How to Use Research Sources on wikiHow

Three Parts:Strategies for Using Sources to Improve your WikiHowStrategies for Finding and Evaluating SourcesExamples of Good Sources for Different Article Categories

wikiHow editors are strongly encouraged to add references to articles they edit. An important part of creating an accurate and authoritative how-to manual is using good source materials when writing or improving articles. Good source materials can help to create new articles or to make old ones more accurate. These instructions will help you to use the best possible practices when researching and using references in your articles.

Part 1
Strategies for Using Sources to Improve your WikiHow

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    Understand some basics about copyright:
    • As a general rule, facts cannot be copyrighted. This means that you are able to use any facts you find to support your article.[1]
    • Although facts are not subject to copyright, the words used to express them are, particularly if the wording is original or unique (copyright covers original expression). You are free to use information from other materials in your articles, but you must use your own words to express it.[2]
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    Recognize that you are always strongly encouraged to use facts and ideas found in research sources for articles you edit on wikiHow. Here are some examples on how to do this legally:
    • Crack Your Knuckles - A stub was improved and referenced to reliable sources. Ideas and facts came from the sources, original wording from the wikiHow editor.
    • Remove Fingernail Polish From Carpet - The ideas for these methods were not from the wikiHow editor, but he used original wording to describe ideas found elsewhere and then referenced the original sources.
    • Make Horchata - A stub was improved with a recipe found on another site. Ingredient lists are not copyrightable[3][4] nor are ideas or methodologies. The description was written with unique words for wikiHow. The source was attributed.

Part 2
Strategies for Finding and Evaluating Sources

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    Find source materials to cover as many aspects of your topic as possible. Although searching for sources online is one obvious way to find sources, many excellent materials are not readily available online. Your local public library is a great one-stop location to find all sorts of books, magazines, encyclopedias and many other reference materials (and unlike the Internet, there is a librarian there who can help you find what you need).
    • Analyze the credibility of the source. The best sources are original materials produced by reputable organizations or authors. Choose to reference the BBC and over someone's MySpace blog when you have a choice. Avoid using the following for research.
    • Sources that are opinion-based as much as possible, except when there is significant debate on an issue.
    • Sources that promote the sale of proprietary products and services.
    • Sources that contain several grammatical or spelling errors.
    • Sources that seem spammy or like a scam.
    • Sources that seem to be overflowing with advertisements.
    • Sources that require a subscription or membership to read.
    • Sources that will only be available for a limited time, like limited release magazines.
    • Sources that seem poorly researched and low in quality, like Squidoo, eHow, Hubpages, Ask, or About.
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    Know how to handle multiple opinions on the same subject. If there are multiple opinions on the same subject, your article should provide both sides of the story, too. For example, some sources say that brushing your teeth with fluoride is healthy, while other sources say it’s damaging to your health over time. In cases like these, provide reputable sources for both sides of the discussion so that the reader has all the information he or she needs to decide which course to take.
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    Don’t cite something just for the sake of citing it, if you encounter an article for which you can’t seem to find any decent sources, even “iffy” ones.
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    Cite sources whenever it's helpful, needed, or when the content is likely to be challenged. This is to be done by placing the link to the source between <ref></ref> tags.
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    Type {{reflist}} at the end of the article, under the 'Sources and Citations' heading, so that the sources cited in the article appear in an ordered numerical list. All sources must be cited this way. Don't list URLs or link directly to external sites in the sources section.
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    Save the page when you are finished editing. Check to make sure that your references are correct and that all of the links are working properly.

Part 3
Examples of Good Sources for Different Article Categories

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    Consider these examples of good sources:
    • Holistic health/Home remedies:
      • Medical journals, if possible
      • News sites
      • Well-known blogs run by industry experts
    • Hair and makeup/Style/Fashion:
      • Well-known fashion magazines
      • News sites
      • Well-known blogs run by industry experts
    • Home Improvement/Crafts/Projects:
      • Well-known magazines on the subject
      • News sites
      • Educational sites, especially those run by some type of institution
    • Business/Career:
      • News sites
      • Well-known blogs run by industry experts
    • Relationships:
      • Online magazines
      • News sites
      • Studies in journals

Quiz: Which Sources Do Not Belong?

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  • These steps work well for either new articles or when reviewing an article for accuracy.
  • It is usually more effective to use multiple sources for a given article than a single source, because this decreases the likelihood of bias.
  • While referencing is always a good idea, it is imperative to add references to controversial statements or facts that might be questioned.


  • Be sure that you are not copying word-for-word from your source materials. Summarize information in your own words instead.
  • Avoid plagiarism! Cite the sources of the facts and ideas you use.

Article Info

Categories: Importing Content to wikiHow