Wikipedia talk:Identifying reliable sources

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Where should I ask whether this source supports this statement in an article?
At Wikipedia:Reliable sources/Noticeboard. Don't forget to tell the editors the full name of the source and the exact sentence it is supposed to support.
Do sources have to be free, online and/or conveniently available to me?
No. Sources can be expensive, print-only, or available only in certain places. A source does not stop being reliable simply because you personally aren't able to obtain a copy. See Wikipedia:Reliable sources/cost. If you need help verifying that a source supports the material in the article, ask for help at Wikipedia:WikiProject Resource Exchange or a relevant WikiProject.
Do sources have to be in English?
No. Sources can be written in any language. However, if equally good sources in English exist, they will be more useful to our readers. If you need help verifying that a non-English source supports the material in the article, ask for help at Wikipedia:Translators available.
I personally know that this information is true. Isn't that good enough to include it?
No. Wikipedia includes only what is verifiable, not what someone believes is true. It must be possible to provide a bibliographic citation to a published reliable source that says this. Your personal knowledge or belief is not enough.
I personally know that this information is false. Isn't that good enough to remove it?
Your personal belief or knowledge that the information is false is not sufficient for removal of verifiable and well-sourced material.
Is personal communication from an expert a reliable source?
No. It is not good enough for you to talk to an expert in person or by telephone, or to have a written letter, e-mail message, or text message from a source. Reliable sources must be published.
Are there sources that are "always reliable" or sources that are "always unreliable"?
No. The reliability of a source is entirely dependent on the context of the situation, and the statement it is being used to support. Some sources are generally better than others, but reliability is always contextual.
What if the source is biased?
Sources are allowed to be biased or non-neutral. Only Wikipedia articles are required to be neutral. Sometimes "non-neutral" sources are the best possible sources for supporting information about the different viewpoints held on a subject.
Does every single sentence need to be followed by an inline citation?
No. Only four broad categories of material need to be supported by inline citations. Editors need not supply citations for perfectly obvious material. However, it must be possible to provide a bibliographic citation to a published reliable source for all material.
Are reliable sources required to name the author?
No. Many reliable sources, such as government and corporate websites, do not name their authors or say only that it was written by staff writers. Although many high-quality sources do name the author, this is not a requirement.
Are reliable sources required to provide a list of references?
No. Wikipedia editors should list any required sources in a references or notes section. However, the sources you are using to write the Wikipedia article do not need to provide a bibliography. Most reliable sources, such as newspaper and magazine articles, do not provide a bibliography.

Can a description with a citation in a source be used in Wikipedia, if the description is not supported by the citation?[edit]

A description (South Korea remains a major destination for travelling Japanese men who exploit children through prostitution.) is written in a source (ECPAT report) with a citation (a blog which is a translation of However the citation discusses nothing about the child prostitution at all.

Before initiating a general Policy/Guideline issue here, I would like you to comment as a case study at Talk:Prostitution in South Korea#Reverted removal of the Japanese sex tourists in South Korea section. All suggestions are welcomed.―― Phoenix7777 (talk) 01:48, 30 October 2014 (UTC)

It doesn't matter what the (now-current) version of the blog is, because (a) we're not using that blog ourselves and (b) we don't require our sources to tell us how they came by their information in the first place (see the last item in the /FAQ).
One could, I suppose, make the claim that by screwing up their citations (or by getting their citations right, but the blog has been edited since then?), that they might not be an example of ideal fact-checking.
One would also want to consider whether or not this is the only reliable source in the world that says this, too. WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:33, 30 October 2014 (UTC)
That last comment is the key. We may have grounds to question the reliability of the ECPAT report (for this specific sentence)... but the solution is to simply find another reliable source for the statement. There are lots of sources that note how that SK is a destination in the Japanese sex tourism industry, and for child-sex tourism in particular. Blueboar (talk) 12:17, 30 October 2014 (UTC)
Where, though, is the requirement that this solution be applied? WP:DUE requires that reliable sources disagreeing with or differing from the statement be given appropriate weight, but I don't see a requirement anywhere that another source confirming the statement be added if a WP editor disagrees with what ECPAT (acknowledged as an RS in relation to this topic) said. I don't know whether ECPAT got this right or not, but it would be improper for me to question it based on my own knowledge/belief/opinion/POV. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 23:41, 9 November 2014 (UTC)


I broached this topic at the talk page for RS/N but the primary discussion should clearly be here, as the discussion now in Archive46 makes clear.

Should the following be placed in this policy:

Headlines of news articles are not intrinsically part of news articles, but should be treated separately as sources rather than being used for claims cited to the news article. Collect (talk) 14:12, 1 November 2014 (UTC)


I think this is in conformance with the discussion held previously, noting that headlines are not generally written by the authors of news articles, and may misrepresent the actual claims which the full article might support. Collect (talk) 14:12, 1 November 2014 (UTC)

