Wikipedia:Anarchism referencing guidelines

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Wikipedia articles should rely on reliable, third-party published sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy. This is to ensure that articles are neutral, contain no original research and can have their credibility checked by consulting their references. In order to determine whether a given source is reliable with regard to claims concerning anarchism, the Anarchism Task Force provides the following guidelines. These guidelines are an application of Wikipedia:Verifiability, an official policy on the English Wikipedia, in the context of anarchism; if these guidelines seem to be in conflict with the verifiability policy, the policy should be followed and the guidelines amended appropriately. If you have a question about a specific source, try asking at the task force talkpage, or at the reliable sources noticeboard.

General guidelines[edit]

Editorials, opinion pieces, and promotional literature[edit]

Opinion pieces and promotional literature are only reliable for statements as to the opinion of their authors, not for statements of fact. For this reason, they should only be used in anarchism-related contexts if the author is notable or speaks on behalf of a notable third party. Sources that rely heavily on personal opinions are considered "questionable sources," and cannot be used as sources for anything other than to indicate the author's opinion.

  • Example: "Yes, genuine Anarchism is consistent Manchesterism, and Communistic or pseudo-Anarchism is inconsistent Manchesterism." This statement by individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker cannot not be used in an article as a source for the claim of fact that anarcho-communism is not genuine anarchism. However, it can be used to indicate Benjamin Tucker's opinion, when it is clearly attributed to Tucker. For instance, "Benjamin Tucker, writing in Liberty (no. 123, p.4) maintains that anarcho-communism is not a true form of anarchism," is appropriate. The statement "Anarcho-communism is not a true form of anarchism" using Tucker's Liberty article as the source is not appropriate, however. Nor is the fact that Tucker holds this opinion justification for removing the statement that "anarcho-communism is a form of anarchism" from an article if that statement is supported by the prevailing view of reliable sources.
  • Example: The book An Anarchist FAQ argues that anarchism is a socialist philosophy. While this characterization represents the views of most anarchists, there are some self-described anarchists who oppose socialism, and therefore such statements cannot be treated as representative of all opinions. However, it is permissible to state that the authors of the FAQ have that opinion.

Fringe views and extraordinary claims[edit]

There is much internal dispute among anarchists over what the proper conception of anarchism is, and which doctrines are anarchistic and which are not. In order to determine whether a particular view about anarchism is a fringe theory or a prevailing view, Wikipedia editors should consult the reliable sources on both sides of the issue and determine them to estimate whether the view is representative of consensus in reliable sources. Factual claims made largely by ideologists of a particular point of view have less authority than factual claims supported by independent scholars or other third party sources.

Because the definition of the word anarchism is often a topic of dispute, when discussing what constitutes anarchism, unless it is the prevailing view of reliable sources that someone is an anarchist, it's best to refer to individuals as a "self-described anarchist" rather than just as "anarchist" in order to avoid making a claim that is not represented by the sources or that is a fringe view as indicated by a shortage of sources.

It is also important to avoid equivocation by explicitly spelling out the distinctions between the different uses of the word "anarchism" (and other terms) are used in different contexts, or by different groups. For example, a source which uses the word "anarchy" synonymously with "anomie" may be used to describe the popular view of anarchy, but should not be used to describe the views of particular anarchists or groups of anarchists unless it is clear that the anarchists in question also use the term in that way.

The fringe view must be represented as the fringe or minority view, and must not be given undue weight in articles about general topics.

  • Example: A section devoted to the notion that anarchism is incompatible with violence may be appropriate in an article on anarcho-pacifism, but would be undue weight in an article concerning anarchism generally. If reliably sourced material from several perspectives on a topic can be found but not included in an article for undue weight reasons; it can be split off into a subtopic, i.e. anarchism and violence.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence; statements such as "all anarchists support/reject x" need to be referenced to reliable, third party sources.

  • Example: "All anarchists reject capitalism" is not a perspective shared by all self-described anarchists. Since some people who describe themselves as anarchists accept capitalism, our Anarchism article, as of this revision contains the neutral statement "The compatibility of capitalism (which anarchists usually reject, according to the Oxford Companion to Philosophy), nationalism and religion with anarchism is widely disputed." This is supported by a reference to Oxford Companion to Philosophy, a reliable source independent of the subject matter (i.e. not written by pro- or anti- religious/capitalist/nationalist anarchists).

Mainstream sources[edit]

Scholarly and reference sources: Because anarchism has traditionally been a marginalised movement, it can be challenging to find well-informed mainstream sources of information. Editors are encouraged to provide multiple sources wherever possible, and should consider scholarly, well-researched material the best source of information. In particular, dictionaries and encyclopediae should not be considered authoritative on anarchism since these references endeavor to record common understandings of ideas which may be inaccurate.

