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Wikipedia:Extracting the meaning of significant coverage

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Significant coverage is a key aspect of deletion discussions at AfD. This essay aims to break down what our general notability guideline says and implies about significant coverage, and guide people to think about what it doesn't say and how the grey zone of editorial discretion comes into play.

Trivial mentions


Frequently in AfDs participants post a large amount of sources (generally ones that are reliable) and opine a 'keep' argument. That is good. But sometimes when participants do this a large amount of those sources are merely trivial mentions, which do not constitute significant coverage. The general notability guideline states that Significant coverage is more than a trivial mention. It also provides an example to back this up: Martin Walker's statement, in a newspaper article about Bill Clinton,[1] that "In high school, he was part of a jazz band called Three Blind Mice" is plainly a trivial mention of that band. It can sometimes be easy to forget that significant coverage is needed when you are new to deletion discussions.

Extracting information from guidelines


Whether something is enough for significant coverage is up to the discretion of the editor(s) involved. The general notability guideline is extremely vague on this matter. The only thing it states in addition to the two examples quoted above are "Significant coverage" addresses the topic directly and in detail, so that no original research is needed to extract the content and Significant coverage is more than a trivial mention, but it does not need to be the main topic of the source material.

A fair bit can be extracted from those two sentences. The first sentence's main part echoes the premise of the previous section and this widely-accepted essay. It also states that significant coverage must be direct. This comes in handy in situations where the creator of the article in last-ditch efforts to prove notability of their pet subject attempts to do so by collating news articles together that barely reference it but arguably much around it relates to the pet subject. This won't happen much at all but is a useful safeguard if someone tries to jump through a loophole. The second part of that sentence however is widely unrecognised and almost never referenced in deletion discussions. I have found a discussion about that portion here dating back to 2015. That discussion contains a good comment by WhatamIdoing: The existing language does confuse people. In fact, I'd be happy with removing all reference to NOR. The only (dubious) explanation I've ever heard was that it was meant to stop people from collating tweets to come up with statements that aren't "directly" in any of them—and that's already covered by "directly" (and, incidentally, prohibited by NOR). It adds nothing that we wouldn't have anyway. Essentially, the basic premise of that statement would seem to be 'a source does not constitute significant coverage if inferring to the extent where it just becomes a heap of "what if?"s is required to extract significant coverage from that source.'.

Significant coverage is more than a trivial mention has already been covered. It does not need to be the main topic of the source material is perhaps the most restrictive statement in the whole notability guideline on significant coverage. The guideline leaves the definition of significant coverage wide open to personal opinion and circumstance[2] and that is integral for AfD to not become a rule-following system and to allow for discretion in edge-cases.

Significance is contextual


Significance is mostly about context, often depending on the subject nominated. In different scenarios the meaning of significance should be applied differently. With the simplest of examples, CORPDEPTH, the significant coverage requirement for companies,[3] is a more stringent requirement than the standard one. Most of them the official guidelines do not state and it doesn't really become a problem as few editors !vote in AfDs in largely different areas and most of those that do know that significance is variable depending on topic.

An example is that a paragraph-long obituary of a scientist in a respected non-local national newspaper will be treated as more conducive of significant coverage than a paragraph-long obituary of an un-elected politician in a respected non-local national newspaper.

This particular example is due to the fact that newspapers will tend to discuss politicians a lot more than scientists. In conclusion, generally more significant coverage is required for the likes of neologisms, companies, and politicians than NSPORT passing sportspeople, scientists, and generally specialised people in non-specialised publications.


  1. ^ Martin Walker (1992-01-06). "Tough love child of Kennedy". The Guardian.
  2. ^ For example, a reliable source that is barely but unchallengably reliable with the subject being an American technology company with marginal significant coverage will generally be considered as less indicative of GNG than if it is a strongly reliable source on a 17th-century priest with less significant coverage. This is refuted in the murky waters in the middle of CORP but it still is often a factor in decision making.
  3. ^ Even though it is technically subversive to the general significant coverage, that will never be held to case in practice unless some immense brainwashing comes along to veterans in the area.

See also