From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

This is not the current policy. That is here: WP:NPOV, WP:NOR, and WP:V. This is a draft. If you have a question about it, ask on my talk page. Ocaasi c 08:33, 22 April 2011 (UTC)

To raise issues with bias in specific articles, see the NPOV noticeboard. For advice on applying NPOV, see the NPOV tutorial. For frequent critiques and responses, see the NPOV FAQ. To discuss particular sources, see the reliable sources noticeboard. For vandalism, see WP:VAND. To raise issues with original research at specific articles, see the No original research noticeboard

The core policies jointly determine the type and quality of material that is acceptable in Wikipedia articles. These policies work in harmony: they should not be interpreted in isolation from one another, and editors should try to familiarize themselves with all of them.

All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view. Editing from a neutral point of view (NPOV) means representing fairly, proportionately, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources. NPOV is a fundamental principle of Wikipedia and of other Wikimedia projects. The fundamental principles of neutrality upon which our policies are based cannot be superseded by other policies or guidelines, or by editors' consensus.

Articles should represent majority and significant-minority viewpoints published by reliable sources in proportion to the prominence of each view. Tiny-minority views need not be included, except in articles devoted to them. Where there is disagreement between sources, in-text attribution is used: "John Smith argues that X, while Paul Jones maintains that Y," followed by an inline citation. Sources themselves do not need to maintain a neutral point of view; indeed most reliable sources are not neutral. Our job as editors is simply to present what the reliable sources say.

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth: whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true. Material must be attributable to a source with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy, which is appropriate for the claim being made. In practice you do not need to attribute everything; only quotations and material challenged or likely to be challenged must be attributed, through an inline citation which directly supports the material in question. This applies to all material in the mainspace—articles, lists, sections of articles, and captions—without exception, and in particular to material about living people. Anything that requires but lacks a source may be removed, and unsourced contentious material about living people must be removed immediately.

Wikipedia does not publish original research. The term "original research" refers to material—such as facts, allegations, ideas, and stories—not already published by reliable sources. It also refers to any analysis or synthesis of published material that serves to advance a position not advanced by the sources. This means that all material added to articles must be attributable to a reliable published source, even if not actually attributed. Despite the need to attribute content to reliable sources, you should also not plagiarize them. Articles should be written in your own words while substantially retaining the meaning of the source material.


Neutral point of view (NPOV)[edit]

Explanation of NPOV [edit]

In general, achieving what the Wikipedia community understands as "neutrality" means carefully and critically analyzing a variety of sources, then attempting to convey the results to the reader clearly and accurately. Wikipedia aims to describe disputes, but not engage in them. There are few hard-and-fast rules for doing this—much depends on the good faith of editors, who should be striving to provide information, not promote a particular cause. However, observing the following principles, together with those of verifiability, will help to achieve the level of neutrality which is appropriate for an encyclopedia.

  • Avoid stating opinions as facts. Usually, articles will contain information about the significant opinions that have been expressed about their subjects. However, these opinions should not be stated in Wikipedia's voice. Rather, they should be attributed in the text to particular sources, or where justified, described as "widespread views", etc. For example, an article should not state that "genocide is an evil action", but it may state that "genocide has been described by John X as the epitome of human evil."
  • Avoid stating seriously contested assertions as facts. If different reliable sources make conflicting assertions about a matter, treat these assertions as opinions rather than facts, and do not present them as direct statements.
  • Avoid presenting uncontested assertions as mere opinion. Uncontested and uncontroversial factual assertions made by reliable sources should normally be directly stated in Wikipedia's voice. Unless a topic specifically deals with a disagreement over otherwise uncontested information, there is no need for specific attribution for the assertion, although it is helpful to add a reference link to the source in support of verifiability. Further, the passage should not be worded in any way that makes it appear to be contested.
  • Prefer non-judgmental language. A neutral point of view neither sympathizes with nor disparages its subject (or what reliable sources say about the subject), although this must sometimes be balanced against clarity. Present opinions and conflicting findings in a disinterested tone.
  • Accurately indicate the relative prominence of opposing views. Ensure that the reporting of different views on a subject adequately reflects the relative levels of support for those views, and that it does not give a false impression of parity, or give undue weight to a particular view. For example, to state that "According to Simon Wiesenthal, the Holocaust was a program of extermination of the Jewish people in Germany, but David Irving disputes this analysis" would be to give apparent parity between the supermajority view and a tiny minority view by assigning each to a single activist in the field.

Achieving neutrality[edit]

See Wikipedia:NPOV tutorial and Wikipedia:Neutral point of view/Examples

As a general rule, do not remove sourced information from the encyclopedia solely on the grounds that it seems biased. Instead, try to rewrite the passage or section to achieve a more neutral tone. Biased information can usually be balanced with material cited to other sources to produce a more neutral perspective, so such problems should be fixed when possible through the normal editing process. Remove material only where you have good reason to believe it misinforms or misleads readers in ways that cannot be addressed by rewriting the passage. The sections below offer specific guidance on common problems.


