Wikipedia:Attribution/in support of the merge

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Wikipedia needs one policy page that explains the need to use sources, with one key concept that editors will easily understand — that of attribution.

The core of the policy couldn't be simpler:

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is whether material is attributable to a reliable published source, not whether it is true. Wikipedia is not the place to publish your own opinions, experiences, or arguments.

Although everything in Wikipedia must be attributable, in practice not all material is attributed — editors should provide attribution for quotations and for any material that is challenged or likely to be challenged. The burden of evidence lies with the editor wishing to add or retain the material. If a topic has no reliable sources, Wikipedia should not have an article on it.

What exactly is the relationship between citing sources and avoiding original research?

  • Unattributed — material for which no source has been found.
  • Unattributable — material for which no source can be found i.e. original research.

Problems with the old policy pages[edit]

The terms "verifiability" and "no original research" confused people, newbies and experienced editors alike. The problems were roughly this:

  1. To "verify" means to confirm that something is true. But that's not what the policy page said. It said that material had to be well sourced i.e. attributed to a reliable source, not that we had to dispatch scouts to find out whether it was true. In fact, the policy said we should precisely not engage in original research. That ambiguity — between the title of the policy and what it actually recommended — was an endless source of confusion, particularly for newbies. The confusion served to undermine the separate no original research policy, with some editors trying to use the "verifiability" ambiguity to insist that we determine the truth of material we publish, rather than simply find reliable sources who have already published it.
  2. The phrase "no original research" (NOR) was easier to understand, but it still led to initial confusion. There's a sense in which all articles in Wikipedia constitute original research. Any that don't might constitute plagiarism. A lot of time was therefore spent explaining to newbies the particular way we use the term "original research" on Wikipedia. NOR is an important concept, but it wasn't a good title for the page.
  3. The reliable sources page was a perennial mess. It was started in February 2005 as a POV fork by editors who didn't like the verifiability policy (in part because of its bad title), and it directly contradicted the NOR policy — containing sentences such as "Criteria for judging whether or not a given statement is eligible for unreferenced consensus verification: Wikipedians have should have direct personal knowledge of the facts reported," which is exactly what we're supposed to avoid. [1] Everything in later versions that was coherent was copied directly from Verifiability, so it ended up being almost a duplicate, except for the bits that contradicted the other two policies. Several editors regularly argued that its status as a guideline should be removed, or it should be "burnt to the ground," as one of them put it. The guideline tag was removed by Phil Sandifer, Armedblowfish, Omegatron, Omegatron, Omegatron, SlimVirgin, JYolkowski, Jossi, WAS 2.450, SlimVirgin, Phil Sandifer, Jossi, JYolkowski, SlimVirgin.

Maintaining three policy pages and three talk pages[edit]

This was very time-consuming, and inevitably, inconsistencies crept in. Editors resented having to read three pages in order to understand our sourcing policy — well, they more than resented it; they simply didn't do it. It was clear to the editors maintaining the pages that the three pages needed to be merged.

WP:POINT-type requests for sources[edit]

Experienced editors were increasingly complaining that new editors, POV pushers, and troublemakers were asking for sources for every single sentence in order to be disruptive, and Verifiability seemed to encourage that. One advantage of Wikipedia:Attribution is that it makes the clear distinction that, while all material on Wikipedia must be attributable to a reliable source (that is, a source must exist for it), not everything must actually be attributed. This was an easy distinction for editors to remember.

Benefits of Wikipedia:Attribution[edit]

Wikipedia:Attribution became popular even before it went live. It was a one-stop shop explaining the need for sources. Editors started spontaneously linking to it and quoting it in support of their edits, because it was easy to understand.

The beauty of it is that it instantly shows editors the relationship between the need to cite sources and the concept of NOR. OR is material for which no source can be found, because it's a Wikipedian's own unpublished work. It is material that is not attributable, rather than not attributed. This was always a source of confusion, with even experienced editors believing that unsourced material was necessarily original research.

  • Unattributed — material for which no source has been found.
  • Unattributable — material for which no source can be found i.e. original research.

Several editors posted or e-mailed that, when they read Wikipedia:Attribution, they found they could understand the policies clearly for the first time.[citation needed]

The NOR shortcut was redirected to the NOR section of ATT; the V and RS shortcuts redirected to the reliable sources section of ATT; and WP:SYN redirected to the synthesis section of ATT. This enabled editors to continue using those links and concepts, which are separable, but intimately linked. Attribution shows what the relationship is in a way that having the concepts explained on separate pages never could.

Length[edit]

In addition to being clearer, Wikipedia:Attribution is shorter and therefore easier to digest than NOR, V, and RS — 2,500 words rather than 4,900.

Comparison of key "truth" issue in ATT and V[edit]

WP:VERIFY WP:ATTRIBUTE
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. "Verifiable" in this context means that any reader should be able to check that material added to Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source. Editors should provide a reliable source for quotations and for any material that is challenged or is likely to be challenged, or it may be removed. The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is whether material is attributable to a reliable published source, not whether it is true. Wikipedia is not the place to publish your opinions, experiences, or arguments. Although everything in Wikipedia must be attributable, in practice not all material is attributed. Editors should provide attribution for quotations and for any material that is challenged or likely to be challenged, or it may be removed.