Template:Tertiary

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 This tertiary source reuses information from other sources but does not name them.

Template documentation[view] [edit] [history] [purge]

Purpose[edit]

This template – used inside a <ref>...</ref> tag – indicates that a specific cited source, while presumptively correct and better than no source at all, could be of insufficient reliability because it is clearly based on other work yet its own sources are unspecified or authority unclear. Thus, it would be better to replace it with a source that cites (or more clearly cites) its own sources, and/or is more authoritative.

It is intended for tertiary sources, especially those that are not recent encyclopedias or other works with dedicated editorial staff or peer reviewers to ensure that the works are accurate and based on reliable sources themselves.

Usage[edit]

This template is appended inside and at the end of a <ref...>...</ref> source citation in an article:

Article text.<ref name="foo">{{cite news|title=Title|first=Art|last=Thor}}{{tertiary}}</ref>

Results in:

Article text.[1]
...

References
  1. ^ Thor, Art. "Title".  This tertiary source reuses information from other sources but does not name them.


It is not used as an inline template in article prose:

Wrong: Article text.<ref name="foo">{{cite news|...}}</ref>{{tertiary}}

It is not formatted as such a template, and the potential issue it flags is only of interest to Wikipedia editors and to those who care to investigate the reliability of the sources of our articles, thus it should not be "in the face" of all readers.

Parameters[edit]

  • |1=type – An optional parameter (it does not need to be named unless it contains a "=" character), the value of which is a word or phrase describing the type of cited resource, such as article or sidebar or book (especially useful for noting that some aspect of a work has this problem but not the whole work).
    {{tertiary|flow chart}}

    or

    {{tertiary|1=flow chart}}

    yields:

     This tertiary source flow chart reuses information from other sources but does not name them.

  • |biblio=yes (or =y or any other value) – An optional parameter that indicates that the source in question does provide a bibliography or some other indication of overall sources, but neglects to specify what facts come from what source. This is less of a concern in most cases than not citing sources at all, so this parameter should thus only be used when the claim (controversial, technical, extraordinary) needs very particular sourcing. This parameter and the two below are mutually exclusive.
    {{tertiary|biblio=yes}}

    yields:

     This tertiary source reuses information from other sources without citing them in detail.

  • |summary=yes (or =y or any other value) – An optional parameter that indicates that the source in question summarizes another source – e.g., is an abstract, a factual (versus opinional) review, or other descriptive but informative compression of the gist – without quoting or citing the material in detail. This parameter is mutually exclusive with the one above and below.
    {{tertiary|summary=yes}}

    yields:

     This tertiary source summarizes another source in low detail.

  • |basic=yes (or =y or any other value) – An optional parameter that indicates that the source in question is basic, introductory, or otherwise non-authoritative and "got the idea somewhere" (e.g., a sports journalism article making a claim about physics). While the source probably is not lying, a more serious one needs to be found for the claim. This parameter is mutually exclusive with the above two.
    {{tertiary|basic=yes}}

    yields:

     This tertiary source is not authoritative on the topic.

  • |date=July 2016 or |{{subst:DATE}} – Like other maintenance templates, this one takes a date parameter. This template does not sort tagged articles into dated categories, but the date may be of interest for backlog clearance purposes.

When to use this template: the sourcing should be more reliable[edit]

Tertiary sources' principal problems are:

  1. They over-summarize, glossing over important distinctions.
  2. They age quickly, and often contain obsolete information by the time they are even published.
  3. They may over-inclusive and uncritical (accepting questionable information in an attempt to be "more comprehensive"), or under-inclusive (presenting only an unbalanced selection of information due to excessive "curation").
  4. They may include information outside the competence of the work's authors/editors to properly assess, often from other tertiary sources.

Unless such a problem is evident, a tertiary source is probably adequate, if it used within the bounds of policy about such sources. Many tertiary sources are adequate for basic information. Absent conflicting information in higher-quality sources:

  • Encyclopedias of biology, for example, are sufficient sources for the general meaning of a biology term, though they may not be for exact application in a particular subfield.
  • A reputably published book of historical timetables is an adequate source for the fact that kings of two countries died the same year.
  • Published television schedules in newspapers or on cable TV service websites are sufficient for establishing the airdate of an episode.
  • A collegiate or unabridged dictionary is an adequate source for whether a particular usage is prepositional or conjunctive if it provides parallel examples.

Nevertheless, it is virtually always better to replace a citation to a tertiary source with a secondary one.

Common examples of sources for which this template may be appropriate[edit]

  • An overview of a cat, dog, horse, etc. breed in a pet owner's guide, children's animal book, or a pet fanciers' magazine, summarizing the alleged and often fanciful claims about the history and traits of the breed, but not naming specific published authorities as sources (in-text or in a bibliography). They frequently cite no sources at all, and if they do they're rarely independent of the subject and often promotional.
  • A biographical profile of a sports figure on the official website of a sporting league, relied upon for various personal details like marital status and favorite color. For sports statistics, such a source may generally be considered primary, but non-statistical bio details of this sort often rely on incomplete or dated sports journalism work or statements allegedly made by the subject in ephemeral broadcasts we can't pinpoint for verification. Biographies of living people have an elevated verifiability standard.
  • Snippets of interesting alleged facts presented in bullet, list, or other summary format, as is often found towards the front of news, popular science/technology/computing, and entertainment/celebrity magazines. Such "news bites" are very frequently incomplete, biased, or even outright wrong and later retracted. They may be "engineered" to create negative or positive slanted media coverage, especially when based on press releases or gossip. Headlines often make hyperbolic claims not supported in the actual article.
  • Newspaper articles and news broadcasts that provide non-common-knowledge information about a subject without any indication of where this information came from, and which are not the product of the writer's own direct investigative journalism. "Press cannibalism" (recycling of news from one source by another with no fact-checking) is a common and sometimes serious problem, as in the Negativland/David Brom scandal, and statistical charts in news material are always suspect, due to be cherry-picking by journalists and biases introduced by the ultimate sources.
  • Introductory textbooks that use imprecise, over-broad, or analogizing wording to get a point across, in a way that does not agree with current professional literature on the matter. Two common examples: Below-university texts on subatomic particles use a variety of metaphoric approaches to explaining electrons and the nucleus, decreasingly accurate the younger the intended audience; scholastic and remedial works on English grammar and usage use a lot of pseudo-linguistic wording, and repurpose precise linguistic terms in "fuzzy" ways, that any linguist would shred.

When not to use this template: for actual disputes[edit]

This is not a dispute template, it is a citation and verifiability maintenance template that serves as a simple identifier of categorically "weak" and therefore potentially problematic sources that are best replaced with better ones as time and availability of material permit. If a particular source is specifically challenged as being inaccurate or misused, use Template:Verify source, Template:Dubious or some other appropriate inline dispute template, or simply remove the questionable material (especially in a biography of a living person) and discuss the matter on the article's talk page. If it is simply unknown by an editor whether or not a source added by another properly cites its own sources, this is a matter for talk page discussion between editors and/or reading of the source by the editor who has the concern.

In particular, analysis, evaluation, interpretation, and synthesis require secondary sources. If a tertiary source is being misused for any of these, that is a dispute, not a "maybe we can find a somewhat better source later" matter.

See also[edit]