From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
User script
Highlight unreferenced passages
DescriptionUses a red background color to highlight each passage that lacks references.
First releasedJanuary 28, 2023; 14 months ago (2023-01-28)
UpdatedDecember 17, 2023
    (3 months ago)
Browser supportall modern browsers
Skin supportall skins

Highlight unreferenced passages is a user script to highlight passages that lack references with a red background. Its main purpose is to help users quickly identify unreferenced passages, paragraphs, and sections in mainspace articles and drafts. It can be used both by reviewers trying to assess whether an article complies with the Wikipedia verifiability criteria and by editors looking for passages that need to be improved. It does not alter the article in any way; it only affects how it is displayed. Please keep in mind that this tool has various limitations, as explained below. For example, it ignores various Wikipedia policies about which claims need inline citations and which ones do not. If a passage is highlighted, it only means that there could be a problem, not that there definitely is a problem. In this regard, the script is not meant to replace human judgment but only to assist users in finding passages that may need references.


To install this script, go to your common.js and add the following line:

importScript('User:Phlsph7/HighlightUnreferencedPassages.js'); // Backlink: [[User:Phlsph7/HighlightUnreferencedPassages.js]]

If you run into problems or have suggestions on how to improve the script, please discuss them at User_talk:Phlsph7/HighlightUnreferencedPassages.


After the script is installed, it can be accessed via the toolbox by clicking on the link "Highlight unreferenced passages".

Access the script by clicking on the link "Highlight unreferenced passages" in the toolbox. Left: toolbox in the old Wikipedia skin (Vector 2010). Right: toolbox in the new Wikipedia skin (Vector 2022).

Explanation and limitations[edit]

According to WP:Verifiability, "all material must be attributable to reliable, published sources" and "any material challenged or likely to be challenged must be supported by inline citations." Inline citations are usually placed after a passage to support it. This normally happens using the reftags (<ref>...</ref>) or similar templates ({{R}}, {{sfn}}, ...). The script identifies whether a reference is placed after a passage, either immediately after it or after the next few sentences. Paragraphs that contain no references are fully highlighted. For paragraphs that contain a reference only in the middle but not at the end, everything after the reference is highlighted. Citation needed-tags are also considered.

The script has various limitations. Because of them, a highlighted passage only indicates that attention is required since there may be a problem. Most of these limitations result in highlighting sections that are not required to have any inline citations.

  • The script is not able to identify some existing references, such as those using the deprecated parenthetical style. It highlights those cited passages even though they are already cited.
  • It also ignores various Wikipedia policies that say some passages do not need inline references. For example, most passages in the lead do not require references if they only summarize material that is already referenced in the body of the article; see MOS:CITELEAD.
  • Plot summaries of works of fiction also do not require references; see MOS:PLOTSOURCE.
  • Material that is not likely to be challenged is not in need of inline citations, see WP:V and WP:You don't need to cite that the sky is blue.
  • For lists, editors frequently choose to place the references at the beginning before the list or at the last list entry. The script ignores these practices and checks each list entry individually.
  • It has difficulties distinguishing explanatory footnotes from references to a source if they do not follow standard style.
  • Additionally, the script is unable to detect:
    • whether the cited source actually supports the text, and
    • whether the cited source is reliable.
      Because of these limitations, even articles that have no highlighted passages may be in violation of the Wikipedia verifiability criteria.