Wikipedia talk:Evaluating sources/Archive 1

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Purpose of this sandbox

Exploring the creation of a PSTS page, as a replacement for WP:PSTS

  1. Create a PSTS page in which the subject of primary, secondary, and tertiary sources is explored in general
  2. The PSTS page will have specific sections about the application of source typing to WP:NOR, WP:NPOV, WP:V, and any other pertinent policy
  3. Create summaries of these sections that can be featured in the main policy pages as per WP:SUMMARY
  4. Create sections about the application of source typing to different topics

≈ jossi ≈ (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 00:59, 18 December 2007 (UTC).

first para

I split the first para individual points into separate sentences for readability and modularity of editing the points. (diff) --Lquilter (talk) 01:57, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

  • I'm not sure about the third sentence, Source evaluation should always include checking for source bias and assessment of arguments used by sources., but it pulls together material that Viriditas added while I was editing, so I took it and put it into my draft. --Lquilter (talk) 01:59, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

primary & secondary

Primary & secondary are defined here similarly to the current definition. That's okay but it puts scientific peer reviewed literature in "primary". I'm not sure that it would be appropriate to generalize about both peer-reviewed scientific literature, and, for instance, passer-by videos (e.g., the Zapruder video).

So, what about describing primary as "unevaluated" source material; secondary as "evaluated" materials? Wouldn't that safely and clearly put peer-reviewed literature and and newspaper journalism into the same class, while distinguishing, for instance, the Zapruder video, the Rodney King video, and my blog posts into another category? --Lquilter (talk) 02:09, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

Primary scientific literature refers to sources which publish original material. —Viriditas | Talk 02:15, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Removed here for further discussion: Primary sources also include data that is originally published in scholarly journals, such as laboratory studies.Viriditas | Talk 02:19, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Primary scientific literature refers to sources which publish original material. (Viriditas) -- Indeed, and scientists refer to peer-reviewed publications in Nature, Science, etc., as "the primary literature". But it is self-evidently absurd to class peer-reviewed scientific articles in the same category, for reliability, as the animal rights video that SlimVirgin mentioned on the other page. The critical distinction is that the video, while it may have been published, was never evaluated (looking at accuracy, authenticity, context, explanation, etc.), while the peer-reviewed literature from Science both included that material in the article along with the data (synthesizing observations, references, and facts together) and -- most crucially -- was evaluated by third part(ies). If we don't capture that nuance then we don't fix the major problem that science editors have. --Lquilter (talk) 02:27, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

Unevaluated data? Lab studies and field research first published in scholarly journals can be considered primary sources. —Viriditas | Talk 02:25, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

Are you proposing "unevaluated data" as a phrase for the main doc? --Lquilter (talk) 02:27, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
No. Unfortunately, films and original studies published in scholarly journals share the same category. Perhaps you can figure out a way to preserve this category but differentiate it somehow. Alternatively, we can use the "Applications of source typing" (that heading needs to be changed) to clarify the distinctions by field and address your concern. —Viriditas | Talk 02:31, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
I see that I'm late to the party. Nice job. :) —Viriditas | Talk 02:34, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
One thing that does concern me is that this page is beginning to grow too complex for the average Wikipedian. If you can summarize the entire article in the lead, that may help greatly. —Viriditas | Talk 02:35, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
The problem also exists in the other section: Pulling this language from the current proposal: Primary ... written or recorded notes of laboratory and field research, experiments or observations, published experimental results by the person(s) actually involved in the research;-- see, this places all peer-reviewed scientific literature in a different category than peer-reviewed humanities articles. Lab notebooks and field notebooks and interview notes should be put together with the animal rights activist video. But peer-reviewed published literature must be the top tier of reliability.
My proposal to deal with this is to have the distinction turn on the third-party evaluation. That is, I believe, the crux of the concern. Peer-reviewed literature in whatever academic field has been through third-party evaluation and is therefore of the highest caliber of reliability. The third-party evaluation is the key distinction.
The examples will help, but the language needs to support them and not put them in contradiction with it.

(This comment is about 3 edit-conflicts out of date.) --Lquilter (talk) 02:36, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

Ok, we need a section on "Relevance and reliability" to address these issues, with an obvious summary style from WP:RS. —Viriditas | Talk 02:40, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
(1) I'm not sure what that would be but I have gone through the existing policy sections to make sure that peer-reviewed scientific literature is handled appropriately. If you want to start R&R so I can see what you mean I will try to edit it. (2) The current version (12/18 LQ) does the two things that I think are critical: (i) Explains that the terms may be used differently in different contexts and that we are using them in a particular way; and (ii) Has a principled distinction between primary & secondary that puts all peer-reviewed literature and professional journalism in the highest plane of reliability. -- Done this way, we could use whatever terms we wanted but I think it's fine to use the humanities/journalism approach (codified in the "categorical PSTS" definitions), since Wikipedia is after all a general-purpose encyclopedia. The scientist concern about use of "primary literature" is taken care of, as far as I am concerned, with (a) the note at the beginning that acknowledges different contexts; and (b) carefully using examples and assigning peer-reviewed literature to "secondary sources". --Lquilter (talk) 03:32, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Why don't you attempt to write something for the section Wikipedia:Evaluating_sources#In_the_sciences? ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 03:41, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Okay, I did a first pass. It's certainly probably wordy and may miss something but I have put in the important points I can think of right now. Responses are welcome; I'm not at all wed to this text, but it gives us something to work from. --Lquilter (talk) 03:57, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

I'm sorry, but I had to remove this: Whether opinion or observation, this material has not been evaluated by a third party; thus, the source of the material may be described as very close to the origin of the material -- its observer or creator. While I understand that you are trying to create a new definition, this is causing problems as peer-reviewed scientific literature is classified as a primary source, or rather, "original research written by scientists published in a peer-reviewed journal." I'm not sure how we can get around this. Please think of another solution. —Viriditas | Talk 05:11, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

Lquilter, I support most of what you say and write, but continuing to claim that original research that is published in scientific journals is considered a secondary source on Wikipedia is just not true. Let's just stick to the facts. —Viriditas | Talk 06:18, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Lquilter, my friend, you just took the rule, always consider the source out of the original context of what it applies to, namely the use of secondary sources that interpret primary sources. I don't understand why this was done, but it makes the current statement completely meaningless. —Viriditas | Talk 06:26, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Well, it seems like simply empty language to me, in either place, but as a more general statement it seems particularly empty in the midst of a specific paragraph. Please help me understand what you understand it to mean. --Lquilter (talk) 07:08, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
It's a common term used in source evaluation, but I recently saw it used in a biomedical context. (See Clark, Robert K. (2005) Anatomy And Physiology: Understanding The Human Body on Gbooks) It means, one should attempt to verify (WP:V) the information in a secondary source that interprets or reports scientific research. Consider the validity of the source. If it isn't peer-reviewed, try to find the original study and see if it was peer-reviewed itself. From there, Clark gives a good method for evaluating biomedical claims, but it applies to all sources. I was going to add it, but I got involved in several things at once. I highly recommend reading it. Start on p. 7. —Viriditas | Talk 07:23, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

categorical versus relative

COGDEN put in a section on "relative secondary/primary"; I edited it and wrote around it but am not convinced one way or the other of it. However, since we present two models of defining primary/secondary, that means that it will be difficult to make generalizations about secondary being more reliable. (Because "secondary" means two different things, now.) --Lquilter (talk) 03:10, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

Remove anything and everything that cannot be agreed upon or cannot be sourced. —Viriditas | Talk 03:22, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
This section about relative/categorical is really confusing... Does not work as it creates more ambiguity than clarity. Sorry. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk)
I do think it's a good faith effort to capture what several people on Wikipedia talk:No original research brought up. It might be worth working on it some more to try to make it clearer. OTOH perhaps the people who talked about "relative uses" would be happy with describing that in prose in the preface, where I tried to say that there are different approaches. That way we could acknowledge different approaches, and then go on to describe the approach Wikipedia is using. (If so then we can delete my little notes where I defined things as "categorical" to try to be consistent with the rel/cat split.) --Lquilter (talk) 03:39, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
You deleted my post.... I wrote this: :: Codgen: One possibility would be to add some wording to the topical sections at the bottom, where such distinctions may be useful ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 03:38, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Sorry, there was a weird edit conflict -- I thought I just got mine in. Someone took out the "relative" section. I added a sentence trying to sum up the point at the top. I think it's better that way. --Lquilter (talk) 03:44, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Are thes "relative uses" related to specific disciplines? If so, we can have exceptions/expansion in the section about that discipline. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 03:44, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Shrug. I don't know -- "relative uses" isn't my bag. None of this PSTS is my bag, frankly; I think it is so variable across disciplines, and the ways of assessing reliability vary so greatly across disciplines, that it is frankly more confusing than helpful. "Relative uses" appears to be one way that people are trying to reconcile the differences for themselves. I have come to the conclusion that some people are simply married to PSTS and therefore we have to just minimize the harm; meaning, (1) acknowledge the variation and define wikipedia's variant; and (2) lay out specific, concrete examples of how to work with sources within particular disciplines and types of articles, so that even if people are still confused by how to apply the PSTS distinction (either because it's too complex or because it's too at odds with their own discipline-specific understanding) they have clear examples and hierarchies of reliability within the discipline. --Lquilter (talk) 06:56, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
What are you basing your idea of "Wikipedia's variant" on? I mean, from where I stand, it appears that you invented it. —Viriditas | Talk 07:01, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
I'm basing it on the ranking. I've said multiple times that peer-reviewed literature is called the primary literature in science; but that doesn't mean it is less reliable than the so-called secondary literature. --Lquilter (talk) 07:05, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Well, let's throw out the reliability requirement, as it is false. —Viriditas | Talk 07:11, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Consolidating the Viriditas/Lquilter discussion in "peer-reviewed literature & professional journalism" section below. --Lquilter (talk) 07:19, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
I think we can consolidate the two views. There are really not two different definitions of primary and secondary. It's all the same definition, but there are two slightly different ways of approaching the task of categorizing sources, which can sometimes lead to conflicts. I think we need to acknowledge both—even if we favor one approach over the other—since there are bound to be people taking each of the different approaches and arguing against each other. One approach, the more theoretical one used by academics, is to look at the primariness and secondariness of the source as it is used. The second approach is a much looser, categorical one, where you look at various types or genres of sources and classify the ones most likely to be used as primary sources (like diaries, peer-reviewed journals, etc.) into the category of primary sources, for all purposes, without making any individual determination about how the source is used. This is more a convenience-based classification, so that, for example, you can have "primary source collections" at libraries. This is the only way to create such "collections", since by definition you do not know how the source will be used. Academics know, however, that when the source is actually used in practice, any work in such collections can be either primary or secondary, despite the rough categorization. COGDEN 16:24, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Codgen, these two definitions will be a source of confusion rather than help editors. This is not a page to explain the nuances of type sourcing, but an attempt tyo explain how we use sources in Wikipedia. Big difference. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 17:14, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
See also my comments on schemes and such under #Scheming. -- Fullstop (talk) 19:58, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

is it ok to provide make the defs linkable within a page with anchor?

