Wikipedia:WikiProject Alternative medicine/Standards of Quality

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Our Standard of Quality Guidelines (SQG) voluntarily allow editors to impose more restrictive requirements on CAM than those required for Wikipedian articles in general.

Use of these SQGs by editors is both voluntary and optional. But, using these SQGs will allow editors to objectively talk about what is wrong with the latest edit without resorting to personal attacks. You can easily cite a half dozen of these SQG numbers in your edit summaries or in detail on talk pages.

The intent of these SQGs is to streamline the normal editing process.

There are a number of reasons for these more restrictive guidelines.

  1. CAM tends to be a controversial topic which is in a state of never-ending edit wars.
  2. CAM articles are about the topics of health and medicine. Many different organizations have developed guidelines that should be followed when discussing a topic that has the potential for adversely affecting the health of any individual reading information provided on the Internet.

In this document, CON will be used to refer to any criticism directed against CAM. CON arguments might reflect the position of the American Medical Association or the opinions of editors schooled in the basic sciences of Western culture.

All of these Standard of Quality Guidelines have come from direct quotes of long established Wikipedian guidelines. All this project page has done is draw attention to what these guidelines are and what other people on Wikipedian think can potentially benefit the public who will be reading these CAM articles.


Neutral Point of View (NPOV) Guidelines[edit]

CAM articles voluntarily comply with the Wikipedian NPOV Guidelines in order to present a NPOV to the public in the article.

SQG #1-No advocacy of any kind is permitted.[edit]

[Wikipedia articles are not about] propaganda or advocacy of any kind. But of course an article can 'report objectively' on what advocates 'say,' as long as an attempt is made to approach a 'neutral point of view' (What Wikipedia is not).

SQG #2-Points of view can only be presented as points of view.[edit]

  • In a neutral representation, the differing points of view are presented as such, not as facts (NPOV dispute).
  • Most importantly, they [i.e., news writers] use neutral or nonjudgemental language. Journalists view non-neutral words and unattributed statements of opinion as "editorializing" or failures of objectivity (News style).

This Wikipedian guideline refers just as much to the CON side as it does to the CAM point of view. Articles in Wikipedia are not for propaganda or advocacy of any kind, with emphasis on any.

NPOV is operationally tested for by applying the following questions to the CAM article under review.

  1. Does the article promote CAM/CON propaganda or advocacy of any kind?
  2. Are the expressed CAM/CON viewpoints presented as conclusions, or as just one possible point of view?
  3. Are criticisms properly directed at the subject of the article, or on side issues?
  4. How much weaselspeak was used in the article?
  5. Does the text and manner of writing insinuate that the CAM/CON viewpoint is more correct than another?
  6. Are the talk pages being used for partisan CAM/CON wranglings that have nothing to do with improving the article? (Replies to common objections)

SQG #3-Proponent's and opponent's viewpoints are accurately presented without controversy and are to the point.[edit]

An article can be written in neutral language and yet omit important points of view (NPOV tutorial).

You can operationally test for this sub-topic by applying the following questions to the CAM article under review.

  1. Were the various viewpoints, no matter how bizarre or repugnant, on the topic of the article accurately provided for (Guidelines for controversial articles)?
  2. Were the CAM views accurately provided for, without any hint of advocacy?
  3. Were the CON views accurately provided for, without any hint of advocacy?

Attribute Guidelines[edit]

The Attribute Guidelines apply to both the Controversial Topic and Health & Medical Topic Guidelines. They allow editors to evaluate to quality of evidence supporting assertions made in the article.

SQG #4-To attribute means to footnote an assertion.[edit]

To attribute means to specify who stands behind a claim (NPOV tutorial). References to sources of information are provided.

SQG #5-A footnote may reference a book, newspaper or magazine article, online web site, or a citation to a published research paper.[edit]

A reference maybe a book, newspaper, magazine, online web site, or a citation to a published research paper. (Principle #4 of the HONcode, Purpose #4 of the Wikipedia medicine standards, Guidelines for controversial articles).

SQG #6-Sources of information cited must be reliable and not idiosyncratic.[edit]

When establishing events or actions, reference should be made to a reliable source. Ideally, this would be an independent scholarly work, but most of us don't have access to this kind of material (Guidelines for controversial articles).

The perfect Wikipedia article...

  • is well-documented. It has references. The references are not idiosyncratic to the author but are the references that are most often used in the field. (The perfect article)

You can operationally test for these sub-topics by applying the following questions to the CAM article under review.

  1. Is there a reference section at the bottom of the article?
  2. Have all the major points of controversy, and any health claims made, in this article been supported with footnotes to references?
  3. Does the article reference tabloid quality web sites or other sources of information?
  4. Does the article reference publicity stunts?
    • Do the referenced web sites reference their own assertions? Or, is the article simply passing along Internet gossip that has never been supported with valid references?
  5. Do all references referenced actually apply to the subject referenced?

Controversial Topic Guidelines[edit]

CAM articles voluntarily comply with the Wikipedian Guidelines for controversial articles in order to prevent edit wars. And, the easiest way to prevent an edit war is to prevent controversy from entering into the article (See Guidelines for controversial articles).

