Wikipedia:Neutral point of view

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"Wikipedia:Point of view" redirects here. For the essay on how to describe points of view, see Wikipedia:Describing points of view.
To raise issues with specific articles, see the NPOV noticeboard. For advice on applying this policy, see the NPOV tutorial. For frequent critiques and responses, see the NPOV FAQ. For the template, see Template:POV.
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All encyclopedic content on Wikipedia must be written from a neutral point of view (NPOV), which means representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without bias, all of the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic.

NPOV is a fundamental principle of Wikipedia and of other Wikimedia projects. It is also one of Wikipedia's three core content policies; the other two are "Verifiability" and "No original research". These policies jointly determine the type and quality of material that is acceptable in Wikipedia articles, and because they work in harmony, they should not be interpreted in isolation from one another. Editors are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with all three.

This policy is nonnegotiable, and the principles upon which it is based cannot be superseded by other policies or guidelines, or by editor consensus.

Explanation of the neutral point of view[edit]

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See also: WP:ASSERT

Achieving what the Wikipedia community understands as neutrality means carefully and critically analyzing a variety of reliable sources and then attempting to convey to the reader the information contained in them fairly, proportionately, and as far as possible without bias. Wikipedia aims to describe disputes, but not engage in them. Editors, while naturally having their own points of view, should strive in good faith to provide complete information, and not to promote one particular point of view over another. As such, the neutral point of view does not mean exclusion of certain points of view, but including all verifiable points of view which have sufficient due weight. Observe the following principles to achieve the level of neutrality that is appropriate for an encyclopedia.

  • Avoid stating opinions as facts. Usually, articles will contain information about the significant opinions that have been expressed about their subjects. However, these opinions should not be stated in Wikipedia's voice. Rather, they should be attributed in the text to particular sources, or where justified, described as widespread views, etc. For example, an article should not state that "genocide is an evil action", but it may state that "genocide has been described by John X as the epitome of human evil."
  • Avoid stating seriously contested assertions as facts. If different reliable sources make conflicting assertions about a matter, treat these assertions as opinions rather than facts, and do not present them as direct statements.
  • Avoid stating facts as opinions. Uncontested and uncontroversial factual assertions made by reliable sources should normally be directly stated in Wikipedia's voice. Unless a topic specifically deals with a disagreement over otherwise uncontested information, there is no need for specific attribution for the assertion, although it is helpful to add a reference link to the source in support of verifiability. Further, the passage should not be worded in any way that makes it appear to be contested.
  • Prefer nonjudgmental language. A neutral point of view neither sympathizes with nor disparages its subject (or what reliable sources say about the subject), although this must sometimes be balanced against clarity. Present opinions and conflicting findings in a disinterested tone. Do not editorialize.
  • Indicate the relative prominence of opposing views. Ensure that the reporting of different views on a subject adequately reflects the relative levels of support for those views, and that it does not give a false impression of parity, or give undue weight to a particular view. For example, to state that "According to Simon Wiesenthal, the Holocaust was a program of extermination of the Jewish people in Germany, but David Irving disputes this analysis" would be to give apparent parity between the supermajority view and a tiny minority view by assigning each to a single activist in the field.

Achieving neutrality[edit]

See the NPOV tutorial and NPOV examples.

As a general rule, do not remove sourced information from the encyclopedia solely on the grounds that it seems biased. Instead, try to rewrite the passage or section to achieve a more neutral tone. Biased information can usually be balanced with material cited to other sources to produce a more neutral perspective, so such problems should be fixed when possible through the normal editing process. Remove material only where you have a good reason to believe it misinforms or misleads readers in ways that cannot be addressed by rewriting the passage. The sections below offer specific guidance on common problems.

Naming[edit]

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See article titling policy for more on choosing an appropriate title for an article.

In some cases, the choice of name used for a topic can give an appearance of bias. While neutral terms are generally preferable, this must be balanced against clarity. If a name is widely used in reliable sources (particularly those written in English), and is therefore likely to be well recognized by readers, it may be used even though some may regard it as biased. For example, the widely used names "Boston Massacre", "Teapot Dome scandal", and "Jack the Ripper" are legitimate ways of referring to the subjects in question, even though they may appear to pass judgment. The best name to use for a topic may depend on the context in which it is mentioned; it may be appropriate to mention alternative names and the controversies over their use, particularly when the topic in question is the main topic being discussed.