I just wrote the bit relevant to WP:N. Would it be ok to link to the secondary sources def on the same page? And would it be ok to use {{anchor}} to make the target linkable? -- Fullstop (talk) 03:37, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

I think that the WP:N section could do wit some tightening around the subject of this page, and remove what is not pertinent to source typing. Using {{anchors}} is good. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 03:40, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
ok. thx. -- Fullstop (talk) 04:03, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
  • Good first pass. Is there alternative language to "acknowledges"? That seems a little off to me but I can't come up with a better right now. --Lquilter (talk) 03:41, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
I chose "acknowledge" because it would accommodate a refutation, which is an acknowledgment too. ;) -- Fullstop (talk) 04:03, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

Same problem, different article

We're running into the same problems with definitions. Each field uses primary and secondary sources differently, but all fields can agree upon basic definitions, so let's just stick to the most basic, general definitions and explain in the PST section that the types of sources vary with each field, and point users to examples in that section. —Viriditas | Talk 05:20, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

Good point. The latest draft works well. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 05:26, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Okay, but then we need to translate. Someone keeps removing the "translation" in the science section. Peer-reviewed literature should not be considered on the same footing as a captured video like the Zapruder film. --Lquilter (talk) 06:37, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
It's not someone, it's me, and I don't know why you think the above. I keep removing the "translation" section above, because I think you are confusing the discipline-specific definitions with how you personally want primary sources to be treated on Wikipedia. It is not a good idea to change accepted definitions, and I would prefer if you discuss it here first. Peer-reviewed journals which publish original research are considered primary sources. So are films, etc. It's how we use those sources that's the issue. It is acceptable to use primary sources in science-related articles provided they are used a certain way. It is not acceptable to write about the Zapruder film in an article about JFK without a reliable secondary source. So it's in the application, not the definition or the category. —Viriditas | Talk 06:42, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Ah-hah! Where is the Jimbo quote about peer-reviewed literature being the most reliable? Anyway WP:NOR says: In general, the most reliable sources are peer-reviewed journals and books published in university presses; university-level textbooks; magazines, journals, and books published by respected publishing houses; and mainstream newspapers. WP:V is almost or exactly the same. So if that's the most reliable, how can we define "primary sources" to include peer-reviewed literature and then state that primary sources are less reliable? (In other words, we state that "secondary sources" are the most reliable here, but you're saying that we define peer-reviewed literature -- elsewhere described as the most reliable -- as primary.) --Lquilter (talk) 06:51, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
We don't have to define anything. I'm going on the most commonly accepted definitions published in books, articles, and research guides. The application is the problem, not the definition. We use primary sources differently in science articles because those primary sources are already assumed to be peer-reviewed and by their very nature, report research results and draw conclusions. The Zapruder film, while also a primary source, is assumed not to be peer-reviewed, and we discuss that film in conjunction with a secondary source, as we would any other film. (And if you would want to debate films, I'm ready and willing) The difference is in how each field uses these sources, not in its definition. By trying to redefine terms, you are opening a can of worms that makes the use of these definitions more confusing than they need to be. Let's stick to referenced sources. —Viriditas | Talk 06:59, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Fine, but if we're going to discipline-specific applications, then we can't make the generalization that secondary sources are more reliable. Do you see my point? --Lquilter (talk) 07:03, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Yes, and I agree with you. Reliability is the wrong word. Secondary sources are preferred because 1) they best represent multiple points of view, and 2) they analyze primary sources. 1 meets the requirement for NPOV and 2, NOR. —Viriditas | Talk 07:09, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
  • Let's consolidate this below, please. --Lquilter (talk) 07:12, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
See also my comments on "same problems" under #Scheming. -- Fullstop (talk) 19:58, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

peer-reviewed literature & professional journalism

The main thing that will work as a signpost for this is peer-reviewed literature and professional journalism. That is what most people will understand to be highly reliable. Therefore I think we should state clearly that these are commonly understood to be "secondary sources" as Wikipedia uses the term, and the most highly reliable sources available. As a usability matter, it's a little counter-intuitive to have the middle of three items be the "best"; most people have an expectation of things that are ranked being ordered in that rank. Since we're going against that expectation, we need clear signposts, and peer-reviewed literature/professional journalism will clearly delineate that that is what "secondary literature" means. If that is not what you all are thinking secondary literature means, then we have a really major problem on our hands! (There's the Jimbo quote about peer-reviewed literature being the best sources so hopefully we're all on the same page about that.) --Lquilter (talk) 06:46, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

We do not want to redefine commonly used words and concepts. You are introducing unneeded complexity into a very simple matter. The original intent of this page was to streamline and simplify the PST distinctions. Scientific articles which report original research are not commonly understood to be secondary sources. There are, of course, scientific articles that are secondary sources, so by trying to redefine this former you are ignoring the latter. Redefining commonly used ideas is a very bad idea and will only double the previous problem. Let's stick to the normal definitions and keep things simple. The scientific section was once very short and easy to read, and now it is becoming long, drawn-out, and quite frankly meaningless. The statement, consider the source applies to secondary sources which report scientific research, which you moved into a peer-review section, nullifying the original intent and context. These are not complex ideas. It is easy to state, in two paragraphs, what the problem is and how we approach it. —Viriditas | Talk 06:52, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Defining peer-reviewed literature, scientific or otherwise, as primary is fine -- I have no problem with using that. But then we cannot say that secondary is the most reliable because it flies in the face of what we already say in WP:NOR and WP:V: "In general, the most reliable sources are peer-reviewed journals and books published in university presses; university-level textbooks; magazines, journals, and books published by respected publishing houses; and mainstream newspapers." I'm trying to work with the PSTS hierarchy and ranking that other people have established; since people have decreed that "secondary sources" are the most reliable, then, by the terms of WP:NOR (and by logic), peer-reviewed literature has to be in there. If not, please tell me where I'm going wrong. --Lquilter (talk) 07:02, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Ok, now we're getting somewhere. Thanks for explaining. I'm in complete agreement with you that secondary sources are not the most reliable. That is something that was obviously said by a layperson, unfamiliar with how primary and secondary sources are actually used. However, when it comes to certain policies, such as NPOV, secondary sources are better than primary sources. This is a point raised by Turabian. Other points of view are best found in secondary sources. As for reliability, that's probably the wrong word. As a tertiary source, Wikipedia prefers secondary sources for analysis. Because we are prevented from engaging in original research, we cannot analyze primary sources. That's it. It's that simple. —Viriditas | Talk 07:07, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
See, the problem for me is not in the definitions (who cares; they're arbitrary; Turabian is as good as anything else); it's in the use-statements. For instance in the current version of WP:NOR it says "Wikipedia articles should rely on reliable, published secondary sources. All interpretive claims, analyses, or synthetic claims about primary sources must be referenced to a secondary source, rather than original analysis of the primary-source material by Wikipedia editors." This specifies that we have to use secondary sources, and it is the crux of the problem when peer-reviewed/professional journalism is defined as a primary source. --Lquilter (talk) 07:11, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
copied from above
 :::::: Fine, but if we're going to discipline-specific applications, then we can't make the generalization that secondary sources are more reliable. Do you see my point? --Lquilter (talk) 07:03, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Yes, and I agree with you. Reliability is the wrong word. Secondary sources are preferred because 1) they best represent multiple points of view, and 2) they analyze primary sources. 1 meets the requirement for NPOV and 2, NOR. —Viriditas | Talk 07:09, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
I have concerns about "preferred" as well -- that's too broad. Preferred in some instances. The sciences material that I wrote is unquestionably too long (I draft long and then edit short), but look at the second paragraph under peer-reviewed literature. I believe that is the heart of much of the dispute of the last few months. Some people want to ensure that peer-reviewed literature ("PRL") is not synthesized into new OR. Other people want to ensure that PRL maintains its position at the top of the reliability hierarchy. These two goals are not incompatible, but they need to be addressed straightforwardly, together, about how they inter-relate. And not in a way which diminishes the utility of PRL, which is what some of the use-commentary text in the current WP:NOR does. We don't want to undercut the reliability of PRL; we want to explain what it is reliable for, and what "secondary sources" are reliable for. They are reliable for slightly different things. --Lquilter (talk) 07:18, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
That's true. Secondary sources are preferred in humanities-related articles, while a combination of primary and secondary are acceptable for science articles. But the root of SS preference is NPOV and NOR; there's no other reason. —Viriditas | Talk 07:26, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Okay, use scenario, then. Is it your sense that secondary sources ought also to be preferred in the science-related articles? That in the DNA article, for the discovery of DNA we ought not cite directly to Watson/Crick 1953 but to Random Textbook describing Watson/Crick? --Lquilter (talk) 07:28, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Usage is a good indicator. The DNA article does both. It cites a peer-reviewed, secondary source for the discovery, but also uses primary sources to discuss X-ray diffraction images by Rosalind Franklin. This information is a half-century old, and is easy to source using primary and secondary sources. I think the root of the problem has to do with controversial and contemporary topics; primary sources can be used to violate NPOV and NOR in fringe topics; newer science articles might make use of more primary than secondary sources due to the limited duration of ideas or things (if we are talking about technology). So time plays a key role, but I suspect notability has a relationship as well; things get more notable over time with more published articles covering the topic. —Viriditas | Talk 07:48, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
See also my comments on typing schemes and such under #Scheming. -- Fullstop (talk) 19:58, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Yes, that's what we need to do in the evaluation section. —Viriditas | Talk 00:28, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

Evaluating sources...

... is the wrong title for this page. This is about source types and their application. Any ideas about a better title? I would say that Wikipedia:Types of sources is more accurate. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 15:23, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

Actually "evaluating sources" is the correct, standard name for this topic. You can consult any of the books in the references or find a style guide of your choice. The practice of distinguishing between PS&T sources is generally the second aspect of the evaluation, the first being the selection and review of the sources themselves, followed by classifying them as PS&T, and then assessing for bias. There are a number of helpful techniques that have yet to be added. One reason why "types of sources" doesn't work is because there isn't a true type. Primary sources can be used as secondary and secondary as primary depending on the topic. And each field uses them in a different way. The point is to recognize what kind of material is being used so that it is used accurately. The biomedical reference I gave Lquilter above has a great example of why this is important. Suppose you came across a secondary source claiming that a scientific study had successfully cured cancer in laboratory mice. Would you just add that source to the cancer article and create a new section about a "possible cure"? No, you would evaluate the source. Let's say it appears to be a popular secondary source citing a primary source, but the article doesn't mention if it is peer-reviewed. So, you would want to find the primary source and check it, and see if it was even represented correctly by the secondary. After that, there's an entire checklist of things to watch out for when it comes to citing studies, which is why you need to know about PS&T before you even get to that point. Basically we want to give editors the tools to critically examine the sources they are using. This will not only improve our articles, it will add a level of quality control to the editing process. —Viriditas | Talk 15:54, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
I see you point, but somehow feel that this may result in diluting some of the original policy formulation... On the other hand, we may be also expanding and further explaining how to properly use sources, so let's continue with the work and see where we end up before assessing a name change. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 16:57, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
It's a minor change, but what about a verb-noun formulation ("Wikipedia:Source evalution"). That retains the reference to academic terminology, while making the overall activity a bit more passive. In prose that wouldn't be good, but as an article title I think it's fine -- there's no subject here anyway. Moreover, by making it somewhat more passive it's a bit more diffuse, less pointed than the pure academic terminology, and so less of a choice between "typing" and "evaluating". Anyway, just another proposal on the table (or fuel for the fire, however you think of it. <g>) --Lquilter (talk) 20:48, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Having become accustomed with your style, I smell the smoke of a small, raging inferno. :) —Viriditas | Talk 00:27, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
Hmm. I think I can take that as a compliment? --Lquilter (talk) 01:54, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
As long as you don't argue about it, sure. —Viriditas | Talk 09:23, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

Expansion of initial definitions

While the initial definitions desperately need work, such a large and parallel expansion creates redundancy and confusion. The initial defs should be very broad and encompass general use. The discussion of any particular distinctions or variations should come after the initial definitions. I'm going to take a crack at revising those initial definitions. If anyone has any questions about my concerns in bloating that section, or doesn't understand a point I'm raising, please let me know. Vassyana (talk) 17:16, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

Good idea. I will leave some "space" for you and others to chip in. Will be back later in the day. Happy editing! ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 17:18, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
I'm working on integrating some of COGDEN's edit into the article, as it definitely has good material. Vassyana (talk) 17:36, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
I've integrated COGDEN's edits and I've taken a crack at revising the introductory/overview definitions. Vassyana (talk) 18:01, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
As an aside, how about also taking a look at [1] to see if there is anything there that may be useful? The last section (from Lafayette College Libraries) may probably be the most useful. If so, I'd take a look at the orginal web site data though, as that section was edited and a few things were deleted that may apply equally, for how the various disciplines define the term. wbfergus Talk 18:15, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

Adopting a categorical classification scheme

There appears to be a little tension between the theoretical and categorical frameworks. I'm not sure it's true that "in Wikipedia we categorize sources based on their genre, type or general description". Certainly some people do this, but I think that's an overgeneralization. In historical and scientific articles, I don't think that's common at all.

