How to cite your sources on Everything2

by Andycyca

  • 1 Introduction
    • 1.1 What this document is not
    • 1.2 What this document aims to be
  • 2 The ultra-compact guide for those who know what they’re doing
    • 2.1 What does this do? / How does it work?
  • 3 A guide for the rest of us
    • 3.1 What you’ll need
    • 3.2 Establishing facts
    • 3.3 Saving your sources
    • 3.4 The simplest pre-processing file
    • 3.5 Get the citations!
  • 4 Why would I use this? How is this advantageous?
  • Appendix I: Generic procedure to create a new bibliography entry
    • Automatic (via identifiers)
    • Manual
  • Appendix II: Tips and Tricks
  • Version
  • References

1 Introduction

E2 is a database of, well, everything. Among the many writeups it contains are the factuals, which are generally expected to be well documented in addition to the usual form requirements that apply site-wide. This is by no means unique to E2: pretty much every responsible outlet of factual information should include at least a minimal section dedicated to the sources used.1

E2 doesn’t have an official policy on citing sources, nor a style guide that can be referenced to that effect. As such, every noder is left to fend for themselves to figure out when, where and how should citations be used in writeups.

Therefore, I’ve decided to share with you the general procedure that I use to cite my sources on E2. This procedure relies mostly on one particular piece of free software,2 regular text files and a standard that has existed for decades.3 Let’s go!

(Andy’s note: please send me any and all corrections and additions you might find useful or necessary for this writeup. Thanks)

1.1 What this document is not

  • This is not official E2 policy.
  • This is not (necessarily) the most efficient way of citing your sources.
  • This is not the only way to cite your sources.
  • This is not a manual for using bib2html4

And, moreover, this is not an authoritative essay. What I write here is far from being the «only», the «best» or even an «efficient» way of writing and citing sources. Remember:

Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own. Bruce Lee (attr.)5

1.2 What this document aims to be

  • This aims to be a relatively simple solution to exporting your sources to HTML.
  • This aims to be a guide to creating an appropriate ‘References’ or ‘Bibliography’ section for your writeup, using common formats, like the APA, MLA, Chicago or almost any other academic format.
  • This aims to be a flexible way that others may learn how to export their citations to HTML formats, either in E2 or elsewhere.

2 The ultra-compact guide for those who know what they’re doing

If you know your way around BibLaTeX files and the command line, this is the guide for you. Otherwise, skip to the next section, «A guide for the rest of us»

  1. Install pandoc

  2. Get your sources in a suitable file. The accepted formats for pandoc are BibLaTeX, BibTeX, Copac, CSL JSON, CSL YAML, EndNote, EndNote XML, ISI, MEDLINE, MODS, and RIS. This example will assume biblio.bib

  3. OPTIONAL: If needed, download the appropriate Citation Language Style .csl file (you can browse and find many of them at the Zotero Style Repository). Put this file (say, apa.csl) in the same directory as the bibliography

    • If you don’t know what this is, skip this step.
  4. Create a text file (input.txt) in the same directory as the previous archives, with the following contents:

    bibliography: biblio.bib
    csl: apa.csl
    nocite: |
    # References
  5. From the command line, run:

    pandoc -f markdown -o output.html --filter pandoc-citeproc input.txt
  6. If everything is in order, you should now have a file (output.html) that contains a proper References section in HTML, properly formatted in the style that you need.

2.1 What does this do? / How does it work?

  1. The input.txt file is a generic document written in pandoc-flavored Markdown. You could—like I do—write your entire writeup in it.
  2. The header is written like a YAML file, indicating several things
    1. bibliography sets the path of your bibliography file,
    2. csl sets the Citation Style to be used
    3. nocite is a hack to display every entry on the bibliography
  3. pandoc processes the whole input.txt file with some help from the pandoc-citeproc filter, assuming it will reference biblio.bib at some point. Spits out a minimal HTML document

For those who know what they are doing, further documentation can be found:

3 A guide for the rest of us

If the above steps seem foreign to you or if you’d rather read more in-depth instructions, keep reading.