This advice especially applies to article titles. Although multiple terms may be in common usage, a single name should be chosen as the article title, in line with the article titling policy (and relevant guidelines such as on geographical names). Article titles that combine alternative names are discouraged. For example, "Derry/Londonderry", "Aluminium/Aluminum" or "Flat Earth (Round Earth)" should not be used. Instead, alternative names should be given due prominence within the article itself, and redirects created as appropriate.

Some article titles are descriptive, rather than being a name. Descriptive titles should be worded neutrally, so as not to suggest a viewpoint for or against a topic, or to confine the content of the article to views on a particular side of an issue (for example, an article titled "Criticisms of X" might be better renamed "Societal views on X"). Neutral titles encourage multiple viewpoints and responsible article writing.

Article structure[edit]

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The internal structure of an article may require additional attention, to protect neutrality, and to avoid problems like POV forking and undue weight. Although specific article structures are not, as a rule, prohibited, care must be taken to ensure that the overall presentation is broadly neutral.

Segregation of text or other content into different regions or subsections, based solely on the apparent POV of the content itself, may result in an unencyclopedic structure, such as a back-and-forth dialogue between proponents and opponents.[1] It may also create an apparent hierarchy of fact where details in the main passage appear "true" and "undisputed", whereas other, segregated material is deemed "controversial", and therefore more likely to be false. Try to achieve a more neutral text by folding debates into the narrative, rather than isolating them into sections that ignore or fight against each other.

Pay attention to headers, footnotes, or other formatting elements that might unduly favor one point of view, and watch out for structural or stylistic aspects that make it difficult for a reader to fairly and equally assess the credibility of all relevant and related viewpoints.[2]

Due and undue weight[edit]

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Neutrality requires that each article or other page in the mainspace fairly represent all significant viewpoints that have been published by reliable sources, in proportion to the prominence of each viewpoint in the published, reliable sources.[3] Giving due weight and avoiding giving undue weight mean that articles should not give minority views or aspects as much of, or as detailed, a description as more widely held views or widely supported aspects. Generally, the views of tiny minorities should not be included at all, except perhaps in a "see also" to an article about those specific views. For example, the article on the Earth does not directly mention modern support for the Flat Earth concept, the view of a distinct minority; to do so would give undue weight to it.

Undue weight can be given in several ways, including, but not limited to, depth of detail, quantity of text, prominence of placement, and juxtaposition of statements. In articles specifically relating to a minority viewpoint, such views may receive more attention and space. However, these pages should still make appropriate reference to the majority viewpoint wherever relevant and must not represent content strictly from the perspective of the minority view. Specifically, it should always be clear which parts of the text describe the minority view. In addition, the majority view should be explained in sufficient detail that the reader can understand how the minority view differs from it, and controversies regarding aspects of the minority view should be clearly identified and explained. How much detail is required depends on the subject. For instance, articles on historical views such as Flat Earth, with few or no modern proponents, may briefly state the modern position, and then go on to discuss the history of the idea in great detail, neutrally presenting the history of a now-discredited belief. Other minority views may require much more extensive description of the majority view to avoid misleading the reader. See fringe theories guideline and the NPOV FAQ.

Wikipedia should not present a dispute as if a view held by a small minority deserves as much attention overall as the majority view. Views that are held by a tiny minority should not be represented except in articles devoted to those views (such as Flat Earth). To give undue weight to the view of a significant minority, or to include that of a tiny minority, might be misleading as to the shape of the dispute. Wikipedia aims to present competing views in proportion to their representation in reliable sources on the subject. This applies not only to article text, but to images, wikilinks, external links, categories, and all other material as well.

From Jimbo Wales, paraphrased from a September 2003 post on the WikiEN-l mailing list:
  • If a viewpoint is in the majority, then it should be easy to substantiate it with reference to commonly accepted reference texts;
  • If a viewpoint is held by a significant minority, then it should be easy to name prominent adherents;
  • If a viewpoint is held by an extremely small (or vastly limited) minority, it does not belong in Wikipedia regardless of whether it is true or not and regardless of whether you can prove it or not, except perhaps in some ancillary article.

Keep in mind that, in determining proper weight, we consider a viewpoint's prevalence in reliable sources, not its prevalence among Wikipedia editors or the general public.

If you can prove a theory that few or none currently believe, Wikipedia is not the place to present such a proof. Once it has been presented and discussed in reliable sources, it may be appropriately included. See "No original research" and "Verifiability".