Plus, there is a practical difficulty in "adopting" a particular classification scheme. Unless the scheme is based on theory, we can't "partially adopt" a classification scheme. We either have to (1) use the principled theoretical framework, (2) take no position on what constitutes a primary or secondary source, or (3) create a full, complete classification system for use in Wikipedia that everyone is required to use. We can't really mix and match these choices without leading to confusion.

What we have now is sort of a mixture of all three. We say that we are adopting a classification scheme based on genre, but we say that "Primary sources are sources of original work or minimally processed fact, as well as historical items and references close to the subject', which is a semi-theoretical definition. We also say that people should work it out in their various fields, because the genre-based classification is different in various fields. These three statements are in conflict. Plus, the cited definitions of primary, secondary, and tertiary are not mutually exclusive, which would seem to rule out a categorical genre-based approach. COGDEN 18:20, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

I'm a touch confused. For example, the language about categorical use was taken from your own edit that I reverted and then integrated into the text. (I disagree with your assessment that's not how it's treated in historical topics, but that's another discussion of its own.) That description of primary sources seems a perfectly harmonious description of the general features of primary sources when classified purely by "type" or "genre". Could you explain a bit more how it ventures into the semi-theoretical? I also fail to see the conflict between advising people that the definition/usage may vary and a generic overview. Could you also provide a further explanation of that perception? Thanks! Vassyana (talk) 18:39, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
The difference is, instead of saying that "X is a primary source because it is a diary", we say that "X is a primary source because it is an original first-hand account", or "X is a secondary source because even though it appears in a diary, it is a commentary on the Communist Manifesto". It's the difference between monolithic classifications based on genre, and flexible classifications based on how they are used.
The description now is semi-theoretical because it says primary sources "are sources of original work or minimally processed fact, as well as historical items and references close to the subject". Thus, a speech may be a derivative commentary about the Communist Manifesto, thus according to the sem-theoretical parts of the definitions, it is a secondary source about the Manifesto, but since it's genre is a speech, it would be classified as a primary source. COGDEN 19:33, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
See also my comments on schemes and such under #Scheming, directly below. -- Fullstop (talk) 19:58, 18 December 2007 (UTC)


From the discussion of schemes and such, it appears evident that the whole primary/secondary paradigm needs to be rethought.
The idea that a particular class of sources is beneficial to wp is of course valid. But then, the salient properties that make a source identifiable in particular class need to be used, and not a label of the class itself.
Or to put it another way, although I know what X is supposed to mean Y here, I am by training conditioned to understand X to mean Z, and much of what I read then has bells ringing in my head.
Its as if an article that is ostensibly about "socks" had simply taken an article about shoes and replaced every instance of the word "shoes" with the word "socks."
Formally, the article would be "correct", but would be a headache to read. This is precisely the sort of thing that this page is doing.
What this page intends to do is identify the kind of source that are preferred in WP, that is, the reliable/dependable/significant ones. What it is really doing is discussing source typing, and is doing this only so we might use a 'secondary sources' polyseme even though what we really mean is "reliable/dependable/significant sources". This is bound to cause grief (eg NOR) again.
-- Fullstop (talk) 19:48, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
ps: the title of this section might perhaps demonstrate just what effect words have in people's minds.
I think this attempt goes well beyond that... It explains the use of sources in Wikipedia and addresses these issues as it relates to our content policies, as well as explaining the use of sources in specific subjects. Saying that this attempt does not work, is not really helpful. If you have any ideas on how to make this better, please help out. I do not think that we are rewriting WP:RS here.... ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 20:29, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
To explain "the use of sources" is a fine thing. However, my point was (and which is demonstrated by the many talk sections that somehow touch on it) the use of the ps/ss "handles" is a nightmare.
The "idea on how to make this better" that I provided above was:
  • use "reliable/dependable/significant sources" or any other such thing that describes what we mean.
This would be step #1 in a procedure to replace jargon with other words. That procedure runs something like this:
1. Identify what it is we want to express when we presently use those terms. That is, identify what we want "primary" and "secondary" to represent, not what we already take them to mean (because, in this case, the understanding even varies from person to person).
2. Find a concise and unambiguous set of words to express the result of step #1
3. Find/replace all instances of the problem phrases with the words from step #2
-- Fullstop (talk) 21:16, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Go ahead and try your idea on the page, then. That way we can all comment on it. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 21:52, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
erm, try what? -- Fullstop (talk) 22:46, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

Confusing sentence

I removed this because I couldn't understand what it meant.

"For example, scientists may refer to the publishing of original theories as "the primary literature," while humanities scholars may describe similar literature as "the secondary literature.""

I can't offhand think of an example where that would happen. Unless what's meant is that the output of scientists is usually primary-source material (i.e. original work), whereas the output from the humanities is usually about other works? SlimVirgin (talk)(contribs) 22:11, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

I don't know about the "original theories" part but scientists refer to the body of scientific peer-reviewed literature as "the primary literature". --Lquilter (talk) 22:17, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
Peer-reviewed papers and university published books presenting original or heavily revised theories and ideas are considered primary sources in science and secondary sources in the humanities, taking the fields at their face. "Producing" a primary source in the humanities is simply making raw research material available; circumstances like releasing dig notes, publishing photographs of ancient manuscripts, etc. For example, if a particular archaeologist was studying a previously unknown culture and single-handedly "produced" all the source material (lead the dig, decoded the language, etc), even their first paper providing a theory of who the people were, what their language was, how they lived, etc is considered a secondary source. A comparable paper in the sciences (where say, a physicist lead the particle studies, compiled the data, designed the experiments, etc) would be considered a primary source within the field. Hope that helps explain. Vassyana (talk) 23:03, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
The disciplinary differences is why we need explanations of disciplinary differences in Wikipedia. AND, if we elect to class peer-reviewed literature in "primary sources" for whatever reason, we cannot have generalizations about sources ("secondary sources are preferred") that contradict the earlier parts of NOR ("the most reliable sources are peer-reviewed journals and books published in university presses ..." ). --Lquilter (talk) 23:41, 18 December 2007 (UTC)
I completely agree. Coherence is important. Vassyana (talk) 00:46, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
and, already source quality differences generate a need to explain source-type differences; these in turn have now generated the need to explain disciplinary differences; are we going to need to explain types of academic disciples too? Which would need to explain what an academic disciple is; and then science versus humanities; oh wait, are economics or psychology classified as humanities or sciences? Heavens, where is this leading? -- Fullstop (talk) 01:25, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
Is leading in a direction worth exploring, unless your only interest is is staying stuck at WP:NOR#PSTS. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 03:28, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
there is no one subject of psychology in the sense you have in mind: clinical psychology is a medical science, or applied social science, depending on the perspective; experimental psychology can be neuroscience or social science -- or-- with some types of psychoanalysis, the humanities. Economics is now generally considered a mathematical or "hard" social science. There are several dimensions: the nature of the subject field, the method of study, the academic organisation, and the publication patterns. Every individual subfield is different. There are general principles, but they are very general. As Vassyana explains, the use of primary and secondary sources in WP does not correspond to academic reality in the sciences,and whether it does elsewhere is somewhat disputed.
There are some general rules, but they tend to be nonspecific: the main ones, unrecognized for the most part in WP, are that all "peer-reviewed" journals are not equal, that no academic work is ever truly definitive,and that in most subjects the interesting things are the most disputed. Another one not recognized in this discussion, is that for not all subjects treated in wikipedia are academic studies particularly relevant or significant. I could find exceptions to everything said above, even the part that I've just been saying. DGG (talk) 05:34, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
I have struck (diff) the latest version of the sentence from the main page because it is entirely misleading and confusing. The sentence read, In the sciences, original research that is published in a peer-reviewed journal is described as a primary source. I had originally talked about "the primary literature" which is the term of art that scientists use to talk about the peer-reviewed literature. Scientists do not describe peer-reviewed articles as "primary sources", so the sentence as it stands is simply inaccurate. It's also confusing, because it places all peer-reviewed scientific literature into the "primary source" category; but according to the definitions, peer-reviewed literature (scientific or otherwise) fits more closely into "secondary sources" because it is "reports that draw on research and other references to make interpretive, analytical, or synthesized claims." That would put peer-reviewed scientific literature on a different "reliability" footing than peer-reviewed humanities literature, which is absurd. --Lquilter (talk) 05:37, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
I disagree. The statement did not say or imply that "peer-reviewed articles are primary sources". It made the important distinction that original research published in a peer-reviewed journal is a primary source. This can be supported by a number of different books and should be added back into the article. Sources that support distinction include Turabian and Stebbins, and many others. There are of course, sources that ignore this distinction but none that I know that dispute it. Some examples:
"In fields such as economics, psychology, chemistry, and so on, researchers typically collect data through observation and and experiment. [. . .] in such fields, evidence consists of the data that researchers collect. The primary sources for those collected data are the publications that first publish them, ranging from government and commercial databases to scholarly journals." (Turabian 2007, p. 25)
"To a scientist or biologist, the term "primary source" has a different meaning. Instead of being produced some time ago, a primary source in science is a report or article in a primary journal that is written by a person who has discovered new knowledge by making observations or conducting an experiment. It is primary because the researcher is reporting on new knowledge or original research rather than citing previous studies." (Stebbins 2006, p. 63)
"Sources of information are generally categorised as primary, secondary or tertiary depending on their originality and their proximity to the source or origin. For example, scientific information moves through a dissemination cycle. Initially, findings might be communicated informally by email, then presented at meetings before being formally published as a primary source. Once published, they will then be indexed in a bibliographic database, and repackaged and commented upon by others in secondary sources. The designations of primary, secondary and tertiary differ between disciplines or subjects, particularly between what can generally be defined as the sciences and the humanities. Primary sources for critic studying the literature of the Second World War are different from those for a research scientist investigating a new drug for arthritis. The critic's primary sources are the poems, stories, and films of the era. The research scientist's primary sources are the results of laboratory tests and the medical records of patients treated with the drug." (Saylor, Ward & Hooper, Helen 2006, James Cook University Library Guide) —Viriditas | Talk 12:09, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
I note that the Cook material you cite describes a scientific "primary source" in two different places and differently each time. In the first place it talks about "formally published as a primary source". In the last sentence of the paragraph it says that the research scientist's "primary sources are the results of laboratory tests and the medical records". This is the kind of thing that confuses people, and then leads to discussions like the 'it's relative to what we're doing" argument: The lab notes are primary to the scientist; the published research is primary to someone else. To my mind this illustrates why PSTS is not very helpful in writing science articles. --Lquilter (talk) 16:01, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
You're combining two different things: the primary sources used by a research scientist and the primary sources published as original research in peer-reviewed journal articles. Medical records and journal articles are not equivalent. This distinction is briefly discussed in relation to OR (see the comment about Terri Schiavo and how medical records are used in conjunction with secondary sources). Since I helped work on that article, I'm in a position to explain to you how it was done. There is really no comparison between the two types of primary sources, but you are trying to draw one to make your point. Arguing for the sake of arguing is fun, but not helpful. —Viriditas | Talk 00:39, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
I'm truly not trying to argue for the sake of it. *I* didn't combine those references; I'm noting that the paragraph uses the same phrase in two different places with two different meanings. I fully realize the differences are significant. ??? --Lquilter (talk) 01:56, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
As I've said in a subsequent seciton, it is my opinion that you have misread that information. I have to run, but I'll respond to the rest of your comments later. —Viriditas | Talk 02:12, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
The statement did not say or imply that "peer-reviewed articles are primary sources". It made the important distinction thatoriginal research published in a peer-reviewed journal is a primary source. I agree that original research published in a PR journal is a primary source for that research. I think the sentence needs context to explain that especially in light of the closeness of language between "primary literature" and "primary source", which have different meanings. I *also* think it's important to note, here, for our discussion, that a peer-reviewed science article is, according to the current definitions, also a "secondary source". In other words, an article published in Nature includes (a) report of experimental observations ("original research"); (b) discussion of other research and other references; and (c) analysis of the previously published research and the experimental observations in light of each other. That's a "report that draw[s] on research and other references to make interpretive, analytical, or synthesized claims".
I do not believe that it is that different in history, either. In history I might review numerous textual sources and artifacts, some never before discussed in academic literature -- a previously undiscovered packet of letters from George Washington to his love-child, for instance. These materials are unquestionably "primary sources". My article publishes excerpts from the letters and in so doing is publishing the primary source. It also publishes my interpretation of the letters, assesses the historical record on Washington, assembles those together. According to your chart & the definition, it is a secondary source; but it is also publishing something hitherto undiscovered and unpublished.
If I were making the rules (I'm not) I would call the experiment and the lab notebook and the packet of letters the original sources. I would call the paper that writes about them the secondary source. Other researchers who attempt to replicate the experiment are going back to the source (the experiment is the source); their writings about the source are secondary. Other researchers who go see Washington's letters and conclude this wasn't his previously undiscovered love child but simply the child of a dear friend are similarly publishing secondary research. The psychologist interview notes seem to me to be precisely analogous to the lab notebook that a biologist keeps -- personal observations of an experiment that have not yet been cleaned up & synthesized into a paper that was submitted, peer-reviewed, and edited... That's what seems logical to me, but I'm happy to accept it is not the typical librarian application of PSTS to science. I'm also happy to have the typical librarian definition of PSTS (as bizarre as I personally believe it to be) to be the Wikipedia application in terms of labeling sources as P/S/T.
But then I am *not* happy to have generalizations about wikipedia's use of sources based solely on whether they are labeled P/S/T, because I do not believe that it really works for science articles. Nor do I think that reflects the best practice of existing science articles on wikipedia.
I am wholly on-board with the ultimate goal of preventing WP:OR and in particular syntheses of published information that constitute WP:OR here on wikipedia. I am wholly on-board with developing a PSTS labeling system that can help wikipedians think through their sourcing issues. I am, very much, wholly on board with developing clear guidance about the appropriate use of editorials, peer-reviewed literature, journalism, unpublished letters, and so on. But I think we need to be very careful that we understand agree on best citation practices within articles, and that our policies and guidelines reflect those best citation practices. Citation practices within law cannot be easily compared to citation practices within science and trying to fit them all into PSTS and derive the ruleset from PSTS is confusing and no wonder.
My suggestion (I'm sure it's not "original"):
  • The policy (NOR) should be simple and straightforward: no original research -- this means no unpublished syntheses of facts (whether published or unpublished).
  • The guidelines should have all the detail, and they should be discipline-specific and example-rich. In light of varying disciplinary approaches, we note at the top of PSTS that it is a model of categorizing information that may be helpful, and that we develop discipline-specific guidelines about how to use what sorts of sources. Those guidelines should reflect real scholarly and journalistic practices in the relevant disciplines. They should include clear examples of how to use, for example, a peer-reviewed article in Nature; an opinion piece in Nature; an article in Scientific American or The New York Times; a conference proceeding or pre-print; a blog post presenting scientific data from a respected scientist on her science blog; science information from academic science research institutes versus advocacy organizations versus corporations (R.J.Reynolds).
  • Source evaluation into primary/secondary/tertiary (the "PSTS" section, here "Evaluating sources") can be either attached to relevant discipline-specific guidelines, or it can be free-floating; but if free-floating, then the language around the use of PSTS needs to be very clear that source use is bet thought of in a discipline-specific fashion not a PSTS-specific fashion.
--Lquilter (talk) 15:56, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
You say, " a peer-reviewed science article is, according to the current definitions, also a 'secondary source'." Actually, the fact that something is peer-reviewed has nothing to do with its status as a primary or secondary source. You are trying to redefine the most common terms which will result in Wikipedia using terms that the rest of the world does not. How is that helpful? And how is labeling primary original research as a "secondary source" going to clear up the confusion? Your efforts are muddying the water, confusing the most common terms, and making a very simple idea complex. Is that what you wanted? Apparently, you must have a lot of support, because the current guidelines and policies are completely unreadable and useless to 99% of Wikipedians. —Viriditas | Talk 09:18, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
I'm saying that what we generally understand to be a scientific journal article would include a mix of previously unpublished data, discussion of other research and references, and analysis & synthesis of the two. I added "peer-reviewed" just so we can be clear that we're talking about the highest quality references within science, not preprint services, conference proceedings, and so on. From my read of the definitions and discussions, people are placing the "previously unpublished data" part of the article into "primary source" category, while the synthesis/analysis/discussion appears to fall into the "secondary source" category. I'm not muddying the discussion; I'm trying my damnedest to understand it. And I do not believe I have ever edited the content of the NOR policy, so its unreadability to 99% of wikipedians is 100% not my fault. ... Viriditas, I don't believe that I am alone in these confusions. I'm sorry you think I'm adding to them on purpose or in a tendentious fashion. I'm simply trying to point out what appear to me to be ambiguities in the treatment of peer-reviewed scientific literature. These ambiguities show up in the discussion threads and in the current policy. Within that context, I am working very hard to make sure that proposals generated here do not recapitulate the same ambiguities. Please consider that although something might be clear to you, it is not necessarily clear to other people. --Lquilter (talk) 16:53, 20 December 2007 (UTC)


