Wikipedia:No original research/Sandbox/Change needed

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For discussion about "these points", see Wikipedia talk:No original research/Sandbox/Change needed.

Primary, secondary and tertiary sources[edit]

Should we move PSTS to another page?[edit]

Reasons for moving

  • This would allow us to consolidate source-typing sections from each policy.
    • which would keep source-typing approaches for each policy consistent with the other policies if clarifications or revisions are needed.
    • e.g. we could cover first-party and third-party sources in the same policy as PSTS.
  • This could create an appropriate space for further expansion/explanation of source typing.
  • Discussions about "Source-issues" have been a contentious subject for this policy since at least January 2005. Moving this somewhere else would alleviate the contention within this policy, though an appropriate 'home' needs to be found, probably another existing policy or a new one.

Reasons against moving

  • NOR currently uses PSTS. Another section (e.g. Blueboar's proposal, see below) would have to cover any gaps which removing PSTS might introduce.


Should we expand PSTS to clarify certain definitions?[edit]

Should NOR rely on PSTS?[edit]

Reasons against relying on PSTS

  • "No original research" should be explainable easily enough without delving into definitions of what is a primary source, etc.

Using PSTS in NOR, but not as much?

  • I would like to note the issue of summary style of editing and how we need to potentially consider the whole article and the whole source. Citation flags encourage a point by point debate of issues, and good editing considers the source and article as a whole, not just its constituent elements. Spenny 14:17, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

No change is needed[edit]

Background - Avoiding the problem[edit]

Over the past few months, there has been discussion and editing of the section on primary, secondary on tertiary sources.

Originally the concept seemed to have been introduced to explain the nature of Wikipedia in source typing, but over time it evolved to include suggestions on how good sources could be identified by their nature, and then the policy was altered to have various suggestions on how permissible primary sources were.

A certain amount of the debate was acrimonious. The discussion seemed to involve various issues:

1) There was some confusion of what the terminology actually meant.

  • The terminology was familiar in some academic circles.
  • It is not common terminology in the wider world.
  • Wikipedia may or may not have had its own specific definition for policy.

2) There was a question of resolution

  • Was the test of a source as a whole?
  • Was the test of a source as an element such as a concept?
  • If the test was as a whole, then it was felt that it needed to be recognised that one source could hold primary and secondary information.

3) Then there was perspective

  • Some sources were held to change their nature depending on perspective. So a UN report on Disease might be a secondary source, but to an article on UN Reports it might be primary.
  • Was the source being tested or the concept? So were we saying there was something about the document that was primary or secondary or was it about the expression of the fact or analysis? In other words, was it in the nature of the writing of the article that determined our views, or was it the initial presentation of the concept that made it primary.
  • To expand on that last point, we can take what might be normally described as a secondary source, such as a newspaper article and find it had some facts and figures taken from a source, some analysis of those facts and figures, and some analysis of other peoples' observations on the notable topic. Taking the elemental approach we might find three different qualities in there.
  • Does a fact change its nature when presented in a primary source or secondary source?

4) How could the type of the source be applied?

a) Primary sources

  • A primary source was deprecated because it was raw data. The raw data concept might transfer into the more general world.
  • A primary source was deprecated as it was not subject to the rigorous checking.
  • Most contentiously, a primary source was deprecated because it was the sort of source that Wikipedians used to base their OR on. At the extreme, it was suggested that primary sources should not be allowed due to this common occurrence.
  • Primary sources might be impeccable sources for some types of information.

b) Secondary sources

  • A precious commodity desirable in every way.
  • Not all permissible secondary sources are reliable sources.

c) Tertiary sources

  • Might be secondary sources really
  • Some content might be useful
  • Deprecated because in general it is seen as copying another dictionary.

d) The typing of sources was not complete, and together with the issues above, it was not clear whether a statement could be analysed into being of a particular form. For example, was the result of a Government Inquiry (which took evidence, typically of the form of reviewing expert testimony) and drew conclusions, a primary or secondary source for these conclusions. 5) Conflicting source types

  • Secondary trumps primary due to the many eyes of the secondary source's editors
  • Some primary might trump secondary for reliable presentation of fact, e.g. sporting results
  • Where sources were not entirely reliable, some suggested that the primary could not be used to denigrate a secondary source, almost without regard to considering the quality of the secondary source. Attempting this was suggesting OR was being done, whereas others would view source checking as a natural part of the editing process.

6) How to apply source typing to the non-academic areas of Wikipedia.

  • The principle of OR is clear
  • It is not clear if source typing would apply readily to current affairs and popular culture.
  • Would the editors of the non-academic, but notable subjects be interested in source typing?

7) Was source typing of practical use

  • There were some specific war stories of problems[citation needed]
  • There was a suspicion that people could recognise OR by the simple premise of checking whether the source contained the Wikipedian issue (a.k.a. stick to the sources).
  • It seemed to be generating unnecessary debate.
  • Considering that Wikipedia is for everyone to edit, could we expect all editors to be interested in complex statements of policy and be able to successfully identify source types and apply the rules.