3.1 What you’ll need

This document was written under a Windows installation, although the steps for other operative systems should be almost the same.

Get the following:

It’s highly desirable, but not needed, to have some bibliography/reference manager software. I myself am partial to JabRef, but you can use the services provided by either Mendeley, Zotero or any of their competitors that will let you produce a BibLaTeX file.

If you know how, you can actually create your BibLaTeX file in any text editor. If you don’t, I’ll cover the basics of how to create one in several ways.

So, say you already know what you’re writing about. If you’re doing it right, you must surely be getting your facts from established sources.6 Proper form dictates that you should give proper attribution to these sources, but how exactly?

3.2 Establishing facts

The first step is to read on your topic, as deep and as broad as needed. Along this read-only road, you may come into a specific datum that might be needed on your writeup. A good idea is to commit this connection somewhere.

How exactly you do this depends largely on your writing style: some people highlight pages, some attach post-it notes on whatever they’re reading. I run my own analog/digital archive of index cards with a fact and what I call a soft source. Whatever your method, you will surely have some-thing you’ll want to cite later, be an academic paper, a magazine article, a newspaper review or whatever.

Once you have your source(s), it’s time to save them to a single database, the BibLaTeX file.

3.3 Saving your sources

The exact procedure for this varies depending on the software you’re using (or even if you’re hardcore enough to write the file yourself, which I do not recommend), but the overall procedure is pretty much the same for all major programs.

If you’ve never used a reference manager before, don’t despair. Although it may look complicated, it’s quite simple once you get the hang of it. What these programs do is to save all those sources you want to attribute and keep them in a neat database. There’s an example later in this document.

Once you’re done, you should have your .bib file, saved somewhere in your drive.

3.4 The simplest pre-processing file

Now let’s create a simple file that will produce all the citations in your bibliography. The program we downloaded earlier (pandoc) will use it to spit out all the citations in HTML.

Open your text editor and add the following:

bibliography: biblio.bib
csl: apa.csl
nocite: |

# References

Save this file as input.txt in the same folder as your .bib file.

There are two major caveats with this simple file, although both can be addressed. We’ll see how later in this guide.

  1. It will output each and every one of the sources in your .bib file, although there are ways of modifying this. I’ll cover them later.
  2. The references will be formatted in a single style7

3.5 Get the citations!

Open your terminal or command line. Navigate to the folder where you have your files. Once there run the following command:

pandoc -f markdown -o output.html --filter pandoc-citeproc input.txt

This should take only a few seconds. If you’ve done everything correctly, there should be a new file, output.html where you can find all your sources, properly formatted and ready to be pasted as HTML.8

4 Why would I use this? How is this advantageous?

As mentioned before, this is not an authoritative—or definitive—method for proper citations. That, and the fact that it looks complicated, only help make the case against this seemingly arcane procedure.

But I wouldn’t post this just because it looks cool, or to gain some XP. I firmly believe that having a proper and (semi-)automated way of citing your sources is great for :

  • Those who write factuals,
  • Those who wish to give proper attribution and can’t be bothered to learn every formatting style,
  • Those who want to improve their writeups by making them seem more authoritative,
  • Those who already rely on a “central” bibliography or data bank of some sort,
  • etc.

I myself use this process for a number of reasons, mostly to save myself tons of time. For me, this process is incredibly useful because:

  • I tend to write several factual pieces with citations, and they all need to be properly attributed,
  • I already have a relatively large bibliography,
  • I tend to use the same source several times for different documents,
  • Different outlets have different citation requirements, and this procedure lets me switch between them with ease,
  • I like to keep the content and the form separated. When I write I want to think of the format as little as possible so as to speed up the process,
  • I like to have a consistent style for citations with as little busy work as possible,
  • I like to seem professional even in my stupidest writeups for whenever I need to actually use this as a portfolio

Appendix I: Generic procedure to create a new bibliography entry

(If you know about ISBN, DOI, arXiv or other identifiers, feel free to skip this section. Same goes for those who know LaTeX and BiBLaTeX. This is mostly about the generic procedure to add information about any kind of source.)