See Wikipedia:Article titles for more on choosing an appropriate title for an article.

In some cases, the choice of name used for something can give an appearance of bias. While neutral terms are generally preferable, this must be balanced against clarity. If a name is widely used in reliable sources (particularly those written in English), and is therefore likely to be well recognized by readers, it may be used even though some may regard it as biased. For example, the widely used names Boston massacre, Tea Pot Dome scandal and Jack the Ripper are legitimate ways of referring to the subjects in question, even though they may appear to pass judgement. The best name to use for something may depend on the context in which it is mentioned; it may be appropriate to mention alternative names and the controversies over their use, particularly when the thing in question is the main topic being discussed.

This advice especially applies to article titles. Although multiple terms may be in common usage, a single name should be chosen as the article title, in line with the article titling policy (and other relevant guidelines such as geographical names). Article titles which combine alternative names are discouraged. For example, Derry/Londonderry, Aluminium/Aluminum or Flat Earth (Round Earth) should not be used. Instead, alternative names should be given due prominence within the article itself, and redirects created as appropriate.

Some article titles are descriptive, rather than being the name of something. Descriptive titles should be worded neutrally, so as not to suggest a viewpoint "for" or "against" something, or to confine the content of the article to views on a particular side of an issue (for example, an article titled "Criticisms of X" might be better renamed "Societal views on X"). Neutral titles encourage multiple viewpoints and responsible article writing.

Article structure[edit]

See the guideline Wikipedia:Manual of Style for clarification on the issues raised in this section.

The internal structure of an article may require additional attention, to protect neutrality, and to avoid problems like POV forking and undue weight. Although specific article structures are not, as a rule, prohibited, care must be taken to ensure that the overall presentation is broadly neutral.

Segregation of text or other content into different regions or subsections, based solely on the apparent POV of the content itself, may result in an unencyclopedic structure, such as a back-and-forth dialogue between proponents and opponents.[1] It may also create an apparent hierarchy of fact where details in the main passage appear "true" and "undisputed", whereas other, segregated material is deemed "controversial", and therefore more likely to be false. Try to achieve a more neutral text by folding debates into the narrative, rather than isolating them into sections that ignore or fight against each other.

Pay attention to headers, footnotes, or other formatting elements that might unduly favor one point of view, and watch out for structural or stylistic aspects that make it difficult for a reader to fairly and equally assess the credibility of all relevant and related viewpoints.[2]

Due and undue weight[edit]

Neutrality requires that each article or other page in the mainspace fairly represents all significant viewpoints that have been published by reliable sources, in proportion to the prominence of each viewpoint. Giving due weight and avoiding giving undue weight means that articles should not give minority views as much of or as detailed a description as more widely held views. Generally, the views of tiny minorities should not be included at all. For example, the article on the Earth does not directly mention modern support for the Flat Earth concept, the view of a distinct minority; to do so would give "undue weight" to the Flat Earth belief.

In articles specifically about a minority viewpoint, such views may receive more attention and space. However, these pages should still make appropriate reference to the majority viewpoint wherever relevant and must not represent content strictly from the perspective of the minority view. Specifically, it should always be clear which parts of the text describe the minority view. In addition, the majority view should be explained in sufficient detail that the reader can understand how the minority view differs from it, and controversies regarding aspects of the minority view should be clearly identified and explained. How much detail is required depends on the subject. For instance, articles on historical views such as Flat Earth, with few or no modern proponents, may briefly state the modern position, and then go on to discuss the history of the idea in great detail, neutrally presenting the history of a now-discredited belief. Other minority views may require much more extensive description of the majority view to avoid misleading the reader. Wikipedia:Fringe theories and the NPOV FAQs provide additional guidance.

Wikipedia should not present a dispute as if a view held by a small minority deserved as much attention overall as the majority view. Views that are held by a tiny minority should not be represented except in articles devoted to those views. To give undue weight to the view of a significant minority, or to include that of a tiny minority, might be misleading as to the shape of the dispute. Wikipedia aims to present competing views in proportion to their representation in reliable sources on the subject. This applies not only to article text, but to images, wikilinks, external links, categories, and all other material as well.

An article should not give undue weight to any aspects of the subject but should strive to treat each aspect with a weight appropriate to its significance to the subject. For example, discussion of isolated events, criticisms, or news reports about a subject may be verifiable and neutral, but still be disproportionate to their overall significance to the article topic. This is a concern especially in relation to recent events that may be in the news. Note that undue weight can be given in several ways, including, but not limited to, depth of detail, quantity of text, prominence of placement, and juxtaposition of statements.

From Jimbo Wales, paraphrased from this post from September 2003 on the WikiEN-l mailing list:
  • 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 does not belong in Wikipedia regardless of whether it is true or not and regardless of whether you can prove it or not, except perhaps in some ancillary article.

Keep in mind that, in determining proper weight, we consider a viewpoint's prevalence in reliable sources, not its prevalence among Wikipedia editors or the general public.