  • Example: In popular speech, the word "anarchy" is often used as a synonym for anomie or chaos, and dictionaries will often reflect this usage. However, in Wikipedia articles on anarchism, we are attempting to describe the political philosophy of the anarchist movement, and therefore such references should be used with attention paid to which meaning the source is talking about. One useful way to crosscheck whether your source is referring to anarchism as a movement is to compare it with a number of primary sources.

If a source is a scholarly work and is not contradicted by similar or primary sources, it should be considered trustworthy, and may be represented as fact.[1] If the source in question is not scholarly, or disagrees with the primary sources, then it should not be used without explicit attribution, reporting disagreement among the sources.

Media sources

A comprehensive familiarity with anarchism, as with many subjects, is rare among journalists. Their concept of anarchism is often associated with terrorism, chaos or anomie in the popular consciousness, whether rightly or wrongly so.

Specifically, editors should be wary of citing passing references to anarchist-related topics where the author does not support their claims with a rationale or citation.

Topical reference[edit]

Reference works that deal specifically with politics, philosophy, or other areas related to anarchism often suffer from the same problems as general reference works. While information in these works can be taken as generally accurate, editors are advised to take caution if the source does not deal with anarchism in depth.


Major mainstream newspapers are generally considered reliable sources on Wikipedia. However, a journalist doing a story on a group of anarchists will often have no prior experience with the anarchist movement. As such, articles that do not cite multiple sources should be considered accurate only in representing the point of view expressed by the particular groups covered in the article and should not be generalized further to the anarchist movement as a whole.

Scholarly journals[edit]

Scholarly and academic publications should be considered the best source of reliable information on anarchism.

Anarchist media[edit]

Anarchist publications are for the most part not widely read by non-anarchists. Consequently, it can be difficult for Wikipedia editors to determine whether specific anarchist sources are reliable or not. Caution should be exercised particularly when citing self-published sources such as websites, though many of the websites listed below are operated by credible organisations, have editorial oversight and publish material authored by third parties.

Specific sources[edit]

This is a guideline for the circumstances in which it is appropriate to cite material from certain anarchist outlets. The sources listed here are considered to be credible in claiming that material they publish is by the authors they claim, with the exception of pseudonymous contributions. In cases which authors cannot be identified or only pseudonymously identified, these sources should not be used as reliable sources, unless the pseudonym can be credibly tied to a real person or can be credibly shown to speak on behalf of a named third party. Note that the directives on the rest of the page apply as well as the guidelines for the specific sources listed here.

Reliable archives[edit]

The following sources are reliable publishers of third party work, in that they can be trusted to accurately represent the articles they publish. The articles may be considered reliable sources for statements of fact only if their authors' work in the relevant field has previously been published by reliable third-party publications; and reliable sources for the opinions of notable authors and organizations.

Open wikis[edit]

Open wikis can be edited by anyone, in most cases anonymously. For this reason, they can never be used as reliable sources, although they may be useful for finding references, and content from wikis using GFDL-compatible licenses can be used directly if attributed. Examples of anarchism-related wikis include:

Using questionable or self-published sources[edit]

Because the vast majority of anarchist writings are published online and in zines, articles on anarchism are likely to rely more heavily on these sources than would be acceptable for most other Wikipedia articles. The same guidelines used in the rest of Wikipedia should be followed for these sources, and editors should keep in mind that while these sources should be used with caution, they are not universally banned. The following examples are appropriate uses of questionable or self-published sources:

1. Self-published and questionable sources in articles about themselves
Material from self-published or questionable sources may be used in articles about those sources, so long as:
  • it is relevant to their notability;
  • it is not contentious;
  • it is not unduly self-serving;
  • it does not involve claims about third parties;
  • it does not involve claims about events not directly related to the subject;
  • there is no reasonable doubt as to who wrote it;
  • the article is not based primarily on such sources.
2. Professional self-published sources
When a well-known, professional researcher writing within his or her field of expertise has produced self-published material, these may be acceptable as sources, so long as his or her work has been previously published by reliable, third-party publications. Editors should exercise caution for two reasons: first, if the information on the professional researcher's blog (or self-published equivalent) is really worth reporting, a reliable source will probably have covered it; secondly, the information has been self-published, which means it has not been subject to independent fact-checking. Self-published sources, such as personal websites and blogs, must never be used as third-party sources about living persons, even if the author is a well-known professional researcher or writer; see WP:BLP. If a third-party source has published the same or substantially similar material, that source should be used in preference to the self-published one.
3. Carefully selected temporary links with regard to developing current events 
"In the case of articles which chronicle a developing current event it is not a violation of Wikipedia policy to temporarily include links to blogs which contain contemporary opinion and observations about the event. A diverse mix is recommended, but the extent and selection of specific blogs is a matter of content to be determined by the editors of the article." [1]

Related pages[edit]


  1. ^ For the general principle, see the "explanation of the neutral point of view" section of the neutral point of view policy.