Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

footnoting system. Currently, the {{ref}} and {{note}} templates should only be used in specific circumstances, not for general purpose referencing.[1]

The pairs of templates discussed in this guideline are:[2]

Link in text area Link in References area
{{ref|<name>}} #{{note|<name>}} - followed by comment or citation
{{ref label|<name>|<footnote number>|<backlink label>}} {{note label|<name>|<footnote number>|<backlink label>}} (follows on the same line as an existing {{note}}, before the formal citation info)

Not all references are made using footnotes : Please see Wikipedia:Citing sources for guidance on references and alternative markup.

Also, not all footnotes are citations of information sources. They are also used for clarification or other notes about material. Common uses include explaining the meaning of a table header, or an exception regarding a specific entry in a table, etc.

Footnote overview

A footnote is a note placed at the bottom of a page of a document that comments on, and may cite a reference for, a part of the main text. The connection between the relevant text and its footnote is often indicated with a number or symbol which is used both after the text fragment 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 which are relevant to a text. Citation of sources is important in supporting Verifiability, a key aspect of Wikipedia.

Footnote usage

The {{ref}} templates generate automatically-numbered links in text to connect to footnotes in the section, most commonly named Notes or References, and footnotes contain matching {{note}} templates which generate backlinks back to the referring text.

  • To avoid an editor having to renumber footnotes due to insertion or deletion, this method uses automatically-generated numbers as much as possible (ref templates, plus a "numbered list" of footnotes to give automatic numbering of footnotes).
  • The connection between text and footnote uses appropriately-created name attributes per the template table above, so it is possible to identify the intended footnote even if numbering becomes incorrect.
    • The footnote connection is intended to be robust so content can be converted for use with future versions of supporting software.
  • To reduce disruption in the flow of text, footnote references are displayed as small, superscripted numbers.

This method has the following disadvantages:

  • When using the ref template there can only be one sequence of footnotes from the text -- although using the {{ref label}} template can circumvent that sequence. This is an example.[5] Most articles have little reason to do that, but it can be useful, for example, in indicating that multiple pieces of data in a table come from the same source.
  • Every footnote number in the text refers to a separate note at the bottom: if you want to reuse a number so that it refers to the same footnote at the bottom, the ref label/{{note label}} variant must be used and manually numbered.[2]
  • WARNING: It is not possible to test footnotes while previewing. Clicking on a footnote ejects the user, perhaps to the previous version of the article (use the back arrow to return). One can test the back link, which should really confirm the forward link as well.

How to use

See also help:footnotes for a concise manual and examples

The basic use of the ref and note templates is just choosing a one word descriptive <name> for your reference and:

  • put {{ref|<name>}} where you want the footnote number to be
  • put a numbered list at the bottom of your document # {{note|<name>}}, for automatic numbering of your footnotes.

Use a separate note template for each reference template.

There are three examples below: The first is for this basic use of the ref and note templates. The second example explains how to build identical references, referring to the same footnote, using the ref label and note label templates for additional references to a ref/note footnote. The third example is a combination of the two, but with the multiple references made only within the footnotes section for easier maintenance by editors and easier navigation by the reader.


According to scientists, the Sun is pretty big.{{ref|miller-23}}
The Moon, however, is not so big.{{ref|moonsize}}


# {{note|miller-23}} Miller, E: "The Sun.", page 23. Academic Press, 2005
# {{note|moonsize}} Smith, R: "Size of the Moon", ''Scientific American'', 46(78):46

The {{note}}'s in the Notes section must occur in the same order as the corresponding {{ref}}'s in the main text. This is an important issue to consider when adding more footnotes later.

The {{ref label|<name>|<fixed number>}} template (where the numbers of the text references are fixed and not automatically assigned) can be used instead of the {{ref|<name>}} template, but this should only be used when necessary due to the lack of automatic numbering.

It is encouraged that other, non-numbered references use citation templates such as shown in

Wikipedia:Template messages/Sources of articles/Generic citations

Example with multiple references to the same footnote

For the same footnote to be used several times, the additional template pairs now also include the footnote number, and a backlink label with which to identify the backlink (usually a letter "a" through "z").