On many modern bibliography management software/apps, there are several ways of adding a new source to your library.

Automatic (via identifiers)

Most recent bibliography managers offer some way of adding entries through unique identifiers. In general, these are:

  • For books: a ISBN code (13 digits long for newer books, 10 for older ones)
  • For academic journals: a DOI identifier
    • For arXiv preprints: a specific arXiv citation identifier (looks something like this: arXiv:2005.05958)

If you’re adding another kind of source or your source doesn’t have any identifier, you will need to add the entry manually.


In your bibliography manager look for a way to manually add an entry. They will ask you what kind of source you’re introducing (a book, thesis, article, etc.). There are many different kinds of entries (see «Tips and Tricks») but most of them are edge cases and pretty much self-descriptive.

For the purposes of illustration, I’m going to use Alan Turing’s seminal paper «On Computable Numbers…»

The main idea of this step is to introduce as many details as possible about the source you want to use, so that others can easily verify the fact you’re referencing. In this example, I would add:

Turing, Alan9
On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem
Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society

…and so on. Ideally, you’d store as many types of information about the source as possible, so as to guide the potential reader to it.

Every source has a few obligatory data needed. Which exactly varies a bit, but most require an author (or authors), title, year and volume/issue numbers.

Appendix II: Tips and Tricks

  • Many search engines—like Google Academic—can export citation data in BibLaTeX format.

  • Same goes for many journals: look for their «Export» option. Ultimately, it depends on the source, but almost all reputable journals and primary academic sources can export to either raw BibLaTeX form or directly to bibliography managers (Zotero, Mendeley, etc.)

  • Want to cite only a few select items? Every entry in your bibliography file has a unique identifier (a key). If you wish to cite only a few specific items, look for their keys and paste them in your input.txt file like so

    nocite: |
      @key1, @key2, @key3

    instead of the @* wildcard.

  • This procedure only outputs a single html file with the «References» section, but can also be used to actually process the in-text citations! If you write your writeup in Markdown, you can just write something like:

    It was determined to be impossible [@Smith1997]

    And you’ll also obtain the in-text citation properly formatted. See this section of the pandoc documentation for more information.

  • What if you want to cite using numbers, like Wikipedia does? Or you want to include the author and date and ibids in a footnote? The .csl file is an easy—often the easiest—way of adjusting the exact format of your References. The Zotero Style Repository offers styles for many, many, many journals. Want to use a numeric, rather than alphabetic sorting? Want to also include dates? Look for an appropriate Citation Style file there.

  • For manual tweaking of your BibLaTeX file, there’s a very handy Biblatex Cheatsheet. It’s an invaluable resource.


In reverse chronological order.

  • 2020-05-13: First publication on E2


Grovberg, Michael Yamnato, and Ukemi. 2020. “Source for Bruce Lee ‘Adapt What Is Useful’ Quote.” Edited by Stack Exchange. February 27, 2020.

  1. This of course is the ideal situation, but doesn’t always happen.

  2. Released under the GPL, no need to debate here about free vs. gratis.

  3. The initial release for bibtex—according to Wikipedia—was in 1985.

  4. Which I find relatively cumbersome and, according to its main page does not compile on 64-bit Operative Systems, making it a bit dated.

  5. Apparently, this exact quote comes from the Dedication on the inside cover of some editions of «Tao of Jeet Kune Do». Bruce Lee wrote several variations on this phrase which, in turn, are variations on several other sources. Read the responses given at Stack Exchange (2020) for more information.

  6. What exactly constitutes an «established» or «proper» source is a much larger discussion and I will not touch it in this writeup. Different writeups and different topics require different levels of «appropriateness»: a writeup in marine biology will most likely cite academic papers, conferences and journals. A writeup about people might cite biographies and interviews. A writeup about food might cite magazines, personal archives and even photographic evidence.

  7. Right now I forget whether it’s the Chicago Style Guide or APA, but one of those.

  8. It’s important to note here that, due to the way E2 handles links, you may have to manually change the <a> tags to their appropriate soft/hard link format.

  9. For several reasons, it’s preferable to enter an author’s name this way.

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