Help:Citing sources

From Fanlore
Jump to: navigation, search

For our citation policy, see Fanlore:Citation. For help on the technical aspects of creating footnotes, see Help:Footnotes.

WIP: We're working on this admin article!

This page includes various guidelines for how and when to cite your sources. Fanlore does not have strict rules on how to format citations, but we do have a policy for restricting quotation, citation & linking to protect privacy. See also Fanlore:Ethical Standards for Community & Content and Fanlore:Deceptive Practices for ethical issues related to quoting out of context. For ethical questions of a different sort, see below. Note: this page is a list of suggestions and guidelines compiled by individual Fanlore editors and does not necessarily reflect Fanlore's policies. However, please keep these suggestions in mind as you edit as they often represent best practices in some fandom and Wiki communities.

What is a citation?

A citation is a reference to the actual location of content that you are quoting, paraphrasing, or otherwise referring to in a wiki article. Citations support the legitimacy of the assertions that you make and provide readers with ways to learn more about your topic. In general, they help to make the wiki a more useful and reliable resource.

See Help:Formatting Guidelines for Citations for what information should be included in a citation.

When do I need to cite content?

Fanlore is not Wikipedia. Unlike Wikipedia, we do not have notability requirements or a prohibition on original research, use of blog posts or POV magazines as sources[1] or "fancruft". As a result, not everything could or should be cited on Fanlore.

In accordance with Fanlore's PPOV policy, we encourage you to include multiple perspectives on an issue. Sometimes you can cite meta essays and comments posted by different fans as examples of the different points of view. But you are yourself a source; when writing about your own personal experience, you can cite yourself simply by editing the page and saying "So-and-so remembers...."[2]

Linking and Citation Guidelines

All Fanlore content is public and can, of course, be cited, quoted, or linked to from other Fanlore pages. For sources outside of the wiki, Fanlore recognizes three broad classes of electronic content:

  • Public content: Anyone with an Internet connection can access it
  • Limited access content: Access is granted by a person or a community, often via a password, or access is gained by joining a community or mailing list, or by being granted access to the content via a special filter
  • Private and semi-private content: Content that is considered to be private or semi-private by fannish or Internet conventions (e.g., personal emails, chat logs).

The sections below offer guidelines for quoting, citing, and linking to online content in each of these three categories.

Public content

In general, you may quote, cite, and link public content. However, carefully consider the wishes of the content creator or the expectations of the community beforehand. For instance, link to the main page of a fan's website if she has asked, rather than directly to her story or piece of art. Likewise, if members of a community or participants in a fannish activity that you are writing about expect that you will inform content creators when you link to them, then you should do so. Examples:

  • Links to content hosted on the Wayback Machine
  • Author and artist personal websites
  • Public LiveJournal communities
  • Public mailing lists at Yahoo groups
  • Public blog and journal entries
  • Fan fiction archives

Limited access content

Do not link directly to content whose access is limited, and do not quote this content. For instance, do not quote or link directly to a story on a password protected site; or to a post on a friendslocked community; or to a post on a moderated mailing list or one that requires members to join before viewing posts. You may link to the main page of the website, forum, community, or mailing list, however. Examples:

  • Friendslocked LiveJournal communities and posts
  • Members-only mailing lists
  • Members-only discussion forums
  • Websites and archives that require a password to access

Private and semi-private content

In general, do not directly link to or quote content from private or semi-private fannish spaces such as chat rooms, private forums, friendslocked journals, private blogs, personal emails, and so on. The only exception is if the content creator/s have explicitly allowed you to do so.

Also, remember that there are private spaces within fan communities that are not discussed in public spaces for very good reasons. If these spaces are active but are not common knowledge, please treat them as you would other private material and do not link to them or otherwise reveal their existence.

Archiving: Preventing Link Rot

According to Wikipedia:

"Like most large websites, Wikipedia suffers from the phenomenon known as link rot, where external links, often used as references and citations, gradually become irrelevant or broken, as the linked websites disappear, change their content, or move. This presents a significant threat to Wikipedia's reliability policy and its source citation guideline. The effort required to prevent link rot is significantly less than the effort required to repair or mitigate a rotten link. Therefore, prevention of link rot strengthens the encyclopedia. This guide provides strategies for preventing link rot before it happens. These include the use of web archiving services and the judicious use of citation templates."[3]


Web archiving services come and go. Use the Wikipedia page to learn about the latest services. Some editors on Fanlore use three services - they are arranged in order of preference.