  • No. We can't claim that it is always the case that headlines are written by a different author, and even if they were, it is the publisher who is ultimately responsible for headlines. The reliability of a source is not based just on the author, but on the publication as a whole. (Some sources don't event cite authors, such as in The Economist and others) - Cwobeel (talk) 15:24, 1 November 2014 (UTC)
    • Did you read the prior discussion wherein it was shown that 1. headlines are written to gain attention, and are not considered to be part of articles by journalism texts, 2. where it was shown that they frequently do not accord with statements in the article 3. are generally written by headline writers who are not fact-checked etc.? Cheers. Collect (talk) 11:54, 2 November 2014 (UTC)
  • The problem with headlines is that they can be taken out of context. Citing a headline is similar to cherry picking one sentence from a news article and ignoring what the rest of the article says. So... I would oppose treating the headline as a separate source. They must be considered in the context of the publication as a whole. Blueboar (talk) 14:00, 2 November 2014 (UTC)
    Um -- as they can (and often are) "taken out of context" (i.e. the claim in the headline does not necessarily match what the article actually says) why not support this mild wording pointing this out? It does not ban headlines from being cited, only states the obvious fact that the headline and the article are not a single cohesive and precisely equivalently fact-checked unit. Collect (talk) 14:33, 2 November 2014 (UTC)
    Because the proposed wording does not actually point out what the real problem is. That may have been your intent... but if so, you did not achieve your goal. I think the proposed wording would actually encourage editors to cherry pick sensational headlines and take them out of context (when we should be discouraging that practice). I can see POV pushers pointing to your wording and saying "But I'm not citing the article as a whole... I am citing just the headline... which is a separate source!" Blueboar (talk) 14:57, 2 November 2014 (UTC)
  • Question What problem is this trying to solve? Can you point to a concrete example of where this is an issue? A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 15:34, 2 November 2014 (UTC)
  • No. A reliable source is reliable not by virtue of being written by a single author but by virtue of being published by an organisation that has a well-deserved reputation for publishing true/accurate information. It's the organisation that matters, not the author. The fact that the author of the article and the composer of the headline might be two different people has nothing to do with anything. A publisher that stands behind an article will likewise stand behind a headline. Nomoskedasticity (talk) 16:53, 2 November 2014 (UTC)
    Actually, according to the guideline, both publisher and author affect reliability. Blueboar (talk) 17:12, 2 November 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose again. The sentence makes a claim of fact ("Headlines of news articles are not intrinsically part of news articles") that cannot be substantiated in any reliable source. In fact, putting headline is the most important part of an article into your favorite web search engine should give you an idea of how many people (especially marketing professionals) believe exactly the opposite—that the headline is not only part of the article, but actually the most important part. If Collect wanted to write something like, "At larger news outlets, the headlines are often written by someone other than the journalist, and that person, far too often, doesn't know anything about the subject except what he just read", then I doubt that many (non-editor) journalist would disagree very strongly. But lets not make claims of facts that are objectively wrong: The headline is part of the article, even if it happened to be written by someone else. WhatamIdoing (talk) 22:54, 2 November 2014 (UTC)
    From the prior discussion read [1], and note that journalism texts uniformly point out the problems with headlines. [2] has "Newspaper headlines are difficult and costly to write and often dangerous to publish. Headlines can mislead readers and sometimes hurt feelings and provoke lawsuits." "Randall Hines and Jerry Hilliard, in a study of editorial quality, examined the extent to which Tennessee newspapers observed established guidelines for writing headlines. They learned that dailies failed to observe traditional guidelines about 30 percent of the time and non-dailies about 40 percent.(5) Theodore E. Conover, in his book on graphics, condemned headlines claiming that "The traditional headline form is difficult to write and often it is necessary to use inaccurate or inappropriate words because of the rigid unit count."(6) ." "Headlines are error prone. In a 1964 study of inaccuracies in one week's issue of the Gainesville (Florida) Sun it was shown that headlines contained incorrect facts (42 percent of errors) and distortion and exaggeration (34 percent of errors).(7) ." " Headlines and leads are too often misleading. F.T. Marquez studied headline accuracy by comparing headline and story content. He found that 25 percent of headlines in a sample of 292 stories were misleading or ambiguous.(12) In a telephone survey by Edward Smith and Gilbert Fowler, 237 respondents were read 10 headlines and asked to describe what they thought the story was about. The respondents either failed to receive a message from the headline or got an incorrect message 42 percent of the time.(13)." "John Merrill and Ralph Lowenstein, in listing propaganda techniques they say are sometimes used in the media, claim that "So many headlines are twisted, biased, distorted, and otherwise rigged, that one is led to believe that headlines bear about as much resemblance to their stories as the stories; bear to the reality they purport to report."(17) Other Editor & Publisher articles show how accurate grabber headlines can mislead readers,(18) how headline puns mislead(19) and how headline sports jargon "... can detract from the readability and the meaning of what we are trying to communicate."(20) ." "Steve Pasternack summarized the problem saying "... a moderately sized headline can significantly damage a reputation, regardless of what the article states."(25) ." [3] " A study by Gilbert Cranberg found that of 680 stories, 128 of them (just under 19%) had inaccurate headlines or contained errors evidently introduced during editing." [4] "Factual errors also tended to be substantive: misquotations, incorrect numbers, and inaccurate or misleading headlines were among the most commonly cited mistakes." [5] "The Times has also been afflicted with the bane of all newspapers - headlines that didn't match news stories. That failing served as the basis for 8 percent of the Notes. For instance, a Times copy editor in 1997 was attempting to write a headline to match a story about America's leading colleges and universities defending their use of affirmative action in their admissions and came up with: "62 Top Colleges Endorse Bias in Admissions." It took the Times only one day to admit that "`bias,' as a term for affirmative action, was neither impartial nor accurate. It should not have appeared."(15) In 1990 the Times reported about a book by a KGB defector who said that Harry L. Hopkins, the confidant of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was an unwitting agent of major significance for the Soviet Union, but that role, the Times said in a subsequent Editors' Note, did not justify the headline: "Roosevelt Aide Called an Unwitting Spy."(16) " etc. Cheers. Collect (talk) 23:58, 2 November 2014 (UTC)
    Sure, there are problems galore with headlines. But none of that said anything like "Headlines are not part of the article", which is what you have actually proposed to put in the guideline. If you want to put "Headlines are not part of the article" in the guideline, then you need to dig up some reliable sources that say "Headlines are not part of the article". NB that "Headlines are not part of the article" is not the same thing as "Headlines are frequently misleading, erroneous, biased, twisted, distorted, incorrect, inaccurate, and otherwise just plain bad". WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:03, 3 November 2014 (UTC)
  • Comment I'd suggest something along the lines of "Avoid using news article headlines as sources as they are generally not reliable." A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 00:16, 3 November 2014 (UTC)
  • How about "Headlines may sometimes be simplistic or even misleading, and should not be used for contentious statements not otherwise supported by the article in question"? AndyTheGrump (talk) 00:25, 3 November 2014 (UTC)
    That would work for me. It has the advantage of being accurate and even verifiable, which makes it a significant improvement over "Headlines are not part of the article". WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:03, 3 November 2014 (UTC)
  • No to the RFC's proposed wording. Collect is making a dog's breakfast of this again. The last time this came up, there was general agreement that headlines should generally be looked at with extreme caution and generally avoided as sources for fact, as they are often loose summaries of the material they are attached to. The fact that they are sometimes written by other journalists has absolutely nothing to do with anything, and is a pointless avenue of discussion. I still think something like this says all there has to be said about general avoidance of headlines: Newspaper headlines should be used with care, and only where they are directly supported by the text of the associated article. Avoid including content found only in a newspaper's headlines and not in the associated article bodies. __ E L A Q U E A T E 01:41, 3 November 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose per WP:GROUNDHOGDAY and WP:OTHERPARENT. We just had a long discussion about headlines as reliable sources. The conclusion was that "headlines should, at the very least, be treated cautiously and taken 'with a pinch of salt'" but that "there is not a consensus for any sort of outright prohibition on the use of headlines as sources". What has changed since then? How does this current proposal build on that recent consensus? I can't see that it does, in any way. It looks more like Collect trying for a do-over while failing to mention the prior, recent consensus discussion. In any case, as others have pointed out, the categorical claim idea that headlines are "not intrinsically part of news articles" is dubious, if not an outright falsehood, and thus shouldn't be written into policy. MastCell Talk 05:09, 3 November 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose Thus line seems to make little sense at least if the intent is to point out that headline alone without the context of its associated article may not be reliable source. This is because it just suggest a separation without really spelling out its consequences. If however the intent is to establish a headline as separate (reliable) source without the context of the associated article, then that is a complete no-go as it essentially boils down to cherry picking lines out of context, which is an inappropriate handling of sources. In short the suggested either misses its intent or its intent is completely unacceptable.--Kmhkmh (talk) 13:05, 3 November 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose as too weak. Can anyone point to an example where citation of an article headline, rather than the body of the article, led to an improvement of Wikipedia? (I exclude the case of famous headlines that are themselves the topic of discussion.) I've been here for 12 years and I can't think of an example. Headlines are poison; why would anyone want to allow them as sources at all? Zerotalk 00:59, 10 November 2014 (UTC)

