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Also see the other variation at User:Wbfergus/Sandbox/NOR

Original research (OR) is a term used in Wikipedia to refer to unpublished facts, arguments, concepts, statements, or theories. The term also applies to any unpublished analysis or synthesis of published material that appears to advance a position — or, in the words of Wikipedia's co-founder Jimmy Wales, would amount to a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to draw attention to their ideas.[1] Original research includes editors' personal views, political opinions, and any unpublished analysis or synthesis of published material that appears to advance a position.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.

Elsewhere (WP:NOT) in the policy it states:

  • Wikipedia is not a publisher of original thought
  • Wikipedia is not a soapbox

This has the corollary meanings:

  • Wikipedia is not an appeals court
  • Wikipedia is not a venue for scholarly discussions

Whether rightly or wrongly scholars in various disciplines have arrived at some or a few interpretations of early seminal works (e.g., the Bible.) Citations of such a work used to justify a novel interpretation not so accepted by the scholarly community are not proper material for inclusion in Wikipedia. If the scholarly community has erred in the opinion of an editor Wikipedia is not the place to right the error nor to air a grievance. Similarly, if an editor wants to indicate how a novel interpretation counters the accepted interpretation(s) Wikipedia is not where such a novel interpretation should receive first publication. In short, if it's novel (new) it can't appear in Wikipedia. As soon as the interpretation is published elsewhere then, if it meets the other Wikipedia criteria, it is appropriate for inclusion according to the Wikipedia policies (notably, WP:NPOV.) This exclusion is not a value judgment, it's based on what Wikipedia is and is not. Wikipedia attempts to accurately mirror current knowledge and due to its interactive nature Wikipedia can, with appropriate editing, be nearly 100% up-to-date. That is a strength of Wikipedia. It must be noted that it is up-to-date in a mirroring sense, not in an original publication sense.

It may be that in some disciplines a debate of short or of long standing is going on. If the material is appropriate for Wikipedia then the debate can be described. If (hypothetically) a new, challenging interpretation of something that is notable within Wikipedia has appeared in an appropriate publication then that may be proper material for Wikipedia. Naturally, WP:NPOV still must be followed.

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.

Source types[edit]

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. These types are either a reliable third-party source or an auxillary source.

This policy does not specifically endorse one type of source over another, as they each can enhance an article when used appropriately, however an article or section of an article that relies on auxillary sources 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 auxillary sources should be careful to comply with both conditions. The same care should also be taken though with information from reliable third-party sources, as the same problems can creep into the article or section through the normal editing process by numerous editors.

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 third-party sources[edit]

Any material that is challenged or likely to be challenged must be accompanied by a reliable third-party source. Material that counts as "original research" within the meaning of this policy is material for which no reliable third-party 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 third-party 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.

Auxillary sources[edit]

Material classified as an auxillary source is generally described as 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. A few examples of auxillary sources in political history are documents such as official reports, speeches, pamphlets, posters, or letters by participants, official election returns, and eyewitness accounts (as by a journalist who was there). In the history of ideas or intellectual history, the dominant primary sources are books, essays and letters written by intellectuals. A study of cultural history could include fictional sources such as novels or plays. In a broader sense primary sources also include physical objects like photographs, newsreels, coins, paintings or buildings created at the time. Historians may also take archaeological artifacts and oral reports and interviews into consideration. Auxiliary sources should only be used with care, or in context as used in reliable third-party sources.

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]