  • The WayBack Machine (otherwise known as the Internet Archive). This is the preferred archive tool - it is well established, run by a non-profit and honors robot.txt exclusions. It will not bypass websites with adult content warnings. It will sometimes have difficulty unfolding collapsed comments or replies (ex: Dreamwidth or Livejournal).
  • - this is a privately funded service with a much shorter track record. It is, however, the more robust cite tool as it can often bypass adult content warnings. It is also the best tool to use for citing Livejournal and Dreamwidth posts as it automatically unfolds comments. And it seems to have fewer problems with tumblr blogs and other platforms. However, as a single person funded operation with a short history, it is unreliable and a second backup archive link should always be made when using
  • WebCite - this tool was also well established but was funded by only one person and was therefore considered to be less stable. The tool was designed for academic citations but was is open to all. It could not bypass adult content warnings but could be used on pages that had been excluded from the WBM. It sometimes had difficulty unfolding collapsed comments or replies (ex: Dreamwidth or Livejournal). It also ran into problems archiving tumblr blogs due to customized CSS designs. As of roughly 2018, WebCite was not accepting new archiving requests. "The archival state/snapshots of websites that have been archived with WebCite in the past can still be accessed and cited."

Because these services can often retroactively remove archive links, consider using two of the three services for key or important links.

Usage Tips

All three web archiving services are demand-driven - only the Wayback Machine "crawls" websites to automatically archive copies. Therefore to prevent link rot, the editor must run the website URL through the service themselves (ex: on the WBM, look in the lower right hand corner of the page for "Save Now" box). The good news is that all three services also offer bookmarklets or other web browser buttons in addition to their website interfaces, and this can make the process easier.

All three tools allow you to search for an existing archived copy of a website. Both the WBM and button will first attempt to locate an existing copy - you can then decide if you need an updated version if the page has changed. The WebCite button backs up each page without checking for existing links. You will have to go to the main WebCite page and use the Search tool to see if a page has already been archived. The Firefox button provided for is notably more powerful than the other plugins. It allows for saving and searching across many different archives, though is the default.

Check Your Archived Links

Always check your archived links before adding them to Fanlore to make certain you have successfully captured the page. Ex: if you are citing the page for an image file, make certain the image appears on the archived version. If you are citing text, make certain the page has not been excluded from the WBM or only partially captured.

Citing FanArt

Consider adding low resolution examples of fan art instead of only linking. If you don't want to include the fan art on Fanlore, then you should create an archive link. Since most fan art images are stored separately from the website, backing up the fan art may require two separate archive links depending on the archive service you are using. For example, both WebCite and create a single snapshot of the entire page - including all images. You need create only one archive link and you are done. The WBM, however, may be more hit and miss, especially on sites like DeviantArt, Instagram, Imgur, ImageShack, Flickr or Tumblr that store theie image files in a separate location. In such cases, you may need to use a two-step process to archive a picture by creating 1) the archive link to the main page (Example) and then creating an 2) archive link to the image (Example). Once you know that the image file has been properly archived, all you need to do is add the main archive link to Fanlore - it will then include all the necessary files.

Handling Problems

  • Excluded from the WBM? The WayBack Machine will not archive websites that have been excluded from "crawling" or indexing. However, many older fannish websites have been registered by other owners or bulk resellers who have automatically removed websites from the WBM - even if that was never the intent of the original owners.[4] If a website has been excluded, consider using either WebCite or to create a stable archive link. Alternatively, consider quoting the material on the Fanlore page in more detail or creating a screencap of the page and uploading it to Fanlore. Keep in mind Fanlore's Fair Use policy when doing so.
  • Adult Content Warning? All three archiving services have problems with Adult Content Warnings (websites that pop up an "adult content" notice). does have the ability to bypass some popup warnings, but you should check the archived page to verify success before adding it to Fanlore. Consider following the suggestions outlined above for pages excluded from the WBM for other methods of dealing with pages behind Adult Content Warnings.
  • Comments not unthreading? Both the WBM and WebCite are hit and miss when citing comments in a threaded post such as Livejournal or Dreamwidth. will unfold threaded posts on some platforms. Consider using the "permalink" option and link to just the one comment. However, since threaded comments often contain only part of a dialogue, look at the suggestions outlined above for pages excluded from the WBM.
  • Note about images/pictures on a website: WebCite and are best at capturing all images and text on a cited page. The WayBack Machine sometimes fails to capture images - see the Citing Fanart section for how to fix this.
  • PDFs or other files? Both the WBM and Webcite can archive files such as PDFs, Word .doc, or linked audio or video files. Simply plug in the file URL into the WBM or WebCite "archive" box, and open or save the file to your desktop. This runs the file through the archiving services and saves it. Files that are merely linked to on a website will not be automatically archived. cannot archive any PDFs, Word .doc, or audio or video files. As of 2015, none of the archiving services can archive streaming web or audio footage like the type that is found on Youtube.
  • What to do about websites that are already dead? If a website has been cited on Fanlore and is offline and no longer accessible, check the three archiving services to see if the page has been archived. Then replace the dead link with the archived link and add "(offline, archived)" at the end of the cite. If the page is offline or locked and has not been archived, leave the cite intact and add "(offline, not archived)" after the cite. Do not delete dead links that are not archived- just document their current status. Consider looking for alternative sources to use that are current and/or can be found in archives.