This is an example of a whole document in wiki format.{{ref|myref-25}}
Another reference to the same source can be made.{{ref label|myref-25|1|a}}
In this case, "1" is the number in the References section and "a" is the backlink label.


# {{note|myref-25}}{{note label|myref-25|1|a}} and this is a note about the text from page 25
of a book.  If known, give full reference including title, author, and ISBN.

Footnote [2] in this article is referred to multiple times in the text, as well as in latter sections of the article, following this example.[2]

Example with multiple uses of the same footnote

Another way to get to and use the same footnote is by travelling within the Footnotes section itself. Get to the footnotes section using the auto-numbered "ref/note" template pair, the basic template. Then use the "ref label/note label" template pair, exactly as in the preceding Example with multiple references.., but now entirely within the Footnotes section. Say something like "See above footnote 2c" to help the reader navigate. Future maintenance of footnote numbers and backlink labels is easier, within just the Footnote section, than trying to locate footnote references buried in a long text such as this article is. This alternative may cost the reader two extra clicks, a tradeoff against easier navigation. This approach is shown in this footnote.[3]

Finally, the original footnote could be multiply repeated in the Footnotes section, each time with a new number -- in this article footnote [2] would appear five times, with five different numbers. This alternative is acceptable if done judiciously -- but not in this article.

  • WARNING: It is not possible to test footnotes while previewing. Clicking on a footnote ejects the user, perhaps to the previous version of the article (use the back arrow to return). One can test the back link, which should really confirm the forward link as well. This repeated warning may save you some time.

Style recommendations

  • Internal links should still be used as normal, like this: Wikipedia.
  • Consider using a separate bibliography section if the same book reference is used in multiple footnotes. In this case, just the page number and book name can be given in each note, following Wikipedia:Citing sources.
  • Where possible choose a name for each link which matches the author/page system used by academics - use a single word and a hyphen to connect the page number (hunter-47)
  • If you don't know the page number, just use a single word (field)
  • With multiple books by the same author, make a difference, e.g. hunterA and hunterB, as in hunterA-22, hunterA-46 & hunterB-35 for page 22 and 46 of hunter's first book and page 35 of her second book.

Helping editors unfamiliar with footnote templates

As the recommended footnote structure does not appear to be entirely intuitive to all editors, and as notes being placed in the wrong order can affect the order of all following notes, making notes appear as if they do not match up, this short HowTo description can be inserted at the top of the Footnotes section, marked off to hide it from the actual article:

<!-- <nowiki><nowiki></nowiki>

 Footnotes using {{ref}}/{{note}} templates (and their variants) are becoming obsolete:
 A more up-to-date system uses MediaWiki software <ref>...</ref> and <references/> tags,
 as explained in [[Wikipedia:Footnotes]].

 Footnotes in this article use names, not numbers. Please see [[Wikipedia:Footnote3]] for details.
 How to add a *SEMI-AUTOMATICALLY NUMBERED* footnote:
 1) Assign your footnote a unique name, for example TheSun_Dec9.
 2) Add the macro {{ref|TheSun_Dec9}} to the body of the article, where you want the new footnote.
 3) Take note of the name of the footnote that immediately precedes yours in the article body.
 4) Add #{{Note|TheSun_Dec9}} to the list, immediately below the footnote you noted in step 3.  No need to re-number anything!
 5) Multiple footnotes to the same reference: see [[Wikipedia:Footnote3]] for a how-to.
 NOTE: It is important to add footnotes in the right order in the list!

 * [[Wikipedia:Harvard referencing]]
 * {{ref_harvard}}/{{ref_harv}} + {{note_label}} templates can be used as explained in [[Wikipedia:Footnote3]]

<nowiki></nowiki></nowiki> -->

Instead of copy-pasting this text, it is possible to insert the following: {{subst:Footnotestext}} (don't forget the "subst:" as only then is the template tag replaced by the commentary!).

Other (obsolete) template names

Originally this proposal used the {{an|<name>}} template and {{anb|<name>}}; these were made obsolete and have been deleted. The

{{endnote|<name>}} template
was used in another earlier proposal which was converted to use the same system as is listed here. Substituting {{endnote| with {{note| should update pages still using this system.