New Proposal

Headlines should not be used for contentious statements not otherwise supported by the article in question.
Avoiding any statement of reasoning, and using suggestions made here about the wording. Collect (talk) 23:00, 5 November 2014 (UTC)
  • If we write something like this into policy, there will be endless wikilawyering about what constitutes a "contentious" statement, and what level of "support" is required in the article body. Before we go down that road, can you supply some concrete examples of the problem this language is intended to remedy? Do we have a pattern of editors misusing headlines? If so, please present some evidence of it (in the form of diffs and/or links). We are spending an inordinate amount of time on this, and we've probably already passed the dead-horse threshold, so I think it's fair to ask why. MastCell Talk 06:26, 6 November 2014 (UTC)
    I agree about the problem with "contentious" but I disagree that there is no problem to solve. As a veteran of the Israel-Palestine section (want to see my scars?) I can tell you that it is a regular event for someone who can't actually read an article (due to a paywall for example) to cite it anyway on the basis of the headline. This practice so often leads to a misleading claim about the source that outlawing it altogether would be a big improvement. In the newspaper business, headlines are not part of articles and are frequently written by a person not involved in the writing of the article or the investigation leading to it. Even worse, headlines are often deliberately "cute" and many sub-editors prefer a good pun over precision. I would ask "what is the advantage to Wikipedia of allowing headlines to be used as sources at all?" Zerotalk 00:50, 10 November 2014 (UTC)
    Zero, I'd be happy to see some reliable source that says news heads aren't part of the story. I spent more than an hour looking for such sources, and I came up with zero. (NB that "written by someone else" and "not part of the article" are not the same thing. I want a reliable source that actually says "not part of the article".)
    The solution to the conflicts you mention is for someone (not necessarily the person who added it) to get a copy of said sources and find out what they say, rather than assuming that they're wrong. It is tolerably rare to see a head that says "Alice won the election" followed by a story that does not support it. We could even get organized enough to ask our editors who live in those areas to help us find these sources. WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:05, 12 November 2014 (UTC)
    No, it is the same thing, at least to the extent that matters for us. The reason why we consider newspaper articles to be reliable is that they are written by trained journalists who have investigated the facts behind the story. After the story is written by a journalist, it is passed to the editorial staff who do extra things that include writing a headline. (That process is really easy to source; I assume you don't dispute it.) So the headline does not share the properties that cause us to consider the story reliable. Now, consider your example: headline says "Alice won", body says "Alice didn't win". Would you support an editor who cited the headline for the wikipedia text "Alice won"? If you wouldn't, then you agree with me. Zerotalk 07:53, 12 November 2014 (UTC)
    These problems are already covered by the existing guideline. A newspaper whose headlines don't line up with its articles is not a reliable source, because it lacks good editorial oversight. Likewise, an editor who cites an article without reading it is violating our basic behavioral expectations—we don't need to rewrite guidelines to deal with that (I'm also curious to see links to the situation you're referring to; while I don't question your honesty, I've learnt from experience not to take on faith any allegation made by disputants in the Israeli-Palestinian arena without seeing the evidence). Be that as it may, the situations you describe are already covered and do not require us to rewrite our guidelines. MastCell Talk 17:05, 12 November 2014 (UTC)
    Passing comment in case anyone ever reads this, perhaps years later: The reason why we consider newspaper articles to be reliable is that they are fact-checked by the very same editor whom you accuse of being unable to write a passably accurate headline. Check out the guideline: "written by a trained journalist" is mentioned nowhere in it. "Fact-checked" (i.e., by someone other than your "trained journalist") and "subject to editorial control" permeates the guideline. WhatamIdoing (talk) 06:00, 22 November 2014 (UTC)
  • What about: Take care not to cite headlines out of context with the rest of the article that follows them... or similar wording. Blueboar (talk) 14:26, 6 November 2014 (UTC)
  • Wikilawyering about the word "contentious" can be avoided by deleting the word "contentious". If a statement isn't in the body of an article, it isn't in the article. Contentiousness is a red herring. So, to be precise:
    Headlines should not be used for statements not otherwise supported by the article in question. Zerotalk 01:05, 10 November 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose As best as I can tell, this appears to be a solution in search of a problem.[6] A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 01:28, 10 November 2014 (UTC)
  • Well I don't know if its a solution in search of a problem. And to the extent it is it's reasonable to not clutter up our rules. But AFAIK it is true that headlines are written by the editor (or the copyeditor) and not the reporter, as a rule, unless the news business has changed recently. That's the editors job. The reporter's job is to report the story. The headline-writer's job is to summarize it in the headline, and according to certain rules for headlines that the publication uses. Different people. And you do get some howlers and misrepresentations. I certainly would say that headlines aren't reliable sources for statements of fact BY THEMSELVES. If the material is not also in the body text, you certainly can't cite the headline. If people are doing that they should stop! If we need a rule to make them stop, then fine, otherwise common sense should prevail: use the body text only. Would it possible to just insert "body text" somewhere instead of adding a whole clause? How about changing "the piece of work itself (the article, book);" to "the body text of the work itself (the article, book);"? Or something? Herostratus (talk) 01:03, 12 November 2014 (UTC)
