Wikipedia:Actually editing scientific articles

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When editing or creating an article of any type, editors are expected to abide by Wikipedia's core content policies. Original research is not allowed, anything challenged or likely to be challenged needs an inline citation to a reliable source, and all articles must be written from a neutral point of view.

These policies may not in themselves be sufficient to guarantee that an article won't contain mistakes or misleading statements. To prevent errors, the following suggestions may be helpful:

  • Check non-trivial statements you intend to insert into an article. Determine whether your statement could be invalid under some circumstances. To find out, you may need to study the entire source in which the statement is made, or look in other sources. The validity of a statement made on some particular page of a technical book may well rely upon necessary conditions mentioned many pages earlier, or even in another source. If you find that the statement is valid only within a specific context, you may have to include that context in the article.
  • If you make edits to an existing article, which you have checked as described in the previous point, you may find that a statement you want to insert disagrees with other statements made in the same article. It may be that the conflicting statements are true under some conditions that are not explicitly mentioned in the article. Any apparent conflicts or seemingly confusing issues should be explained by citing reliable sources.
  • If you find yourself in a dispute with other editors about a technical point, try to avoid working the issues out from "first principles" on the Talk page. Original research on Talk pages is not disallowed, but it should be kept to a minimum, because talk pages are there to discuss how to improve the article, not for a general debate on the subject matter. Refer in the article to reliable sources and note any conflicts between their views. Be careful that you don't inadvertently violate WP:SYNTH—the rule against doing a new synthesis of material.
  • Assume from the outset that multiple meanings of technical terms are likely to occur, whether or not you are aware of them, so search for meanings proposed by other editors, rather than searching only to back up your own understanding.
  • Realize that different approaches or explanatory models are often all correct, and different readers will find different explanations useful. Don't delete existing explanations just because they use a different model; add your explanation to the article, so long as it is carefully sourced.
  • Although copyright might prevent the treatment of a series of examples from being copied from a textbook verbatim, nonetheless, choosing an example that has also been used in published works (and incorporating an inline citation to such a work) greatly helps any other editor to verify that part of the article content. (Always remember that unsourced material may be challenged and removed. It is not necessary to synthesise completely novel examples, nor to invent original approaches for explaining a topic, and attempting to do so is less likely to produce a trustworthy and widely useful article.)
  • Don't presume to have the WP:TRUTH. (Anyone versed in philosophy of science has automatic reason to doubt you anyway.) Assuming that you are right gets in the way of engaging collaboratively at the talk page. Claims of personal expertise are generally useless here also, since we will not be verifying your identity. Instead, try to find (or create externally) a reliable source to support the material you want to include.
  • Don't try proving your novel theories on talk pages. Remember, there is no WP:DEADLINE; we will give your original work WP:DUE weight in the article after you have succeeded in having it published elsewhere.

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