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Simple lists of cultural references to a popular subject are inappropriate for Wikipedia. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, and cultural impact is an important part of encyclopedic coverage of a subject. However, many articles contain (or consist solely of) lists of appearances of a subject in various cultural works. Regardless of whether these list is bulleted, or found in telegraphic paragraphs, they are not appropriate for inclusion in Wikipedia.

Why these lists are inappropriate[edit]

They are against the fundamental principles of Wikipedia[edit]

The five pillars of Wikipedia state that Wikipedia is not a trivia collection. Some may differ on the interpretation of "trivia", however, without some independently cited relevance to the subject at hand, the burden of proof for relevance is not met, and an entry must be considered "inconsequential".

They violate Wikipedia policy[edit]

Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate collection of information.

These lists will also sometimes contain a degree of analysis of the work in question, commenting on the sympathetic nature of a portrayal, or drawing a contrast to another work. Without citations, these analyses are original research, and cannot be permitted.

Thus, a list entry without an independent citation will either be

  • without analysis, in which case it doesn't contain any information about cultural relevance and doesn't meet the requirements for notability and verifiability, and should be removed; or
  • with original analysis, in which case it must be removed per WP:NOR.

They self-propagate[edit]

Most people learn by imitation, new editors especially. When people see these kinds of lists for one topic, they think they are acceptable, and will create them elsewhere.

Common counter-arguments[edit]

The article itself is a reference[edit]

The issue here is not one of truth, it's one of relevance. One cannot use a primary source as justification for relevance to anything but an article about the source itself. Usage elsewhere must be justified by an independent reference.

They show how something had had an impact[edit]

A list of references, with neither original research not independent citations, can only serve to indicate that a subject has been referenced. Indicating the character of those references will require analysis, which must be from an independent source to be acceptable.

They serve as a useful starting point[edit]

Starting with a list of references and searching for a independent sources to justify their existence is intellectually dishonest, and considered begging the question. The scholarly way to construct such an article is to start with an overview of the appropriate literature, and then write the article based on a fresh reading. Lists of trivial mentions have nothing in common with a cited, scholarly analysis, and trying to keep them will just encourage more such additions, without fostering any additional research.

But the subject is notable[edit]

WP:NOTE dictates "whether a topic is notable enough to be included in Wikipedia as a separate article". In order to have a separate article on the cultural impact of a subject, that impact must be documented in reliable, independent sources. Primary source examples are not acceptable as a justification for inclusion.

Elitists like you don't want to cover popular culture[edit]

This essay concerns a particular kind of list that frequently accumulates in various articles. Cited analyses of cultural impact are always welcome in Wikipedia, but lists of trivial references simply do not address that need.

They prevent the main article from being polluted[edit]

This is not generally considered a valid argument, and some editors will volunteer to help keep articles clean of such references. Further, editors will still sometimes add cultural references to the main article, even when there is a separate place to do so.

The number of entries in the list proves notability in popular culture[edit]

Perhaps, but not in any way acceptable to Wikipedia. This argument can be distilled as follows: We are taking a number of pieces of information (appearances in cultural works), collecting them, and using them to prove a point (that the cultural impact of something is notable). This means that editors are taking a number of primary works, and using them to generate a new conclusion. That is the definition of original research, and it is wholly unacceptable in Wikipedia.

What makes a good "cultural impact" article[edit]

Good cultural impact articles are made like all other good Wikipedia articles: survey the literature, and weave cited secondary material into a structured whole. The cultural impact of a subject's appearance in media should be supported by reliable, critical analysis of that impact. A good cultural article will use this such analysis to generate an overall picture of relevance, rather than merely listing appearances in an attempt to convince the reader of importance.

An example of such an article is Cultural influence of Plato's Republic.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


This page was originally written by User:Eyrian.