Wikipedia:Reference desk/How to create a new reference desk

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Introduction[edit]

Wikipedia Reference Desk sections are delineated to achieve a compromise between a logical ordering of topics, interests of questioners and respondents, and manageable traffic on each desk. There have been expansions and contractions over the years, but the current lineup is the best result that passionate argument and consensus-building have been able to achieve.

Suggestions that a new desk be added are not-infrequent occurrences on the Reference Desk talk page. Invariably, they generate a great deal of heat, very little light, and in the end, no change. This pattern is disruptive and saps energy and good will that would be better spent on the desks themselves.

Therefore, in any suggestion of a new lineup the burden of proof is on the suggester -- and not on those who support the consensus-based status quo -- that the current lineup is broken and needs to be corrected. If you feel that there is a compelling case to be made for such a change, please follow the guidelines below in proposing it on the talk page.

Know the history of the argument[edit]

Search through the talk page archives for previous suggestions to create the new desk you want. In many cases, these will be long and difficult to read in their entirety; consider that impassioned persons on both sides of the debate had to write them in their entirety. Consider the enthusiasm for a renewal of that debate if you come bearing only arguments that have been considered and rejected ad nauseam in the past. And consider that you will be more likely to succeed if you have a mastery of the debate thus far.

Archives of proposed desks debates[edit]

Make your case[edit]

Describe what is wrong with the current lineup and how a new desk would fix it. A strict categorization of all human knowledge is only possible if we go to a single Miscellaneous desk, so an argument to create a new desk on such epistemological grounds is unlikely to prevail. At best you might make a case for shuffling a given topic from one desk to another. For example, a proposal that sociology questions belong under Science rather than Humanities could be compelling, but you would need a much stronger case to get consensus on creating a Sociology desk.

Back up your case[edit]

Post links to questions that have been answered suboptimally because of how the desks are broken up. Obviously, the more examples you can post the stronger your case will be. Vaguely asserting that there have been such questions but you can't find them will not make a strong case.

You may also need to establish that the proposed desk will attract a sufficient number of questions and responders to be reasonably active. A "build it and they will come" argument has historically not fared well, but that doesn't mean it might not in the future, so long as the proposed desk comports to the fundamental purpose of the Reference Desk: answering questions of verifiable fact and directing the questioner to references (including Wikipedia's article collection and reliable external sources).

Don your flame-resistant underwear[edit]

As noted in the introduction, Reference Desk regulars have seen a lot of these proposals come and go with the attendant acrimony, so lobbing a new one will immediately get defenses up. That said, this is not a fiefdom. Decisions are made by consensus, and if you make a compelling argument you might prevail.