|This page in a nutshell: Topics that fall short of meeting Wikipedia's notability guidelines but have some coverage are eligible for coverage within an article to the extent they can be verified.|
The notability guideline is among the more contentious ones in Wikipedia:
|“||A topic is presumed to be notable if it has received significant coverage in reliable secondary sources that are independent of the subject.||”|
But what is the purpose of turning to the concept of notability in the first place? Notability is not a goal in and of itself; rather, it's a shorthand term that covers the availability of sources for an article on a topic. If a topic has no coverage in "reliable secondary sources that are independent of the subject", it will be virtually impossible to write an encyclopedic article regarding it, since it is the material from such sources which must form the core of any article.
Significance of coverage
The stumbling block in this scheme, then, is the precise definition of "significant coverage". How much coverage does a topic need, and in how many sources, before this coverage reaches the level of "significant"? Here, too, we may consider the needs of a potential article: if we must create an article using the material extracted from this "significant coverage", then we may define "significant" as "sufficient to serve as the basis for a good encyclopedic article". In this way, the concept of notability becomes entirely a practical one: we include topics on which we can create legitimate articles, and exclude topics on which we cannot.
Not all topics need an article of their own, however. Suppose that we have some topic, X, which has a small amount of reliable secondary coverage; we can, for example, extract only three sentences of usable material from it. Should X have an article? Probably not; an article that remains a three-sentence stub forever is not a particularly good idea. Should X be omitted from Wikipedia entirely? Perhaps not; we do have some legitimate material about it, after all. A neater solution would be to include mention of X in some broader article or list; if all we want to write about X is three sentences, then a source which only allows for that is perfectly suitable for our purposes.
We may thus define our terms as follows:
- A topic is "non-notable" if there is no usable coverage of it in reliable secondary sources that are independent of the subject.
- A topic is "semi-notable" if there is some usable coverage of it in reliable secondary sources that are independent of the subject, but not a sufficient amount to write a good encyclopedic article.
- A topic is "notable" if there is enough usable coverage of it in reliable secondary sources that are independent of the subject to write a good encyclopedic article.
In this system, notable topics would get their own articles, semi-notable ones would be mentioned in other articles, and non-notable ones wouldn't be mentioned at all.
Our "notability guideline" would then become:
|“||A topic is eligible for coverage in Wikipedia commensurate in extent to its coverage in reliable secondary sources that are independent of the subject; topics for which there is insufficient useable material to support a separate article should be mentioned in broader articles or lists to the extent that the available sources allow.||”|