Template:Redirect Template:Information page

The Wikipedia footnotes system has the ability to detect errors. This page documents the error messages and provides an understanding of the problem and solutions.

Error messages


The messages will be formatted as an error, and are visible on the rendered page after hitting the "Publish changes" button.

These messages are dependent on the language setting in Special:Preferences— this list applies only to "en — English".

  • Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no name must have content
  • The opening <ref> tag is malformed or has a bad name
  • Invalid parameter in <ref> tag
  • Invalid <ref> tag; name cannot be a simple integer. Use a descriptive title
  • Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag
  • Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named $1
  • Invalid parameter in <references> tag
  • Ran out of custom backlink labels. Define more in the MediaWiki:Cite references link many format backlink labels message.
  • <ref> tag in <references> has conflicting group attribute "$1".
  • MediaWiki:Cite error references missing group
  • <ref> tag with name "$1" defined in <references> is not used in prior text.
  • <ref> tag defined in <references> has no name attribute.
  • Invalid <ref> tag; name "$1" defined multiple times with different content
  • <ref> tag with name "$1" defined in <references> group "$2" has no content.
  • $1

Other problems


Some problems may not show a cite error message, while others may not be obvious.

In ref name use only straight quotation marks


When you cite the same source more than once on a page, use only straight quotation marks " " to enclose the reference name. Do not use curly quotation marks Template:!mxt, which are treated as simply another character, not as quotation marks. An error message will appear if the original and repeat references use a mix of straight and curly quotation marks. The syntax to define a named reference is:

<ref name="name">content</ref>

To repeat the named reference:

<ref name="name" />

A page shows in the reference error category, but no cite errors show


If <ref>...</ref> includes a URL with an =, and if the reference is inside a template, then the template will fail. Depending on the placement of the URL, the cite error message may not display, but the page will be included in the error category. Ensure that = are encoded as &#61;

refTools should catch this problem.

For example, an incorrectly nested reference where {{lower}} is being used to make the reference smaller:

{{#switch:{{{2}}}|nowiki|nw={{#tag:nowiki|{{{3}}}}}|{{{2}}}}}|white-space:-moz-pre-wrap; white-space:-pre-wrap; white-space:-o-pre-wrap; white-space:pre-wrap; word-wrap:break-word;{{{style|}}}">{{#switch:{{{1}}}|nowiki|nw={{#tag:nowiki|{{{2}}}}}|{{{1}}}}} }}

This may be caused by a template that is not properly closed with }}.

It can also be caused by multiple footnotes that are defined to use the same name. Links will be generated for both, but only the first will show in the references list: For example:

<ref name="foo">content1</ref>
<ref name="foo">content2</ref>

Only content1 will show. refTools will catch this problem.

Content on a non-article page is missing


If a footnote does not have a closing </ref>, it will "eat" the following text, causing it to not show. This normally shows a cite error, unless it is the last footnote on the page. Normally, this would then suppress the <references /> tag, generating an error, but the message for a missing <references /> tag is suppressed on non-article pages. refTools will catch this problem.



Some templates may include <ref>...</ref> tags; for example {{botanist}}. If a template of this type is included without the <references /> tag, then an error is generated, but the problem is not obvious. refTools will not catch this problem.

Several methods are available for solving this problem. Below they are listed in order of preference. Note that only one of these is required, not all of them.

Method 1

If the template has a documentation page, add <references /> there.

Method 2

Add the following code to the end of the template:

{{Template reference list}}

Method 3

Add the following code to the end of the template:

<div style="display: none"><references /></div>

Cons: Hides the references, not informing the user that it is there; editors won't be able to check the references formatting.

Method 4

Include the <references /> tag within the template itself using the group parameter. See Help talk:Cite errors/Testcases1 for an example.

Cons: Creates a separate references section that may not be obvious; does not allow reuse of the references within the body of the article.



refTools can be enabled via Preferences → Editing → Usability features. It includes an error checking tool for common problems.

Messages, namespaces and categories


Internal messages are generated by the Cite.php extension and shown as a MediaWiki message. See the parser hooks section of Special:Version for the installed version of Cite.php. These messages are in the MediaWiki namespace and can be modified only by admins.

The MediaWiki messages use {{broken ref}} to control the namespace and category. Messages show only on main (article), user, template, category, help and file pages. Talk pages do not show error messages.

Category default sorting is by {{PAGENAME}} for the main namespace and by τ{{PAGENAME}} for template, category, help and file namespaces.

See also


Template:Wikipedia referencing