Also, if you are able to prove something that few or none currently believe, Wikipedia is not the place to present such a proof. Once it has been presented and discussed in reliable sources, it may be appropriately included. See: Wikipedia:No original research and Wikipedia:Verifiability.

Giving "equal validity"[edit]

While it is important to account for all significant viewpoints on any topic, Wikipedia policy does not state or imply that every minority view or extraordinary claim needs to be presented along with commonly accepted mainstream scholarship. There are many such beliefs in the world, some popular and some little-known: claims that the Earth is flat, that the Knights Templar possessed the Holy Grail, that the Apollo moon landings were a hoax, and similar. Conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, speculative history, or even plausible but currently unaccepted theories should not be legitimized through comparison to accepted academic scholarship. We do not take a stand on these issues as encyclopedia writers, for or against; we merely omit them where including them would unduly legitimize them, and otherwise describe them in their proper context with respect to established scholarship and the beliefs of the greater world.

Good research[edit]

Good and unbiased research, based upon the best and most reputable authoritative sources available, helps prevent NPOV disagreements. Try the library for reputable books and journal articles, and look for the most reliable online resources. If you need help finding high-quality sources for something, ask other editors on the talk page of the article you are working on, or ask at Wikipedia:Reference desk.


Neutrality assigns weight to viewpoints in proportion to their prominence. However, when reputable sources contradict one another and are relatively equal in prominence, describe both approaches and work for balance. This involves describing the opposing views clearly, drawing on secondary or tertiary sources that describe the disagreement from a disinterested viewpoint.

Impartial tone[edit]

Wikipedia describes disputes. Wikipedia does not engage in disputes. A neutral characterization of disputes requires presenting viewpoints with a consistently impartial tone, otherwise articles end up as partisan commentaries even while presenting all relevant points of view. Even where a topic is presented in terms of facts rather than opinions, inappropriate tone can be introduced through the way in which facts are selected, presented, or organized. Neutral articles are written with a tone that provides an unbiased, accurate, and proportionate representation of all positions included in the article.

The tone of Wikipedia articles should be impartial, neither endorsing nor rejecting a particular point of view. Try not to quote directly from participants engaged in a heated dispute; instead, summarize and present the arguments in an impartial tone.

Characterizing opinions of people's work[edit]

A special case is the expression of aesthetic opinions. Some Wikipedia articles about art, artists, and other creative topics (e.g. musicians, actors, books, etc.) have tended toward the effusive. This is out of place in an encyclopedia; we might not be able to agree that so-and-so is the greatest guitar player in history. But it is important indeed to note how some artist or some work has been received by the general public or by prominent experts. Providing an overview of the common interpretations of a creative work, preferably with citations or references to notable individuals holding that interpretation, is appropriate. For instance, that Shakespeare is widely considered one of the greatest authors of the English language is a piece of knowledge that one should learn from an encyclopedia. Public and scholarly critique of an artist or work, when well-researched and verifiable, helps to put the work into context and enhances the credibility of the article; idiosyncratic opinions of individual Wikipedia contributors, however, do not.

Words to watch[edit]

There are no forbidden words or expressions on Wikipedia, but certain expressions should be used with care, because they may introduce bias. For example, the word claim can imply that a statement is incorrect, such as John claimed he had not eaten the pie. Using loaded words such as these may make an article appear to favor one position over another. Try to state the facts more simply without using these words: for example John said, "I did not eat the pie." Strive to eliminate expressions that are flattering, disparaging, vague, or clichéd, or that endorse a particular point of view (unless those expressions are part of a quote from a noteworthy source).

Handling neutrality disputes[edit]

Attributing and specifying biased statements[edit]

Biased statements of opinion can only be presented with attribution. For instance, "John Doe is the best baseball player" expresses an opinion and cannot be asserted in Wikipedia as if it were a fact. It can be included as a factual statement about the opinion: "John Doe's baseball skills have been praised by baseball insiders such as Al Kaline and Joe Torre." Opinions must still be verifiable and appropriately cited.

Another approach is to specify or substantiate the statement, by giving those details that actually are factual. For example: "John Doe had the highest batting average in the major leagues from 2003 through 2006." People may still argue over whether he was the best baseball player. But they will not argue over this.

Avoid the temptation to rephrase biased or opinion statements with weasel words, for example, "Many people think John Doe is the best baseball player." But Who?, and How many? are natural objections. An exception is situations where a phrase such as "Most people think" can be supported by a reliable source.

Point of view forks[edit]

See the guideline Wikipedia:Content forking for clarification on the issues raised in this section.

A point of view fork is an attempt to evade the neutrality policy by creating a new article about a subject that is already treated in an article, often to avoid or highlight negative or positive viewpoints or facts. POV forks are not permitted in Wikipedia.