  • Support - Common sense, really, for anyone who has read many articles at all and would notice that headlines often are misleading. Not sure why this is controversial. DreamGuy (talk) 04:55, 12 November 2014 (UTC)
    • Again, if a newspaper is in the habit of publishing misleading or deceptive headlines, then it is not a reliable source. I have yet to see anyone provide an example of where this has been an actual problem, which makes me wonder why so much effort is being expended to push this "solution". Recall that this is at least the third attempt to write this material into the guideline, the last two having been shot down by consensus as unwieldy or needless. MastCell Talk 17:08, 12 November 2014 (UTC)
How about WP:Reliable sources that used headlines about Jodie Foster being gay or lesbian, even though, as the sources show below those headlines, Jodie Foster never publicly stated that she is gay or lesbian? It's the same for Amber Heard and others. Headlines often are misleading or otherwise inaccurate, and this is the case for WP:Reliable sources, as well as poor sources. Flyer22 (talk) 17:23, 12 November 2014 (UTC)
Arguable. Generally, a headline is a summary (eg., when a female says she "came out" and introduces the woman she shares her life and children with - its summarized), so then the issue is, is it reasonable summary, and some outlets may be better or not better at that. Alanscottwalker (talk) 17:48, 12 November 2014 (UTC)
Arguable indeed, and problematic, as Talk:Jodie Foster/Archive 3, Talk:Jodie Foster/Archive 4, Talk:Jodie Foster/Archive 5 and the current talk page of that article show. And as the Amber Heard talk page debates show, WP:Reliable sources simply assumed that she is lesbian, and used headlines describing her as such, even though her coming out speech did not use such language, and we now know that she has dated men, is open to dating men, and would rather not label herself with a sexual orientation (publicly at least). Flyer22 (talk) 18:01, 12 November 2014 (UTC)
Wait a minute—this is not a "headline" problem, since most of the sources cited in the Foster and Heard biographies describe them as "gay"/"lesbian" in both the headline and the article body (e.g. [7], [8], etc). So while I agree with you that we should exercise more care in dealing with sensitive matters like the sexual orientation of living people, the proposed change to this guideline would be totally irrelevant to the problem you've described. MastCell Talk 18:29, 12 November 2014 (UTC)
In your "18:29, 12 November 2014 (UTC)" post above, you stated "most of the sources." As you know, "most" is not "all." I'm not even sure that "most" applies in this case, since many sources simply state "comes out" to play it on the safe side regarding Foster; this seems to be because there was a lot of debate regarding her coming out speech. But either way, some of the WP:Reliable sources that reported on the aforementioned Jodie Foster and Amber Heard cases reported them as gay or lesbian in the headline only, while then talking about their coming out speeches, acknowledging or showing that these women did not state that they are gay or lesbian; these sources show their coming out speeches in full, in part, either by text or video, or both. Take, for example, this The Seattle Times source (reporting what the Associated Press stated); it uses the heading "Foster reveals she's gay, suggests she's retiring," and then, immediately under that, states, "Jodie Foster came out without really coming out." That is currently the first source used in the Personal life section of the Jodie Foster article for the coming out material. Take, for example, this The Advocate source, this Us Weekly source and this NDTV source regarding Heard. Many sources were like that for Heard. This ABC News states in its heading "Amber Heard Latest to Come Out in Hollywood," but, as this Google search page currently shows, that heading used to state "Amber Heard, Latest Star to Come Out as a Lesbian in Hollywood"; this means that the source changed its heading, likely after Heard talked about dating men and not wanting to label her sexual orientation. And this CBS source about Heard, which is currently in her Wikipedia article, is like a double heading matter to me, rather than a heading and body matter. Flyer22 (talk) 19:23, 12 November 2014 (UTC)
This is exactly my point. Unless you're proposing that we also rewrite policy to exclude the use of "double headings", the proposed change won't fix the problem you're describing. On the other hand, it will open up a huge can of wikilawyering about what constitutes a "headline", and what constitutes "adequate support" for a headline in the article body. MastCell Talk 20:00, 14 November 2014 (UTC)
  • I would support Colin's wording above, as a very succinct indication of the problem. Personally, I would go further in specifying the unreliability of headlines, but at least this makes the general situation clear and offers a specific guideline for the most problematic cases. It was mentioned above that sources with unreliable headlines are unreliable sources; while true, even for reliable sources the headlines are very apt to reflect a matter of opinion more than the article text: after all, their purpose is to attract attention. DGG ( talk ) 00:33, 14 November 2014 (UTC)
    • I'd almost certainly support Colin's wording too, since Colin is a remarkably astute and thoughtful editor. But I don't see that Colin (talk · contribs) has contributed to this discussion. I assume you're intending to support Collect's wording? I have yet to see anyone provide evidence that this is a problem worth rewriting our guidelines to address, and I am concerned that this proposed change will impose a heavy burden of wikilawyering on the rest of us. MastCell Talk 20:00, 14 November 2014 (UTC)

