Help:Citing sources

Jump to: navigation, search

This help page is about how to cite sources of facts and opinions. It does not cover copyright issues or the details of quotation.

Why you should cite your sources

There's no need to cite the source of your information for something that (at least among people who are interested) is fairly well known and not disputed. But in order to make credible your assertion of something that is little known (or disputed), try to cite the most authoritative source you can locate. The source may be a web page, a book, a magazine article, etc. (Among these, web pages of course have the advantage of ease of access for readers and later editors of the article.)

Appropriate sources

Citing an original source (such as a patent document, a manufacturer's promotional brochure, or a magazine review) is preferable to relying on fan websites or collector books, whose information sources may be unclear.

While it includes many photography articles, it should be remembered that Wikipedia, like, is a user-edited encyclopedia which may contain errors and misstatements. Thus, it may be appropriate to cite a Wikipedia article to provide context, or another viewpoint; but it should not be relied on as the only source for factual assertions.


Just as when you are working on a university assignment or manuscript for publication, there are various ways of citing sources within a wiki. One that seems particularly handy creates footnotes, moves them and numbers them. It involves the use of two tags, <REF> (which must be closed with </REF>) and <references /> (which is self-closing).

Let's suppose you have assertions (each of which we'll call "assertion") that you want to back up with footnotes (each of which we'll call "footnote"). And let's use "Notes" as the title for your footnotes.

First, somewhere toward the end of the article, and after any section that you think might need an footnote, type:


<references />

Of course this creates a new section, a section that consists of a single, self-closing tag.

Now go back to the main text. For each assertion, add a footnote in this way:

assertion <REF>footnote</REF>

That is, write the content of the footnote at the place where you want its index number to appear, and put this content between REF tags. You don't have to worry about footnote placement or numbering (or any later renumbering): this is all automatic.

Multiple references to the same source can be entered using a name; one reference must contain the source, for example:

<REF name="Coe">Brian Coe, Kodak Cameras, the First Hundred Years (Hove, UK: Hove Foto Books, 1988; ISBN 0-906447-44-5)</REF>

Other references can simply use the name, thus:

<REF name="Coe" />

For a longer explanation and more details, see Wikipedia's "Help:Footnotes" (in which it's called "the Cite.php method") and "Footnotes"; or "Footnoting" within's own "Markup reference".

When you create a footnote, ask yourself if the reader will understand exactly what it is that you are attributing to the source. For example, if the note is at the end of a paragraph, are you attributing the factual content of the whole paragraph, that of the last sentence, or that of the last clause of the last sentence? Also consider how your attribution might be damaged by some later editor who is well intentioned but hasty. A good idea is to specify within the footnote just what it is that you're attributing. For example:

Although the Edixakon Drevolt was exhibited in March 2005, it was only sold from September 2006.<REF>Sale from September 2006: Burton, Digital, Dig It, p.207.</REF>

Bibliographic descriptions

We can't and won't attempt to rival the Chicago Manual of Style here. In brief, though: somewhere in the article — whether in the first footnote that mentions it or in a separate "List of sources" or similar, or in both — provide as many as can be ascertained, are relevant and seem helpful of:

  • For a periodical article: name of author(s), title of article, title of periodical, volume number, date, page, ISSN.
  • For a single-author book: name of author, title of book, place, publisher, year, ISBN.
  • For a web page: name of author, title of page, URL of page, title of site, URL of site.

If in doubt, err on the side of inclusiveness: later, it will be easier for somebody else who's more familiar with citation etiquette than you are to cut what's unnecessary than for somebody who wants to find the source to look for and add information that should have been there in the first place.

For a source in a language other than English, consider adding a translation of the title(s). But a translated title should supplement the original, not supplant it.

If some source book is used in various articles, you can consider adding it in one of the pages listed under Source books.