Wikipedia:Reference Desk philosophies
This essay was inspired by the discussion to implement guidelines for the reference desk, when many different but consistent ways to interpret the reference desk became quite clear. Names of the philosophies are not established and may be changed.
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Some users feel that the reference desk volunteers should only answer questions on factual matters. They feel that the same approach that is used to edit articles should be used when answering questions on the reference desks, namely that most or all assertions should be backed up with sound sources.
Some editors support the use of speculation on the reference desks and feel it provides important information that could otherwise not be added to an article. Note however that many forms of speculation, such as providing medical or legal advice, is forbidden by Wikipedia policy. In practice the Reference desks inevitably include some speculation.
Wikipedia-centered vs. Wikipedia-independent
Some users think that the job of the reference desk is to provide information with sources solely from Wikipedia. Others think that the reference desk should both provide outside and inside references.
Ref Desk Metaphor
Some users believe that the name "reference desk" is to be interpreted literally, and the reference desk should strive to be an on-line version of real-world reference desks. Other users prefer to interpret the name as a loose metaphor for what the reference desk should look like, much like the "Village Pump".