Q re this page[edit]

I do apologise but I am very new to Wiki as such I am checking my Q relates to identifying reliable sources but I am directed to the talk page, now I am on the talk page and highlighted above 'this is the talk page for discussing improvements to the Identifying reliable sources page' just who do I need to talk to when I keep getting redirected again to ask a Q in the first instance if someone can help --Ab747000 (talk) 00:39, 7 November 2014 (UTC)

No problem Ab747000. If you're want to talk to other editors about a specific source, that you want to use on a specific page, go here: Wikipedia:Reliable sources/Noticeboard. It's a noticeboard where you'll get more help sorting out specific questions from more editors. Read some of the other questions on that page and you'll get the hang of it. (This talk page is for discussing changes or improvements to the overall guidance we give generally, on the guidance page.)__ E L A Q U E A T E 01:16, 7 November 2014 (UTC)

WP editors calling assertions by RSs into doubt[edit]

@Blueboar: suggeested n a section above, "We [meaning WP editors] may have grounds to question the reliability of [a cited acknowledged RS in relation to the topic] (for this specific sentence)." That, I believe, would be original research -- using material—such as facts, allegations, and ideas—for which no reliable, published sources have been offered in order to challenge a particular assertion by a cited RS. WP:DUE describes how assertions by other sources which are contrary to or which would bring into doubt assertions by a cited RS should be handled (my characterization of that for purposes here).

WP editors are not reliable sources. WP editors are probably among the most unreliable of unreliable sources. Opinions/POVs/judgements by WP editors about individual assertions made by sources considered reliable for a topic do not in themselves hold any weight whatever in impugning the reliability of those individual assertions by sources considered reliable for a topic. Contrary opinions/POVs/judgements expressed by other sources also considered reliable for the topic do have weight, and should be given due weight. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 22:05, 10 November 2014 (UTC)

Of course any editor can question whether any source is reliable for a particular statement, regardless of whether it's generally found reliable for other things. There's nothing wrong with Blueboar expressing doubt about whether a source is reliable for a certain statement; it's a requirement for all editors to make assessments like these, constantly, in discussion or alone. Characterizing editors weighing reliability as OR is wrong-headed. It's required to edit in the first place.

