Wikipedia:Pulling a rabbit out of a hat
This page is an essay on the Wikipedia:No original research policy.
|This page in a nutshell:
At times, some editors may attempt to use tactics or tricks to push forward original research. These magic tricks can be identified. Synthesis (from the ancient Greek σύνθεσις, σύν "with" and θέσις "placing") refers to a combination of two or more entities that together form something new. This works well in a number of areas, such as chemistry but when done with facts it can be as "real" as magic. Combining facts to produce a new fact constitutes Original Research, because doing so incorrectly gives the reader a wrong impression. Combining material from multiple sources to reach or imply a conclusion not explicitly stated by any of the sources also cries foul due to the same red herring because it splices different points of view to create unverified facts.
The trick hat
While many attempt the "Trick Hat" in writing articles on Wikipedia there are many flaws to this approach. When a magician takes a rabbit, and a top hat and combines them in front of an audience, he appears to be pulling the fuzzy eared creature from out of nowhere. As logical creatures ourselves, humans understand that this is a trick or an illusion and is not based in fact or reality. Many times an editor will synthesize facts and sources without realizing they are doing so. One can discriminate these good faith edits with discussion and the editor, who may simply misunderstand, can generally be convinced that their efforts are original research. An editor attempting to pull a rabbit out of a hat will defend their edits against all discussion.
Like the magician, an editor engaging in the "Trick hat" is doing so for an audience and may many times do so on pages with high traffic, such as a controversial article or a major mainstream topic. For the most part these actions have a prearranged conclusion they are seeking to "justify". This may not be done simply to be dishonest or make up facts. Generally the trick is being used when an editor feels the information is either important or think it's the truth and can't reference the information within the guidelines for reliable sources, and verifiability.
Not mathematical equations
Two plus two equals 4. Equations often express relationships between given quantities, the knowns, and quantities yet to be determined, the unknowns. An equation is a mathematical statement that asserts the equality of two expressions. This is written by placing the expressions on either side of an equals sign (=) as 2 + 2 = 4. If one does this with facts...you do not get the same outcome. Facts are not "quantities" and their combination does not "equate" to a known fact. "Birds have feathers" plus "Some birds fly" does not equate to an ostrich taking flight. This can also be accompanied by the opposite form when one refuses to accept information that is quite obvious, somewhat like the myth of an ostrich with its head buried in the sand.
Not a logical argument
A syllogism (Greek: συλλογισμός – syllogismos – "conclusion," "inference") is a kind of logical argument in which one proposition (the conclusion) is inferred from two or more others (the premises) of a certain form. This works well when contemplating the deep philosophical struggle of life and death, the purpose of humanity or the ultimate question of life (the answer to which is of course, 42) but when applied to varying sources of indiscriminate information...it's merely sorcery.
And not theory
The word Theory, theoria, θεωρία, meant "a looking at, viewing, beholding", and referring to contemplation or speculation, as opposed to action. When facts and sources make clear statements, sometimes they are used to speculate. While this seems reasonable in life and in the scientific fields, they do not apply to Wikipedia. We write from the sources at hand and do not assume what "might" happen next.
Wikipedia strives to give due weight and exclude undue weight to any subject. Attempts at the "Trick hat" create an illusion of one thing above another, levitating elements within sources.
Balance is not a trick
Neutrality is an important aspect to any encyclopedia. The balance between viewpoints in proportion to their prominence in sources is necessary. "When reputable sources contradict one another and are relatively equal in prominence, describe both approaches and work for balance. This involves describing the opposing views clearly, drawing on secondary or tertiary sources that describe the disagreement from a disinterested viewpoint." Balance. Sometimes an editor will attempt to state that there needs to be a balance of all view points. No, that is not actually true. As stated, balance is in regards to EQUAL opposing view points. We do not attempt to elevate a lesser point of view found within a fringe theory. Currently unaccepted theories should not be legitimized through comparison to accepted academic scholarship. As editors, we should not be taking a stand for or against. We either omit them or describe them in their proper context to established beliefs.Giving "equal validity"
Essays are not policy and only a very few are considered as supplementary to policy such as Wikipedia:Tendentious editing. While several essays have gained the general acceptance of the overall Wikipedia Community, even these essays are not supplemental to policy, but the generally accepted advise of many editors unless stated as such in a disclaimer at the top of the essay page.