Wikipedia:Criticism

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This essay is about material that emphasizes negative criticism. For criticism of Wikipedia see Reliability of Wikipedia and Wikipedia:Criticisms.

Under Wikipedia's neutral point of view (NPOV) policy, articles must present differing viewpoints on the subject matter fairly, proportionately, and without bias. Articles should include both positive and negative viewpoints from reliable sources, without giving undue weight to particular viewpoints, either negative or positive. The policy of verifiability requires attributing all viewpoints to reliable, published sources, with appropriate citations. Wikipedia's policy against original research, in addition to the NPOV requirement, forbids editors from favoring their own point of view. Wikipedia's policy on biographies of living persons requires exercising special care in presenting negative viewpoints about living persons.

Editors should avoid having a separate section in an article devoted to criticism, controversies, or the like because these sections call undue attention to negative viewpoints. Instead, articles should present positive and negative viewpoints from reliable sources together, fairly, proportionately, and without bias.

Adhere to policy[edit]

Neutrality and verifiability[edit]

Most problems with negative material can be avoided by adhering to standard WP policies, such as using good sources, balancing the content carefully, and writing in an unbiased way. When including negative material in an article, some things to check for include:

Living persons[edit]

Negative material about living persons may violate privacy policies or damage the person's reputation; therefore, strict rules are in place to govern such information. See Biographies of living persons for details.

Avoid sections and articles focusing on criticisms or controversies[edit]

Shortcuts:

An article dedicated to negative criticism of a topic is usually discouraged because it tends to be a point-of-view fork, which is generally prohibited by the neutral point-of-view policy.

Likewise, sections within an article dedicated to negative criticisms are normally also discouraged. Topical or thematic sections are frequently superior to sections devoted to criticism. Other than for articles about particular worldviews, philosophies or religious topics etc. where different considerations apply (see below), best practice is to incorporate positive and negative material into the same section. For example, if a politician received significant criticism about their public behavior, create a section entitled "Public behavior" and include all information – positive and negative – within that section. If a book was heavily criticized, create a section in the book's article called "Reception", and include positive and negative material in that section.

Articles on artists and works by artists often include material describing the opinions of critics, peers, and reviewers. Although the term "criticism" can, in that context, include both positive and negative assessment, the word "Criticism" should be avoided in section titles because it may convey a negative connotation to many readers. Alternative section titles which avoid a negative connotation include "Reception", "Reviews", "Responses", "Reactions", "Critiques", and "Assessments".

In some situations the term "criticism" may be appropriate in an article or section title, for example, if there is a large body of critical material, and if independent secondary sources comment, analyze or discuss the critical material.

Sections or article titles should generally not include the word "controversies". Instead, titles should simply name the event, for example, "2009 boycott" or "Hunting incident". The word "controversy" should not appear in the title except in the rare situations when it has become part of the commonly accepted name for the event, such as Creation–evolution controversy. Criticisms and controversies are two distinct concepts, and they should not be commingled. Criticisms are specific appraisals or assessments, whereas controversies are protracted public disputes. Thus, sections such as "Criticisms and controversies" are generally inappropriate.

When an article gets too large[edit]

The best approach to including negative criticisms is to integrate it into the primary article on the topic. Sometimes that may cause the article to get too large, in which case the article should be split, using the guidance on splitting the article can be found in the WP splitting guideline. The preferred way to split an article is as a content fork into sub-articles, using a "main" template to link to the new sub-articles. Generally, new subarticles should not be devoted to criticism, controversies, or other specific points-of-view – instead sub-articles should focus on topical themes.

Organizations and corporations[edit]

Shortcut:

Many organizations and corporations are involved in well-documented controversies, or may be subject to significant criticism. If reliable sourcesother than the critics themselves – provide substantial coverage devoted to the controversies or criticisms, then that may justify sections and sub-articles devoted to the controversies or criticism. For example, the sources that discuss the 2008 Summer Olympics often describe its controversies in detail, as an independent topic. But the main article is very long and therefore it is not practical to integrate all the controversy material into the main article. Thus, the summary style guideline was used to create a sub-article Concerns and controversies over the 2008 Summer Olympics, and the main article contains a small summary overview of the controversies.

Philosophy, religion, or politics[edit]

For topics about a particular point of view – such as philosophies (Idealism, Naturalism, Existentialism), political outlooks (Capitalism, Marxism), or religion (Islam, Christianity, Atheism) – it will usually be appropriate to have a "Criticism" section or "Criticism of ..." subarticle. Integrating criticism into the main article can cause confusion because readers may misconstrue the critical material as representative of the philosophy's outlook, the political stance, or the religion's tenets.

Approaches to presenting criticism[edit]

Approaches to incorporating criticism are as follows, listed from most to least desirable:

Approach Description Examples
Integrated The ideal approach is to integrate the negative criticism into the article: negative information is woven throughout the article in the appropriate topical sections. The article does not have a dedicated "Criticism" section. Abortion, Slavery, PETA, George Soros, Bill O'Reilly
"Reception" section With this approach, the article contains a section dedicated to positive and negative assessments of the topic. The section should not use a negative title like "Criticism" or "Controversies" but instead should use a more neutral term such as "Reception", "Assessment", "Reviews", "Influence", or "Response". This approach is often found in articles on books or other works of art. Catcher in the Rye, In Search of Lost Time (book), 2001 (film)
"Criticism" section In this approach, the article contains a section which focuses only on negative criticisms. This approach is sometimes used for politics, religion and philosophy topics. Great care should be taken that the section is not an WP:INDISCRIMINATE list of complaints. World bank, Existentialism, Planned Parenthood, Materialism, Exxon, Oracle, Eugenics, Creationism
"Reception" article This approach employs a separate article that includes both positive and negative viewpoints. This approach is often taken when the primary article on a literary topic grows too large and is subject to a content fork. Reception of WikiLeaks, Reception of J. R. R. Tolkien, Shakespeare's reputation, Influence and reception of Friedrich Nietzsche, Responses to the 2006 Duke University lacrosse case,
"Criticism of ..." article This approach is generally discouraged, but it is sometimes used for politics, religion and philosophy topics to avoid confusion that may result if negative viewpoints were interwoven with the description of the primary viewpoint. Some organizations and corporations also have controversy or criticism sub-articles, but in those situations, the sources must support such a dedicated sub-article. In all cases, the article must be written neutrally and must not be a POV fork. Philosophy/Politics/ReligionCriticisms of Marxism, Criticism of capitalism, Criticism of religion, Criticism of multiculturalism, Criticism of the War on Terror, Criticism of atheism, Criticism of Libertarianism

