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Mall:Wikipedia subcat guideline

A footnote is a note placed at the bottom of a page of a document to comment on a part of the main text, or to provide a reference for it, or both. The connection between the relevant text and its footnote is indicated by a number or symbol which appears both after the relevant text and before the footnote.

Footnotes are sometimes useful for relevant text that would distract from the main point if embedded in the main text, yet are helpful in explaining a point in greater detail. Footnotes are also often used to cite references that are relevant to a text. Citation of sources is important in supporting Verifiability, a key aspect of Wikipedia.

Footnotes are one way to cite sources. Alternative methods are embedded citations and Harvard referencing. For more information, see Wikipedia:Citing sources, the main style guide on citations.

You can add a footnote to an article by writing your note within <ref> ... </ref> tags, as explained below.

An older system using Mall:Tl and Mall:Tl templates is still common. Converting this older system[1] to the new <ref>...</ref> system can make the references in an article easier to maintain.


How to use

A very simplified explanation is given at Help:Footnotes
  1. Place a <ref> ... </ref> where you want a footnote reference number to appear in an article—type the text of the note between the ref tags.
  2. Place the <references/> tag in a "Notes" or "References" section near the end of the article—the list of notes will be generated here.

This page itself uses footnotes, such as the one at the end of this sentence.[2] If you view the Wikicode of this page by clicking "Edit this page", you can see a working example of footnotes. The new format cannot be mixed on a page with the old Footnotes3 format—you must pick one or the other.

Where to place ref tags

Place a ref tag at the end of the term, phrase, sentence, or paragraph to which the note refers.[3]

When placed at the end of a clause or sentence (or, in general, at any punctuation) Wikipedia uses American convention for the placing of reference tags,[4] i.e. the ref tag should be directly after the punctuation mark without an intervening space,[3] in order to prevent the reference number wrapping to the next line.[3] The same is true for successive ref tags.[2][3] The exception is a dash[3]—which should follow the ref tag. This is the format recommended by the Chicago Manual of Style.[5]


According to scientists, the Sun is pretty big;<ref>Miller, E: "The Sun.", page 23. Academic Press, 2005.</ref>
however, the moon is not so big.<ref>Smith, R: "Size of the Moon", ''Scientific American'', 46(78):46.</ref>

== Notes ==

Citing a footnote more than once

To give a footnote a unique identifier, use <ref name="name"> ... </ref>. You can then refer to the same footnote again by using a ref tag with the same name. The name cannot be a number, or the extension will return an error.

Only the first occurrence of text in a named ref will be used, although that occurrence may be located anywhere in the article. You can either copy the whole footnote, or you can use a terminated empty ref tag that looks like this: <ref name="name"/>. Such forward-slash-terminated named tags may precede the definition of the named reference.[6]

In the following example, the same source is cited three times.

This is an example of multiple references to the same footnote.<ref name="multiple"/>

Such references are particularly useful when citing sources, if different statements come from the same source.<ref name="multiple">Remember that when you refer to the same footnote multiple times, the text from the first reference is used.</ref>

A concise way to make multiple references is to use empty ref tags, which have a slash at the end.<ref name="multiple">This text is superfluous, and won't show up anywhere. We may as well just use an empty tag.</ref>

== Notes ==

The text above gives the following result in the article (see also Notes section below):

This is an example of multiple references to the same footnote.[7]

Such references are particularly useful when citing sources, when different statements come from the same source.[7] <p> A concise way to make multiple references is to use empty ref tags, which have a slash at the end.[7] </blockquote> One should be particularly careful when deleting the first of multiple named references, because the footnote text will be deleted unless it is copied to the second (now first) ref tag.

Citation templates

There are templates you can insert between the <ref> and </ref> tags to format bibliographic references for you. You can see some instructions on using these templates at Wikipedia:Citation templates. The use of citation templates is not a requirement. If you find it easier to type the reference in bibliographic style yourself, you are not obligated to use these templates, but they help to maintain a consistent bibliographic style across articles.