There may be other issues.

With all those issues, it seemed that although on the surface source typing was obvious, there seemed a lot of confusion in the detail. Perhaps it was looking into it too deeply, but the more it was debated, the more it seemed that we understood the principle of NOR very clearly without the Primary-Secondary-Tertiary (PSTS) approach, and although it seemed trivial and obvious to some, either lack of familiarity or confusion of terms meant that there was strong feeling of confusion as to how source typing helped.

At this point it was suggested that there were two possibilities:

  • The terminology was confusing. So we tested changing the terminology to explore that concept and see if it brought resolution to the above issues.
  • The source typing was an unnecessary step in determining whether OR had occurred. In this case, we experimented with seeing whether it was possible to express policy in terms of how to deal with statements of fact and how to deal with analyses.

The proof of concept demonstrated that identifying OR did not rely on source typing. Some editors argued that PSTS contained useful guidance that should not be lost. There was some debate as to whether PSTS belonged in NOR, some other policy or guideline, or whether it should be moved to a stand-alone guideline or essay page.

On that basis, a formulation of policy that is not reliant on source typing to express was proposed. In part this was based on the pragmatic view that to sort out the issues raised on discussing source typing above, the effort required was more productively applied by looking at removing PSTS rather than debating the subtle nuances of source typing to make it work in all environments.


1. Can I suggest if there are any additions or violent disagreements that the above background is edited rather than allowed to expand into a debate. I've tried to state the history without slanting it (too much).

2. If anything in it is believed to be a serious misrepresentation, why not flag it and I'll try and dig out a few diffs to support the case, but otherwise can we treat it as an agreed statement of facts? Spenny 14:18, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

Vassyana's Summary (2007-09-27)[edit]

Copied and pasted from WT:NOR to ensure that it is preserved

PSTS and conflicting definitions[edit]

Some people have questioned why we do not simply use "the standard definitions", or how the wiki definitions differ from academia. The problem is there is no standard definition for the distinctions in academia, as it is highly relative to the field. In the natural sciences, peer-reviewed articles (outside of review articles) are usually considered primary sources. In the general humanities, peer-reviewed articles are considered secondary sources. In historiography and some branches of literature, peer-reviewed articles are considered secondary sources. In information/library science and some branches of literature, peer-reviewed articles are primary or secondary based on whether or not they make novel claims and/or present new data. This is only a very rough overview of the distinctions and does not come close to encompassing the various conflicting definitions used for the terms throughout academia.

These conflicting definitions can be problematic. A scientist could very well have a strong amateur interest in history and decide to edit some of those articles. Due to their background, they have learned that peer-reviewed articles presenting novel research are primary sources. However, a historian working on the same article will view peer-reviewed articles, regardless of novel assertions, as secondary sources. Let us assume they both have a solid understanding of what constitutes original research. In the absence of PSTS terms, they could both probably come to clear agreement about what is original research in the article and address it without much disagreement or even much discussion. Introduce the PSTS terms and it is easy to see how that discussion could bloat considerably into a debate about what constitutes a primary or secondary source. Please also see some of my previous comments to get a better understanding of my concerns.[1][2][3] Thanks for reading. Thoughts? Vassyana 17:28, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

Other source-type considerations[edit]

One draft referred to "statements of fact" and "statements of interpretation." I don't recall whether that lasted into Blueboar's proposal. But for source-typing, we need to consider:

  • Through the entire source: Reliability
  • Through most of the source: First Party or Third Party
  • Section by section: Context
  • Statement by statement: Statements of Fact or Statements of Interpretation
  • I'm not sure where PSTS proper fits in this typology.

Blueboar's Proposal (2007-9-21)[edit]

(To replace the section entitled: "Primary, secondary and tertiary sources"...)

  • (Note that some of us have suggested adding this without necessarily moving PSTS - Jacob).

Citing the Right Source Materials (alternative suggested section title: Sticking to the Sources)

Within Wikipedia articles we will find statements of fact and statements of interpretation, analysis or conclusion. It is important to cite the right sources to back those different types of statements. Statements of fact should be cited to reliable sources that clearly demonstrate that fact. Statements of interpretation, analysis or conclusion should be cited to reliable sources that contain the same interpretation, analysis or conclusion.

Editors cannot include their own interpretations of previously-published facts, unless that interpretation is either 1) an obvious and non-controversial consequence of the facts or 2) can be attributed to a reliable source. Nor can editors expand on an author's interpretations of fact, unless that expanded interpretation is also found in a reliable source.

For example, that Franklin D. Roosevelt was born in Hyde Park, New York and that he became president of the United States are both verifiable facts that may be cited in a Wikipedia article. The dates of each event are easily verified, and it would be perfectly admissible to say that he "was born in Hyde Park, NY, and later became president of the United States" without finding a source that specifically uses the word "later", or otherwise explicitly compares the dates. However, any statement about the effect his birth place had on him or on his career would require separate citation, since such a statement would not an obvious or non-controversial consequence of these easily verified facts.