Balancing aspects[edit]

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An article should not give undue weight to any aspects of the subject but should strive to treat each aspect with a weight appropriate to the weight of that aspect in the body of reliable sources on the subject. For example, discussion of isolated events, criticisms, or news reports about a subject may be verifiable and impartial, but still disproportionate to their overall significance to the article topic. This is a concern especially in relation to recent events that may be in the news.

Giving "equal validity" can create a false balance[edit]

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See: False balance

"When considering 'due impartiality' ... [we are] careful when reporting on science to make a distinction between an opinion and a fact. When there is a consensus of opinion on scientific matters, providing an opposite view without consideration of 'due weight' can lead to 'false balance', meaning that viewers might perceive an issue to be more controversial than it actually is. This does not mean that scientists cannot be questioned or challenged, but that their contributions must be properly scrutinized. Including an opposite view may well be appropriate, but [we] must clearly communicate the degree of credibility that the view carries."

BBC Trust's policy on science reporting 2011[4]
See updated report from 2014.[5]

While it is important to account for all significant viewpoints on any topic, Wikipedia policy does not state or imply that every minority view or extraordinary claim needs to be presented along with commonly accepted mainstream scholarship as if they were of equal validity. There are many such beliefs in the world, some popular and some little-known: claims that the Earth is flat, that the Knights Templar possessed the Holy Grail, that the Apollo moon landings were a hoax, and similar ones. Conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, speculative history, or even plausible, but currently unaccepted, theories should not be legitimized through comparison to accepted academic scholarship. We do not take a stand on these issues as encyclopedia writers, for or against; we merely omit this information where including it would unduly legitimize it, and otherwise describe these ideas in their proper context with respect to established scholarship and the beliefs of the greater world.

Good research[edit]

Good and unbiased research, based upon the best and most reputable authoritative sources available, helps prevent NPOV disagreements. Try the library for reputable books and journal articles, and look for the most reliable online resources. If you need help finding high-quality sources, ask other editors on the talk page of the article you are working on, or ask at the reference desk.

Balance[edit]

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Neutrality assigns weight to viewpoints in proportion to their prominence. However, when reputable sources contradict one another and are relatively equal in prominence, describe both approaches and work for balance. This involves describing the opposing views clearly, drawing on secondary or tertiary sources that describe the disagreement from a disinterested viewpoint.

Impartial tone[edit]

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Wikipedia describes disputes. Wikipedia does not engage in disputes. A neutral characterization of disputes requires presenting viewpoints with a consistently impartial tone; otherwise articles end up as partisan commentaries even while presenting all relevant points of view. Even where a topic is presented in terms of facts rather than opinions, inappropriate tone can be introduced through the way in which facts are selected, presented, or organized. Neutral articles are written with a tone that provides an unbiased, accurate, and proportionate representation of all positions included in the article.

The tone of Wikipedia articles should be impartial, neither endorsing nor rejecting a particular point of view. Try not to quote directly from participants engaged in a heated dispute; instead, summarize and present the arguments in an impartial tone.

Describing aesthetic opinions[edit]

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Wikipedia articles about art and other creative topics (e.g., musicians, actors, books, etc.) have a tendency to become effusive. This is out of place in an encyclopedia. Aesthetic opinions are diverse and subjective—we might not all agree about who the world's greatest soprano is. However, it is appropriate to note how an artist or a work has been received by prominent experts and the general public. For instance, the article on Shakespeare should note that he is widely considered to be one of the greatest authors in the English language. Articles should provide an overview of the common interpretations of a creative work, preferably with citations to notable individuals holding that interpretation. Verifiable public and scholarly critiques provide useful context for works of art.

Words to watch[edit]

There are no forbidden words or expressions on Wikipedia, but certain expressions should be used with care, because they may introduce bias. For example, the word "claim" is an expression of doubt; when used as in "John claimed he had not eaten the pie", it can imply he had in fact eaten the pie. Using loaded words such as these may make an article appear to promote one position over another. Try to state the facts more simply without using loaded words; for example, "John said he did not eat the pie." Strive to eliminate expressions that are flattering, disparaging, vague, or clichéd, or that endorse a particular point of view (unless those expressions are part of a quote from a noteworthy source).