Sources should be critically evaluated to assess authorship, credibility, and objectivity. Any source that has not itself been evaluated prior to publication must only be used with caution. Only quotes or factual, non-analytical statements should be sourced to primary sources.

The nutshell contradicts WP:V and WP:NPOV. When we say Sources should be critically evaluated to assess authorship, credibility, and objectivity, it implies that "credibility" and "objectivity" are sought-after properties of a source, when the only measure in WP, is verifiability within the context of NPOV. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 03:40, 19 December 2007 (UTC)

False. It does nothing of the kind, nor does it imply anything. See WP:RS which explains part of the process. Evaluation of sources includes checking for bias, authoritativeness of the source, currency, etc. There is no contradiction whatsoever. "The material has been thoroughly vetted by the scholarly community. This means published in peer-reviewed sources, and reviewed and judged acceptable scholarship by the academic journals...Items that are recommended in scholarly bibliographies are preferred...Items that are signed are more reliable than unsigned articles because it tells whether an expert wrote it and took responsibility for it...Articles should rely on reliable, third-party published sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy. Sources should be appropriate to the claims made....Editors must take particular care when writing biographical material about living persons, for legal reasons and in order to be fair." Sources should be critically evaluated to assess authorship, credibility, and objectivity. This article will show editors how to do it. It's not there just yet. —Viriditas | Talk 04:07, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
I've shortened the nutshell in recognition of this dispute, and I will expand the article to make the process clear. You cannot have a good article (or a good encyclopaedia for that matter) unless an editor has evaluated sources for bias. This is the most basic, fundamental step in evaluating sources. That it is even a problem speaks volumes. —Viriditas | Talk 04:13, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
You may have missed my point, as it is obvious that good editorial judgment is fundamental. I am only concerned with not crossing the line in challenging official policy by statements that can be easily misinterpreted as doing just that. Unless we are moving in the direction of making this page a replacement not only for WP:PSTS as declared at the top of this talk page, but for WP:RS as well, that is. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 04:21, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
I haven't missed anything. In fact, I've seen too much. This page is not meant as a replacement for anything. This page will provide a simple method for evaluating sources, helping editors make the best decisions about which sources to use. That's it. —Viriditas | Talk 04:25, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
(e/c) I beg to differ. I started this page with the express purpose of having a page that discusses types of sources and their use, as presented at the top of this page. If you want to pursue your idea, you are welcome, but I will then go back, remove the redirect from Wikipedia:Source typing and continue with the intended proposal there. Or, we can agree to collaborate on this further, if you are willing to respect the initial idea about this page, as advertised in WP:VPP and other fora. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 04:34, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
Sources should be critically evaluated within the context they are used? What does that mean? All sources should be critically evaluated, regardless of the context. What is your reasoning for adding that strange statement? I'm not going to fight over a nutshell, I just don't understand what it is supposed to mean. Is there a particular reason people cannot use simple language to communicate ideas? —Viriditas | Talk 04:30, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
A source cannot be evaluated without context. A source that is perfectly usable in one context, may not be usable in another. There is not such a thing as an absolute assessment of a source in an encyclopedia that covers thousands of subjects. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 04:34, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
And you came up with this idea from where? And to save you a lot of bytes, yes, there is an absolute assessment that has nothing to do with context, whatever that is supposed to mean. —Viriditas | Talk 04:37, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
We evaluate a source in order to establish if it can be used in an specific article to support a viewpoint, a claim, or an assertion of fact. Don't we? That is what WP editors do. We can use Mein Kampf to describe Hitler's views on race, in an article about Hitler. But we do not use Mein Kampf's chapter on "Race and People" as a source in the article about Jews, do we? ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 04:49, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
Ok, I see the confusion. No, that's not what I'm talking about, and that explains the problem. The term "evaluating sources" has a specific meaning: It refers to relevance and reliability. Do some research on Gbooks and you'll get an idea. I need to step out for an hour or so, but I'll be back later. Thanks for your comments. —Viriditas | Talk 04:54, 19 December 2007 (UTC)


In light of countless 'discussions' on the NOR talk page, and much of what is above as well, I was thinking that perhaps another section might be useful for this article. I was thinking of calling the new section something like "Examples", but if so, then some actual examples would be needed. This is currently just a brief explanatory lead and the table itself. It still needs some tweaks such as more and better text, and probably a few more examples of differences in usage between the various fields, but I think it would help quite a few Wikipedians to see how there is quite a bit of confusion on both the terms and their usage. Feel free to edit this as neccessary. It's a very rough draft and still almost a direct cut and paste from the cited source, so I know much work still needs to be done. I'm just tossing this out here so others can easily see what something that I think would be useful. It may also need a bit of additional work in relation to the other existing sections.

I see that Viriditas and I must have been on similar wavelengths. While was working on this here, he had already done something similar on the main page. Perhaps a new subject of consolidation (or just rejection of this version) is now needed? It doesn't matter to me, since the 'concept' is now stated elsewhere. wbfergus Talk 14:06, 19 December 2007 (UTC)


Defining the types of sources can be a complicated task. Several variables must be taken into consideration, such as the type of article you (the WikiPedia editor) are working on, the field or disciple (which can be applicable to either the article, the source or both), and the context in which the source is to be used. To aid in the process of source type determination, the table below is a partial list of some differences between various fields and their usage of the term 'primary source'.

field/discipline types of primary sources
Anthropology artifact, field notes, fossil, photograph
Art architectural model or drawing, building or structure, letter, motion picture, organizational records, painting, personal account, photograph, print, sculpture, sketch book
Biology field notes, plant specimen, research report
Economics company statistics, consumer survey, data series
Engineering building or structure, map, geological survey, patent, schematic drawing, technical report
Government government report, interview, letter, news report, personal account, press release, public opinion survey, speech, treaty or international agreement
History artifact, diary, government report, interview, letter, map, news report, oral history, organizational records, photograph, speech, work of art
Law code, statute, court opinion, legislative report
Literature contemporary review, interview, letter, manuscript, personal account, published work
Music contemporary review, letter, personal account, score, sound recording
Psychology case study, clinical case report, experimental replication, follow-up study, longitudinal study, treatment outcome study
Sociology cultural artifact, interview, oral history, organizational records, statistical data, survey

"Primary Sources, What Are They?". Lafayette College Libraries and Academic Information Resources. 2005. Retrieved 2007-12-19. 

