Wikipedia:Common sourcing mistakes (notability)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, a specific type of reference work properly containing articles on topics of knowledge. Wikipedia employs the concept of notability to avoid indiscriminate inclusion of topics by attempting to ensure that the subjects of articles are "worthy of notice" – by only including articles on topics that the world has taken note of by substantively treating them in reliable sources unconnected with the topic. The general notability standard thus presumes that topics are notable if they have "received significant coverage in reliable sources that are independent of the subject".

Wikipedia's notability standards works hand in glove with its policy on verifiability of information. In short the "right way" to write an article is to gather the right types of sources first[1] (as explained below), and, if and only if they exist, write only what they verify, citing those sources as you write for the information they provide (without copying the words used[2]). At the same time such sources verify the information content, they act to demonstrate the notability of the topic by their substantive treatment of it. If notability cannot be established for an article, it is likely to be merged, redirected or deleted.

In order to establish notability, we ask that users cite, using inline citations, to: published, reliable, secondary sources that are entirely independent of the topic and provide significant coverage of it beyond its mere trivial mention.

There are a number of common mistakes seen in addressing this issue:

  • Adding citations but to unreliable sources: We are looking for treatment in sources like mainstream newspaper articles, non-vanity books, established magazines, scholarly journals, television and radio documentaries, etc. – sources with editorial oversight and a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy. This means generally not random personal websites, blogs, forum posts, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, self-published sources like open wikis (including other Wikipedia articles), etc. In short, read and understand Wikipedia:Identifying reliable sources.
  • Adding citations to connected (non-independent) sources: While primary and other connected sources may be useful to verify certain facts, they must be used with caution[1] and do nothing to establish notability. In short, we are looking for secondary sources written by third parties to a topic that have no vested interest in the subject of their writing or coverage. This means generally not anything written by or on behalf of the subject or anyone connected with the person or organization in any way; not the subject's own website, not the subject's social media, not interviews (with the person, or of an organization's employees, officers or other insiders), and not press releases, regardless of where they are republished. An unconnected source is, for example, a newspaper reporter covering a story that they are not involved in except in their capacity as a reporter.
  • Adding citations to sources that merely mention the topic: You can cite numerous, published, reliable, secondary, independent sources and it will not help establish notability if they do not treat the topic substantively – think generally two or more paragraphs of text focused on the topic at issue. Remember: it is much better to cite two good sources that treat a topic in detail, than twenty that just mention it in passing. Moreover, citation overkill to sources containing mere passing mentions of the topic is a badge of a non-notable topic and, if good sources are actually present in the mix, they will be hidden among these others from those seeking to assess a topic's demonstration of notability.

If insufficient reliable, secondary and independent sources exist treating a topic in substantive detail, then Wikipedia should not have an article on the topic. Remember that no amount of editing can overcome a lack of notability.


  1. ^ a b Primary sources may only be used to support: "straightforward, descriptive statements of facts that can be verified by any educated person with access to the primary source but without further, specialized knowledge." In addition to a number of other prohibitions on their use set out at the linked policy page, additional restrictions are provided on the use of primary sources in articles that are biographies of living persons. See WP:BLPPRIMARY and WP:BLPPRIVACY.
  2. ^ Short quotations of copyrighted material are allowed under fair use, but any such quotations must be marked as such using quote marks (or by less common methods, such as block-indenting), and must by policy be immediately followed by an inline citation to the source of the quotation.