Exquisite-kfind.png This page is a proposed Wikiquote policy, guideline, or process.
The proposal may still be in development, under discussion, or in the process of gathering consensus for adoption. References or links to this page should not describe it as "policy".

Like all other Wikimedia projects, Wikiquote must implement a set of fundamental policies regarding such matters as verifiabilty and maintaining a neutral point of view. Many Wikiquotians are familiar with these policies from Wikipedia, but the guidelines that Wikipedia has created to implement these policies are not always appropriate for Wikiquote. These guidelines are intended to assist the Wikiquote community in implementing the fundamental policy of verifiabilty.

General practiceEdit

Wikiquote pages fall into two general categories: those that identify a specific literary, dramatic, or musical work, and those that do not. The first category includes quotations from books and plays; films and television shows; and musicals and operas. The second category includes pages of quotations by specific people, quotations about a particular theme, and proverbs.

All material in pages of the first category is partially sourced from the start, since the page itself identifies the title, but this is often insufficient to provide verifiability of a particular quotation. Pages of the second category need full citations to be explicitly sourced. It is the goal of Wikiquote that every quotation be fully and accurately sourced.

Some Wikiquote articles are divided into two major sections: "Sourced" and "Unsourced" (sometimes called "Attributed" in older pages). Historically, these "Unsourced" sections permitted the inclusion of quotations without a source citation, but this is being phased out. New articles should not contain an "Unsourced" section, and unsourced quotations should not be added to existing articles (whether or not they already have an "Unsourced" section). "Unsourced" sections are gradually being removed from existing articles.


Article introductions are a special case in Wikiquote: they are the only parts of most Wikiquote articles to be written by Wikiquote editors. As Wikiquote is primarily a compendium of quotations, the article introduction serves two major purposes:

  1. To introduce the subject of a Wikiquote page in sufficient detail that Wikiquote users and editors can easily determine the specific identity of the subject.
  2. To establish the notability of the subject. Wikiquote does not include quotations from or about nonnotable subjects.

This is particularly important when the subject is a person: many names refer to more than one person, and without identifying which specific person is being referred to, quotations of one person may be unintentionally attributed to another person of the same name—possibly injuring their reputation. A link to a Wikipedia article describing the subject (whether a person, film, or abstract theme) often helps, but is not sufficient for this purpose: when a Wikipedia article is renamed or replaced with a disambiguation page, these changes are not reflected in sister projects such as Wikiquote; there must be enough information for a future editor to determine which new Wikipedia article the Wikiquote page should link to.

In writing introductions, Wikiquote editors should follow the policies of Wikipedia. By preference, the introduction to a Wikiquote page should contain only non-controversial facts—an introduction is not long enough to treat any controversy with the appropriate neutral point of view required for Wikimedia projects. A one-sentence summary of the introduction to the subject's Wikipedia article, including a link to Wikipedia for further details, is normally enough both to identify the subject and to demonstrate its notability. (Likewise, if a subject is deleted from Wikipedia because it lacks notability, the corresponding Wikiquote article is more likely to be deleted as well.) For living people, the Wikipedia policy on biographies of living persons applies to the Wikiquote introduction.

Sometimes a Wikiquote editor will want to create an article on a subject which, for whatever reason, does not have a Wikipedia article. Such articles are held to a higher level of scrutiny by the Wikiquote community. Editors should be prepared to cite reliable sources in an article's introduction to demonstrate the identity and (especially) notability of the subject. It is better simply to create a stub article in Wikipedia first, and then create the Wikiquote page after the article has been in Wikipedia for some time without being deleted (thus proving itself against the most common reasons why Wikiquote articles are deleted).

Evaluating sourcesEdit

The Quoters who deserve the title, and it ought to be an honorary one, are those who trust no one but themselves. In borrowing a passage, they carefully observe its connexion; they collect authorities, to reconcile any disparity in them before they furnish the one which they adopt; they advance no fact without a witness, and they are not loose and general in their references.
Isaac D'Israeli, Curiosities of Literature (1791–1824), 'Quotation'

One of the purposes of a compendium of quotations like Wikiquote is to assist users, whether students, scholars, or just curious people, in understanding the origin of a quotation. To this end, the Wikiquote community prefers to use sources which are as close to the original author or speaker as possible. (Wikiquote does not forbid original research; to the contrary, all Wikiquotians are invited and encouraged to do research on sources of quotations.) Wikiquotians are encouraged to seek out and cite primary sources. However, many primary sources are unpublished; in accordance with the policy on verifiability, citations in published secondary sources are to be preferred over unpublished primary sources. Of course, if both can be cited, that's all to the better.

This is a particular problem with audiovisual works, such as films and television shows. The primary source for quotations of dialogue from a film or TV show is a screenplay or script, but these sources are normally unpublished. The actual performance of the script, if broadcast or shown in theatres, is usually the first publication of the script—a secondary source. However, Wikiquote consists exclusively of written quotations. An editor may transcribe the dialogue, but as a Wikiquotian's personal transcription is neither reliable nor published, this is acceptable only as a last resort.

What about radio programs? What about improvisation?

A similar issue arises from non-English-language sources. As with transcriptions, Wikiquote editors should prefer a published translation by a reliable, professional translator to their own translation. (At some point, it is likely that only published translations will be permitted.)

