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Original research (OR) is a term used in Wikipedia to refer to unpublished facts, arguments, concepts, statements, or theories. The term also applies to any unpublished analysis or synthesis of published material that appears to advance a position — or, in the words of Wikipedia's co-founder Jimmy Wales, would amount to a "novel narrative or historical interpretation."

  • Wikipedia is not a venue for publishing, publicizing or promoting original research in any way.
  • Our neutral point of view policy (NPOV) forbids editors from inserting their own views into articles. Instead, our verifiability policy (V) demands that Wikipedia present established and notable views.
  • Compliance with our Verifiability Policy and our cite sources guideline is the best way to ensure that you do not violate our Wikipedia:No original research, or NOR, policy. In short, the only way to demonstrate that you are not presenting original research is to cite reliable sources that provide information directly related to the topic of the article; the only way to demonstrate that you are not inserting your own POV is to represent these sources and the views they reflect accurately.
  • NPOV, V, and NOR are Wikipedia's three principal content policies. Since NPOV, V, and NOR complement each other, they should not be interpreted in isolation from one another, and editors should try to familiarize themselves with all three.

Origins of the policy[edit]

The core policy of Wikipedia, NPOV is meant to provide a framework whereby editors with diverse, often conflicting, even opposing points of view can collaborate on the creation of an encyclopedia. It does so through the principle that while it is often hard for people to agree as to what is the truth, it is much easier for people to agree as to what they and others believe to be the truth. Therefore, Wikipedia does not use "truth" as a criteria for inclusion. Instead, it aims to account for different, notable views of the truth. First codified in February 2002, the objective of the NPOV policy is to produce an unbiased encyclopedia.

In the year that followed a good deal of conflict on article talk pages involved accusations that editors were violating NPOV, and it became clear that this policy, which provided a philosophical foundation for Wikipedia, needed to be supplemented. Wikipedians developed the concept of "verifiability" as a way of ensuring the accuracy of articles by encouraging editors to cite sources; this concept was established as a policy in August 2003. Verifiability was also promoted as a way to ensure that notable views would be represented, under the assumption that the most notable views were easiest to document with sources. Notability is especially imortant because while NPOV encourages editors to add alternate and multipe points of view to an article, it does not claim that all views are equal. Although NPOV does not claim that some views are more truthful than others, it does acknowledge that some views are held by more people than others. Accurately representing a view therefore also means explaiing who holds the view and whether it is a majority or minority view.

Soon it became evident that editors who rejected a majority view would often marshall sources to argue that a minority view was superior to a majority view - or would even add sources in order to promote the editor's own view. Therefore, the NOR policy was established in 2003 to address problematic uses of sources. The original motivation for NOR was to prevent editors from introducing fringe views in science, especially physics - or from excluding verifiable views that, in the judgement of editors, were wrong .[1] It soon became clear that the policy should apply to any editor trying to introduce his or her own views into an article (and thus a way to distinguish Wikipedia from Everything 2). In its earliest form the policy singled out edits that:

  • introduce a theory of method of solution;
  • introduce original ideas;
  • define terms; or
  • introduce neologisms

for exclusion, and established that

  • ideas that have been accepted for publication in a peer reviewed journal; or
  • ideas that have become newsworthy: they have been repeatedly and independently reported in newspapers or news stories (such as the cold fusion story).

as criteria for inclusion.

Source-based research[edit]

As a more diverse group of editors were drawn to Wikipedia it became clear that other topics besides physics, such as politics and religion, were attracting original research, and the community sought a more systematic way to define original research and to guide editors in avoiding it. These efforts focused on distinguishing between

  • different kinds of sources and
  • different ways of using sources

Reliable sources[edit]

Any material that is challenged or likely to be challenged must be accompanied by a reliable source. Material that counts as "original research" within the meaning of this policy is material for which no reliable source can be found and which is therefore believed to be the original thought of the Wikipedian who added it. The only way to show that your work is not original research is to produce a reliable published source that advances the same claims or makes the same argument as you.

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

Research that consists of collecting and organizing material from reliable, verifiable sources within the provisions of this and other content policies is encouraged: this is "source-based research," and it is fundamental to writing an encyclopedia. However, care should be taken not to "go beyond" the sources or use them in novel ways. In order to clarify the distinction between acceptable source-based research, and pohibited original research, Wikipedia distinguishes between three kinds of sources.

Primary, secondary, and tertiary sources[edit]

Most succinctly,

  • primary sources are sources of facts
  • secondary sources are sources for distinct views of facts
  • tertiary sources are summaries of, or generalizations based on, diverse views of facts

More specifically:

  • Primary sources include archeological artifacts; photographs; historical documents such as diaries, census results, video or transcripts of surveillance, public hearings, trials, or interviews; tabulated results of surveys or questionnaires; written or recorded notes of laboratory and field experiments or observations; and artistic and fictional works such as poems, scripts, screenplays, novels, motion pictures, videos, and television programs.

Our policy: A Wikipedia article or section of an article can employ primary sources only if the source is used (1) only to make descriptive claims, the accuracy of which is easily verifiable by any reasonable, educated person without specialist knowledge, and (2) never to make analytic, synthetic, interpretive, explanatory, or evaluative claims. Contributors drawing on primary sources should be careful to comply with both conditions.

