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

Also see the other variation at User:Wbfergus/Sandbox/NOR2

Original research (OR) is a term used in Wikipedia to refer to unpublished facts, arguments, concepts, statements, or theories. The term also applies to any unpublished analysis or synthesis of published material that appears to advance a position — or, in the words of Wikipedia's co-founder Jimmy Wales, would amount to a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 the place for original research. Citing sources and avoiding original research are inextricably linked: 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, and to adhere to what those sources say.

Wikipedia:No original research (NOR) is one of four content policies. The others are Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons, Wikipedia:Neutral point of view (NPOV) and Wikipedia:Verifiability (V). Jointly, these policies determine the type and quality of material that is acceptable in articles. Since the policies complement each other, they should not be interpreted in isolation from one another, and editors should try to familiarize themselves with all four and their related guidelines.

What is excluded?[edit]

The original motivation for the "No original research" policy was to prevent people with personal theories attempting to use Wikipedia to draw attention to their ideas.[1] Original research includes editors' personal views, political opinions, and any unpublished analysis or synthesis of published material that appears to advance a position. That is, any facts, opinions, interpretations, definitions, and arguments published by Wikipedia must already have been published by a reliable publication in relation to the topic of the article. See this example for more details.

An edit counts as original research if it does any of the following:

  • It introduces a new theory or method of solution;
  • It introduces original ideas;
  • It defines new terms;
  • It provides or presumes new definitions of pre-existing terms;
  • It introduces an argument, without citing a reputable source for that argument, that purports to refute or support another idea, theory, argument, or position;
  • It introduces an analysis or synthesis of established facts, ideas, opinions, or arguments in a way that builds a particular case favored by the editor, without attributing that analysis or synthesis to a reputable source;
  • It introduces or uses neologisms, without attributing the neologism to a reputable source.


Wikipedia distinguishes between different types of source and uses that distinction as a starting point for determining if a source is appropriate for citation by Wikipedia articles. Wikipedia (currently) uses the words "primary," "secondary," and "tertiary" (see below) to categorize different types of source. Please note that while these words are also words used outside Wikipedia for the distinction of different types of source the meanings of the words within Wikipedia are not precisely the same (as detailed below) for use within this policy. Minasbeede 11:37, 2 September 2007 (UTC)

It is not the intent, nor the purpose, of this policy to attempt to fully define the various types of sources. For further clarification, examples, or potential problems with the various sources, please refer to the three main articles below.

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.

Primary, secondary, and tertiary sources[edit]

Research that consists of collecting and organizing material from existing 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 Wikipedia usage, sources are roughly divided into three categories, with some exceptions. The following are the introductions from the respective definition pages:

  • Primary Source: In historical scholarship, a primary source is a document, or other source of information that was created at or near the time being studied, by an authoritative source, usually one with direct personal knowledge of the events being described. In this sense primary does not mean superior. It refers to creation by the primary players, and is distinguished from a secondary source, which in historical scholarship is a work, such as a scholarly book or article, built up from primary sources. See the primary source page for description and examples.
  • Secondary source: In historical scholarship, a secondary source is a work of history written as a synthetic account, usually based on primary sources and other secondary sources. Most scholarly historical monographs published today are secondary sources. Ideal secondary sources are usually characterized as both reporting events in the past as well as performing the function of generalization, analysis, synthesis, interpretation, and/or evaluation of the events. History text books used in schools are based on secondary sources and can be considered tertiary sources. See the Secondary source page for description and examples.Wikipedia articles should rely on reliable, published primary and secondary sources.
  • Tertiary source: Where a primary source presents material from a first-hand witness to a phenomenon, and a secondary source provides commentary, analysis and criticism of primary sources, a tertiary source is a selection and compilation of primary and secondary sources. While the distinction between primary source and secondary source is essential in historiography, the distinction between these sources of evidence and tertiary sources is more peripheral, and is more relevant to the practice of scholarship than to the content. See the Tertiary source page for description and examples.

This policy does not specifically endorse one type of source reference over another, as they each can enhance an article when used appropriately, however an article or section of an article that relies on a primary source should (1) only make descriptive claims, the accuracy of which is easily verifiable by any reasonable, educated person without specialist knowledge, and (2) make no analytic, synthetic, interpretive, explanatory, or evaluative claims. Contributors drawing on primary sources should be careful to comply with both conditions. The same care should also be taken though with information from secondary or tertiary sources, as the same problems can creep into the article or section through the normal editing process by numerous editors.

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

In general, the synthesis of published material is taking information from one source and joining that information with similar data from another source, and then advocating a position based upon those sources. Unless this position can be verified by a reliable third-party source, this would be an example of original research.

It is not the intent, nor the purpose, of this policy to attempt to fully define the synthesis of material, but rather to acknowledge yet another way original research can creep into an article. For further clarification, please refer to the main article above.

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. "Verifiable" in this context means that any reader should be able to check that material added to Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source. Editors should provide a reliable source for quotations and for any material that is challenged or is likely to be challenged, or it may be removed.

Neutral point of view (NPOV)[edit]

Neutral point of view is a fundamental Wikipedia principle. According to Jimmy Wales, NPOV is "absolute and non-negotiable."[2]

All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view (NPOV), representing fairly and without bias all significant views (that have been published by reliable sources). This is non-negotiable and expected on all articles, and of all article editors.

Other options[edit]

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. ^ "A few things are absolute and non-negotiable, though. NPOV for example." in statement by Jimbo Wales in November 2003 and, in this thread reconfirmed by Jimbo Wales in April 2006 in the context of lawsuits.

Further reading[edit]