Citation needed

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The display effect of the citation needed template in English Wikipedia

"Citation needed" is a term used by editors of Wikipedia and refers to the name of a Wikipedia template, added to articles for requesting citations to be added to unsourced material. "Citation needed" is a characteristic of the policies of verifiability and no original research in Wikipedia; it has also become a general Internet meme.[1]

Usage in Wikipedia[edit]

By Wikipedia policy, editors should add citations for content, to ensure accuracy and neutrality, and to avoid original research.[2] In 2005, Chris Sherlock, a Wikipedia editor with the username Ta bu shi da yu, created the "citation needed" template, to be added to statements without a citation that needed verification.[3][4] The template is used frequently—as of 12 November 2018, over 380,000 articles in the English Wikipedia are marked with the template.[5]

Usage outside Wikipedia[edit]

An xkcd comic featuring a protester with a "[citation needed]" placard

In 2007, xkcd published a comic called "Wikipedian Protester". In the comic, a group of people are listening to a politician's speech, and a protester raises a placard with "[citation needed]" written on it,[6] in Wikipedia's characteristic blue color for links.[7] It is the first known use of the terms outside Wikipedia.[1] This also spawned a meme on the explain xkcd wiki of placing a citation needed tag after obvious statements.[6] Randall Munroe, the creator of xkcd, has also used "[citation needed]" in similar fashion throughout his blog What If?,[6][8] and, consequently, in the book published as a compilation of the blog's entries.[9]

In 2008, Matt Mechtley created stickers with "[citation needed]", encouraging people to stick them on advertisements.[10] This kind of graffiti has been dubbed "wikiffiti".[11][12] Quickly becoming an Internet meme, "[citation needed]" appeared not only on billboards, but also some internet kuso pictures. For example, someone doctored a photograph of George W. Bush's Mission Accomplished speech to place a "[citation needed]" label under the "mission accomplished" banner.[13]

Words written on the placards of protesters:
"Wikipedia is a valid source"
"[citation needed]"

In 2010, American television hosts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert led the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington, D.C. Some "protesters" held placards with "[citation needed]".[14]

In 2011, German defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg was facing accusations that he plagiarized his doctoral thesis. Protesters with "[citation needed]" placards called attention to the many contexts in his thesis where his sources were not labeled.[15]

In 2014, YouTube creator Tom Scott started a show called "Citation needed".[16][17]


  1. ^ In the source, the first "[citation needed]" bears a link to a Google search for Chevrolet Citation on craigslist, while the second is a link to the Wikipedia article Citation (horse).


  1. ^ a b knowyourmeme contributors. "[citation needed]". Know Your Meme. Archived from the original on 2018-06-18. Retrieved 2018-07-27.
  2. ^ 栗岡 幹英 [Masahide Kurioka] (2010-03-01). "インターネットは言論の公共圏たりうるか:ブログとウィキペディアの内容分析" [The Internet is a Public Sphere of Speech: Content Analysis of Blogs and Wikipedia]. 奈良女子大学社会学論集 [Nara Women's University Sociological Studies] (in Japanese). 奈良女子大学社会学研究会 [Nara Women's University Sociological Study Group] (17): 133–151. ISSN 1340-4032.
  3. ^ Chris Sherlock. "User Chris Sherlock". Stack Overflow. Archived from the original on 2018-05-10. Retrieved 2018-07-27.
  4. ^ Wikipedia contributors (2005-06-15). "Template:Citation needed". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2018-07-27.
  5. ^ "Jarry1250's Wikimedia Laboratory – Template transclusion count". (The cited URL will run a live query against the current wikipedia database, which might take several tens of seconds to run). Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  6. ^ a b c Explainxkcd contributors. "285: Wikipedian Protester – explain xkcd". Archived from the original on 2017-10-10. Retrieved 2018-07-27.
  7. ^ Wikipedia: the missing manual By John Broughton, 2008, ISBN 0-596-51516-2, p. 75 Archived 2018-02-07 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Munroe, Randall (May 28, 2013). "Alien Astronomers". What If?. Retrieved April 13, 2019. The Sun is really bright [citation needed] and its light illuminates the Earth.[citation needed][note 1]
  9. ^ Munroe, Randall (2014). "Alien Astronomers". What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-544-27299-6. The Sun is really bright,[citation needed] and its light illuminates the Earth.[citation needed]
  10. ^ Joshua Glenn (2008-01-02). "[citation needed]". Archived from the original on 2018-07-27. Retrieved 2018-07-27.
  11. ^ "Wikiffiti – stickers that read [citation needed]". Archived from the original on 2017-01-14. Retrieved 2018-07-27.
  12. ^ Urban Dictionary contributors. "Urban Dictionary: wikiffiti". Urban Dictionary. Archived from the original on 2016-04-09. Retrieved 2018-07-27.
  13. ^ "[Image – 40120] | [citation needed]". Know Your Meme. Archived from the original on 2016-03-26. Retrieved 2018-07-27.
  14. ^ Ted Johnson (2010-11-01). "Satirical rally calls for sanity and/or fear". Variety. Archived from the original on 2010-11-04. Retrieved 2018-07-27.
  15. ^ Natalia Dannenberg (26 February 2011). "Academics attack German minister in plagiarism row". Deutsche Welle. Archived from the original on 2018-07-27. Retrieved 2018-07-27.
  16. ^ "Citation Needed, from the Technical Difficulties". IMDb. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  17. ^ "Webvideo / Citation Needed". TV Tropes. Retrieved 27 June 2019.