A table is a beautiful way to present the information. However, Viriditas' table (this version) and the table directly above treat science differently. My comments in the section above ("Confusing sentence"; my comments of 15:56, 19 December 2007 (UTC)) look at Viriditas' source (the Cook citation) and conclude that the inconsistencies, or confusing language in it, illustrates the fundamental problem we have with PSTS in science articles.
Compare the disparate treatment in the two tables of peer-reviewed scientific literature with, for instance, lab notebooks. There's no question that lab notebooks should be considered primary sources, and that shows up the same in both the table above and in the Cook source material. But the above table leaves the peer-reviewed scientific literature out, implicitly placing peer-reviewed literature in a different category than primary. Viriditas' table does clearly place peer-reviewed scientific literature in a category ("primary source") while the table above leaves open the major question of peer-reviewed scientific literature. So Viriditas' table fixes the lack of clarity which was one of my problems, but it just makes obvious another major problem: The table lumps together peer-reviewed scientific literature with unpublished lab notebooks. We can follow Viriditas' Cook table if we want, perhaps because we decide that most libraries use this approach, but if we define peer-reviewed scientific literature as a primary source, and simultaneously prefer so-called "secondary literature", then we are going to be ignored by the science articles. There are not available review articles for every subject, and following such a guideline would not generate articles that follow best citation practices for science articles here on Wikipedia.
I'd like to note that although I feel a little disheartened that there are still fundamental disagreements, it's good that we're setting them out so clearly. Perhaps this has all been done before! But it feels like some progress. --Lquilter (talk) 16:05, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
Sorry, this is complete nonsense, and I really don't know where to begin with it. I could make a list of the 50 or so claims from all of your comments and go through them one by one, but it's a waste of time. The "contradiction" you've claimed does not exist and I've proved that in a comparison of both sources. —Viriditas | Talk 09:55, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
Yes, there are some glaring contradictions on these two table's contents... Would you do the honors and fix them? ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 17:00, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
I challenge you to name one "glaring contradiction" in the two tables. Just one. —Viriditas | Talk 09:52, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
I would, but I don't know how we can choose between the options. If there are conflicting sources on an item, the only thing I can think to do is to acknowledge the ambiguity. If we're drafting guidelines, that's not very "guidance". --Lquilter (talk) 17:26, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
I see your point. I would leave this to you and Viriditas to resolve... I am not that familiar with the subtleties related to scientific topics. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 17:32, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
I agree with you. The one I supplied is a direct copy from the web site I cited, but I also don't feel it's complete enough either. A big fundatmental difference is primarily with 'science', there are different definitions depending upon which field of science. So, if the table stays, then some additional 'science fields' would probably need to be added with their specific defs. That's quite a bit of work by itself, probbaly entailing first the breakout of the different science fields (natural, mathematical, computer, physcological, etc.), then compiling a list of how the term is applied to those fields, then seeing if there is any overlap amongst some fields (for possible consolidation), and then adding the additional information. If a table isn't complete, we need to state that, so it isn't taken verbatim as the only possible way to interpret it. I 'think' though, that with the qualification of it not being complete, but merely an example of the various ways the different fields define what constitutes a primary source, most people could see the complexity and if their 'field' wasn't listed, could at least think through the examples to make a better decision about where the source they want to use would fall.
As I stated near the top of the section, perhaps a couple examples would be needed as well, like "Source 'A' is a compendium of production and mineral resource data for mines in the Great Basin area, which also list the mining methods invloved at each site. Source 'B' is a publication dealing with mining techniques. The Wikipaedia article can quote the various statistics from source 'A', but the editor (and especially the article) cannot apply any analysis of 'projected mine life' or increasing rates of mineral extraction by changing the mining technique at any or all mines sites based upon the various anlyses in source 'B', unless there is another source that explicity states these." wbfergus Talk 18:14, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
Yes -- I've contributed to the problem in my own way, because I've overbroadly described problems with the "peer-reviewed science literature", when I've been mostly speaking out of my own (science publishing) knowledge with primarily biomedical publishing and to a lesser extent CS publishing. I have very little experience with the earth sciences, engineering, physics, chemistry, astronomy, math. But from my own areas of expertise -- biomedical publishing, CS publishing (a little), law, literature, history, and journalism, the guidelines as currently written (WP:NOR and this one) are the most inapplicable to the science areas I'm familiar with. This is why I'm strongly leaning towards a discipline-specific approach to guidelines on source use ("typing/evaluating" and assessing reliability). --Lquilter (talk) 19:46, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
Wbfergus, your "agreement" with Lquilter's comments appear to differ from what she is actually saying. And if you personally felt there was a problem with the two tables, why would you add a second one? Have you considered merging the two? —Viriditas | Talk 10:00, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

I'm in fundamental disagreement with Lquilter on this, and I believe she is misreading the two tables. Her claim that the two tables "treat science differently" is wrong. But before I explain, a little backstory: The use of lab notebooks and medical records by research scientists and the use of journal articles that publish original research are not equivalent. On Wikipedia, we don't use unevaluated primary sources without secondary sources, and when we do, we use them very carefully. I expect to add more about this to the current article. Now, Lquilter, whom I greatly respect and admire, is for some reason intent on showing there is a contradiction in the two tables when in fact, they are entirely equivalent. That is to say, the tables in both sources say the same thing about primary sources used in the sciences; There are no major differences. The Cook source says: "Primary sources are original materials on which other research is based. They are usually the first formal appearance of results in the print or electronic literature [. . .] the first publication of the results of scientific investigations is a primary source." And, the Lafayette College Libraries source says: "In the natural sciences, a primary source could be defined as a report of original findings or ideas. These sources often appear in the form of research articles with sections on methods and results." There is no difference. I would ask that Lquilter concede this point and move on. —Viriditas | Talk 00:57, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

If I'm misreading, I'll be happy to move on. (And thank you for the compliments.) Let me tell you why I think the two tables are not precisely the same, and if I am misreading you can tell me how. (I concede that the text you're citing from Cook & Lafayette are effectively equivalent.)
(1) Table 1 lists "primary sources" in Biology as "field notes, plant specimen, research report". None of these are "peer-reviewed journal article". I'm not sure what "research report" is supposed to be, but it doesn't say anything about publication or review. So it seems to me that peer-reviewed, published literature, is not included in this table as "types of primary sources".
(2) Table 2 describes "original research on nematodes published in a peer-reviewed journal" as a "primary source". I take that to mean, at least, that some parts (the "original research on nematodes") of peer-reviewed journal literature are "primary sources". It's unclear whether other parts of the (peer-reviewed) journal article are included.
To me there is at least a strong possibility of conflict in those two. Now, if we can agree that these two sources mean the same thing, that's great. Then we just have to make sure that we are all on the same page about what, precisely, is meant by peer-reviewed literature; what that means for PS versus SS; and what that means for appropriate use.
Now, so we understood one another, above, you say "we don't use unevaluated primary sources without secondary sources". I would agree with this proposition, of course. To me "unevaluated primary sources" means unevaluated, i.e., not published through peer review process; e.g., lab notebooks. I believe we're all on the same page that those would be primary sources and should not be used as references in WP without an appropriate secondary source. But we were talking about "peer-reviewed scientific literature", which is not "unevaluated". So when you say "unevaluated primary sources" are you including "peer-reviewed scientific literature"?
--Lquilter (talk) 04:14, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
You're still going on with this? Amazing. Read closely, please; Emphasis added for your reading pleasure. Lafayette: "a primary source could be defined as a report of original findings or ideas. These sources often appear in the form of research articles with sections on methods and results...[Examples] Biology...research report...Engineering....technical report. Now James Cook: "Primary sources are original materials on which other research is based. They are usually the first formal appearance of results in the print or electronic literature (for example, the first publication of the results of scientific investigations is a primary source.) Primary sources present original thinking, report on discoveries, or share new information....[Examples]: scientific journal articles reporting experimental research results..." You are arguing for the sake of arguing, and you've managed to convince User:CBM that I'm trying to redefine terms when in fact, that is exactly what you are doing. I have to say that your skills are impressive, and if I ever need an attorney I will contact you immediately, but your skills are not needed here. What we need is for you to take off your attorney hat and put your librarian cap on. If I want to argue about whether the sky is blue or the sun is hot, I'll let you know. :) —Viriditas | Talk 09:09, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
No personal commentary, please! So then "research report" and so on, you take to mean would include what I describe as the peer-reviewed scientific literature? An article published in Nature would, in its entirety, be considered a "research report" and thus a primary source? --Lquilter (talk) 16:56, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

Purpose ?

I don't understand the purpose of yet another policy page, considering all the past discussion about removing/deleting/merging WP:RS. This recreates the same sort of information that can be and/or has been and/or should be covered at WP:RS. What is the difference intended to be, and why advocate to remove/merge one, while replacing it with another that covers apparently mostly the same territory? SandyGeorgia (Talk) 17:12, 19 December 2007 (UTC)

