User:Ems57fcva/sandobox/No original research

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Wikipedia is not the place for original research. Citing sources and avoiding original research are inextricably linked: the only way to verify that you are not doing original research is to cite sources who discuss material that is directly related to the article, and to stick closely to what the sources say.

Wikipedia:No original research is one of three content policies. The other two are Wikipedia:Neutral point of view and Wikipedia:Verifiability. The three policies are complementary, jointly determining the type and quality of material that is acceptable in the main namespace. They should therefore not be interpreted in isolation from each other, and editors should try to familiarize themselves with all three.

What is original research?[edit]

Original research refers to subjects and edits whose presense in Wikipeidia results in Wikipedia introducing to the world (to quote Wikipedia's founder Jimbo Wales) a "novel narrative or historical interpretation".

Another way of wording this is to say that this policy is violated when a editor makes Wikipedia act as a primary or seconday source for a novel narrative.

Novel narratives[edit]

In this context, a "novel narrative" refers to

  • untested theories;
  • data, statements, concepts and ideas that have not been published in a reputable publication; or
  • any new interpretation, analysis, or synthesis of published data, statements, concepts or ideas.

More to the point, a Wikipedia entry (including any part of an article) counts as original research if it proposes ideas; that is:

  • it introduces a theory or method of solution; or
  • it introduces original ideas; or
  • it defines new terms; or
  • it provides new definitions of old terms; or
  • it introduces an argument without citing a reputable source, which purports to refute or support another idea, theory, argument, or position; or
  • it introduces or uses neologisms.

Primary and secondary sources[edit]

The second part of the original research definition relates to the sourcing of the narrative. After all, every idea was original and every narrative novel at some time or other. Furthermore, the process of synthesizing various sources of data as one edits an article invariable generates a new (or novel) narrative. So what is being referred to in this policy is the contents of the narrative, and not necessarily the wording used.

The point is that the basic contents (including any neologisms) of an article (or portion of an article) should not be original or novel by the time it gets into Wikipedia. Therefore all entries are expected to be supported by appropriate primary and secondary sources, which are defined as follows:

  • Primary sources present original information or data, such as archeological artifacts; photographs; historical documents such as a diary, census, transcript of a public hearing, trial, or interview; tabulated results of surveys or questionnaires, records of laboratory assays or observations; records of field observations.
  • Secondary sources present a generalization, analysis, synthesis, interpretation, or evaluation of information or data.

So narratives that announce novel ideas, results, and theories to the world are therefore primary sources of that information, while source that elaborate on primary sources are secondary sources of information. However a report based on independent primary and secondary sources, even if it is novel, it now "source-based research," and it is fundamental to writing an encyclopedia. So research that consists of collecting and organizing information from existing primary and/or secondary sources is strongly encouraged. In fact, all articles on Wikipedia should be based on information collected from primary and secondary sources.

Although the existance of outside primary and secondary source is necessary for Wikipedia not to act as a primary or secondary source of a given piece of information, it is not sufficient to ensure this. To be admissible into Wikipedia, the content must have become a part of the public landscape. After all, Wikiepdia is not a indisciminate collector of information. To have become part of the public landscape, the content must either have been found to be newsworthy or to have been covered extensively in other writings. To count in this regard, the source must have been relevant and reliable. Coverage in a supermarket tabloid is not the same thing as coverage in a major market newspapaper or a national news magazine.


In some cases, where an article (1) makes descriptive claims that are easily verifiable by any reasonable adult, and (2) makes no analytic, synthetic, interpretive, or evaluative claims, a Wikipedia article may be based entirely on primary sources (examples would include apple pie or current events), but these are exceptions.

In most cases, however, Wikipedia articles are based on both primary and secondary sources. In order to avoid doing original research, and in order to help improve the quality of Wikipedia articles, it is essential that any primary-source material, as well as any generalization, analysis, synthesis, interpretation, or evaluation of information or data has been published by a reputable publication that is available to readers either from a website (other than Wikipedia) or through a public library. It is very important to cite sources appropriately, so that readers can find your source and can satisfy themselves that Wikipedia has used the source correctly.

What constitutes a legitimate source is context dependent. For exmple, science fiction magazines are a legitimate source of primary and secondary data about science fiction writers and their work. However, they usually are not usable as either a primary or secondary source of information on scientific theories (although the references in the "science fact" articles in one may point you to appropriate sources). Newspapers and popular magazines also are doubtful as sources for highly technical information, but the presense of a theory of idea in such venues is evidence that Wikipedia will not act as a primary or secondary source for the idea if it is included in Wikipedia.