Design goals

The design goals behind this system were

  • get something working with the current Wikimedia software.
  • make a very short easy to use template
  • get rid of complex renumbering edits
  • avoid disturbing the flow of text too much
  • maintain nice features of fn/fnb template (back link from footnote to text, & simplicity, for example)
  • remain reasonably accessible[4]
  • provide semantic markup to help future enhancements by labeling information about source materials.

Migration strategy

There is a perl script available which automatically converts numbered URL links in a page into footnotes with this system. The references should still be hand checked, but at least part of the work is done.

Migration from old footnote systems should be reasonably easy to automate. As an intermediate measure, the embedded footnote numbers can be used as temporary footnote names until better ones are generated manually.

The {{fn|<name>}} template and {{fnb|<name>}} template can be simply changed to match an and note templates. The following substitution (untested perl code).

 m/\{\{fnb/ && /s/^\*/\#/ ;

will provide automatic numbering of footnote comments.

The following code will warn about pages which use links without text.

 m,\[[a-z]://\W*\],i && warn "unprotected url in text";

How does it work?

This section describes the technical implementation based upon characteristics of the current software.

The {{ref|<name>}} uses tricks listed in m:Help:Variable to create an external wiki link back to a section in the same page (like []). This external link is then automatically numbered by the normal numbering system for external links without link text. The link is surrounded in a sup tag which makes it look like a footnote and gives a reference that the footnote can link back to.



<span class="reference"><sup id="ref_Jefferson" class="plainlinksneverexpand">

The {{note|<name>}} is a bit simpler, and is basically a copy of the older {{fnb|<name>}}. This just creates a section link back to the location of the footnote.

# {{note|Jefferson}}


# <cite id="endnote_Jefferson" style="font-style: normal;">[[#ref_Jefferson|'''^''']]</cite>&nbsp;

Normal link and list numbering then produces automatic numbering of the footnotes.

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 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.

Disadvantages and future improvements


  1. ^ There have been several other footnote proposals. See also Wikipedia:Citing sources, and Wikipedia:Footnote2
  2. ^ a b c d The first two pairs of templates are used in this article. The reader can click on the tab "edit this page", to see the actual coding (or markup) for both pairs. You will see that the first pair is always used but for succeeding references to this same footnote, with this system, the second pair must be used - references after the first one have to use {{ref_label}} and {{note_label}} templates. Each footnote shows as many backlinks (^, a,b,...) as there are references to it.
  3. ^ (The reader's eyes can do the travel within this footnotes section, but the travel coding is needed to document this travel for purposes of future maintenance.) See above footnote 2c.[2]
  4. ^ If footnotes are too small, then they are difficult for some people to use. See Footnotes (or endnotes) on Web pages, Jukka "Yucca" Korpela, 2003-08-22, retrieved 2005-02-19 from
  5. ^ Example of non-continuous numbering of text references, with the {{ref_label}} template. Note that one can choose only the number immediately after the footnote numbers automatically generated in the text. And you must (re)arrange the numbered list of footnotes accordingly, to end up with the expected matching numbers in text and footnote section.

See also

  • Wikipedia:Citing sources/example style
    , listing also several examples of non-numbered APA style and Harvard referencing techniques
  • Wikipedia:Template messages/Sources of articles
    for complete list of templates that are available for citations
  • Wikipedia:WikiProject Wikicite: Proposal for use of database of citations.
  • Wikipedia:WikiProject Fact and Reference Check
  • Wikipedia:Footnote1 (alternate method – very old, manually numbered, don't use)
  • Wikipedia:Footnote2 (alternate method – obsolete, manually numbered, replaced by Footnote3 system, which is no longer current)
  • The an/anb footnote system, an alternate version of the ref/note system. The an/anb system is completely identical to the ref/note system
  • Wikipedia:Footnote4 (manually numbered system that allowed reuse of the same reference number multiple times in the same text, but has become deprecated after being incorporated into the footnote system)[2]
  • mw:Extension:Cite – current system (last verified as of June 2018)
  • Wikipedia:VisualEditor/User guide