Bias in sources[edit]

A common argument in a dispute about reliable sources is that one source is biased and so another source should be given preference. The bias in sources argument is one way to present a POV as neutral by excluding sources that dispute the POV as biased. Biased sources are not inherently disallowed based on bias alone, although other aspects of the source may make it invalid. Neutral point of view should be achieved by balancing the bias in sources based on the weight of the opinion in reliable sources and not by excluding sources that do not conform to the writer's point of view.

Handling neutrality disputes[edit]

Attributing and specifying biased statements[edit]

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Biased statements of opinion can be presented only with attribution. For instance, "John Doe is the best baseball player" expresses an opinion and cannot be asserted in Wikipedia as if it were a fact. It can be included as a factual statement about the opinion: "John Doe's baseball skills have been praised by baseball insiders such as Al Kaline and Joe Torre." Opinions must still be verifiable and appropriately cited.

Another approach is to specify or substantiate the statement, by giving those details that actually are factual. For example: "John Doe had the highest batting average in the major leagues from 2003 through 2006." People may still argue over whether he was the best baseball player. But they will not argue over this.

Avoid the temptation to rephrase biased or opinion statements with weasel words, for example, "Many people think John Doe is the best baseball player." But "Who?" and "How many?" are natural objections. An exception is a situation where a phrase such as "Most people think" can be supported by a reliable source, such as in the reporting of a survey of opinions within the group.

Point-of-view forks[edit]

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See the content-fork guideline for clarification on the issues raised in this section.

A POV fork is an attempt to evade the neutrality policy by creating a new article about a subject that is already treated in an article, often to avoid or highlight negative or positive viewpoints or facts. POV forks are not permitted in Wikipedia.

All facts and significant points of view on a given subject should be treated in one article except in the case of an article spinout. Some topics are so large that one article cannot reasonably cover all facets of the topic. For example, evolution, evolution as fact and theory, creationism, and creation-evolution controversy are separate articles. This type of split is permissible only if written from a neutral point of view and must not be an attempt to evade the consensus process at another article.

Making necessary assumptions[edit]

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When writing articles, there may be cases where making some assumptions is necessary to get through a topic. For example, in writing about evolution, it is not helpful to hash out the creation-evolution controversy on every page. There are virtually no topics that could proceed without making some assumptions that someone would find controversial. This is true not only in evolutionary biology, but also in philosophy, history, physics, etc.

It is difficult to draw up a rule, but the following principle may help: there is probably not a good reason to discuss some assumption on a given page, if that assumption is best discussed in depth on some other page. A brief, unobtrusive pointer might be appropriate, however.

Controversial subjects[edit]

Wikipedia deals with numerous areas that are frequently subjects of intense debate both in the real world and among editors of the encyclopedia. A proper understanding and application of NPOV is sought in all areas of Wikipedia, but it is often needed most in these.

Fringe theories and pseudoscience[edit]

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Pseudoscientific theories are presented by proponents as science, but characteristically fail to adhere to scientific standards and methods. Conversely, by its very nature, scientific consensus is the majority viewpoint of scientists towards a topic. Thus, when talking about pseudoscientific topics, we should not describe these two opposing viewpoints as being equal to each other. While pseudoscience may in some cases be significant to an article, it should not obfuscate the description of the mainstream views of the scientific community. Any inclusion of pseudoscientific views should not give them undue weight. The pseudoscientific view should be clearly described as such. An explanation of how scientists have received pseudoscientific theories should be prominently included. This helps us to describe differing views fairly. This also applies to other fringe subjects, for instance, forms of historical revisionism that are considered by more reliable sources to either lack evidence or actively ignore evidence, such as claims that Pope John Paul I was murdered, or that the Apollo moon landing was faked.

See Wikipedia's established pseudoscience guidelines to help with deciding whether a topic is appropriately classified as pseudoscience.

Religion[edit]

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In the case of beliefs and practices, Wikipedia content should not only encompass what motivates individuals who hold these beliefs and practices, but also account for how such beliefs and practices developed. Wikipedia articles on history and religion draw from a religion's sacred texts as well as from modern archaeological, historical, and scientific sources.