Archive Citation Template

Archive links should be added after the main citation using parentheses. E.g.: Uispeccoll: Here’s a media Fanzine Friday by request (accessed December 26, 2015) can be listed as: Uispeccoll:Here’s a media Fanzine Friday by request (accessed December 26, 2015) (archive link).

Fanlore has an automated citation bookmarklet that will run any page through the WBM or WebCite and, if the page has been archived, create a self-contained citation template to plug into Fanlore. Besides automating both the citation and archiving of links, the citation tool will allow for easier bulk editing down the road. Info about the javascript citation tool has been posted to the Fanlore Dreamwidth Community., Archived version

Guidelines for Specific Online Sources


Includes fiction, non-fiction, essays, archives, postings of other kinds of fanworks that occur on a web page.

You may link directly to the content you are citing, such as a story or essay. However, to reduce the likelihood of broken links (e.g., during site redesigns), you may prefer to link to the main page of its site. Also, content creators may prefer that you link to an index or warnings page. Annotate content that requires registration or a password to access.


When citing multimedia (such as images, videos, or audio files), do not link directly to the file. Instead, link to the web page that hosts the multimedia file.

Never hotlink a media file by embedding it on the wiki. For more about uploading image files, please see Fanlore's copyright policy.

Do not link to content that is known to be transient or of limited availability, such as content hosted at MegaUpload or Sendspace. Keep in mind that even sites like YouTube often remove content from their servers.

Mailing Lists

Some mailing lists (particularly those hosted on sites such as are public, and their posts can thus technically be directly linked to, which allows immediate viewing in a browser window or downloading from the public archive. Others require that users sign up or subscribe to a listserv, but anyone may join and read current and archived posts. Still others are completely closed lists with limited membership. Linking guidelines for each of these three cases are described below:

  • Public lists: anyone can view or make posts. Quote or link posts as needed and supported by the technology
  • Membership lists: require users to join the list before viewing any posts, but registration is not restricted. You may link to the main page of such a list, but you may not quote or cite content (without the original poster's permission).
  • Limited membership lists: moderators approve/deny membership. You may mention the existence of a restricted list and/or provide a link to the sign-up page, but you may not quote (without OP permission) or link to content directly. Annotate your link accordingly.

Protected journals, blogs, and communities

Do not quote content from protected sources without permission and never link directly to protected content.

If your article refers to a journal, community, or other fannish space that requires membership or registration but is otherwise public knowledge, link to its (public) home page and annotate the link accordingly.

Forums and message boards

In general, when linking to content at a particular forum you should follow the stated guidelines of the site and the expectations of that forum's user community.

In the case of forums requiring membership for access, whether that registration is open or moderated, we recommend that you request permission to cite.

Email and chat room and instant message transcripts

You may quote personal email only with the permission of the other person or persons who engaged in the email conversation.

In general, the transcripts of chat rooms or instant messages cannot be easily cited. Like citations of private email, citations of this kind of content require that all individuals who were present during the chat agree to publicly disclose the contents of the chat. This makes quoting of these kinds of transcripts difficult from a practical standpoint.

If you do decide to quote these kinds of transcripts, make certain that all parties agree to it.

Formatting Guidelines

See Help:Formatting Guidelines for Citations

Guidelines for Quoting Offensive Content

something helpful goes here

The short answer is: Use your best judgement, add context, and ask for help.


  1. ^ Wikipedia does not allow, for example, the citing of articles from Roman Catholic publications in articles on Roman Catholic experiences such as Marian visitations, because said articles are written by "believers."
  2. ^ user:aethel. 19 February 2012 Fanlore edit. And if you want to get fancy, you can cite individual Fanlore edits when it's clear that the text represents the editor's own perspective.
  3. ^ Wikipedia:Link rot - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Archived version
  4. ^ Wikpedia Link Rot and Robots.txt Files.