All facts and significant points of view on a given subject should be treated in one article except in the case of an article spinout. Some topics are so large that one article cannot reasonably cover all facets of the topic. For example, Evolution, Evolution as theory and fact, Creationism, and Creationism-evolution controversy are separate articles. This type of split is permissible only if written from a neutral point of view and must not be an attempt to evade the consensus process at another article.

Making necessary assumptions[edit]

When writing articles, there may be cases where making some assumptions is necessary to get through a topic. For example, in writing about evolution, it is not helpful to hash out the evolution-vs-creationism debate on every page. There are virtually no topics that could proceed without making some assumptions that someone would find controversial. This is true not only in evolutionary biology, but also in philosophy, history, physics, etc.

It is difficult to draw up a rule but the following principle may help: there is probably not a good reason to discuss some assumption on a given page, if that assumption is best discussed in depth on some other page. A brief, unobtrusive pointer might be appropriate, however.


See Wikipedia:Neutral point of view/FAQ for answers and clarifications on the issues raised in this section.

Since the neutral-point-of-view policy is often unfamiliar to newcomers—and is so central to Wikipedia's approach—many issues surrounding the neutrality policy have been covered before very extensively. If you have some new contribution to make to the debate, you could try Talk:Neutral point of view, or bring it up on the Wikipedia-l mailing list. Before asking it, please review the links below.

Controversial subjects[edit]

Wikipedia deals with numerous areas which are frequently subjects of intense debate both in the real world and among editors of the encyclopedia. A proper understanding and application of NPOV is sought in all areas of Wikipedia, but it is often needed most in these.

Pseudoscience and related fringe theories[edit]

Further information: WP:UNDUE and WP:FRINGE

Pseudoscientific theories are presented by proponents as science, but characteristically fail to adhere to scientific standards and methods. Conversely, by its very nature, scientific consensus is the majority viewpoint of scientists towards a topic. Thus, when talking about pseudoscientific topics, we should not describe these two opposing viewpoints as being equal to each other. While pseudoscience may in some cases be significant to an article, it should not obfuscate the description of the mainstream views of the scientific community. Any inclusion of pseudoscientific views should be proportionate with the scientific view. Likewise, the pseudoscientific view should be clearly described as such. An explanation of how scientists have received pseudoscientific theories should be prominently included. This helps us to describe differing views fairly. This also applies to other fringe subjects, for instance, forms of historical revisionism that are considered by more reliable sources to either lack evidence or actively ignore evidence, such as Holocaust denial, or claims the Apollo moon landing was faked.

See Wikipedia:Fringe theories#Pseudoscience for Wikipedia's established guidelines to help with deciding whether something is appropriately classified as pseudoscience.


In the case of human beliefs and practices, Wikipedia content should not only encompass what motivates individuals who hold these beliefs and practices, but also account for how such beliefs and practices developed. Wikipedia articles on history and religion draw from a religion's sacred texts as well as from modern archaeological, historical, and scientific sources.

Some adherents of a religion might object to a critical historical treatment of their own faith because in their view such analysis discriminates against their religious beliefs. Their point of view must be mentioned if it can be documented by notable, reliable sources, yet note that there is no contradiction. NPOV policy means that Wikipedia editors ought to try to write sentences like this: "Certain adherents of this faith (say which) believe X, and also believe that they have always believed X; however, due to the findings (say which) of modern historians and archaeologists (say which), other adherents (say which) of this faith now believe Z."

Several words that have very specific meanings in studies of religion have different meanings in less formal contexts, e.g. fundamentalism and mythology. Wikipedia articles about religious topics should take care to use these words only in their formal senses to avoid causing unnecessary offense or misleading the reader. Conversely, editors should not avoid using terminology that has been established by the majority of the current reliable and notable sources on a topic out of sympathy for a particular point of view, or concern that readers may confuse the formal and informal meanings. Details about particular terms can be found at words to avoid.

History of NPOV[edit]

NPOV is one of the oldest policies on Wikipedia. Nupedia's "Non-bias policy" was drafted by Larry Sanger in spring or summer of 2000. Wikipedia's first NPOV policy goes back to at least December 2001. "Avoid bias" was one of the first of Wikipedia's "rules to consider" proposed by Sanger. Jimbo Wales elaborated the "avoid bias" rule with a statement about "neutral point of view" in the early months of Wikipedia: see copy in web archive (note: that page also contains comments by other Wikipedians up to 12 April 2001) – in subsequent versions of the NPOV page, Jimbo's statement was known as the "original formulation" of the NPOV policy.

A more elaborate version of the NPOV policy was written by Larry Sanger, at Meta-Wiki in December 2001: see "Neutral point of view--draft," Larry Sanger's version of 20 December 2001. After several transformations (see edit history of "draft" at Meta) the version by Larry Sanger et al. was moved to this page on 25 February 2002, and was further edited (see edit history of this page), resulting in the current version. Another short formulation was introduced by Brion Vibber in meta, 17 March 2003: see Meta's "Neutral point of view," version of 17 March 2003. Development of the Undue weight section started in 2003, for which a mailing list post by Jimbo Wales on 29 September 2003 was instrumental.

