Note Entry Form"; listing things as being by "Luser, J. Random" is so academic and ugly it makes me want to puke. Since when do we order "Further reading" entries alphabetically, anyway? I always put the most important ones at the top. Noel 18:18, 28 Oct 2004 (UTC)
To be completely honest, even though I proposed it, I find the APA bibliographic style a bit ugly too, along with MLA and Turabian too (they're all pretty similar in the bib. format). Coming from the physical sciences, I prefer something like the IEEE style, which doesn't put the last name first. However, I couldn't justify IEEE because it is designed for a numbered citation list, which we don't have technical support for; whenever you have (author, date) citations, listing by author and date seems to be the established practice. On the other hand, you could argue that an encyclopedia article should generally only have a handful of cited references, if that, so sorting the list in a corresponding order is actually not that important. Ultimately, I'm agnostic about the bibliographic format (I'd prefer BibTeX!). —Steven G. Johnson 15:25, Oct 29, 2004 (UTC)
Right, which is why I specified the Turabian "Note Entry Form", not their main citation variant, which also uses "Luser, J. Random." Noel (talk) 19:10, 31 Oct 2004 (UTC)
HOWEVER, the original poster's objection was not about the style for the bibliographic entries, but rather about the in-text citation style. There I have to disagree — I think (author, year) is most appropriate, absent technical support for a numbered reference style. MLA's style is (author, page). My objection to this is that the page in the text is just a random number that is irrelevant while reading the article, whereas the year provides some useful information about the currency of a given citation. (As Sietse pointed out, worrying about republication dates stems from a misunderstanding of APA. In any case, the in-text format is just a convenient abbreviation for the full reference at the end.) Moreover, a specific page number for a specific fact is unnecessary for most references anyway, unless a particular item is very hard to find; this facet of MLA is more suited to esoteric humanities publications arguing about very specific statements of various authors. —Steven G. Johnson 15:25, Oct 29, 2004 (UTC)
Right, I agree with you for in-text citations. In academic mode, I always hated the numbered style, because I always had to interrupt my train of comprehension to flip to the back to see if it was a reference I knew. With the name/date form, you just say to yourself "yah, I know that one" and keep going. However... I wonder if there's some way it could be made a user-selected presentation format, the way dates are now? I mean, the data would have to be stored (in internal format) in some way that linked the citation body to the location in the text anyway (so that when you add a cite between #7 and #8, it auto-renumbers all the ones through #77), so it should be possible. That way everyone could be happy! Noel (talk) 19:10, 31 Oct 2004 (UTC)
I disagree about the irrelevance of page numbers in citations, and believe they should be strongly encouraged. There are two reasons why: verifiability and ease of reference. Both a Wikipedian interested in verifying the correctness of a citation and a reader interested in finding out more about the subject are likely to be very interested in the specific page cited (and will often be unable to locate it otherwise). Remember, many Wikipedia articles cite books, not just short texts. -- Rbellin 16:12, 29 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Even in the case you describe, the page number is unhelpful in the text — it can still be in the complete reference at the end, if it is necessary in a particular case.
Nor did I say that page numbers were never useful, merely that that are not necessary most of the time. Which is true — because encyclopedias summarize only well-established knowledge, most articles will not be like a scholarly paper that picks one fact from here and and other from there ad nauseam. Rather, when you reference a textbook, for example, it will normally be for a textbook that has a general overview of the subject in question, not for a specific fact; the book's table of contents and index should usually be more than sufficient to let the reader find any particular bit of information they care to know.
Having the page number in the in-text reference is useful only when you need to reference multiple specific facts from a single source, and even in this case APA provides a way (author, date, page) to do it. But this need should be rare, for the reasons above. In fact, as discussed elsewhere in this talk page, in-text references should be rare in general in an encyclopedia article (as opposed to original research). —Steven G. Johnson 21:32, Oct 29, 2004 (UTC)
That last point -- on the desirable frequency of in-text citations -- seems quite contestable to me, but that should be a separate discussion and doesn't need to be broached now. I think there's consensus here on everything but the finest details. I agree with you that page numbers are not necessary in in-text citations when broad facts or general discussions are being drawn in summary form from a source. In this case, for readability, only the minimal citation information necessary to find a reference in the end-of-article list should be given (and, as an aside, I personally prefer MLA here, too, which allows you even more brevity: you can drop the date and just use the author name [using titles or partial titles to disambiguate if more than one work by the same author is cited]. In this simplest case, the date, too, is extraneous in the middle of the article text).
It seems to me we can begin to formulate a general agreement on some principles for in-text citation formatting, so I'll propose this as a possible addition to the guidelines below (and others can alter it, discard it in disgust, add it to the guidelines, or provide feedback as desired). At this point it seems less important whether we call this "MLA" or "APA" or "Turabian" or "Wikipedia" style than that we state some explicit guidelines for how, and when, and why, to cite sources in the text of Wikipedia articles. On the minutiae of formatting, we can split the difference for now and allow individual Wikipedians to proceed as they prefer. On the frequency of citations, since there is disagreement, there's no need for the guidelines to take any position on "in-text citations most of the time" vs. "some of the time" vs. "rarely" right now.
I would also like it if someone could emphasize the date (original publication vs. republication) issue (discussed above) in the reference-list formatting guidelines. I don't have the APA guidelines handy to read from (and again, Wikipedia can get it right even if APA is confusing on this), and I think this misunderstanding is all too common even among academics. Let's be clearer about it here. -- Rbellin 20:53, 6 Nov 2004 (UTC)