Wikipedia:Verifiability/Removal of Uncited Material

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This essay in brief: While Wikipedia:Verifiability indicates that unreferenced article content should be removed, it does not precisely define the timing and appropriate steps for removal in all instance. This essay provides additional guidance on whether, when, and how to delete material that lacks a cited source.

This essay is still a work in progress. Anyone may contribute, but it is entirely unfinished and may be subject to rapid and radical change. It should thus not be used or referenced in any debate, as it may well not say what you think.

Purpose[edit]

It is beyond the scope of a policy page to exhaustively specify how long editors should wait before removing content that is not supported by citations and references. Many times, there are inherently subjective criteria that depend on the specific circumstances or subject matter. Therefore, this document is intended as guidance in the cases where there may be "close calls", and is not a definitive or deterministic set of rules or procedures. This guidance is based on the editorial opinions of Wikipedia contributors, and observation of common practices and their results.

The most important consideration is this: the ultimate determining factor should always be well-informed and sound editorial judgment that is consistent with Wikipedia policy, and results in the steady and consistent improvement of content for the benefit of Wikipedia readers.

Deleting a claim because it is inadequately cited is a decision that should be taken with consideration and care, and is not a call that contributors should make on unfamiliar topics. Remember that an article or section can always be tagged as needing expert attention. For more details, see Category:Articles needing expert attention.

What counts as a reference?[edit]

Where references can be found[edit]

Wikipedia's footnotes are currently considered best practice by most editors, but there are other ways to identify the source of a statement. If the text says "According to the book [so snd so], [such and such] is true" then that claim is sourced. If there is no references section, there may still be adequate citations for some or all of the material – for example, by external links embedded in the article.

Sometimes the entire article is supported by a list of sources in a section at the bottom of the article (this approach was common in the past). This makes it harder to verify specific statements and to rule out possibilities of original research, but the article cannot be presumed to be unreferenced in such circumstances. If a book is listed in the reference section, then that book is a cited source, and may be the source for any statements in the article. This is not optimal, but it should be a consideration when deciding what should be removed from the article for lack of documented verification.

Lack of access[edit]

An ostensibly reliable source is no less reliable simply because a contributor does not have access to it in order to verify its reliability, accuracy, or relevance to the statement to which it applies. If a source's reliability cannot be assessed, then it should not be assumed to be unreliable.

When to remove material immediately[edit]

There are certain occasions when the only appropriate action is to remove unreferenced material immediately. These are instances that are not considered "close calls".

Biographies of living persons[edit]

The policy on biographies of living persons make it clear that content in biographical articles, or biographic material in other articles, is to be held to the absolute highest standards of verifiability. In general, unsourced or poorly sourced contentious material in such articles should be removed immediately (the policy provides more details).

Apparently ridiculous claims[edit]

A statement or claim that seems to be patently ridiculous (in its context) should be considered for immediate deletion, since leaving it in, even with a "citation needed" tag, potentially damages the credibility of the article and Wikipedia in general. There is no need to spend a huge amount of time researching the questionable text, but assuming good faith, in general, justifies at least a brief search for a source. In addition, it's important to consider the contributor – if a registered editor who has made constructive edits to other articles added the text, then it merits more than a cursory review before deletion.

If text appears to be vandalism, then researching isn't necessary.

Other kinds of inappropriate content[edit]

There may be other instances where content is inconsistent with Wikipedia policy, but for reasons other than (or in addition to) verifiability. Such instances may meet the criteria for immediate removal. These are not fully enumerated here, but editors may wish to consult:

Waiting to remove content[edit]

Older articles[edit]

Until recently, citation and sourcing were not common practice for Wikipedia articles. During 2005 and 2006, citation went from a relatively uncommon practice to being considered de rigueur. Where material dates from before 2007, therefore, it is preferable to tag the material with {{fact}} rather than remove it. If material has been tagged with this for an appropriate time (see below), then it is not only appropriate but desirable to remove the offending material.

I think we should discuss other things for this section on talk page; I've started a section for that purpose. SamBC 15:57, 19 July 2007 (UTC)

The rest of the time[edit]

Fundamentally, most things any of us do on Wikipedia are judgment calls. This essay simply acknowledges this fact, so it's never going to give a precise cut-and-dried definition of when to do what and why. If you need help in resolving a specific judgment call, make a request for comment from others, help from others, or additional information on the subject matter of the article. (NOTE: I commented out some stuff below here that seemed a little over-broad dr.ef.tymac 04:46, 19 July 2007 (UTC)).

How Long To Wait[edit]

This needs some sort of grid or framework of decision making, maybe a key like we all (probably) remember from science (biology) at school. Should probably start building it in talk. SamBC 15:49, 19 July 2007 (UTC)

How to remove material[edit]

When removing unsourced material (other than vandalism, or any other sort of material with specific instructions), it should not simply be deleted from the article. Upon deletion, such material should be pasted into the talk page and a discussion begun. You should clearly state why it was removed, and participate and encourage discussion to find sources for that material, so that it may be restored to the article.

Help! My contribution was removed as unsourced![edit]

If your contribution has been removed in line with these guidelines and Wikipedia:Verifiability, it should not be replaced unless you add a valid, reliable source to it.

When not to remove content[edit]

Bad sources[edit]

These guidelines refer only to material that is either completely unsourced, or that references material which is unrelated to the material itself. If there is a source that you believe to be misrepresented, or not reliable, or invalid for any other reason, the matter should be raised on the article's talk page.

If you cannot access the source in question, then assuming good faith implies that you should assume that the source has been used appropriately, in the absence of any specific evidence to the contrary.

Where removing material would cause the article to be eligible for speedy deletion[edit]

If removing unsourced material would leave an article in a state in which it meets any of the Criteria for Speedy Deletion, then it is not generally appropriate to remove that material under the verifiability policy and these guidelines. In this case, it is more appropriate to discuss the problem on the relevant talk page.

Discussion on the talk page didn't help![edit]

Following a reasonable opportunity for discussion, there should be some consensus as to a course of action. If there is not, then there are a number of other avenues within wikipedia to gain further input (should list some – SamBC 02:48, 19 July 2007 (UTC)). Do not take a lack of response as permission to do whatever you see fit.

In the case where removing material would lead to speedy deletion, a good avenue for addition feedback is the Articles for Deletion process.

See also[edit]