The idea about this page is described at #Purpose_of_this_sandbox. Basically is an attempt to explore the possibility of having one page that discusses source typing and how to apply it in the context of our content policies, and to specific subjects. The idea, if we get there that is, is to remove PSTS from NOR, and add the pertinent summaries to NOR and other policies. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 17:18, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
Yes, I saw that. But that's what WP:RS does/did/should do. I still don't see the difference. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 17:20, 19 December 2007 (UTC) Discussion months ago revolved around merging Reliable sources into policy pages to strengthen it and deprecate RS. Supposedly this would be less confusing to new editors. Now this proposal aims to separate decription of, basically, how to use sources again, yet to a different page. So all I see is a full circle, back to Reliable sources under the name of Evaluating sources. What happened to the idea that Reliable sources had to be merged for ease of use? What happened to the notion that RS as a separate page wasn't needed? And why create a renamed page when editors are already familiar with WP:RS? SandyGeorgia (Talk) 17:26, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
To my mind, source typing (along the primary/secondary/tertiary axis) is different than assessing reliability. I'm not convinced it's always helpful & useful to classify the sources along that axis but I'm trying to work on this page in hopes of (a) moving the overly prolix and prescriptive PSTS material off the NOR policy page; and (b) ensuring that the typing is defined consistently and clearly so that to the extent that it is referenced and relied upon, it is helpful rather than harmful. Personally I would support working on WP:RS too, because assessing the reliability of a particular reference is a different matter. Editorials in the NYT have a different level of reliability than journalism in the NYT, and that should be clearly stated with the underlying reasons why. ... If we can agree that WP:NOR and WP:V are the key policies, then there should be a variety of guidelines to help editors implement and apply NOR & V. I am coming to believe this would be the best model of sets of guidelines and policies:
  • (a) a guideline (WP:RS) explaining reliability of sources generally (a type of information literacy: explaining things like, what are the editorial standards at the publication? if it's self-published then obviously there are no third-party editorial standards. Some disciplines have more highly-regarded publications than others. And so on.) Right now, WP:RS is a shadow of what it should be, in my view.
  • (b) a guideline (WP:PSTS or WP:EVALUATE or WP:SOURCE TYPING or whatever) that explains typing of sources along the primary, secondary, tertiary axis. I include this because some editors are wedded to it as a model and I concede that it might be helpful, although I don't see it as very helpful; I include it also because as a practical matter it seems like something that is reasonable to compromise on);
  • (c) various discipline-specific guidelines that explain discipline-specific issues of reliability, source-classification along the PSTS axis, and puts that in context with the various policies; AND
  • (d) Short, pithy policies (WP:NPOV, WP:NOR, WP:V) that are statements of principle rather than detailed specific guidance.
WP:N should explain how to use sources to establish notability, but to my mind notability is a threshold concern; it doesn't really address how we write or reference the articles. I don't see the strong ties that other editors do between WP:N and the no original research policies etc. I see a strong correlation but I don't see the strong "this guideline derives from that principle" relationship between providing guidance on evaluating sources, classifying sources as PST, and establishing notability of a subject. --Lquilter (talk) 17:46, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
--Lquilter (talk) 17:36, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
Lquilter, I don't recall if you were around when these discussions occurred months ago, but what is confusing me is that all I'm seeing is circular reasoning. Supposedly, we didn't want an independent page to discuss reliable sources (we wanted the content merged to a policy page because it was argued that would be clearer). The same arguments have moved over to his new page but in reverse, so that the WP:RS shortcut that was supposedly not useful would effectively be replaced by WP:EvS. I am still not seeing why argue against RS, yet replace it with EvS. If we need to describe sources on a separate page, it can/has been/should be done at RS, the common shortcut everyone knows and uses. And, by the way, I have a real issue with anything that elevates newspaper sources for medical/scientific info, as they almost never get it right (and that includes sources like the NYT). The older versions of WP:RS had strong wording about the importance of peer-reviewed journal sources over popular media. I don't find it very useful to focus on primary/secondary, rather the highest quality sources available to a given topic. In medicine and science, that doesn't usually include newspapers. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 17:48, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
As a more or less 'outsider' on the RS page, I have looked at it and the talk page occasionally, and this page is still vastly different. I think the last time I saw the RS talk page, there discussion about how most of the content was already on WP:V, and should the pertinent remainder of RS be moved there as well (they are a fairly close match). This however has grown out a very long and protracted series of 'discussions' on the NOR talk page, where it was mentioned numerous times about how the three main 'core content policies' (4 if you also include WP:BLP) all had overlap in regard to 'sources', with some variance in definitions and usage. So, this page is merely an attempt to begin piecing together the various 'similar' pieces, so that the 'core content policies' can adhere more closely to their subject, without getting sidetracked on other issues, such as source-typing, and making the policy more difficult to understand by most users (especially newer users) and less likely to entangle the various policies policies talk pages on side issues that really have no direct relation to the policy. Most of the 'talk' on NOR over just the last 4 months has centered around PSTS, which really has no (or very little) bearing on 'original research'. Similar situations exist on the other policy pages as well, so maybe this can finally clear up some of those discussions that detract from what the policy is actually about. Who knows, in the end, this could all just be a waste of time with no resolution, but least it's attempt to correct an area of much contention. wbfergus Talk 17:59, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
Yes, I can see all of that. Still doesn't explain why this info isn't addressed at WP:RS, rather than creating a new page. Perhaps because so many editors disagree that discussion of reliable sources can be reduced to primary/secondary sources? SandyGeorgia (Talk) 18:04, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
SandyGeorgia, no, I wasn't around for earlier RS discussions. So unfortunately my own reasoning and arguments may track what has already been hashed fruitlessly about. Such are the hazards of ongoing open disputes. I'll try to skim through the old discussion archives at WP:RS, but as you know, it's difficult to look through archives in one place and get a sense of the whole. ... As for substance, I agree with you regarding the use of peer-reviewed science literature vs. newspapers etc. That is practically all I've been trying to get done here, is make sure that our policies don't tell us to use newspaper restatements (here defined as "secondary sources" and privileged) instead of peer-reviewed scientific literature (defined here, sometimes, as "primary sources" and denigrated as less reliable than secondary). --Lquilter (talk) 18:08, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
If you understand that part, there's no need for you to go digging through archives. The discussion has merely moved from one page to another, and no one has explained why. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 19:16, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
It's not so much as 'reducing' reliable sources into primary or secondary, but the distinction of primary and secondary has been determined by numerous editors to have direct bearing across many of the policies. I can also say the issues here are very different from just reliable sources. This should also address the definitions of various types sources and their correct usage within WikiPedia. Reliability was only a guideline, primarily subserviant to verifiability, This hopefully will get any items you feel are of paramount importance from WP:RS into something at a 'policy' level, instead of merely a 'guideline', as RS is. If we miss anything, let us know or add them in yourself, the more involved, the less likely we will miss anything. This would still need to go through a more formal review and comment period as well, from a wider base of the Wikipedia community also. wbfergus Talk 18:13, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
I really strongly hope that a discussion of PSTS does not get codified into policy. It seems to me to be wholly inappropriate level of detail for policy. I want it out of WP:NOR since, as policy, it is overly prescriptive for something that is so discipline-insensitive. --Lquilter (talk) 18:57, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
It has already been rejected; the discussion has merely moved to many different places now (WP:RS, WP:ATT, WP:NOR, WP:V and here). With no reasonable explanation. Saying that RS was only a guideline doesn't answer the dilemma; attempts to rewrite it to policy failed. Changing the address doesn't change the discussion. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 19:16, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
Yes I'm beginning to get the distinct impression of a many-headed hydra. Whack! Whack! This is why I want a small number of policies that are pithy & succinct, stating broad principles; and then coordinated approach to sketching out a variety of detailed guidelines. But no more of this prolix "PSTS definitions" in a policy. --Lquilter (talk) 19:38, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
Be that as it may, there seems to a core group of long-term editors who will not allow PSTS out of NOR unles it is a 'policy'. Moving it to a 'guideline' page has been suggested numerous times, and rejected each time. Perhaps this way, expanding the scope to beyond a mere defintion of PSTS by also including applicale elements from the other related policies and guidelines, we can get these 'controversial' sections out of what should be clear, concise and stable policies. This new one may very itself be the subject of many controversies, but hopefully the other policies will stabilixe conversely. Let this be a 'lightning rod' for what has been the subject of countless megabytes of endless, circular discussions while the other policies stabilize and become more pertinent and meaningful. But, we should also try to get this into as good as shape as possible before 'subjecting it to the elements', or we will become so lost trying to follow the discussions that will follow that this 'page' will quickly fall into utter chaos. wbfergus Talk 19:51, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
My impression was that this discussion was going forward to try to develop some good text, and that determination of its status as "guideline" or "policy" would still have to follow procedures of consensus and approval to promote it to a guideline and eventually a policy. In other words that support of working on this page was a good faith effort to develop helpful text even if that resulted in PSTS material being downgraded from "policy" to "guideline" in the normal course of events. Perhaps I'm wrong or naive? But it seems like an AGF matter, because how can this be "guaranteed" to produce a "policy"? If we do, miraculously, work out the problems and achieve consensus here, it still has to be put forward to the community. --Lquilter (talk) 20:15, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
Yep. That was the idea... Work on this page outside of the NOR/PSTS storm and see where we can get to. One step at a time. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 20:42, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
This can never be "policy". It is a content guideline by its very nature. —Viriditas | Talk 08:32, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
No question that source evaluation is guideline by its nature, but it got into the present NOR policy. Probably tempers would all be cooler if we weren't trucking with holy grail policy. --Lquilter (talk) 16:59, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

Section: Original research and verifiability

This section is self-contradictory at one place, and focuses excessivly on primary sources. The idea is that no new analysis can be presented here, regardless of the sources on which that analysis is based. The contradiction is "Any interpretation of primary source material requires a reliable secondary source for that interpretation,..." vs. "If an interpretation is found within a primary source itself, it may be cited directly without mediation by a secondary source if that interpretation is quoted or cited accurately without new commentary by the editor." — Carl (CBM · talk) 17:52, 19 December 2007 (UTC)

I think the contradiction reflects a difference of opinion between a number of editors. Some people agree with the first proposition, some agree with the second. I don't think that has been resolved yet. COGDEN 18:03, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
  • I believe that the language isn't wholly self-contradictory but a bit unclear and talking about slightly orthogonal issues. Because, as cogden says, we have multiple editors with their own takes. My sense is that "Any interpretation of primary source material requires a reliable secondary source for that interpretation,..." is that it should say any interpretation HERE ON WIKIPEDIA requires a reliable secondary source for that interpretation; a straightforward application of no-synthesis. Then it would be consistent with the second statement. --Lquilter (talk) 18:12, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
That doesn't solve the contradiction. I think that was implied anyway. The contradiction lies in the fact that one sentence says that you cannot cite a primary source for its own conclusions, while the second sentence says you can. It's still an open question whether you should be able to cite primary sources for their own conclusions, and we need to resolve it one way or another. COGDEN 19:06, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
I re-read your post, and I think I see what you are saying, you are saying that "any novel interpretation by a Wikipedia editor that is not verifiable based on the primary source requires a reliable secondary source for that interpretation". If that's what you are saying, then that would reconcile the two statements, but I don't think everybody would agree with that. There have been several opinions expressed over at NOR to the contrary. I don't think the issue has been resolved. Some editors really feel strongly that primary sources should never be cited for their own interpretive statements. COGDEN 19:17, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
Yes, it's clear that there is both (a) confusion regarding the language and "typing" of sources; and (b) actual disagreement with respect to the use of scientific sources. Part of the problem is that scientists don't rely on this "typing" in the same way. In legal scholarship and legal documents, for example, we type sources as part of stylistic treatment of sources and to lay out a bibliography. In scientific scholarship, this kind of "typing" of sources is largely irrelevant because nobody cites to an encyclopedia or a newspaper article, but only to other peer-reviewed papers. --Lquilter (talk) 19:30, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
I do not think so.... Even the current wording at PSTS speaks of caution and not of prohibition. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 19:31, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
I would be delighted if the disagreement wasn't there. But even if it's just a matter of degree ("caution") it's a problem: It's internally inconsistent, since Nature etc. is peer-reviewed which is described as the highest reliability, but then NOR says peer-reviewed science is "primary" and then NOR says "secondary" is preferred. --Lquilter (talk) 19:36, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
Yes, that needs to be resolved. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 19:51, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
Re Lquilter: NOR doesn't say peer reviewed science articles per se are primary sources, only lab reports, field notes, and results of experiments. I just double checked. This subtle distinction is how the contradiction you mention has traditionally been resolved - by classifying the analytic and interpretive peer-reviewed papers as secondary sources. Both principle and practice establish them as the most appropriate sources for many science articles on WP. — Carl (CBM · talk) 21:26, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
Hi CBM. At this second (URL) WP:NOR includes in the "primary source" section this language, "published experimental results by the person(s) actually involved in the research". All biomedical peer-reviewed research includes a mix of experimental results, analysis, and synthesis. According to the most generous view, that would place a typical biomedical paper published in Nature in both primary and secondary. Other views (for example chart 2 in WP:EVALUATE here) just flat-out place such a paper in "primary sources". I have had other people explain to me that this approach is intentional and that, indeed, citing to an experimental result in a peer-reviewed paper (e.g., Esther Lederberg's discovery of Lambda phage) is verboten according to NOR, and that such a statement must be supported by something defined as a "secondary source" -- including review articles and newspaper articles. There is a major problem with that approach, since there are plenty of topics for which there are no adequate review articles or newspaper articles. --Lquilter (talk) 23:05, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
I would like to see the context of the discussion where it is claimed that citing a primary, peer-reviewed source is against the rules. There is no such rule. —Viriditas | Talk 08:12, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
(←) The 'experimental results' language in NOR only includes the actual experimental data (for example, the data about observed yield rates in a chemistry paper developing a new reaction, or measured growth rates in a biology experiment. The scientific citation guidelines expressly encourage citing the original papers for scientific discoveries. The language in this document is not yet a guideline or policy, and will need more editing to accurately reflect best practices for science articles. I'd be glad to discuss this with the 'other people' you mention, if you can point them to me. — Carl (CBM · talk) 23:30, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
See Viriditas' and my discussion, above. --Lquilter (talk) 01:53, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
I don't dispute that Viriditas' definitions regarding primary sources may be common among some authors, but they don't match the use of the terms in the NOR policy as it has been written. That policy has been careful only to list experimental data as a primary source, not analysis or synthesis, which is a different definition of primary sources more common in historical studies. I am somewhat skeptical of the need to redefine nonexperimental research papers as primary sources; what is the motivation for it? — Carl (CBM · talk) 02:00, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
I haven't any idea what you are referring to. Perhaps you are talking about someone else? —Viriditas | Talk 02:10, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
To the extent that they analyze, interpret, or synthesize data, scientific papers have traditionally been considered secondary sources for the purpose of NOR. I think Lquilter was saying you were arguing for a different definition. — Carl (CBM · talk) 02:14, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
Hi. Where did you get the idea that "to the extent that they analyze, interpret, or synthesize data, scientific papers have traditionally been considered secondary sources for the purpose of NOR"? That isn't even right. I see above you state:
NOR doesn't say peer reviewed science articles per se are primary sources, only lab reports, field notes, and results of experiments. I just double checked. This subtle distinction is how the contradiction you mention has traditionally been resolved - by classifying the analytic and interpretive peer-reviewed papers as secondary sources.
If the paper in question is analysing and interpreting the work of others, then indeed, it is classified as a secondary source. For example in the DNA article you will find Dahm's "Friedrich Miescher and the discovery of DNA". This is considered a secondary source that analyses and interprets the work of others. However, if the sources present original research related directly to the topic they are considered primary sources. You will also find Watson's paper, "A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid" and Levene's "The structure of yeast nucleic acid"; These are primary sources. Primary sources are used all the time on Wikipedia. The problem with NOR arises when the research is new, and cranks try to spin it without any secondary sources to put the research in context for the general public. See also WP:SCLASS for more information, which has been around since 15 August 2007. Scientific papers can be considered both primary and secondary sources, depending on the type of published paper (primary if original research). And, where did you get the idea that I was arguing to redefine terms, when Lquilter has been trying to do just that? Please show me where I have argued to redefine any definition in the last three years that I've been here. It's not my style. —Viriditas | Talk 08:29, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
(←) You're using a well-established set of definitions (the ones in WP:SCLASS), but not the ones that we use for NOR on Wikipedia. We don't classify all papers with original research as primary sources (this has never been part of NOR as far as I can tell, because NOR uses the definitions from historical scholarship). If you're arguing we should reclassify original scientific papers as primary sources, then you're arguing for a change in our working definitions. I'm confused why you appear upset by my commentary; it is not intended as a personal remark, only a clarification of where I think the discussion stands. — Carl (CBM · talk) 14:14, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

OMG ... what a nutshell!