Now if you're saying editors (within consensus) can't determine who we judge to be a reliable source for a particular claim, then who would? Who then decides what reliable sources are reliable enough to decide what other sources are reliable? Should we add nested levels of citations for the sources of the citations themselves (as The New York Times found to be reliable by Professor Wimperschnootz who is vouched for by Professor McDeedee who we heard is good from...)? This is rabbit-hole silliness. Editors (within consensus) are always ultimately going to be the ones who decide if any single particular source should be considered reliable enough for any particular claim. There's no way around it. As we aren't infallible, we add citations so that readers have the ability to check what we're basing our editorial choices on. Editors aren't reliable for article material, but we are the only ones available to judge what sources we consider reliable enough to repeat in a context (in negotiated consensus with each other, of course). __ E L A Q U E A T E 23:02, 10 November 2014 (UTC)

Shorter: No source is blanket considered reliable for every claim it could possibly make. Assessing whether a particular source could be considered reliable for specific individual claims is routine editing, regardless of whether the source was considered reliable for other things.__ E L A Q U E A T E 23:19, 10 November 2014 (UTC)


Here is a report of a peer-reviewed (and presumably copy-edited) journal article where the phrase "(Should we cite the crappy Gabor paper here?)" was included in the finished work. The journal was Ethology.

I guess my point is there is peer review and then there is peer review, and there's probably a bigger drop in reliability from The New England Journal of Medicine and The University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople Review of Multidisciplinary Ethnic Studies then there is from The University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople Review of Multidisciplinary Ethnic Studies and your Uncle Dwight's grocery list.

I'm not sure if we ought to change

When available, academic and peer-reviewed publications, scholarly monographs, and textbooks are usually the most reliable sources. However, some scholarly material may be outdated, in competition with alternative theories, or controversial within the relevant field.


When available, respected academic and peer-reviewed publications, scholarly monographs, and textbooks are usually the most reliable sources. However, some scholarly material may be outdated, in competition with alternative theories, controversial within the relevant field, or of indifferent quality.

but maybe. Herostratus (talk) 01:19, 12 November 2014 (UTC)

I wonder what someone like User:MastCell or User:Colin would make of that. With their work on MEDRS over the years, I suspect that they've seen just about everything.
My initial thought is that "respected" would be loved by a certain class of POV pushers, and that "of indifferent quality" is nothing more than the truth (but is it a truth we want to acknowledge here?). WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:11, 12 November 2014 (UTC)
All journals are going to have occasional editorial collapses. If they're rare they don't usually affect overall reputation and level of "respect". The journal in your example is going to have about the same amount of academic respectability next month as it did last month, despite their blooper. It is a reminder that RS aren't somehow infallible, but that's true whether it's New England or North Dakota. Changing the guidance would change nothing of substance here, and might cloud the original points. __ E L A Q U E A T E 02:41, 12 November 2014 (UTC)
Hah. Since I was pinged, here are my thoughts, in no particular order. I think it's fairly common to scatter commentary like this throughout a manuscript when one is drafting it. I certainly do it, as a way of communicating informally with coauthors who aren't physically on-site. Of course, I also go through and remove those comments before submitting a manuscript, in order to avoid embarrassment. At the same time, as the Slate article correctly notes, most quality journals employ editors and proofreaders who work on a manuscript after it has been accepted for publication, and tidy it up (in particular, references often need to be converted to the "house" format; grammatical errors need to be fixed, especially when the primary author is not a native English speaker; and tables and figures often need to be touched up). I suppose smaller journals, like Ethology, don't splurge on proofreading staff. I guess I would hope that, as a matter of simple common sense, we don't treat Etholgy as equivalent to Science or NEJM. If we do, then all the policy-tweaking on Earth won't save us. And finally, my favorite example is from the Slate article: "RESULTS: In this study, we have used (insert statistical method here) to compile unique DNA methylation signatures..." That's the most honest description of statistical methods I've read in an omics study in quite some time. MastCell Talk 04:55, 12 November 2014 (UTC)
It's an isolated gaffe. It doesn't discredit Ethology in a fundamental way. This particular one has gotten attention because it's funny, but the NEJM also issues corrections for its typos and omissions. "Reliable source" does not mean "has never made a public error", it means they have a reputation for only rarely making mistakes, and admitting and correcting when they make them. __ E L A Q U E A T E 17:51, 12 November 2014 (UTC)

"relatively reliable"[edit]

There is no such thing as a completely reliable source and, unless the source is really trying, there is no such thing as a completely unreliable source.

The text of the project page currently begins, "Wikipedia articles should be based on reliable, published sources"

I think more accuracy would be achieved if it began with something like, "Wikipedia articles should be based on published sources that are considered to be relatively reliable".

