|This guidance essay contains comments and advice of one or more Wikipedia contributors. It is not a Wikipedia policy or guideline, though it may be consulted for assistance on Wikipedia:Article titles policy and Wikipedia:Disambiguation guideline. A potential measure of how the community views this essay may be gained by consulting the history and talk pages, and checking What links here.|
- 1 How to Determine a Wikipedia Article Title
- 1.1 Start
- 1.2 Named entity with more than one name
- 1.3 Not a named entity - check for naming guideline
- 1.4 No single name or description is obvious and available to use
- 1.5 Done
- 1.6 Examples
How to Determine a Wikipedia Article Title
Title determination can sometimes be a challenging and even contentious issue, often caused by guidance that can be confusing or that appears contradictory. Because a variety of policies and guidelines may seem to apply in a given page naming situation, it is often possible to form an argument that supports whatever position is preferred by cherry picking and prioritizing advantageous sections of policy and guideline, and ignoring or discounting disadvantageous guidance. An argument so formed might appear to be well based in policy and guidelines, but is merely I just don't like it rationalization.
An underlying premise here is that the value of deciding among several reasonable titles is subject to the law of diminishing returns and usually not worth the cost of discussion and debate. So the goal here is a method that, if followed by multiple people, is much more likely for those people to all land upon the same reasonable title for a given topic than if they each waded through the morass of title policy and guidelines without this one method.
Thus, the method presented below is intended to be used to determine a title for any article in Wikipedia as objectively as is reasonably possible in order to reduce the incidence of questions, disagreements, debates and discussions about article titles. The thrust of it is to answer certain key questions in a particular order so that at least everyone who uses it is likely to travel the same path to a title decision.
This is intended to be used for new articles as well as existing articles when considering a rename.
- A named entity is any topic which has at least one clear, natural and obvious name (any person, place, book, film, etc.)
- A descriptive title, by contrast, is a name that Wikipedia editors formulate themselves because there is no unique name for a given topic that can be found.
- Examples of descriptive titles include artificial subjects like List of counties in Indiana, Jewish history of Salzburg, and List of recurring Monty Python's Flying Circus characters.
If the topic is not a named entity and thus needs a descriptive title, go to #Not a named entity - check for naming guideline.
If the topic is a named entity that has exactly one clear, natural and obvious name per the principal naming criteria at WP:TITLE, most notably with regard to how reliable sources refer to this topic, go to #One obvious name.
Otherwise, it has more than one name, so continue with #Named entity with more than one name.
Named entity with more than one name
If exactly one of the names is clearly the most common name used to refer to the topic in reliable sources, then use this most common name as the one obvious name of this topic and continue with #One obvious name.
Otherwise go to #The one obvious name is ambiguous - is this the primary topic?.
One obvious name
If the one obvious name of this topic is not used to refer to any other topic for which there exists an article in Wikipedia, go to #Done.
Otherwise continue with #The one obvious name is ambiguous - is this the primary topic?.
- NOTE: Sometimes some editors effectively argue that we should go to #Not a named entity - check for naming guideline (to follow a specific naming guideline) in this case (when one obvious name is already determined and available) rather than #Done. When this occurs this makes the title determination process non-deterministic and thus subject to debate and consternation because there is no clear guidance on whether to go with the clear obvious name (#Done) or with the name specified by the guideline (#Not a named entity - check for naming guideline). Often there are opposing opinions regarding which to use, which is why the practice of going directly to #Not a named entity - check for naming guideline in this case is discouraged here. The alternative which is equally deterministic is to always defer to the specific guideline when it exists, even when there is one obvious, clear, natural and concise name available for use, but this is not a common practice for most articles because disambiguate only when necessary is generally the rule in those cases. Of course, in those cases where the obvious name and the name indicated by the specific guideline are the same the distinction is moot.
The one obvious name is ambiguous - is this the primary topic?
If this topic meets the primary topic criteria:
- A topic is primary for a term, with respect to usage, if it is highly likely—much more likely than any other topic, and more likely than all the other topics combined—to be the topic sought when a reader searches for that term.
- A topic is primary for a term, with respect to long-term significance, if it has substantially greater enduring notability and educational value than any other topic associated with that term.
for the one obvious name, then go to #Done; otherwise, #Determine best choice per principal naming criteria.
- NOTE: The long-term significance factor was added only in 2011, and creates problems. Now we can have primary topic suggest that two different titles are primary for a given term. We suggest ignoring the long-term significance factor and determining primary topic solely by the usage criterion. After all, if the long-term significance factor is truly significant, that will be reflected in usage as well.
Not a named entity - check for naming guideline
If there is a specific naming convention or guideline that applies to this topic that is not a named entity (e.g., WP:NCLIST for lists, etc.) and indicates an unambiguous descriptive title for this topic, go to #Use specific naming guideline to determine title.
- NOTE: if the specific naming guideline does not clearly specify one unambiguous title for this article, consider how the guideline could be improved in order to apply in this and similar cases, and start a discussion about it on the guideline's talk page.
Otherwise, continue with #No single name or description is obvious and available to use.
No single name or description is obvious and available to use
Determine best choice per principal naming criteria
Select the title that best meets the principal naming criteria cited at WP:TITLE#Deciding on an article title:
- Recognizability – The title is a name or description of the subject that someone familiar with, although not necessarily an expert in, the subject area will recognize.
- Naturalness – The title is one that readers are likely to look or search for and that editors would naturally use to link to the article from other articles. Such titles usually convey what the subject is actually called in English.
- Precision – The title is sufficiently precise to unambiguously identify the article's subject and distinguish it from other subjects.
- Conciseness – The title is no longer than necessary to identify the article's subject and distinguish it from other subjects.