OrganizationsCriticism of the BBC, Criticism of Amnesty International, Criticism of the United Nations, Criticism of Greenpeace, Criticism of Coca-Cola, Criticism of Microsoft, 2008 Olympics controversies, Criticism of government response to Hurricane Katrina

Integrated throughout the article[edit]

The best approach to incorporating negative criticism into the encyclopedia is to integrate it into the article, in a way that does not disrupt the article's flow. The article should be divided into sections based on topics, timeline, or theme – not viewpoint. Negative criticism should be interwoven throughout the topical or thematic sections.

Proportionality[edit]

Generally, criticisms within an article (other than a "Criticism of ..." article) should in total be well under half of the article, even if sourcing supports filling almost every line of the article with criticism. The minimum is that required by neutrality but the maximum should, in a neutral way, leave a majority of the article as not criticism.

For example, consider religion. Every major religion probably has criticism of every other major religion, so an article on one religion could easily be almost entirely a restatement of everyone else's critiques of that religion. That would squeeze out most of the main information about the one religion that is the subject of the article, which would make it less useful to readers of this encyclopedia.

A better approach would be to put more content into more articles. In the religions example, an article on each faith should state its essential qualities. Links and other navigational aids will then let readers compare the faiths for their differing essences.

Exceptions exist. For instance, a person who is notable and sourceable only for having been convicted of murder is arguably implicitly being criticized for most of the article. However, that may not be true of a genocidal head of a nation, who probably also did good things, like feeding citizens who were not targeted for genocide. A person known only for a murder is less likely to have had their good deeds published, because almost no one's good deeds ever get published, but even many of the world's worst heads of state have had extensive coverage in reliable sources, some positive. Wikipedia reflects sources. So perhaps an article about a murderer who is otherwise not notable may inevitably be mostly criticism, but for an article about a genocidal head of state we should report both good and bad histories of the person for the necessary neutrality.

"Reception" or "Response" section[edit]

An acceptable approach to including criticisms in Wikipedia articles is to separate the description of a topic from a description of how the topic was received. The latter section may be titled "Reception", "Response", "Reviews" or "Reactions". These sections include both negative and positive assessments. This approach usually conforms to the WP neutrality policy, because it avoids being "all negative" or "exclusively laudatory" about the topic.

"Criticism" section[edit]

A section dedicated to negative material is sometimes appropriate, if the sources treat the negative material as an organic whole, and if readers would be better served by seeing all the negative material in one location. However, sections dedicated to negative material may violate the NPOV policy and may be a troll magnet, which can be harmful if it leads to users with strong opinions dominating the article but may simplify maintenance of the article if unhelpful edits are limited to a single section. In 2006 User:Jimbo Wales weighed in on the question: "In many cases they [criticism sections] are necessary, and in many cases they are not necessary. And I agree with the view expressed by others that often, they are a symptom of bad writing. That is, it isn't that we should not include the criticisms, but that the information should be properly incorporated throughout the article rather than having a troll magnet section of random criticisms."[1]

Many criticism sections found in articles are present because editors collected negative material, but have not had the time to properly integrate the negative material into the other sections of the article. Such negative sections should be tagged with a {{POV-section}} or {{criticism-section}} to notify other editors that more work is needed to integrate the material.

Sometimes a section is created to describe a significant criticism made by a notable critic. In these situations, the section title should be something like "View of Maria Smith" or "Reaction of the NY Times", and should avoid the word "criticism" in the section title.

Separate articles devoted to criticism[edit]

Creating separate articles with the sole purpose of grouping the criticisms or to elaborate individual points of criticism on a certain topic is generally considered a POV fork. Wikipedia:Content forking states that "Wikipedia articles should not be split into multiple articles solely so each can advocate a different stance on the subject." For example the "Criticism" section of Igor Stravinsky should not be moved to a separate article such as "Criticism of Igor Stravinsky". Dedicated "Criticism of ..." articles are sometimes appropriate for organizations, businesses, philosophies, religions, or political outlooks, provided the sources justify it; see the "Philosophy, religion, or politics" section above for details.

Reception history articles[edit]

A dedicated "Reception history" or "History of criticism" article may be acceptable for certain literary, historical, or artistic topics, if the sources justify it. Such articles should describe the historical progression of the criticism, as well as documenting both the positive and negative criticisms. The "main" article should have a summary style type of section summarizing the "reception history", and properly linking to the subsidiary article (for the Tacitean studies example this is the "Studies and reception history" section in the Tacitus article).

Separate articles devoted to controversies[edit]

Articles dedicated to controversies about a topic are generally discouraged, for many of the same reasons discussed above for criticism-related material. Articles dedicated to a controversy may be appropriate if the reliable sources on the topic discuss the controversies as an independent topic. Examples of articles devoted to a controversy include Whaling controversy, Global warming controversy, 2008 Olympics controversies, Chiropractic controversy and criticism, and Scientology controversies.

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

External links[edit]