Sources should be critically evaluated within the context of the articles in which they are used. Any reliable source may be used, so long as it is used properly. Any source that has not itself been evaluated prior to publication must only be used with caution. Only quotes or factual, non-analytical statements should be sourced to primary sources, unless the analytical statement is found within the primary source itself and is cited accurately. Secondary sources should be used with caution, and should not be used to "spin" primary sources according to a particular point of view. Opinionated secondary sources should be balanced against other opinionated secondary sources, and should not serve as a substititute for the primary source.

sigh... ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 18:41, 19 December 2007 (UTC)

No kidding. I'm not thoroughly on board with the previous version, but that was a dramatic deterioration, so I returned to earlier version. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 18:47, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
Since this is about more than just NOR, however, we need to include something about NPOV. Also, "only quotes or factual, non-analytical statements should be sourced to primary sources" does not accurately reflect the diversity of opinion in this article. Not everybody agrees that citing primary analyses (e.g., the conclusions of a scientific journal article) is verboten in Wikipedia. I think until we settle that question, the nutshell should be more neutral. COGDEN 19:01, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
That version went beyond neutral to accepting anything in print on equal footing, and then encourages debating reliable sources within the article. Medical and scientific articles (in fact, all articles) should rely on the highest-quality sources available, not whatever "your local newspaper" decides to print. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 19:06, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
I agree with your statement. Maybe that's what we need to say. Really, the true "rule", if there is one, is that we use the most authoritative sources as recognized in the field, and we cite them accurately and neutrally, without injecting our own uncited ideas. That's what everybody actually does. What this article should really be about is helping editors to do this. COGDEN 19:25, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
(e/c) We need to be careful not to violate NPOV, which speaks of reporting all significant viewpoints... ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 19:29, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
Earlier versions of WP:RS already said that; this is merely a new address for an old discussion. The focus on primary/secondary is a strawman. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 19:29, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
"All significant viewpoints" per WP:UNDUE are typically, by definition, covered in the highest quality peer-reviewed reliable sources. Unless you think medical quackery deserves equal footing because some newspaper prints it. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 19:50, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
No, I am not referring to WP:FRINGE, god forbid. I am referring to the fact that some peer reviewed articles may present material that is challenged in another peer reviewed article. Maybe one is more authoritative than the other, but that does not mean that both may not be significant. I think we are in violent agreement here :) ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 20:44, 19 December 2007 (UTC)

Tertiary sources: the 800-pound gorilla

I'm surprised nobody has tried to discuss tertiary sources, as it's a huge topic. The more I look into this the more I see that Wikipedia's current policies and guidelines concerning tertiary sources are not only wrong, they are terribly wrong. —Viriditas | Talk 09:30, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

Why? --Philip Baird Shearer (talk) 09:56, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
Many reasons. Start with classifying newspapers and magazines; what about editorials and op/ed pieces? How about wrapping your mind around the idea that newspapers and magazines publish original research and these are used regularly on Wikipedia? How about niche guidebooks that compile information that a researcher would have difficulty finding in a secondary source? Then there is the problem with tertiary sources being cited authoritatively, such as web pages, and their use as primary sources. I haven't even begun to discuss the problems. Here be dragons. —Viriditas | Talk 10:11, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
Editorials and op-ed pieces are generally considered unreliable sources, except for documenting the author's opinion. I don't see anything difficult about acknowledging the fact that many periodicals publish original research, nor do I understand what it has to do with tertiary sourcing. Guidebooks, textbooks and other tertiary sources (or "broad overview" secondary sources) are generally cited authoritatively, and correctly so. Could you elaborate on your concerns about webpages? Vassyana (talk) 14:55, 21 December 2007 (UTC)

I'm done here

I can see that certain editors here are more concerned with their personal, pet ideas than with improving Wikipedia. I won't be contributing to this guideline development any more because my reaction has been one of disgust with every edit, and that is unhealthy for myself and others. Therefore, I want to apologize in advance and wish you all good luck. Please do not contact me on my talk page concerning this topic. Thanks. You may archive or remove this comment as you wish. —Viriditas | Talk 10:43, 20 December 2007 (UTC)


I tried to copy edit the lead, but I'm stuck regarding this sentence:

"Evaluating sources refers to assessment of the use of sources in Wikipedia, within the context of the content policies."

It basically says that evaluating sources refers to the evaluation of sources. May I remove it, or is there a point in it that needs to be preserved? SlimVirgin (talk)(contribs) 18:25, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

By the by, good revisions. They injected a needed dose of clarity. I believe it's intended to be a statement of purpose/why-this-exists statement. Perhaps replace "evaluating sources" with "this page" or an equivalent to prevent the clumsy circularity? Also, I responded to your question about the science/humanities divide above (Wikipedia talk:Evaluating sources#Confusing sentence). Let me know if the response makes sense. Vassyana (talk) 21:49, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
Mea culpa, please fix! ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) —Preceding comment was added at 00:26, 21 December 2007 (UTC)
Thanks, Jossi, that's clear now. [2] SlimVirgin (talk)(contribs) 01:08, 21 December 2007 (UTC)


Congratulations for the major effort going on here. I'd like to draw your attention (for those who hadn't noticed yet) to Wikipedia:Wikipedia is a tertiary source. The approach there is slightly different: I welcome a broader paper (guideline or essay level) as it is done here, while at WP:WITS the attempt is rather to include only what would be needed at "policy" level, omitting quite some valuable details.

I understood from jossi's announcement on top of this page that the intention here is to create summaries of sections [of the "evaluating sources" page] that can be featured in the main policy pages. Mutual collaboration might be beneficial: I'm looking for "expansion" of sentences in the WP:WITS page for guideline usage; I suppose here people are looking for a useful scheme to organise the broader content on this topic.

As far as where to discuss this, I already created two places:

Maybe not so useful to add new ones (although the WT:WITS discussion may be merged here as far as I'm concerned) --Francis Schonken (talk) 16:57, 22 December 2007 (UTC)

PST in religion articles

  • Note: I am copying a discussion in Wikipedia talk:NOR here (verbatim) because I would appreciate further comment on a general; issue it raises. What happens when one field or point of view would regard a source as primary, while a different field or viewpoint would regard that same source as secondary? I realize this is not a show-stopper issue because it is possible to define PST status relative to either field or point of view, but would appreciate further thoughts. Best, --Shirahadasha (talk) 15:49, 23 December 2007 (UTC)

I've been doing a fair bit of editing in religion articles. Much of what I've read so far focuses on the problems of sourcing scientific and historical articles. Religion articles have special concerns, especially as regards primary and secondary sources. I'd be curious about how we might word things to take these issues into account.

  • primary source: some would consider the sacred literature of a tradition the "primary source". However, these texts often have a rich interpretative tradition and sometimes significant disputes over the "real text", or even whether or not there is a "real text". Furthermore phrases that seem to have "obvious" meaning in the eyes of one reader community have an entirely different "obvious" reading in the eyes of another. A good example might be passages of the bible that Christianity has generally read as "obvious" allusions to Jesus of Nazareth and Jews have read quite differently.
  • secondary sources: in liturature an article or essay that analyzes or interprets one passage in a book or connects two or more passage to describe a theme within the book would be considered a secondary source. Within a religious tradition, there are many, many such sources. However, these interpretative sources over time become the subject of yet further interpretation and integrative work. This happens internal to the tradition and, in the last 200 hundred years, it has also happened within academia. To further complicate the issue, liberal streams of both Judaism and Christianity reincorporate the academic tradition building upon it yet another layer of interpretation upon interpretation. Example:
    • bible (primary source)
    • midrash - interpretive material from the talmudic period (approx 200-700CE)
    • rashi - medieval commentator using midrash to read the bible. secondary source? - most Jews would say yes. Functionally Rashi is used this way and many religious readers are not always aware of his relience on midrash. Others view him this way because they feel that midrash isn't really interpretation - it is filling in the blanks and is as much God's word as what was written in the text itself. Still others (mostly academic) observe that rashi used midrash but artfully selected material to reflect his own interpretative beliefs. Tertiery source? - many non-orthodox and academics would say yes to this as well)
    • modern academia - many studies and disputes about what rashi really means (secondary source on rashi? tertiery source on bible?)
    • reform/conservative Judaism bible commentaries - interpretation of a biblical passage using rashi seen through the eyes of one or more academic sources. Secondary source? arguably since this is a direct commentary on the bible passage. Teriery soruce? arguably because the interpretation generally reflects a survey of all prior commentary and academic analysis and reads medieval commentators such as rashi through the lens of integrative and analytical academic studies of the same.

So what here is a secondary or teriery source? Sorry to muddy the waters further, but I'd like to see the religion articles improved and a clear policy on sourcing them would help immensely. Egfrank (talk) 06:40, 16 December 2007 (UTC)

My own sense here is that primary sources can be used to illustrate a point made by an integrative or analytic source but that any claim that is made directly from a primary religious text source is OR. In some cases even a claim based on an integrative source may also be OR, if there is a history of disputes about how to interpret that integrative source. Egfrank (talk) 06:48, 16 December 2007 (UTC)

I would contend that Rashi is an original source, insofar as he is presenting his original insights into the Midrash and the Bible. I would even contend that Onkulus (the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew biblical text) is an original source whenever its translation elucidates the meaning of a passage. In other words, religious dialectic is the mapping of a text to a moral or religious problem, and any effort to do that is original. Even if you are merely repeating what some previous interpreter has said, you are in some way adding your own understanding through language and context.

Writing about religion boldly clarifies the central paradox of this whole discussion, which is - there cannot be encyclopedic writing which is not original. This is the Wittgenstein paradox: an encyclopedia article is creating a map of existing knowledge. But such a map necessarily requires a key - a way to map the map back to the original subject. And that key is always original.

