When and how to use this tag responsibly
A "citation needed" tag is a request for another editor to verify a statement: a form of communication between members of a collaborative editing community. It is never, in itself, an "improvement" of an article. Though readers may be alerted by a "citation needed" that a particular statement is not supported, many readers don't fully understand the community's processes. Not all tags get addressed in a timely manner, staying in place for months or years, forming an ever growing Wikipedia backlog—this itself can be a problem. Best practice recommends the following:
- Tag thoughtfully. Avoid "hit-and-run" or pointed tagging. Try to be courteous and consider the hypothetical fellow-editor who will, hopefully, notice your tag and try to find the citation you have requested. When adding a tag, ask yourself: Is it clear just what information you want cited? Is the information probably factual? (If it is not, then it needs deletion or correction rather than citation!) Is the knowledge so self-evident that it really does not need to be cited at all? (Some things do not.)
- Some tags are inserted by people well placed to find a suitable citation themselves. If this is the case, consider adding these articles to your watchlist or a worklist so that you can revisit the article when you have the opportunity to fix the verifiability problems yourself.