In some cases, there may be controversy or debate over what constitutes a legitimate or reputable authority or source. In such cases, articles should provide an account of the controversy and of the different authorities or sources. Such an account also helps ensure the article’s neutral point of view.

"No original research" does not mean that experts on a specific topic cannot contribute to Wikipedia. Indeed, Wikipedia welcomes experts and academics. However, such experts do not occupy a privileged position within Wikipedia. They should refer to themselves and their publications in the third person and write from a neutral point of view (NPOV). They must also cite publications, and may not use their unpublished knowledge as a source of information (which would be impossible to verify).

Why do we exclude original research?[edit]

  1. It's an obligation of Wikipedia to its readers that the information they read here be reliable and reputable, and so we rely only on credible or reputable published sources. See Wikipedia:No original research#What counts as a reputable_publication? for a discussion on how to judge whether a source is reliable.
  2. Credible sources provide readers with resources they may consult to pursue their own research. After all, there are people who turn to encyclopedias as a first step in research, not as a last step.
  3. Relying on citable sources helps clarify what points of view are represented in an article, and thus helps us comply with our NPOV policy.
  4. Relying on credible sources also may encourage new contributors. For example, if someone knows of an important source that the article has not drawn on, he or she may feel more confident in adding important material to the article.

Specific applications[edit]

The role of expert editors[edit]

"No original research" does not mean that experts on a specific topic cannot contribute to Wikipedia. On the contrary, Wikipedia welcomes experts. We assume, however, that someone is an expert not only because of their personal and direct knowledge of a topic, but because of their knowledge of published sources on a topic. This policy prohibits expert editors from drawing on their personal and direct knowledge if such knowledge is unverifiable. If an expert editor has published the results of his or her research elsewhere, in a reputable publication, the editor can cite that source while writing in the third person and complying with our NPOV policy. Otherwise, we hope expert editors will draw on their knowledge of other published sources to enrich our articles.

When does content become acceptable for articles?[edit]

All of the above may be acceptable content once it has become a permanent feature of the public landscape. For example:

  • the ideas have been published and discussed in relevant magazines and/or journals; or
  • the ideas have become newsworthy: they have been independently reported in newspapers or news stories (such as the cold fusion story).

If you have an idea that you think should become part of the corpus of knowledge that is Wikipedia, the best approach is to arrange to have your results published in a peer-reviewed journal or reputable news outlet, and then document your work in an appropriately non-partisan manner.

The fact that we exclude something does not necessarily mean that material is bad – Wikipedia is simply not the proper venue for it. We would have to turn away even Pulitzer-level journalism and Nobel-level science if its authors tried to publish it first on Wikipedia.

How to deal with Wikipedia entries about theories[edit]

For theories:

  1. state the key concepts;
  2. state the known and popular ideas and identify general "consensus", making clear which is which, and bearing in mind that extreme-minority theories or views need not be included.

Unstable neologisms, and ideas stemming from one individual who is not an authority, or from a small group of such individuals, should either go to "votes for deletion" (because they "fail the test of confirmability", not because they are necessarily false), or should be copyedited out.

What counts as a relevant publication?[edit]

A relevant publication is one that can be considered as a reasonable and reputable primary or seconary source of information on the topic. What constitutes a relevant source is somewhat dependent on the subject are of the topic. In most cases, newspaper and news magazine articles are appropriate secondary sources of information, and the presense of a topic in such popular venues is strong evidence of the topic being encyclopedic.

In the scientific world, reputable publications include peer-reviewed journals, books published by a known academic publishing house or university press, and divisions of a general publisher which have a good reputation for scholarly publications.

Note however that even in the above the work must be in a proper context. A biology journal article can be cited for new model of the phylogeny of life. However, if that theory relies on a new kind of physics then that needs justification elsewhere.

For non-academic subjects, it is impossible to pin down a clearer definition of "relevant". In general, most of us have a good intuition about the meaning of the word. A magazine or press release self-published by a very extreme political or religious group would often not be regarded as "reputable". For example, Wikipedia would not rely only on an article in a Socialist Workers' Party magazine to publish a statement about President Bush being gay. However, if that same claim was in The New York Times, then Wikipedia could refer to the article (and to the sources quoted in the article). The political magazine could, however, be used as a source of information about the party itself.

In determining if a publication is reputable, ask yourself some questions when you are evaluating a publication. Is it openly partisan? Does it have a large or very small readership? Is it a vanity publisher? Is it run principally by a single person, or does it have a large, permanent staff? Does it seem to have any system of peer review, or do you get the feeling that it shoots from the hip? If you heard that the publication you are about to use as a source was considering publishing a very negative article about you, would you (a) be terrified because you suspect they are irresponsible and do not fact-check; or (b) feel somewhat reassured because the publication employs several layers of editing staff, fact-checkers, lawyers, an editor-in-chief, and a publisher, and will usually correct its mistakes? If it is (a), do not use it as a source. If it is (b), it is what Wikipedia calls "reputable".