As a general rule, a published written work is authoritative as to its text, and may be relied upon by Wikiquote editors for that purpose.

Specific preferencesEdit

Here are some examples of sources for quotations from written works, in order of decreasing preference:

  1. a published document (whether a book, magazine article, Web site, blog posting, or Usenet article) which can be reliably associated with the subject
  2. an anthology or other republication (for which the original text may have been edited)
  3. a published review, news article, or criticism of the original work from a reliable source
  4. a published document, as for #1, which is not primarily about the original work, but which directly quotes the work and includes an appropriate citation
  5. another collection of quotations.

Note that many other collections of quotations do not have particularly strong standards for sourcing their contents, and will often include only an abbreviated citation. They may be useful to Wikiquotians more as pointers to other, more reliable sources than as sources in their own right. Also, even though a review or a news article is not a primary source for the text of a work, it is a primary source for its own text, and may be an appropriate source for the "Criticism" section of a people or literary work page.

Another Wikiquotian with more experience in audiovisual works should create a similar list for films and TV shows.

Essentials of a good citationEdit

In the world of academia, several standards have been developed for source citation; frequently, each discipline has its own. In Wikiquote, while many of the elements must still be present, an abbreviated citation style is appropriate to avoid pointless repetition of information common to all the quotations in a page or a section of a page. A theme page should include a complete citation for all quotations. In other kinds of pages, editors are encouraged to use sections to organize quotations from a single source; most source information may then be summarized once, in an introduction to the section, with individual quotations merely requiring a page number and/or chapter title to complete the citation.


Citations for quotations taken from books, pamphlets, and other printed matter should include the title of the book, its year of publication, and by preference the specific edition (by publisher and ISBN) and page number where the quoted text appears. Book titles should be given in italics; long subtitles may be omitted. Sometimes e-books have different text than the corresponding printed book; if quoting from an e-book, the citation must indicate this. (On the other hand, scanned images of a printed book, such as that found on Google Books, should be cited with the original edition. In that case, make sure to check the scanned title and copyright pages, if present, rather than relying on the Web site's own metadata.)

News sources

For citations of newspaper and magazine articles, editorials, and other material that appears in a periodical, whether print or on-line, the first citation should include at a minimum the name of the overall work (e.g., the newspaper), the title of the article being cited, the author of the article (if it was not written by the subject of the Wikiquote page), and the date of publication. If the article is published on the Web, a link to it should be provided; otherwise, the page number and (where relevant) edition are recommended. The {{cite news}} template is often used for this purpose. The title and exact date of the article or story are essential: an incomplete citation such as "Washington Star, 1973" makes verification impractical even if not entirely impossible.

Letters and other private correspondence

Since unpublished material is not appropriate for Wikiquote, all letters and similar material which are used as primary sources must have been previously published, in a book, a news source, or another reliable and readily-accessible source. In addition to the material required there, the citation must include the sender and recipient (the subject of a page may be omitted) and the date of the letter, as best as these are known.

Web pages

There is a particular issue with citing Web pages and blogs. While the content at a particular URL is verifiable (at least until the page is rewritten, the site goes away, or the URL structure is reorganized), most Web sites are effectively anonymous. If you are sufficiently confident in the reliability of the source (for example, if it is unambiguously the official site of the subject being quoted), you may use a Web site as a source. If the site offers a "permalink" function, like many Wikis and blog hosts do, you should use that in preference to an unstable URL. However, it is vitally important to provide the date on which the URL was found to contain the text you quote. The {{cite web}} template can help; it supports an accessdate parameter for recording the date you checked the URL. It also has support for finding pages that have been removed from their original site at

Song lyrics

Citations for song lyrics should identify, at a minimum, the title of the song, the name of the lyricist or lyricists (who are not necessarily the same as the performers), and the year of publication (either of the lyric itself, if known, or of the first published recording). This will generally be listed in the printed lyric book for most modern music published on CD but may not be easily identifiable for radio-only and download-only songs. (Performance rights organizations may be able to supply the missing details but often do not distinguish lyricists from other authors.) If the first or most widely distributed publication was on an album, give the album title as well. If the lyrics quoted are specific to a version, edit, remix, or remake of the song, identify which one.

Miscellaneous sources

When citing a court decision, use the conventions of legal citation appropriate for the court and legal system where it was decided. If the text of the decision is available for free on the Web, include a link to that text. Similarly, when citing the Congressional Record or Hansard, include all the information another editor would need to find the original debate in a library.

For citations of Usenet articles, it is necessary to find the article's unique identifier, known as the Message-ID, which is a part of every article's headers. The {{Usenet article|message-id|date}} template can be used to simplify formatting. Remember that there is no authentication for most Usenet articles; the From header alone does not necessarily establish that the article was posted by the person named.


Citing sources for proverbs can be particularly challenging because, although by definition they are widely known, in most cases their origins are lost in antiquity. If the actual origin is known, it should be cited. Otherwise, each proverb should be cited to its earliest known literary appearance or to an authoritative source that identifies it as a proverb. Because the exact wording of many proverbs evolves over time, when citing the origin of a popular modern version it is also appropriate to identify earlier sources from which it was adapted if these are known.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

Last modified on 10 March 2014, at 06:04