Style recommendations

  • Internal links should still be used as normal, like this: Wikipedia.
  • Wiki formatting such as bold, italics, and internal and external links work as normal within the text of your citation.
  • Avoid using Ibid in footnotes. Other editors who add new references to the article may not take the time to correct Ibid references broken by their addition. Furthermore, not all readers are familiar with the meaning of the term. If a reference is reused in more than one footnote, it is preferable to use the format "Smith, 182" rather than "Ibid, 182", so as to avoid these problems.
  • Note: you cannot rely on the "pipe trick" to expand a link for you in ref text; you must type out [[George Clark (historian)|George Clark]], instead of just typing [[George Clark (historian)|]] and letting the software fill in the text after the pipe.
  • Consider maintaining a separate bibliography/references section, then just the page number and book name can be given in each note, following Wikipedia:Citing sources.
  • Some editors make the references smaller. Although this has several disadvantages, it is common with very long lists of references to enclose the <references/> tag in a 'references-small class div', like this:
<div class="references-small"><references/></div>
Alternatively {{Reflist}} can be used.
If multiple sections are made small for consistency (e.g. notes, references, see also, external links sections), the div tags must be opened and closed within each section.
  • A class exists for small footnotes in two columns, but this displays as a single column in some common browsers:
<div class="references-2column"><references/></div>
  • For another way to make smaller text footnotes, see below.

Helping editors unfamiliar with this system of footnotes

Rather than simply adding


in the "References" or "Notes" section, consider adding the following:

<!--See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Footnotes for an explanation of how to generate footnotes using the <ref> and </ref> tags and the tag below -->

The same effect can be obtained (that is, including both the commentary text and the <references/> tag) by putting the following in the references section:


The footnote text may also be RESIZED by changing the listed percentage. Any option other than 100% currently resizes the text to a standard 92%. Resizing is not encouraged as a standard technique in all articles.


Mall:Tl should not be used with a "subst:", instead the use of {{subst:Footnotes|100%}} (or for long lists of footnotes:{{subst:Footnotes|92%}}) is encouraged while it includes the help comment mentioned above.

(Maintenance aid: list of Wikipedia articles that used the Footnotes template "non-subst:")

Compatibility with other MediaWiki sites

As of late December 2005, the Cite.php extension to MediaWiki has been installed on all Wikimedia wikis. Other wikis that use the MediaWiki software may not have this extension installed, and therefore may be unable to display Cite.php footnotes.

Technical details

See Meta:Cite/Cite.php for a technical explanation of the Cite.php extension on Meta-Wiki.

Converting citation styles

Converting citation styles should not be done without first gaining consensus for the change on the article's talk page.

A December 2005 ArbCom case ruled that the following scripts could no longer be used by a certain Wikipedian:

Similarly, individual users may be forbidden to "manually convert citation styles on any articles."

So, tread lightly, and seek consensus first, before converting citation styles. For example, when using (semi-)bot tools as listed below:

  • User:Cyde/Ref converter converts articles that use the Mall:Tl and Mall:Tl system into the more recent m:Cite.php system;
  • Citation Tool diagnoses and fixes sequencing and duplication errors in m:Cite.php references. In the future, Citation Tool may (optionally) enable user-guided conversion of some or all of the <ref> numbered citations to named notes using the footnote3 template technology (which includes Harvard references).

CAUTION: do not edit-war with automated tools that convert in opposing directions.