Jimbo Wales qualified NPOV as "non-negotiable", consistently, throughout various discussions: November 2003, April 2006, March 2008 (compare also User:Jimbo Wales/Statement of principles #1).


The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth: whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true.

Material must be attributable to a source with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy, which is appropriate for the claim being made. In practice you do not need to attribute everything; only quotations and material challenged or likely to be challenged must be attributed, through an inline citation which directly supports the material in question.[3] For how to write citations, see Citing sources.

This policy applies to all material in the mainspace—articles, lists, sections of articles, and captions—without exception, and in particular to material about living people. Anything that requires but lacks a source may be removed, and unsourced contentious material about living people must be removed immediately.

Despite the need to attribute content to reliable sources, you must not plagiarize them. Articles should be written in your own words while substantially retaining the meaning of the source material.

When a reliable source is required[edit]

Anything challenged or likely to be challenged[edit]

This policy requires that all quotations and any material challenged or likely to be challenged be attributed to a reliable published source using an inline citation. Cite the source clearly and precisely, with page numbers where appropriate. Be mindful of copyright. Read the sources, understand them, internalize them, then summarize what they say in your own words. When paraphrasing closely or quoting, use in-text attribution.

Burden of evidence[edit]

The burden of evidence lies with the editor who adds or restores material. You may remove any material lacking a reliable source that directly supports it. How quickly this should happen depends on the material and the overall state of the article. Editors might object if you remove material without giving them time to provide references. It has always been good practice to make reasonable efforts to find supporting sources yourself and cite them. Do not leave unsourced or poorly sourced material in an article if it might damage the reputation of living people or organizations, and do not move it to the talk page.[4]


Further information: Wikipedia:Notability

If no reliable third-party sources can be found on a topic, Wikipedia should not have an article on it.

Exceptional claims require exceptional sources[edit]

Exceptional claims require high-quality sources.[5] Red flags that should prompt extra caution include:

  • surprising or apparently important claims not covered by mainstream sources;
  • reports of a statement by someone that seems out of character, or against an interest they had previously defended;
  • claims that are contradicted by the prevailing view within the relevant community, or that would significantly alter mainstream assumptions, especially in science, medicine, history, politics, and biographies of living people. This is especially true when proponents say there is a conspiracy to silence them.

What counts as a reliable source[edit]

The word "source" in Wikipedia has three meanings: the piece of work itself (a document, article, paper, or book), the creator of the work (for example, the writer), and the publisher of the work (for example, The New York Times). All three can affect reliability.

Base articles on reliable, third-party, published sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy. Sources should directly support the material presented in an article and should be appropriate to the claims made. The appropriateness of any source depends on the context. In general, the best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing facts, legal issues, evidence, and arguments; as a rule of thumb, the greater the degree of scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source.

Where available, academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources, such as in history, medicine, and science. But they are not the only reliable sources in such areas. Material from reliable non-academic sources may also be used, particularly if it appears in respected mainstream publications. Other reliable sources include university-level textbooks, books published by respected publishing houses, magazines, journals, and mainstream newspapers. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria.

In general, the most reliable sources are: peer-reviewed journals; books published by university presses; university-level textbooks; magazines, journals, and books published by respected publishing houses; and mainstream newspapers. As a rule of thumb, the more people engaged in checking facts, analyzing legal issues, and scrutinizing the writing, the more reliable the publication. Self-published material, whether on paper or online, is generally not regarded as reliable, but see self-published sources for exceptions.

Primary, secondary and tertiary sources[edit]

"WP:PRIMARY" redirects here. For the article naming guideline, see WP:PRIMARYTOPIC.

Wikipedia articles should be based on reliable, published secondary sources and, to a lesser extent, on tertiary sources. Secondary or tertiary sources are needed to establish the topic's notability and to avoid novel interpretations of primary sources, though primary sources are permitted if used carefully. All interpretive claims, analyses, or synthetic claims about primary sources must be referenced to a secondary source, rather than original analysis of the primary-source material by Wikipedia editors.

Appropriate sourcing can be a complicated issue, and these are general rules. Deciding whether primary, secondary or tertiary sources are appropriate on any given occasion is a matter of common sense and good editorial judgment, and should be discussed on article talk pages. For the purposes of this policy, primary, secondary and tertiary sources are defined as follows:[6]