Suggestions of wording would be appreciates but top sources may get things and there is always the potential that other sources, perhaps backed with video or other evidence, may provide good usable information. Sources should not necessarily be polarised between good and bad and the accuracy and reliability of materials may depend on the individual researcher/reporter/writer/editing staff involved. Gregkaye 18:09, 12 November 2014 (UTC)

What you say is true, and I've said so in many comments here over the years. Unfortunately, it is not easy finding a fully satisfactory way to specify this. "relatively" reliable is not really an unambiguous concept-- it can mean either As compared to The Truth, or As compared to other sources. Further, sources are typically of different degrees of reliability for different types of information, even in the same reference. A bio on an official source connected with the subject is very likely to be accurate about the birthplace and date, and considerably less so about the person's importance. The standards for reliability also vary, particularly with respect to BLPs, and even more particularly with respect to negative information in BLPs. The same researcher or writer will be more accurate in some places than others; for example, academic historians will be more authoritatively reliable in their specialty than in making broad generalizations in general works. There are many other qualifying factors, and how to say this right will take some discussion. The present wording "Contextual" is in my opinion a reasonable way to say it, but we shouldindeed go into more detail. DGG ( talk ) 00:23, 14 November 2014 (UTC)
You could try something like, "Wikipedia articles should be based on published sources that are reliable for the content they're being cited for." WhatamIdoing (talk) 06:04, 22 November 2014 (UTC)
The problem with that is that it opens up a whole can of worms - "that source isn't reliable, because it is wrong". Now sometimes that is a legitimate argument (e.g. when a source makes an obvious error), but often it is used when a source doesn't concur with the TRUTHTM being pushed by a POV-warrior. I suspect that what we really want in sources is that they are expected to be reliable, unless there is strong evidence to the contrary. So for example we expect an academic historian specialising in the English Civil War to know when the Battle of Naseby was fought, and accordingly we cite him or her on trust for the date of the battle, lacking other evidence. AndyTheGrump (talk) 06:36, 22 November 2014 (UTC)

An RfC on industry websites the management of which are outsourced to web development and PR firms[edit]

FYI: Pointer to relevant discussion elsewhere

Please see Talk:Aspromonte goat#RFC on Italian dairy & farming industry sources for a discussion of whether a website produced by an industry consortium and managed by an Internet publishing/marketing firm, is a presumptively reliable or unreliable primary source for (non-promotional) information. This could have broad implications, because outsourcing of online publication is increasing, not decreasing, as more and more companies see no point in having an on-staff webmaster when firms provide these services on a contractual basis with entire teams of people, with many collective years of experience, and the cost of whom are shared across numerous clients.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:56, 21 November 2014 (UTC)

A mining industry consultant who claimed no direct ties to Imperial Metals did industry-oriented edits/POV deletions on Mount Polley mine disaster but he's a member of the mining association and works as a consultant in the field, and has a history of POV the line between contracted and so-called "volunteer" editing on such articles seems very iffy. Similarly, a tide of industry-generated "oil sands" RS were used to mandate the Athabasca "tar sands" in Wikipedia as "oil sands"....when industry funds research and publication using its chosen/misleading jargon, and the deluge of resulting "sources" is used to mandate such POV language, it's an ongoing problem....and there will be those here who defend those repetitive and self-referential sources as "legitimate" instead of being industry-generated.Skookum1 (talk) 04:45, 22 November 2014 (UTC)
I believe that SMcCandlish is asking a different question: If an industry group hires a firm to create a website for them (rather than hiring an employee to create a website in-house), then is that website reliable or unreliable? For example, if it's okay to cite the "Ruritanian Widget Manufacturers Association" website, written by Joe Employee and Jane Webmaster, for a factual claim (e.g., that manufacturers in Ruritania make a million widgets a year), then is it okay to cite the same information from the "Ruritanian Widget Manufacturers Association" website, only this time the website was written by the employees of Professional Websites R Us instead of by Joe Employee and Jane the in-house webmaster? WhatamIdoing (talk) 06:40, 22 November 2014 (UTC)
Suffice to say I had quite the time correcting a false claim on certain wine-region articles, where the defender of the mistake (a claim that the Sonoran Desert extends into British Columbia, which is counter-factual as the Sonoran Desert ends at the Colorado the real world) fielded article after article from wine and travel magazines as "reliable sources", all clearly playing from the same industry-based press releases. The editor combating me claimed no affiliation to the wine point is that it's not just overt consultants and companies, who havedisclosed, but those who do not, or as with the Mt Polley item make excuses and evasions and disavowels while acting quite red-handedly as COI/POV.....this is also rife on political bio articles of all kinds, anywhere, where it's cler that "p.r. operatives" are at play, whether as SPAs or "lurkers".Skookum1 (talk) 07:33, 22 November 2014 (UTC)

List of scammy academic journals[edit]

Hey guys - I just came across this list of possibly predatory open-access journals after reading this article on scam scholarly publishing. Is there anywhere on a policy or resource page that it would be good to link it? –Roscelese (talkcontribs) 02:17, 24 November 2014 (UTC)

A link and short discussion was added a year ago to WP:MEDRS (under discussion of biomedical journals), though I suspect it would be helpful here too, perhaps to the section about questionable sources? Yobol (talk) 00:34, 25 November 2014 (UTC)
Yes check.svg DoneRoscelese (talkcontribs) 18:18, 27 November 2014 (UTC)

Demur. The language would open up a lovely field for Wikilawyers to play in regarding "reputation for fact-checking" for sources in general. We already have WP:RS/N where such concerns as may be reasonable may be raised. Collect (talk) 19:11, 27 November 2014 (UTC)