Disadvantages and future improvements

  • In the old Footnote3 system, links and auto-numbered footnotes pulled from the same counter, which made it difficult to keep the endnotes consistent. With the new Cite.php module, a different issue presents itself: a casual reader might not notice or understand the difference between an external link and an auto-numbered footnote and may be confused, thinking that the numbers are not in order. For this reason, some editors argue that auto-numbered external links are better not used on the same page with auto-numbered footnotes, which can be avoided, e.g., by making text links for the external references, like this: Kate's Tool, instead of: Kate's Tool[1]. Other editors argue that both citation styles can be used in the same article, and that the disadvantage of using text links like Kate's Tool is that it does not clearly signal to the reader that they are being directed off Wikipedia.
  • Superscripts cause an increase in line spacing for the line they are on in most browsers. Because lines without superscripts are still displayed at the original line spacing, this makes the text unevenly spaced, and this looks bad. This is a general problem with superscripts. It may require CSS changes or even improvements in web browsers or OS font rendering systems (this should be filed as a bug in Bugzilla if it has not already). A fix has been published that eliminates the problem without reducing the size of the superscript. It requires the user to add CSS to their style sheet (monobook.css), and thus works only while logged in.
    • The new style copies the bracketed numbers from the old style, though they are now in superscript. Typical (print) references use plain superscripted numbers with no brackets. If the purpose of the brackets is to increase the clickable area, they could be removed and the same thing done with CSS; increase the horizontal padding around the numbers and vertical arrows instead. Discussion here: w:Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style#Changes_to_Cite. and w:Wikipedia_talk:Footnote3#Superscripts_2.
  • Some people like the idea of having sidenotes instead of or in addition to footnotes, especially if this is an option one can turn on and off in Mediawiki preferences. (You can turn a table into a sidenote with style="float: right;".)
  • Some people like the idea of "hover" or "tooltip" notes, that appear only when "hovering" over the superscript with the mouse point. (See e.g. Template:Hnote.)
  • The reference content is in the article source code, but displayed in the References section. Some have proposed moving the reference content into the References section to fix these problems:
    • Content from one place rendering in a different place is confusing and unusual.
    • Some references require a lot of markup (citation templates, for instance), which interrupts the article source code, making navigation of the article content more difficult.
    • Editing the format of references requires finding them in the article instead of editing all of them at once in the References section. This is inconvenient and confusing.
    • Section editing is useless if you want to edit references. You cannot just edit the References section because that is not where the references actually are. You can not just edit the section that contains the reference since that is not where the rendered references are (so they will not show up in the preview). You have to edit and preview the entire article to see the changes.
    • Since they are not centralized, it is hard to know if a reference exists already, leading to duplicates which then have to be merged manually.
    • Perhaps a way of referring to undefined references by name is needed, allowing you to actually define the reference at the bottom next to the references section. This would be the simplest meeting of both worlds.
  • Only the first <ref> note with the same name attribute (e.g. <ref name="foo">) is used to determine the content of a footnote. Edits to an article can inadvertently put differing content in multiple named references (hence hiding all non-first note contents).
  • If there is more than one <references/> section, each repeats all the <ref> tags used in the article. For example, in this situation:
    • First group of ref tags
    • References section (renders the above set of tags)
    • Second group of ref tags
    • Second references section (renders all ref tags from both sections)
    This is problematic in these situations:
    • transcluding pages that have references
    • documenting the references system (note that this page can not actually demonstrate references in action, for this reason)
    • very large pages that have several different topics on them
    • One possible solution would be a <clearrefs/> tag, that clears the current collection of stored references. See bugzilla bug bugzilla:5810, and User:Stevage/bug5810 and User:Stevage/bug5810a for examples. Stevage 13:06, 9 May 2006 (UTC)
  • "Pipe trick" incompatibility, see Help:pipe trick#Cite.php footnotes and the pipe trick.
  • Ref tags do not work as expected within transcluded templates, see m:Cite.php#Current_issues.
  • Footnotes cost the reader time and effort: switching back and forth between footnotes and text can confuse or distract a reader. They may also find a combination of footnotes and Harvard referencing intimidating or unattractive.
  • The system does not allow rendering of two separated lists of bibliographical references and footnotes. See Wikipedia talk:Footnotes#Mixing footnotes and references and bugzilla:6271.
  • References cannot be nested: <ref name="Ran1912">J. Random, 1912. Cited in <ref name="Foo2005"/></ref> does not render correctly.

See also



  1. Additional references that are not created with the extension (as per WP:CITE) do not continue the numbering.

ca:Ajuda:Notes i cites de:Hilfe:Einzelnachweise eo:Helpo:Referencoj kaj piednotoj fr:Aide:Notes et références hr:Wikipedija:Fusnote id:Bantuan:Catatan kaki it:Aiuto:Note ja:Wikipedia:脚注 pl:Pomoc:Przypisy ru:Википедия:Сноски


  1. The Wikipedia:Footnote3 system created footnotes with the Mall:Tl/Mall:Tl and the Mall:Tl/Mall:Tl pairs of templates. The system is still operational, and may be encountered on many Wikipedia pages.
  2. 2,0 2,1 This footnote is used as an example in the "How to use" section.
  3. 3,0 3,1 3,2 3,3 3,4 This is the convention used in the Chicago Manual of Style.
  4. British convention is to place reference tags before closing punctuation
  5. "Note reference numbers. The superior numerals used for note reference numbers in the text should follow any punctuation marks except the dash, which they precede. The numbers should also be placed outside closing parentheses." The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th ed. 1993, Clause 15.8, p. 494.
  6. Wikipedia Signpost. November 13, 2006.
  7. 7,0 7,1 7,2 Remember that when you refer to the same footnote multiple times, the text from the first reference is used.