  • Primary sources are very close to an event, often accounts written by people who are directly involved, offering an insider's view of an event, a period of history, a work of art, a political decision, and so on. An account of a traffic accident written by a witness is a primary source of information about the accident; similarly, a scientific paper documenting a new experiment is a primary source on the outcome of that experiment. Historical documents such as diaries are primary sources.[7]
Policy: Unless restricted by another policy, primary sources that have been reliably published may be used in Wikipedia, but only with care, because it is easy to misuse them. Any interpretation of primary source material requires a reliable secondary source for that interpretation. A primary source may only be used on Wikipedia to make straightforward, descriptive statements that any educated person, with access to the source but without specialist knowledge, will be able to verify are supported by the source. For example, an article about a novel may cite passages to describe the plot, but any interpretation needs a secondary source. Do not analyze, synthesize, interpret, or evaluate material found in a primary source yourself; instead, refer to reliable secondary sources that do so. Do not base articles entirely on primary sources. Do not add unsourced material from your personal experience, because that would make Wikipedia a primary source of that material. Use extra caution when handling primary sources about living people; see WP:BLPPRIMARY, which is policy.
  • Secondary sources are second-hand accounts, at least one step removed from an event. They rely on primary sources for their material, often making analytic or evaluative claims about them.[8] For example, a review article that analyzes research papers in a field is a secondary source for the research.[9] Whether a source is primary or secondary depends on context. A book by a military historian about the Second World War might be a secondary source about the war, but if it includes details of the author's own war experiences, it would be a primary source about those experiences.
Policy: Wikipedia articles usually rely on material from secondary sources. Articles may make analytic or evaluative claims only if these have been published by a reliable secondary source.
  • Tertiary sources are publications such as encyclopedias or other compendia that mainly summarize secondary sources. Wikipedia is a tertiary source. Many introductory undergraduate-level textbooks are regarded as tertiary sources because they sum up multiple secondary sources.
Policy: Reliably published tertiary sources can be helpful in providing broad summaries of topics that involve many primary and secondary sources, especially when those sources contradict each other. Some tertiary sources are more reliable than others, and within any given tertiary source, some articles may be more reliable than others. Wikipedia articles may not be used as tertiary sources in other Wikipedia articles, but are sometimes used as primary sources in articles about Wikipedia itself.

Sources that are usually not reliable[edit]

Questionable sources[edit]

Questionable sources are those with a poor reputation for checking the facts, or with no editorial oversight. Such sources include websites and publications expressing views that are widely acknowledged as extremist, or promotional, or which rely heavily on rumor and personal opinion. Questionable sources should be used only as sources of material on themselves, especially in articles about themselves; see below. They are generally unsuitable for citing contentious claims about third parties.

Newspaper and magazine blogs[edit]

Several newspapers host columns that they call blogs. These are acceptable as sources if the writers are professionals and the blog is subject to the newspaper's full editorial control. In March 2010, the Press Complaints Commission in the UK ruled that journalists' blogs hosted on the websites of newspapers or magazines are subject to the same standards expected of comment pieces in that organization's print editions.[10] Where a news organization publishes an opinion piece, attribute the writer (e.g. "Jane Smith has suggested..."). Never use posts left by readers as sources. For blogs that are not reliable sources, see below.

Self-published sources[edit]

Anyone can create a personal web page or pay to have a book published, then claim to be an expert in a certain field. For that reason, self-published media, such as books, patents, newsletters, personal websites, open wikis, personal or group blogs, Internet forum postings, and tweets, are largely not acceptable as sources. Self-published expert sources may be considered reliable when produced by an established expert on the topic of the article whose work in the relevant field has previously been published by reliable third-party publications. Take care when using such sources: if the information in question is really worth reporting, someone else will probably have done so.

Never use self-published sources as third-party sources about living people, even if the author is an expert, well-known professional researcher, or writer.

Self-published or questionable sources as sources on themselves[edit]

Self-published and questionable sources may be used as sources of information about themselves, usually in articles about themselves or their activities, without the requirement in the case of self-published sources that they be published experts in the field, so long as:

  1. the material is not unduly self-serving;
  2. it does not involve claims about third parties;
  3. it does not involve claims about events not directly related to the source;
  4. there is no reasonable doubt as to its authenticity;
  5. the article is not based primarily on such sources.

Using sources[edit]

Research that consists of collecting and organizing material from existing sources within the provisions of this and other content policies is fundamental to writing an encyclopedia. Best practice is to research the most reliable sources on the topic and summarize what they say in your own words, with each statement in the article attributable to a source that makes that statement explicitly. Source material should be carefully summarized or rephrased without changing its meaning or implication. Take care not to go beyond what is expressed in the sources, or to use them in ways inconsistent with the intention of the source, such as using material out of context. In short, stick to the sources.

If no reliable third-party sources can be found on a topic, Wikipedia should not have an article about it. If you discover something new, Wikipedia is not the place to premiere such a discovery.

Information in an article must be verifiable in the references cited. In general, article statements should not rely on unclear or inconsistent passages, or on passing comments. Passages open to multiple interpretations should be precisely cited or avoided. A summary of extensive discussion should reflect the conclusions of the source. Drawing conclusions not evident in the reference is original research regardless of the type of source. It is important that references be cited in context and on topic.

Tagging a sentence, section, or article[edit]

If you want to request a source for an unsourced statement, consider tagging a sentence with the {{citation needed}} template by writing {{cn}} or {{fact}}. Other templates are available here for tagging sections or entire articles. Alternatively, leave a note on the talk page requesting a source, or move the material there. To request verification that a reference supports the text, tag it with {{verification needed}}. Material that fails verification may be tagged with {{failed verification}} or removed. Unsourced or poorly sourced contentious material about living people should be removed immediately and not tagged or moved to the talk page.