Some adherents of a religion might object to a critical historical treatment of their own faith because in their view such analysis discriminates against their religious beliefs. Their point of view must be mentioned if it can be documented by notable, reliable sources, yet note that there is no contradiction. NPOV policy means that Wikipedia editors ought to try to write sentences like this: "Certain Frisbeetarianists (such as Rev. Carlin) believe This and That, and also believe that This and That have been tenets of Frisbeetarianism from its earliest days; however, influenced by the findings of modern historians and archaeologists (such as Dr. Investigate's textual analysis and Prof. Iconoclast's carbon-dating work) certain sects — calling themselves Ultimate Frisbeetarianists — still believe This, but instead of That now believe Something Else."

Several words that have very specific meanings in studies of religion have different meanings in less formal contexts, e.g., fundamentalism, mythology, and (as in the prior paragraph) critical. Wikipedia articles about religious topics should take care to use these words only in their formal senses to avoid causing unnecessary offence or misleading the reader. Conversely, editors should not avoid using terminology that has been established by the majority of the current reliable and notable sources on a topic out of sympathy for a particular point of view, or concern that readers may confuse the formal and informal meanings. Details about particular terms can be found in the Manual of Style.

Common objections and clarifications[edit]

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales talking about NPOV at WikiConference India.
See the NPOV FAQ for answers and clarifications on the issues raised in this section.

Common objections or concerns raised to Wikipedia's NPOV policy include the following.

Being neutral
  • There's no such thing as objectivity
    There's no such thing as objectivity. Everybody with any philosophical sophistication knows that. So, how can we take the NPOV policy seriously?
  • A simple formulation—what does it mean?
    A former section of this policy called "A simple formulation" said, "Assert facts, including facts about opinions—but don't assert opinions themselves." What does this mean?
Balancing different views
  • Writing for the opponent
    I'm not convinced by what you say about "writing for the opponent". I don't want to write for the opponents. Most of them rely on stating as fact many statements that are demonstrably false. Are you saying that, to be neutral in writing an article, I must lie, in order to represent the view I disagree with?
  • Morally offensive views
    What about views that are morally offensive to most readers, such as Holocaust denial, that some people actually hold? Surely we are not to be neutral about them?
Editorship disputes
  • Dealing with biased contributors
    I agree with the nonbias policy but there are some here who seem completely, irremediably biased. I have to go around and clean up after them. What do I do?
Other objections

Since the NPOV policy is often unfamiliar to newcomers—and is so central to Wikipedia's approach—many issues surrounding it have been covered before very extensively. If you have some new contribution to make to the debate, you could try policy talk, or bring it up on the Wikipedia-l mailing list. Before asking, please review the links below.

History of NPOV[edit]

NPOV is one of the oldest policies on Wikipedia.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Article sections devoted solely to criticism, and pro-and-con sections within articles, are two commonly cited examples. There are varying views on whether and to what extent such structures are appropriate; see guidance on thread mode, criticism, pro-and-con lists, and the criticism template.
  2. ^ Commonly cited examples include articles that read too much like a debate, and content structured like a resume. See also the guide to layout, formatting of criticism, edit warring, cleanup templates, and the unbalanced-opinion template.
  3. ^ The relative prominence of each viewpoint among Wikipedia editors or the general public is not relevant and should not be considered.
  4. ^ "BBC Trust—BBC science coverage given "vote of confidence" by independent report. 2011". 20 July 2011. Retrieved 14 August 2011. 
  5. ^ "Trust Conclusions on the Executive Report on Science Impartiality Review Actions. 2014". July 2014. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 

Other resources[edit]

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Policies[edit]

Guidelines[edit]

Essays[edit]

Articles[edit]

Templates[edit]

  • General NPOV templates:
    • {{POV}}—message used to attract other editors to assess and fix neutrality problems
    • {{POV-check}}—message used to request that an article be checked for neutrality
    • {{POV-section}}—message that tags only a single section as disputed
    • {{POV-lead}}—message when the article's introduction is questionable
    • {{POV-title}}—message when the article's title is questionable
    • {{POV-statement}}—message when only one sentence is questionable
    • {{NPOV language}}—message used when the neutrality of the style of writing is questioned
    • {{ASF}}—message when a sentence may or may not require in-text attribution (e.g., "Jimmy Wales says")
    • {{Attribution needed}}—when on-text attribution should be added
  • Undue-weight templates:
    • {{Undue}}—message used to warn that a part of an article lends undue weight to certain ideas relative to the article as a whole
    • {{Undue-section}}—same as above but to tag a section only
    • {{Undue-inline}}—same as above but to tag a sentence or paragraph only

Noticeboard[edit]

Related information[edit]