But sources in general are supposed to have a reputation for fact-checking, that's part of the policy. I don't understand your objection - could you clarify? (The addition isn't meant to supplant or supplement existing policy, but rather to head off some of these disputes at the pass by warning users to check before adding material.) –Roscelese (talkcontribs) 20:10, 27 November 2014 (UTC)
And RS/N can handle questions. The "list" in the source given includes a large number of absolutely reputable publishers of peer-reviewed journals - and the proposed language could be used to remove them even though they meet WP:RS. Adding such quibbles on this page is, IMHO, less than wise. Cheers. Collect (talk) 20:48, 27 November 2014 (UTC)
I would concur with the logic of Collect. I think the place for the centralized discussion is RS/N, rather than on a lot of various subpages all over the diverse English wikipedia. N2e (talk) 22:15, 27 November 2014 (UTC)
I think you're misunderstanding the purpose of adding this language, N2e. Collect, which sources on this list do you believe have unfairly been labeled predatory? –Roscelese (talkcontribs) 00:40, 28 November 2014 (UTC)
(We could also cite the same language to this page, which is a guideline for identifying scam journals.) –Roscelese (talkcontribs) 00:47, 28 November 2014 (UTC)
A spot check of the nearly 300 publishers shows most are, indeed, "peer-reviewed journal publishers." We already have WP:RS/N where a source may be questioned - but indirectly tarring a great many legitimate publishers is the wrong way to proceed. And "open access" is most assuredly not "proof of scam." "Peer-review" generally does not operate as a "scam" last I checked. Cheers -- let WP:RS/N do its job. Collect (talk) 00:52, 28 November 2014 (UTC)
Do you mean that they are peer-reviewed, or that they claim to be peer-reviewed but in fact are perfectly willing to publish a paper consisting entirely of "Get me the f--- off your mailing list" for a fee? Serious question here, since this is the entire point of adding this section –Roscelese (talkcontribs) 01:02, 28 November 2014 (UTC)
That is the key distinction, and it's a pity that other editors don't see it. This is a necessary clarification of existing policy, and we can't have bone-headed objections getting in the way. Nomoskedasticity (talk) 23:13, 28 November 2014 (UTC)
We have WP:RS/N and it does not seem to be overrun with the horrid journals you seem to think only bone-headed editors defend. Perhaps you can tell us precisely how many RS/N discussions have been held on the journals being discussed? If the number is small, I suggest the massive change is not worthwhile. (Note to MC -- snark about editors being "naïve" is not necessary here or anywhere on Wikipedia - I now have had more than three decades on-line, and more than fifty years working with computers, and I note that being "naïve" is not one of my qualities) Cheers. Collect (talk) 00:02, 29 November 2014 (UTC)
Those are odd qualifications to emphasize. I've found that people who spend huge amounts of time online and working with computers tend be more, rather than less, naive about the way the real world operates. In any case, I'm not sure that personal experience is relevant here. Predatory journals exist, and they feed off the naivete (and hubris) of people who assume that a journal which describes itself as "peer-reviewed" cannot possibly be a scam. MastCell Talk 02:38, 29 November 2014 (UTC)
There has been numerous related discussions in Talk:Predatory open access publishing. Quoting my own opinion, succinctly: "Beall's list is a one man's list, run by a self-appointed individual, with no committee oversight." It lacks transparency, because it's not disclosed how each journal/publisher fares with regard to the criteria set forth for categorizing predatory; it claims to have review board but the members are secret. It's notable enough to deserve a Wikipedia article, but it should not become a Wikipedia guideline -- general or medical -- for the reasons above. Fgnievinski (talk) 00:54, 29 November 2014 (UTC)
  • I think the addition in question is reasonable. Predatory open-access publishing is a fact of life, as numerous reliable sources attest (e.g. New York Times, Nature, etc). Obviously not all open-access journals are predatory, but some are. These journals play off the naive attitude expressed by Collect above—the idea that a journal which claims to be "peer-reviewed" cannot possibly be a "scam". Since these naive attitudes appear prevalent among Wikipedians, even those who frequent WP:RS/N, I think it's reasonable to add some language to this guideline (as already exists at WP:MEDRS) deprecating the use of predatory journals. The objections to such an addition don't make a lot of sense to me, at least as they're expressed here. MastCell Talk 06:32, 28 November 2014 (UTC)
Consulting Jeffrey Beall's list can be one of many useful ways of evaluating the reliability of a given source and we would do Wikipedia's editors a service by making knowledge of and access to this list accessible. I support an addition to this guideline which warns Wikipedia's editors of the existence of low quality "predatory" journals and providing a link to Jeffreys Beall's list. -- Ed (Edgar181) 01:06, 29 November 2014 (UTC)
The problems with predatory publishing has received increasing attention in academic circles for years, and is a particular problem for Wikipedia as most lay editors will just look at the publisher website, see the words "peer-review" and assume they are reliable, when it could not be farther from the truth. An article published in Science found that many of these publishers in fact do not do any true peer review at all, and that "the results show that Beall is good at spotting publishers with poor quality control". Given these facts, I do not see why we would not want to prevent poor quality journals from being cited here. Yobol (talk) 05:11, 29 November 2014 (UTC)