Wikipedia and sources that mirror or use it[edit]

Articles on Wikipedia or on websites that mirror its content should not be used as sources, because this would amount to self-reference. Similarly, editors should not use sources that present material originating from Wikipedia to support that same material in Wikipedia, as this would create circular sourcing—Wikipedia citing a source that derives its material from Wikipedia. Wikipedia may be cited with caution as a primary source of information on itself, such as in articles about itself.

Accessibility of sources[edit]

Verifiability in this context means that anyone should be able to check that material in a Wikipedia article has already been published by a reliable source. The principle of verifiability implies nothing about ease of access to sources: some online sources may require payment, while some print sources may be available only in university libraries. WikiProject Resource Exchange may be able to assist in obtaining source material.

Non-English sources[edit]

Because this is the English Wikipedia, English-language sources are preferred over non-English ones, provided that English sources of equal quality and relevance are available. When quoting a source in a different language, provide both the original-language text and an English translation in the text or a footnote. Translations published by reliable sources are preferred over translations by Wikipedians, but translations by Wikipedians are preferred over machine translations. When citing such a source without quoting it, the original and its translation should be provided if requested by other editors: this can be added to a footnote or the talk page. When posting original source material, editors should be careful not to violate copyright; see the fair-use guideline.

Reliable sources noticeboard and WP:IRS [edit]

To discuss the reliability of a specific source for a particular statement, consult the reliable sources noticeboard, which seeks to apply this policy to particular cases. For a guideline discussing the reliability of particular types of sources, see Wikipedia:Identifying reliable sources (WP:IRS). In the case of inconsistency between this policy and the WP:IRS guideline, or any other guideline related to sourcing, the policy has priority.

Original research[edit]

Wikipedia does not publish original research. The term "original research" refers to material—such as facts, allegations, ideas, and stories—not already published by reliable sources. It also refers to any analysis or synthesis of published material that serves to advance a position not advanced by the sources. If no source exists for something you want to add to Wikipedia, it is "original research". To demonstrate that you are not adding original research, you must be able to cite reliable published sources that are both directly related to the topic of the article, and that directly support the material as presented.

Synthesis that advances a position[edit]

Do not combine material from multiple sources to reach or imply a conclusion not explicitly stated by any of the sources. If one reliable source says A, and another reliable source says B, do not join A and B together to imply a conclusion C that is not mentioned by either of the sources. This would be a synthesis of published material to advance a new position, which is original research.[11] "A and B, therefore C" is acceptable only if a reliable source has published the same argument in relation to the topic of the article.

  • A simple example of original synthesis:

N The UN's stated objective is to maintain international peace and security, but since its creation there have been 160 wars throughout the world.

  • Both parts of the sentence may be reliably sourced, but here they have been combined to imply that the UN has failed to maintain world peace. If no reliable source has combined the material in this way, it is original research. It would be a simple matter to imply the opposite using the same material, illustrating how easily material can be manipulated when the sources are not adhered to:

N The UN's stated objective is to maintain international peace and security, and since its creation there have been only 160 wars throughout the world.

  • The following is a more complex example of original synthesis, based on an actual Wikipedia article about a dispute between two authors, here called Smith and Jones. The first paragraph is fine, because each of the sentences is carefully sourced, using a source that refers to this dispute:

YesY Smith claimed that Jones committed plagiarism by copying references from another author's book. Jones responded that it is acceptable scholarly practice to use other people's books to find new references.

  • Now comes the original synthesis:

N If Jones did not consult the original sources, this would be contrary to the practice recommended in the Harvard Writing with Sources manual, which requires citation of the source actually consulted. The Harvard manual does not call violating this rule "plagiarism". Instead, plagiarism is defined as using a source's information, ideas, words, or structure without citing them.

The second paragraph is original research because it expresses a Wikipedia editor's opinion that, given the Harvard manual's definition of plagiarism, Jones did not commit it. To make the second paragraph consistent with this policy, a reliable source would be needed that specifically comments on the Smith and Jones dispute and makes the same point about the Harvard manual and plagiarism. In other words, that precise analysis must have been published by a reliable source in relation to the topic before it can be published on Wikipedia.

Original images[edit]

Because of copyright laws in a number of countries, there are relatively few images available for use in Wikipedia. Editors are therefore encouraged to upload their own images, releasing them under the GFDL, CC-BY-SA, or other free licenses. Original images created by a Wikipedian are not considered original research, so long as they do not illustrate or introduce unpublished ideas or arguments, the core reason behind the NOR policy. Image captions are subject to this policy no less than statements in the body of the article. It is not acceptable for an editor to use photo manipulation to distort the facts or position illustrated by an image. Manipulated images should be prominently noted as such. Any manipulated image where the encyclopedic value is materially affected should be posted to Wikipedia:Files for deletion. Images of living persons must not present the subject in a false or disparaging light.

