When and how to use this tag responsibly
A "citation needed" tag is a request for another editor to verify a statement: a form of communication between members of a collaborative editing community. It is never, in itself, an "improvement" of an article. Though readers may be alerted by a "citation needed" that a particular statement is not supported, many readers don't fully understand the community's processes. Not all tags get addressed in a timely manner, staying in place for months or years, forming an ever growing Wikipedia backlog—this itself can be a problem. Best practice recommends the following:
- Tag thoughtfully. Avoid "hit-and-run" or pointed tagging. Try to be courteous and consider the hypothetical fellow-editor who will, hopefully, notice your tag and try to find the citation you have requested. When adding a tag, ask yourself: Is it clear just what information you want cited? Is the information probably factual? (If it is not, then it needs deletion or correction rather than citation!) Is the knowledge so self-evident that it really does not need to be cited at all? (Some things do not.)
- Some tags are inserted by people well placed to find a suitable citation themselves. If this is the case, consider adding these articles to your watchlist so that you can advise on the changes or revisit the article when you have the opportunity to fix the verifiability problems yourself.