Compliance with the Wikipedian Guidelines for controversial articles is operationally tested for by applying the following questions, under the following sub-topics, to the CAM article under review.

SQG #7-Introductory paragraphs are presented without controversy and are to the point.[edit]

  • If the article is long enough to contain several paragraphs, then the first paragraph should be short and to the point, with a clear explanation of what the subject of the page is. If further introductory material is needed before the first header, then this can be given in additional paragraphs... A common title for the first section of an article under the introductory paragraph is "Overview", although more specific section titles are generally to be preferred (Guide to Layout)
  • The perfect Wikipedia article...
    • begins with a definition or clear description of the subject at hand. This is made as absolutely clear to the nonspecialist as the subject matter itself will allow. The purpose of an encyclopedia is to codify human knowledge in a way that is most accessible to the most people, and this demands clear descriptions of what the subject matter is about. (The perfect article)
  • An article on Charles Darwin, likewise, should not begin with something like "Darwin created controversy with the publication of Origin of Species..." It should begin with something like the following:
Charles Darwin (1809 - 1882) was a naturalist and geologist who proposed the modern theory of evolution....
  • The lead should briefly summarize the article. It is even more important here than for the rest of the article that the text is accessible, and some consideration should be given to creating interest in reading the whole article (Lead section).

You can operationally test for this sub-topic by applying the following questions to the CAM article under review.

  1. Are the introductory paragraphs completely neutral?
    1. Or, are the first, second, or third paragraphs before the first section heading, straight to the point or do they contain any hint of controversy?
      • No controversy of any kind.
      • No advocacy of any kind.
      • No weaselspeak of any kind.
      • Just a straight to the point definition of the topic of the article.

SQG #8-Avoid a back-and-forth dialogue between proponents and opponents.[edit]

Since many of the topics in an encyclopedia will inevitably encounter controversy, editors should attempt to write in a manner that folds debates into the narrative rather than "distilling" them out into a separate section (Words to avoid)

You can operationally test for this sub-topic by applying the following questions to the CAM article under review.

  1. Are debates provided in bulleted lists, or have they been folded into the narrative?

SQG #9-The Information provided must be balanced.[edit]

Is the information provided in this article supported by balanced, well-referenced objective information? (Principle #5 of the HONcode, Purpose #1.1 of the Wikipedia medicine standards, an older version of alternative medicine).

You can operationally test for this sub-topic by applying the following questions to the CAM article under review.

  1. Has the primary method of the CAM treatment been identified?
  2. Have the therapeutic effects of the CAM treatments been identified?
  3. Have the medical conditions reported to be effectively treated by these CAM treatments been identified?
  4. Have the physical modes of action that could plausibly account for the therapeutic effects of these CAM treatments been identified?

SQG #10-Controversial assertions must be footnoted to sources of information.[edit]

Controversial assertions are required to be attributed. See Assertions are Attributed shown above.


Health & Medical Topic Guidelines[edit]

CAM articles voluntarily comply with the Wikipedian Health & Medical Topic Guidelines in order to increase the safety of the information provided to the public.

Compliance with the Wikipedian Health & Medical Topic Guidelines is operationally tested for by applying the following questions, under the following sub-topics, to the CAM article under review.

SQG #11-Complementary treatments are recommended.[edit]

It is explained within the article that the alternative treatment information provided is designed to complement, rather than replace, the relationship that exists between a patient and their existing physician. (Principle #2 of the HONcode, Purpose #9 of the Wikipedia medicine standards ).

Examples:

  • Alternative medicine -- Most of the entire support section suggests that complementary is preferable to alternative medicine.
  • Naturopathic Medicine -- It recognizes that conventional medicine has value for individuals who are injured, suffering from trauma, suffering from congenital or genetic disorders, and otherwise need a highly-trained individual who can intercede to help them survive and recover. The traditional naturopath practices in a complementary fashion ... Naturopaths consider these practices as being complementary rather than alternative.
  • Natural health -- Nothing about natural health prevents its alternative treatments from being used alongside conventional medical treatment. Thus, natural health can be viewed as a complementary or adjunctive form of therapy. In other words, it recognizes that conventional medicine has value for individuals who are injured, suffering from trauma, suffering from congenital or genetic disorders, and who otherwise need a highly-trained individual who can intercede to help them survive and recover.

You can operationally test for this sub-topic by applying the following question to the CAM article under review.

  • Is it explained within the article that the alternative treatment information provided is complementary: Yes or No?

SQG #12-Footnotes are required for health claims of any type.[edit]

Health claims of any type are required to be attributed. See Assertions are Attributed shown above.

Wikipedian references[edit]

  1. Section on Balance coverage in Alternative Medicine
  2. The Health On the Net Foundation -- Principles of the HONcode
  3. News style
  4. Wikipedia:Avoid weasel words
  5. Wikipedia:Establish context
  6. Wikipedia:Guidelines for controversial articles
  7. Wikipedia:Guide to Layout
  8. Wikipedia:Guide to writing better articles
  9. Wikipedia:NPOV dispute
  10. Wikipedia:NPOV tutorial
  11. Wikipedia:Replies to common objections
  12. Wikipedia:The perfect article
  13. Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not
  14. Wikipedia:Wikipedia medicine standards
  15. Wikipedia:Words to avoid