Wikipedia:Citing sources

A citation, also called a reference, [1] uniquely identifies a source of information, e.g.:

Ritter, R. M. (2002). The Oxford Style Manual. Oxford University Press. p. 1.

Wikipedia's Verifiability policy requires inline citations for any material challenged or likely to be challenged, and for all quotations, anywhere in article space.

A citation or reference in an article usually has two parts. In the first part, each section of text that is either based on, or quoted from, an outside source is marked as such with an inline citation. The inline citation may be a superscript footnote number, or an abbreviated version of the citation called a short citation. The second necessary part of the citation or reference is the list of full references, which provides complete, formatted detail about the source, so that anyone reading the article can find it and verify it.

This page explains how to place and format both parts of the citation. Each article should use one citation method or style throughout. If an article already has citations, preserve consistency by using that method or seek consensus on the talk page before changing it (the principle is reviewed at § Variation in citation methods). While you should try to write citations correctly, what matters most is that you provide enough information to identify the source. Others will improve the formatting if needed. Help:Referencing for beginners provides a brief introduction on how to reference Wikipedia articles.

Types of citation

  • A full citation fully identifies a reliable source and, where applicable, the place in that source (such as a page number) where the information in question can be found. For example: Rawls, John. A Theory of Justice. Harvard University Press, 1971, p. 1. This type of citation is usually given as a footnote, and is the most commonly used citation method in Wikipedia articles.
  • An inline citation means any citation added close to the material it supports, for example after the sentence or paragraph, normally in the form of a footnote.
  • A short citation is an inline citation that identifies the place in a source where specific information can be found, but without giving full details of the source – these will have been provided in a full bibliographic citation either in an earlier footnote, or in a separate section. For example: Rawls 1971, p. 1. This system is used in some articles; the short citations may be given either as footnotes, or as parenthetical references within the text.
  • In-text attribution involves adding the source of a statement to the article text, such as Rawls argues that X.[5] This is done whenever a writer or speaker should be credited, such as with quotations, close paraphrasing, or statements of opinion or uncertain fact. The in-text attribution does not give full details of the source – this is done in a footnote in the normal way. See In-text attribution below.
  • A general reference is a citation that supports content, but is not linked to any particular piece of material in the article through an inline citation. General references are usually listed at the end of the article in a References section. They are usually found in underdeveloped articles, especially when all article content is supported by a single source. They may also be listed in more developed articles as a supplement to inline citations.
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