When dispute arises regarding whether a publication is relevant of reputable, you can attempt to get more editors involved and work toward a consensus. There is no clear definition, but don't ignore your intuition.

Related policies and guidelines[edit]

Wikipedia:Neutral point of view[edit]

The prohibition against original research limits the possibility of an editor presenting his or her own point of view in an article. Moreover, by reinforcing the importance of including verifiable research produced by others, this policy promotes the inclusion of multiple points of view in an article. Consequently, this policy reinforces our neutral point of view policy.

In many cases, there are multiple established views of any given topic. In such cases, no single position, no matter how well researched, is authoritative. When incorporating research into an article, it is important to situate the research; that is, to provide contextual information about the point of view, indicating how prevalent the position is, and whether it is held by a majority or minority.

It is not the responsibility of any one editor to research all points of view. But when incorporating research into an article, it is important that editors situate the research; that is, provide contextual information about the point of view, indicating how prevalent the position is, and whether it is held by a majority or minority.

Disputes over how established a view is[edit]

The inclusion of a view that is held only by a tiny minority may constitute original research because there may be a lack of sufficiently credible, third-party, published sources to back it up.

From a mailing list post by Jimbo Wales, Wikipedia's founder:

  • If a viewpoint is in the majority, then it should be easy to substantiate it with reference to commonly accepted reference texts;
  • If a viewpoint is held by a significant minority, then it should be easy to name prominent adherents;
  • If a viewpoint is held by an extremely small (or vastly limited) minority, it doesn't belong in Wikipedia (except perhaps in some ancillary article) regardless of whether it's true or not; and regardless of whether you can prove it or not.

See Wikipedia:Neutral point of view for more detailed information.


The quality of an encyclopedia depends on its accuracy and reliability. Our NPOV policy acknowledges that people may disagree as to what "the truth" is. People can, however, agree that certain points of view exist. By relying on the research of others, and by presenting facts, assertions, theories, ideas, claims, opinions, and arguments that have been published by a reputable publisher, the no-original-research policy and our verifiability policy reinforce one another.

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth.

See Wikipedia:Verifiability for more detailed information.

Wikipedia:Cite sources[edit]

In order for people to be able to verify the research represented in a Wikipedia article, they must know where, outisde of Wikipedia, they can find the research. That is, they need to know the sources. Since this policy encourages editors to draw on previously published sources, it reenforces our cite sources policy.

See Wikipedia:Cite sources for more details and rationales, as well as an example of citation style (although formatting is of secondary importance).

Origin of this policy: the opinion of Wikipedia's founder[edit]

Wikipedia's founder, Jimbo Wales, has described original research as follows:

The phrase "original research" originated primarily as a practical means to deal with physics cranks, of which of course there are a number on the Web. The basic concept is as follows: It can be quite difficult for us to make any valid judgment as to whether a particular thing is true or not. It isn't appropriate for us to try to determine whether someone's novel theory of physics is valid; we aren't really equipped to do that. But what we can do is check whether or not it actually has been published in reputable journals or by reputable publishers. So it's quite convenient to avoid judging the credibility of things by simply sticking to things that have been judged credible by people much better equipped to decide. The exact same principle will hold true for history" (WikiEN-l, December 3, 2004).

An article that makes no new low-level claims, but nonetheless synthesizes work in a non-standard way, is effectively original research that I think we ought not to publish. This comes up most often in history, where there is a tendency by some Wikipedians to produce novel narratives and historical interpretations with citation to primary sources to back up their interpretation of events. Even if their citations are accurate, Wikipedia's poorly equipped to judge whether their particular synthesis of the available information is a reasonable one. ... I think in part this is just a symptom of an unfortunate tendency of disrespect for history as a professional discipline. Some who completely understand why Wikipedia ought not create novel theories of physics by citing the results of experiments and so on and synthesizing them into something new, may fail to see how the same thing applies to history" (WikiEN-l, December 6, 2004).

On talk pages and project pages[edit]

Like most Wikipedia policies, No original research applies to articles, not to talk pages or project pages, although it is regarded as poor taste to discuss personal theories on talk pages.

A few pages have been created devoted to research into issues related to Wikipedia; for instance Wikipedia:Statistics Department and Wikipedia:WikiProject Wikidemia. These pages may contain original research; that is, research for which there is no reference other than projects in the Wikipedia namespace. Original research that does not have Wikipedia as its object should, however, be avoided on these pages too.

Other options[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]