Wikipedia:Independent sources

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An independent source is a source that has no vested interest in a written topic and therefore it is commonly expected to describe the topic from a disinterested perspective. An interest in a topic is vested where the source holds a financial or legal relationship with the topic, for example. An interest in a topic may be either positive or negative. An example of a positive interest is owning a company that sells a product; an example of a negative interest is owning a competing company. The company and the competing company would be sources that are not independent of the product. All such conflicts-of-interests make the source suspect of giving more importance to advancing interests in the topic than to advancing knowledge about the topic.

Independent sources have editorial independence (advertisers do not dictate content) and no conflicts of interest (no potential for personal, financial, or political gain from the publication).

For example, in the case of a website, an independent source would be newspaper coverage of the site rather than the site itself; for a recording artist, an independent source would be a professional review of the artist rather than album sleeve notes or a press release.

Independent sources are not necessarily "neutral" in the sense of being even-handed. An independent source may hold a strongly positive or negative view of a topic or an idea. For example, a scholar might write about literacy in developing countries, and he or she may strongly favor teaching all children how to read, regardless of gender or socioeconomic status, but if the author gains no personal benefit from these children learning how to read, then the publication is an independent source on the topic.

Material available from sources that are self-published, or primary sources, or biased because of a conflict of interest can play a role in writing an article, but it must be possible to source the majority of information to independent, third-party sources. Reliance on independent sources ensures that an article can be written from a balanced, disinterested viewpoint rather than from the person's own viewpoint. It also ensures articles can catalogue a topic's worth, its role and achievements within society, rather than offering a directory listing or the contents of a sales brochure.

Articles that don't reference outside sources should be tagged with {{third-party}} and if there ultimately prove to be no independent sources, the article should be listed for deletion.

Explanation[edit]

Wikipedia strives to be of the highest standard possible, and to avoid writing on topics from a biased viewpoint. Wikipedia:Verifiability was created as an expansion of the neutral point of view policy, to allow information to be checked for any form of bias. It has been noticed, however, that some articles are sourcing their content solely from the topic itself, which creates a level of bias within an article. Where this primary source is the only source available on the topic, this bias is impossible to correct. Such articles tend to be vanity, although it is becoming increasingly hard to differentiate this within certain topic areas.

If Wikipedia is, as defined by the three key content policies, an encyclopaedia which summarises viewpoints rather than a repository for viewpoints, to achieve this goal, articles must demonstrate that the topic they are covering has been mentioned in reliable sources independent of the topic itself. These sources should be independent of both the topic and of Wikipedia, and should be of the standard described in Wikipedia:Reliable sources. Articles should not be built using only vested-interest sources. This requirement for independent sources is so as to determine that the topic can be written about without bias; otherwise the article is likely to fall foul of our vanity guidelines.

Examples[edit]

Topic Independent Non-independent
Business Newspaper, magazine, government agency Owner, employees, corporate website, sales brochure, competitor
Person Newspaper, magazine, scholarly book Person, family members, friends, employer, employees
City National magazine, scholarly book Local newspaper, mayor, local booster clubs

These simple examples need to be interpreted with all the facts and circumstances in mind. For example, a newspaper that depends on advertising revenue might not be truly independent in their coverage of the local businesses that advertise in the paper.

Indiscriminate sources[edit]

Merely being independent does not guarantee that a source is reliable for a given purpose. Some sources, while apparently independent, are indiscriminate. For example, a travel guide might attempt to provide a review for every single point of interest, restaurant, or hotel in a given area. A newspaper in a small town might write about the opening and closing of every single business in the town, or the everyday activities of local citizens. Indiscriminate sources are poor indicators of notability and should be considered skeptically when determining due weight.

Similarly, independent sources may be outdated, self-published, or not have a reputation for fact-checking.

See also[edit]

Relevant encyclopedia articles

  • Editorial independence: The ability of a journalist to accurately report news regardless of commercial considerations like pleasing advertisers
  • Independent sources: Whether journalistic sources are repeating each other, or have separately come to the same opinions.

Related Wikipedia advice pages

Relevant templates

  • {{Third-party-inline}}, to mark sentences needing an independent or third-party source
  • {{Third-party}}, to tag pages that contain zero independent or third-party sources