  • Secondary sources rely on primary sources to make analytic, synthetic, interpretive, explanatory, or evaluative claims. Some secondary sources, for example many scientific publications, often include original data and are thus also primary sources.

Our policy: Wikipedia articles can include analytic, synthetic, interpretive, explanatory, or evaluative claims (1) only if such claims come from a reliable, verifiable source and (2) the point of view is clearly identified and accurately represented. The conditions that apply to the use of primary sources also applies to the use of primary source material included in secondary sources.

Our policy: Wikipedia strives to be a superb tertiary source. Since Wikipedia does not want to be derivative or duplicate other encyclopedias, tertiary sources are often of limited value for Wikipedia research. Annual Reviews and Encyclopedia Brittanica articles often provide extensive bibliographies that are valuable tools for identifying important secondary sources, and therefore of great use to Wikipedia editors. Nevertheless, these and other tertiary sources do not necessarily have the same content policies as Wikipedia and for this reason should not be viewed as authoritative. However, some encyclopedias and other tertiary sources, such as Annual Reviews, have signed articles, and often articles that explicitly promote the author's own views. In this sense, a tertiary source can also be viewed and treated as a secondary source.

Synthesis of published material serving to advance a position[edit]

Editors often make the mistake of thinking that if A is published by a reliable source, and B is published by a reliable source, then A and B can be joined together in an article to advance position C. However, this would be an example of a new synthesis of published material serving to advance a position, and as such it would constitute original research.[2] "A and B, therefore C" is acceptable only if a reliable source has published this argument in relation to the topic of the article.

Here is an example from a Wikipedia article, with the names changed. The article was about Jones:

Smith says that Jones committed plagiarism by copying references from another book. Jones denies this, and says it's acceptable scholarly practice to use other people's books to find new references.

That much is fine. Now comes the unpublished synthesis of published material:

If Jones's claim that he consulted the original sources is false, this would be contrary to the practice recommended in the Chicago Manual of Style, which requires citation of the source actually consulted. The Chicago Manual of Style does not call violating this rule "plagiarism." Instead, plagiarism is defined as using a source's information, ideas, words, or structure without citing them.

This entire paragraph is original research, because it expresses the editor's opinion that, given the Chicago Manual of Style's definition of plagiarism, Jones did not commit it. To make the paragraph consistent with this policy, a reliable source is needed that specifically comments on the Smith and Jones dispute and makes the same point about the Chicago Manual of Style 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 in Wikipedia.

Citing oneself[edit]

This policy does not prohibit editors with specialist knowledge from adding their knowledge to Wikipedia, but it does prohibit them from drawing on their personal knowledge without citing their sources. If an editor has published the results of their research in a reliable publication, they may cite that source while writing in the third person and complying with our NPOV policy. See also Wikipedia's guidelines on conflict of interest.

Original images[edit]

Pictures have enjoyed a broad exception from this policy, in that Wikipedia editors are encouraged to take photographs or draw pictures or diagrams and upload them, releasing them under the GFDL or another free license, to illustrate articles. This is welcomed because images generally do not propose unpublished ideas or arguments, the core reason behind the NOR policy. Also, because of copyright law in a number of countries and its relationship to the work of building a free encyclopedia, there are relatively few publicly available images we can take and use. Wikipedia editors' pictures fill a needed role.

A disadvantage of allowing original photographs to be uploaded is the possibility of editors using photo manipulation to distort the facts or position being illustrated by the photo. Manipulated images should be prominently noted as such. If they are noted as manipulated, they should be posted to Wikipedia:Images for deletion if the manipulation materially affects the encyclopedic value of the image. Images that constitute original research in any other way are not allowed, such as a diagram of a hydrogen atom showing extra particles in the nucleus as theorized by the uploader.

Related policies[edit]

Verifiability (V)[edit]

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. This policy and the verifiability policy reinforce each other by requiring that only assertions, theories, opinions, and arguments that have already been published in a reliable source may be used in Wikipedia.

Neutral point of view (NPOV)[edit]

The prohibition against original research limits the possibility that editors may present their own points of view in articles. By reinforcing the importance of including verifiable research produced by others, this policy promotes the inclusion of multiple points of view. Consequently, this policy reinforces our NPOV 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. 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 provide context for this point of view, by indicating how prevalent the position is, and whether it is held by a majority or minority.

The inclusion of a view that is held only by a tiny minority may constitute original research. Jimbo Wales, Wikipedia's co-founder, has said of this:

  • If your viewpoint is in the majority, then it should be easy to substantiate it with reference to commonly accepted reference texts;
  • If your viewpoint is held by a significant minority, then it should be easy to name prominent adherents;
  • "If your viewpoint is held by an extremely small minority, then — whether it's true or not, whether you can prove it or not — it doesn't belong in Wikipedia, except perhaps in some ancillary article. Wikipedia is not the place for original research." [3]



If you wish to engage in original research we encourage you to do so and submit a manuscript to a legitimate publisher.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wikipedia's co-founder, Jimbo Wales, has described the origin of the original research policy 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 is not appropriate for us to try to determine whether someone's novel theory of physics is valid; we are not 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 is 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." (Wales, Jimmy. "Original research", December 3, 2004)
  2. ^ Mr. Wales disapproves of synthesized historical theories and states: "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)
  3. ^ Wales, Jimmy. "WikiEN-l --A Request RE a WIKIArticle--", September 29, 2003.

Further reading[edit]