Translations and transcriptions[edit]

Faithfully translating sourced material into English, or transcribing spoken words from audio or video sources, is not considered original research. For information on how to handle sources that require translation, see Wikipedia:Verifiability#Non-English sources.

Routine calculations[edit]

This policy allows routine mathematical calculations, such as adding numbers, converting units, or calculating a person's age, provided editors agree that the arithmetic and its application correctly reflect the sources. See also Category:Conversion templates.a

See also[edit]


  • General NPOV templates:
    • {{POV}}—message used to warn of problems
    • {{POV-check}}—message used to request that an article be checked for neutrality
    • {{POV-section}}—tags only a single section as disputed
    • {{POV-lead}}—when the article's introduction is questionable
    • {{POV-title}}—when the article's title is questionable
    • {{POV-statement}}—when only one sentence is questionable
    • {{NPOV language}}—message used when the neutrality of the style of writing is questioned
    • {{Multiple issues}}—when an article or section fails to abide by multiple Wikipedia content policies
    • {{ASF}}—when a sentence may or may not require in-text attribution (e.g. so-and-so says)
  • Undue weight templates:
    • {{Undue}}—message used to warn that a part of an article lends undue weight to certain ideas relative to the article as a whole
    • {{Undue-section}}—same as above but to tag a section only
    • {{Undue-inline}}—same as above but to tag a sentence or paragraph only
Original research




  1. ^ Article sections devoted solely to criticism, and "pro and con" sections within articles, are two commonly cited examples. There are varying views on whether and to what extent such structures are appropriate; see Wikipedia:Avoid thread mode, Wikipedia:Criticism, Wikipedia:Pro and con lists, and Template:Criticism-section.
  2. ^ Commonly cited examples include articles that read too much like a "debate", and content structured like a "resume". See also: Wikipedia:Guide to layout, Formatting criticism, Wikipedia:Edit war, WP cleanup templates, and Template:Lopsided.
  3. ^ See the discussion about sources in WP:NOR that describes summarizing materials in your own words, leaving nothing implied that goes beyond the sources.
  4. ^ Wales, Jimmy. "Zero information is preferred to misleading or false information", WikiEN-l, May 16, 2006: "I can NOT emphasize this enough. There seems to be a terrible bias among some editors that some sort of random speculative "I heard it somewhere" pseudo information is to be tagged with a "needs a cite" tag. Wrong. It should be removed, aggressively, unless it can be sourced. This is true of all information, but it is particularly true of negative information about living persons."
  5. ^ Hume, David. An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, Forgotten Books, 1984; first published 1748, p. 86: "That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish; and even in that case there is a mutual destruction of arguments, and the superior only gives us an assurance suitable to that degree of force, which remains, after deducting the inferior."
  6. ^ This University of Maryland library page provides typical examples of primary, secondary and tertiary sources.
  7. ^ Further examples include archeological artifacts, census results, video or transcripts of surveillance, public hearings, trials, or interviews; tabulated results of surveys or questionnaires; original philosophical works; religious scripture; ancient works, even if they cite earlier lost writings; and artistic and fictional works such as poems, scripts, screenplays, novels, motion pictures, videos, and television programs. For definitions of primary sources:
    • The University of Nevada, Reno Libraries define primary sources as providing "an inside view of a particular event". They offer as examples: original documents, such as autobiographies, diaries, e-mail, interviews, letters, minutes, news film footage, official records, photographs, raw research data, and speeches; creative works, such as art, drama, films, music, novels, poetry; and relics or artifacts, such as buildings, clothing, DNA, furniture, jewelry, pottery.
    • The University of California, Berkeley library offers this definition: "Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during an historical event or time period. Primary sources were either created during the time period being studied, or were created at a later date by a participant in the events being studied (as in the case of memoirs) and they reflect the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer."
    • Duke University, Libraries offers this definition: "A primary source is a first-hand account of an event. Primary sources may include newspaper articles, letters, diaries, interviews, laws, reports of government commissions, and many other types of documents."
  8. ^ University of California, Berkeley library defines "secondary source" as "a work that interprets or analyzes an historical event or phenomenon. It is generally at least one step removed from the event".
  9. ^ The Ithaca College Library compares research articles to review articles. Be aware that either type of article can be both a primary and secondary source, although research articles tend to be more useful as primary sources and review articles as secondary sources.
  10. ^ Plunkett, John. "Rod Liddle censured by the PCC", The Guardian, March 29, 2010.
  11. ^ Jimmy Wales has said of synthesized historical theories: "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." (Wales, Jimmy. "Original research", December 6, 2004)

Further reading[edit]

  • Wales, Jimmy. "Insist on sources", WikiEN-l, July 19, 2006: "I really want to encourage a much stronger culture which says: it is better to have no information, than to have information like this, with no sources."
  • NeutralPointOfView on MeatballWiki
Original research

Related information[edit]