- Consistency – When other criteria do not indicate an obvious choice, consider giving similar articles similar titles.
If more than one potential title is suggested by this criteria, evaluate the candidates relative to each other in terms of this criteria. For example, if two are approximately equal in terms of being natural, recognizable and precise, but one is significantly more concise, select that one.
In the case of proposed renames, this process often requires discussion to achieve a consensus decision. JDLI arguments should be avoided; arguments should be evaluated according to how well they are reasoned in terms of weighing the above criteria.
If the topic is the only use for the selected/agreed-upon title, or is the primary use of that title, go to #Done, otherwise continue with #Neither unique nor primary use - choose a disambiguating term.
Neither unique nor primary use - choose a disambiguating term
Review all other uses of the name and identify a characteristic of this topic that succinctly but unambiguously distinguishes this use from the other uses (e.g., "book", "film", "actor", "river", "TV series", "Lost episode", "tennis player", or "city"). If there are several candidates to choose from, follow the principal criteria at WP:TITLE and guidance at WP:D to make the best choice. This step also may require discussion to achieve consensus.
Also consider "natural disambiguations" (a commonly used name for the subject that is longer than the most common name) as covered at WP:PRECISION. However, this should only be given preferences in cases where the natural disambiguation is significantly more concise than the parenthetical disambiguation, as parenthetical disambiguations have the advantage of clearly conveying the most common name used to refer to the topic (the part of the title not in parentheses).
Append the succinct unambiguously distinguishing characteristic that best meets the principal naming criteria to the end of the obvious name in parentheses, or use a natural disambiguation per the above, to create a new obvious name, and go to #Done.
Use specific naming guideline to determine title.
Determine a new obvious name of the topic of this article in accordance with the specific naming guideline or convention.
The title of the article is the one that best meets the principal naming criteria at WP:TITLE as determined above. If a dab is at that name, it needs to be moved to [[Name (disambiguation)]]. If some other article is currently at that title, it needs to have this process applied to it for it to be renamed.
Examples of obvious names trumping naming conventions
- Catherine the Great (obvious name) rather than Catherine II of Russia (per WP:NCROY) (See: Talk:Catherine_the_Great#Requested_move).
- David Owen rather than David Owen, Baron Owen (see: Talk:David_Owen#Requested_move).
- Because You Left rather than Because You Left (Lost) even though the latter would be consistent with Follow the Leader (Lost). The convention to clarify that the topic is an episode of a TV series by including the name of the series in the title is used only when necessary for disambiguation. This issue was hotly debated for months and ultimately resolved via arbcom which ultimately ruled that "a consensus decision was reached" and referred to a statement that noted, "we did reach consensus to follow the existing guideline of 'disambiguate only when necessary'. "
Examples of parenthetic disambiguation trumping "natural disambiguations" per conventions
- Madonna (entertainer) rather than Madonna Ciccone
- Cork (city) rather than Cork, Ireland or Cork, Cork County
Examples of arguments framed in terms of the principal naming criteria
- Support The current title is ambiguous with Princess Victoria of the United Kingdom, and is the least used of the three alternative names. [Google results: "Queen Victoria" (3 million ghits, 1.2 million gbooks, 72 thousand gscholar) "Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom" (107 thousand ghits, 2.2 thousand gbooks, 99 gscholar) "Victoria of the United Kingdom" (20 thousand ghits, 1.2 thousand gbooks, 48 gscholar)]
"Queen Victoria" redirects here, which indicates that it is primary usage currently, even though there are other Queen Victorias.
So, "Queen Victoria" meets three of the five WP:AT criteria: recognizability, naturalness, conciseness. If "Queen Victoria" is or becomes ambiguous, then "Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom" is still more common than "Victoria of the United Kingdom" and meets two of the five WP:AT criteria: recognizability, preciseness. "Victoria of the United Kingdom" is the least common name and meets one of the WP:AT criteria: consistency.
My choices are "Queen Victoria" first (most common name, meets 3 WP:AT criteria), "Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom" second (second most common name, meets 2 WP:AT criteria), and "Victoria of the United Kingdom" third (least common name, meets 1 WP:AT criterium). 
- Per the principles in Wikipedia:Article titles:
- Recognizability - This is relevant only to someone who is already familiar with Pekina, since one cannot "recognize" something that he is not familiar with (it used to explicitly say this, now it's just implied). Both forms are recognizable to anyone familiar with Pekina. Draw.
- Naturalness - This means that "a good title should convey what the subject is actually called in English." The subject is called "Pekina", period. The fact that additional qualifying information, specifically some reference to the area that it's in, is often used for context does not make that additional qualifying information part of the name. The fact that the additional information, like "South Australia", is not used when it's not needed for context shows that that information is in not part of what it is actually called. Pekina.
- Precision - WP:PRECISE states that it is about adding precision "to distinguish an article title from other uses of the topic name", and adds: "Be precise, but only as precise as necessary."
Since "Pekina" is sufficiently precise, adding ", South Australia" to the title is not "necessary to distinguish an article title from other uses of the topic name", therefore "Pekina, South Australia" is overly precise, by definition. Pekina.
- Conciseness - "Pekina" is shorter. Pekina.
- Consistency - "Pekina, South Australia" is consistent with the vast majority of articles in
Category:Towns in AustraliaCategory:Towns in South Australia, however this is changing as there is a move away from unnecessary disambiguation for all of Australia, and this request is part of that. Pekina, South Australia.
- So, it's a draw on recognizability, and Pekina, South Australia is ahead on consistency, for now, but Pekina has naturalness, precision and conciseness sewn up. I do see a clear winner, and it's obviously Pekina.