Wikipedia:About valid routine calculations
| This essay is in development, and contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors.|
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The policy WP:CALC express, in general terms, when an editor can add some calculations (to an article) that are not in the sources, but are an obvious and acceptable interpretation of the source data:
- Routine calculations do not count as original research. Basic arithmetic, such as adding numbers, converting units, or calculating a person's age, is allowed provided there is consensus among editors that the calculation is an obvious, correct, and meaningful reflection of the sources.
This essay supports both, a detailed review of "Routine calculations" at Wikipedia, and a natural extension to this policy:
- The recursive use of routine calculations, such as summation, products of sequences, or the calculation of averages, also do not count as original research, when interpreted by the article's reader as a summary of numerical data — i.e. when used for well-known (and consensual) forms of "numerical synthesis". In this context, the synthesis of numerical data is not original research by synthesis.
Working definitions and examples
More formal and detailed definitions, to support Wikipedians that are discussing the policy WP:CALC and similar ones.
A routine calculation consists of
- Basic arithmetic (single) operation: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
- Well-known function: like unit conversion (between well-known units), numeral system conversion (between well-known systems), etc. The function needs a "tradition of use" and consensus in the Wikipedia.
- Wikipedia well-known templates: that calculates automatically (and consensually). See list of conversion templates.
Any of these formulas must applied into a valid context of units, dimension, precision, etc. and are valid as "routine calculation (WP:CALC)" when there is (implicit or discussed) consensus among editors that the calculation is an obvious, correct, and meaningful reflection of the sources.
Round and precision
Using automatic conversion, it is easy and secure to convert units,
5300 meters to feet by the template:Convert,
that results in
17,388 ft. But, unfortunately, the work does not stop here.
Quality work takes into account context and interprets precision: "5300 meters" often means something like "5300±100 meters". So the correct translation is with some round in the outcome:
5,300 metres (17,400 ft)*.
Numerical treatment and representation
When sources have complex or technical data, and editors need to reproduce data at Wikipedia for normal people, some numerical treatment can be made. Examples:
- Use of error propagation rules when applying "routine calculation" on quantities with error values (ex. multiply 4.26 ± 0.02 by two).
- Recursive use of routine calculation over a list of numbers.
- Graphic representation of data.
Summary of numerical data
The repeated (recursive) use of routine operations, such as summation, "products of sequences", or the calculation of averages, are valid when used for well-known (and consensual) forms of "numerical synthesis", and can be interpreted by the article's reader as summaries of numerical data. Example:
quant. A quant. B Perc. of A Diff. 20 123 16.3% 40 234 17.1% 0.8% 55 300 18.3% 1.2% Total:
(without background) Source data
(this background) Calculated by an editor (this background) Summarized by an editor
The table above illustrates an encyclopedic issue produced with source data and NOTOR Simple calculations. It "translates and synthesizes" the source data, with accuracy and neutral point of view; preserving "the truth" of the source. A "new truth" can be produced by some statistical methods, such when interpreting an average as an expected value.
Guidance kernel. It is not a Wikipedia policy or guideline, though it may be consulted for assistance and advice.
General rules: in case of doubt about two or more alternatives for calculations, prefer Wikipedia-tradition-of-use to non-traditional-uses, a template-made to a hand-made, a standard to a non-standard, simple to complex. The table below shows contexts and methods for routine calculations. Each method is an editor's option for calculation, or strategy to express the result of your calculations.
|Usual in unit conversion and percentages||
||Examples of source's fragment of text, and a fragment of data, that will be converted to different result by each method.|
|Appended||Preferred||The numerical data from the source is copied directly with an added conversion near to it.||
||May be too wordy in certain circumstances.|
|Loss-less replacement||Alternate||The original data is replaced by the converted data, but without lost information.||
||Care must be taken to ensure both the correct number of significant digits and that translation does not misrepresent source|
|Lossy replacement||Discouraged||The original data is replaced by the converted data, but with lost information.||
||Used only in special cases, when numerical data is less important (and/or less precise) and a compact expression (less wordy) is preferred.|
|Usual in multiple sources with different values||Source-1:
||Example of three sources offering three different data, that will be described differently by each method.
|Record all values||Preferred||All of the values are recorded with their references||"various experiments have measured the value as
||Generally not recommended for large number of sources or when sources are unequal in merit|
|Record Range||Alternate||Only the maximum and minimum values are recorded and all of the sources are||"experimental values range from 1500 to 2000 [1-3]"||May be preferred for cases with large numbers of sources and where range is representative. May conflict with Original Research if possibility of unequal weighting or outliers skewing data.|
|Record Average with reliability range||Discouraged||The average is recorded along with a standard deviation or standard deviation of the mean.||"experimental values average at 1700±300 [1-3]"||In most if not all cases this is original research since the relative weight of each value is needed. Also need to be explicit between standard deviation and standard deviation of mean. Is difficult to keep current if another source is added.|
|Record Average without reliability range||Discouraged||The unweighted average of the source data is recorded||"experimental values average at ~1700 "||May be slightly more honest than average with reliability range in that no claim is made about reliability but still requires some knowledge about relative weights of sources. Difficult to keep current when sources are added, removed, found to be redundant, etc.|
Customary justifications for "valid routine calculations". It is not a full systematic list, but can be used as reference and to inductive reasoning:
- Really usual calculations:
- Sum of quantities. Example: source says "two jumps of 2 and 3 meters", editor writes "the two jumps totaled 5 meters".
- Percentuals. Based on division, using also round function and multiplication.
round(100*Quantity/referenceQuantity). Example: "120 of 200 (60%)". See Template:Percentage.
- ... many others ... see Category:Mathematical function templates...
- "Real time" calculations:
- Metric system translations. Example: "
5300 meters" converted to "
17,388 ft". See template:Convert/lengthcalc, etc.
- Translation of numeric representation. Examples: source say "
12345" and page needs to show it in binary, 110000001110012, or in roman, XMMCCCXLV. See template:Binary, template:Roman, Module:BaseConvert, etc.
- ... many others ... see Category:Smart_conversion_templates, ...
- Metric system translations. Example: "
Round, precision and other treatment procedures
Summary of numerical data
- "original research by synthesis" (WP:SYNTH)