Which is why I believe that this whole discussion is doomed to failure. In practice, we all know what we want not to be in the encyclopedia: people publishing their own experiments of mice running around in mazes, or people writing articles proving that they are the latest true prophet. Our efforts to reduce that intuitive understanding to a set of formal definitions is bound, for strictly logical reasons, to fail. --Ravpapa (talk) 09:00, 16 December 2007 (UTC)

I would Rashi is a primary source, as a historical source of religious writings. To make Judeo-Christian parallels, the writings of the Apostolic Fathers and the Hadith are also primary sources. To make respective parallels with more distance of time, the Church Fathers and historical commentaries on ijma are also primary sources. These writings are not only primary sources of the historical interpretation of Judeo-Christian religions, but indeed primary sources regarding the religions themselves. This is especially true since the writings mentioned are central material in the modern orthodoxy of those faiths. Vassyana (talk) 12:59, 16 December 2007 (UTC)
Rashi has been very thoroughly peer-reviewed and found almost always a notable authority within the field he represents and cited in almost all contemporary works in the field, and this makes a big difference. The commentary in the very recent and well-known Schottenstein Edition of the Talmud, for example, is based mostly on Rashi. Given this thorough peer review, why should we treat Rashi differently from the contents of other kinds of peer-reviewed research? If we disallowed all works in which authors provide "original insights", what sources would be left? Many fields have abstruse jargon and disagreements about what people meant. Best, --Shirahadasha (talk) 00:57, 23 December 2007 (UTC)
I find myself in thorough agreement with User:Ravpapa that the question of what is and is not original resarch cannot be reduced into a small number of simple rules. Here we have a case of two different peer communities, between which WP:NPOV requires neutrality, having two different views of the nature of figures like Rashi resulting in two different classifications. From an academic point of view, as User:Vassyana points out, a source like Rashi would be regarded as merely "historical" and hence a primary source in that respect, and academics may consider his work principly original and hence primary for that reason as well. But as User:Egfrank points out, traditional Judaism classically regards Rishonim like Rashi as putting into writing an existing oral tradition (see Oral Torah) and commenting on and filling in the gaps of their predecessors, rather than creating original work. For this reason, a traditional Orthodox Jewish point of view would regard Rashi's work as being largely secondary in nature (although all would agree he provided valuable insights, as does any significant scholar in a field). Moreover, he is still regarded as being a very significant authority in the religious community, as contemporary works like the Schottenstein edition of the Talmud reflect, and hence he has a reputation in this religious community as reliably representing a significant perspective rather than merely being historical. I respectfully submit that WP:NPOV prohibits Wikipedia from taking a position that one outlook is correct and the other incorrect. All that Wikipedia can do is report the different views on what kind of work a figure like Rashi conducted and what his viewpoint represents. While it requires taking a religious position to determine whether to regard Rashi as a primary or a secondary source, no such position is required to determine whether or not Rashi is reliable. The only question there is whether or not he has a reputation for reliability in a significant peer community, and there is no need to take any position on whether that peer community is right or wrong as a matter of ultimate truth, only on whether its viewpoint is significant. From an academic point of view he is doubtless merely a historical figure and not a reliable source at all for academic positions. But from a contemporary Orthodox Jewish religious point of view he is considered a reliable and authorative source by his peers in this community on many subjects, and hence has a reputation as a reliable source to present that point of view. The two peer communities have different outlooks and criteria for what they consider reliable, so it's not surprising that they would reach different conclusions and the same person would have different reputations with respect to the community reflecting each point of view. Reputations are relative and vary from peer community to peer community. So by basing reliability on reputation and requiring viewpoint neutrality, Wikipedia necessarily made reliability relative as well. Best, --Shirahadasha (talk) 01:03, 23 December 2007 (UTC)

Note: The fact that the PSTS approach tends to result -- as Vassyana has illustrated -- in leading Wikipedia to take positions on subjects that WP:NPOV flatly prohibits it from taking positions on, is one reason why I think the current approach is problematic. However, it seems to be a substantially-held position that PSTS status is field-relative and varies from field to field, so one could also potentially take the position that PSTS status is viewpoint-relative and the same source is potentially a primary source in one field or from one viewpoint and a secondary source in another field and from another viewpoint. Best, --Shirahadasha (talk) 01:19, 23 December 2007 (UTC)

The perceived need to specifically categorize primary vs. secondary and tertiary sources in advance, prior to dealing with a particular substantive question in an article, is putting the conceptual cart before the conceptual horse. For example, attempting to categorize bible, midrash, rashi, and modern academic and religious commentaries into a strict PSTS form is an unnecessary exercise unless the discussion is tied into a particular concept or assertion under consideration in a WP article. Start with the concept, not the source. If the concept is asserted to be based upon biblical scripture, which is most typically the case with concepts relating to Judeo-Christian tradition, practice and theology, then usually there are differing interpretations of a particular quote from the bible. The first instance of any particular interpretation is a primary source for that interpretation. If that interpretation is the thing being talked about in the article, all the subsequent interpretations are secondary sources. If there are a bundle of divergent secondary sources on the particular issue, consider consulting a tertiary source such as Encyclopaedia Judaica or the classic Jewish Encyclopedia, and other summaries of the secondary-source material. The key point in PSTS w.r.t. editing practice is that if the issue being talked about is a particular interpretation or slant on something that's in the bible, and you're choosing to use a primary source of that particular interpretation, follow the two bulleted rules that are stated under WP:PSTS. For further analysis, use secondary and/or tertiary sources as verification. If the issue or thing being talked about is a particular original passage in the Torah or Bible, then the location of the original passage is the primary source, and the various interpretations are secondary. And so on. It depends entirely on what is the "thing" being talked about. ... Kenosis (talk) 18:27, 23 December 2007 (UTC)

So as I understand this position, the primary source for a specific claim is simply the first source we know to have published that claim. The same source could easily be a secondary source for other claims. As I understand it, primariness under this view carries no implication of originating or inventing. Even if it's well documented that a source (for example) merely copied the claim from another manuscript that subsequently became lost, the first manuscript preserved to today is the primary source for the claim. I would note this would seem to be a disagreement with Vassyana's position and may reflect some level of ambiguity about what "primariness" is. There seems to be a segment of the community who takes the view that primary sources are a certain type of source and the typology is per source rather than per claim. I'm also not clear if this approach is consistent with what's being proposed in this section as a whole. For example, under this definition primariness there would seem to be less reason to avoid primary sources as such since almost every contemporary source is going to be a primary source for some claims and a secondary source for others. It would seem to be very difficult to determine which comments in textbooks are original and which first appeared elsewhere. I'm not clear this definition leads to a decision rule which makes it easy to determine which claims in a given source are primary claims. Rashi would seem a good example of this; a large part of what he had to say was published before, a large part wasn't. Best, --Shirahadasha (talk) 22:12, 23 December 2007 (UTC)

Of course. The primary source for a particular thing worth talking about in WP is the source in which the concept started. If the subject is Rashi's views, Rashi's writings are the primary sources of his views. Obviously others have interpreted the Talmud differently. Where a different view of some aspect of the Talmud is involved, the origin of that particular view is a primary source for that view. Ordinarily, though, there's no need to make this distinction unless an editor is interpreting, sythesizing or otherwise analyzing a particular published view beyond merely giving a restatement of what the primary source says. Where this is happening, one or more secondary or tertiary sources will be needed to support the interpretation. Along with an applicatioin of WP:RS and WP:NPOV#Undue_weight, the participants in a given article ought be able to work out differences in view and give the reader a reasonable summary of what the relevant literature says about the particular topic.
.......As to the idea that primary is with reference to something other than what's being talked about in a given article, the policy for a very long time, until just a few days ago, explicitly stated that primary sources are sources "very close to the thing being talked about". Why it was changed I don't know. The introduction to PSTS in WP:NOR still says "Sources may be divided into three basic categories of how they relate to the subject being written about." If one takes the word "subject" too broadly and tries to make a hard-and-fast categorization of what are the primary, secondary and tertiary sources for a broad subject, the principle simply doesn't work on close analysis-- one might as well trash the whole section in that case. So yes, it depends very much on what one means by "subject". ... Kenosis (talk) 23:45, 23 December 2007 (UTC)

Sources with footnotes to identify previously published material would partially address this sort of problem, but only partially. Many kinds of publications in many fields have footnotes, but many kinds publications Wikipedia routinely relies on don't. Best, --Shirahadasha (talk) 22:17, 23 December 2007 (UTC)

Well, all this again just demonstrates again how pointlessly arbitrary the typology is, and how it cannot serve to establish source quality. But we already knew that. But,...
"The perceived need to specifically categorize primary vs. secondary and tertiary sources in advance, prior to dealing with a particular substantive question in an article, is putting the conceptual cart before the conceptual horse."
...really takes the cake. Here, Kenosis appears to be suggesting that a categorization applies sometimes, and sometimes it does not. In other words, not only is the typology arbitrary, the applicability of it is as well.
Not much good as "policy" is it? And who carries the big stick to determine what is what?
-- Fullstop (talk) 00:05, 24 December 2007 (UTC)
Sure. Maybe it's time to get rid of the NOR prohibition altogether and let people write their pet original research and synthesis into WP after all. Because if you take PSTS out of NOR, there's no framework to assess NOR except a loose standard where some people can argue "hey, that's OR", and others can argue "no it's not", and just go back and forth with each other. Whatever. ... Kenosis (talk) 15:26, 24 December 2007 (UTC) ... And yes (putting my sarcasm aside) as with WP:NPOV it is actually somewhat arbitrary, and needs to be worked out article-by-article, not in advance from WP:Policy Central. Without knowing what the specific topic is and what are the range of views involved, we can't prescribe what NPOV is from the policy page, and without knowing what the specific topic is and what are the range of sources involved, we can't decide in advance what are the primary sources. ... Kenosis (talk) 16:49, 24 December 2007 (UTC)
>>Maybe it's time to get rid of the NOR prohibition altogether
That would only make sense to someone who thought source-typing and OR were one and the same thing.
For everyone else, there would be no need to throw out the baby with the bathwater. The baby is clean, even if the bathwater is scummy.
>>[source typing gives people a] framework to assess NOR
Perhaps that might be so iff source typing were non-arbitrary and objective, otherwise ... "some people can argue 'hey, that's OR', and others can argue 'no it's not'." This they can do only because its source-typing and not OR that they are arguing about. *Real* OR is the easiest thing in the world to identify.
>>as with WP:NPOV it is actually somewhat arbitrary
WP:NPOV is "absolute and non-negotiable." Unless editors are confusing NPOV with bias, its not even possible for "some people to argue 'hey, that's [npov]', and others to argue 'no it's not'."
>>we can't prescribe what NPOV is from the policy page
Actually, we can and we do prescribe what NPOV is from the policy page. NPOV is - for those who don't confuse npov with bias - a very simple message and very easy to achieve.
Similarly, NOR is - for those who don't confuse it with source typing - a very simple message and easy to achieve.
Of course, NOR's very simple message needs to be listened to.
Policy can - should - be made non-negotiable. Its an objective ideal that we should strive for, but in NOR cannot happen because of the typology cruft. Negotiability is not desirable in a policy; such things are only useful to the editor who wants to interpret the rules as he/she likes.
-- Fullstop (talk) 19:26, 24 December 2007 (UTC)
It's clear what your opinion of PSTS is. But in any event, it was nice debating with you. Have a pleasant holiday, OK? ... Kenosis (talk) 21:22, 24 December 2007 (UTC)
Note: What I'm trying to do here it to understand the strengths and weaknesses of alternative proposals as they address certain types of commonly-encountered problems. We can reach an overall judgment elsewhere. Best, --Shirahadasha (talk) 17:02, 24 December 2007 (UTC)
Note: My general view is that policy should be reserved for very clear-cut, non-negotiable matters, while matters which are difficult to define and which tend to have exceptions regularly requiring expertise and judgment should get guidelines rather than polices. If we are defining a "primary" source by claim in a way which makes it difficult to tell whether a given source is or is not the primary source for a given claim, it might be better to make detailed discussion of how to identify primary sources a guideline rather than a policy. Best, --Shirahadasha (talk) 20:45, 24 December 2007 (UTC)
Yes, the position is understood. The use of a primary source of a particular concept or assertion is limited by policy, at least as of now, to the two bulleted rules in WP:NOR#Primary,_secondary_and_tertiary_sources. ... Kenosis (talk) 21:22, 24 December 2007 (UTC)
I notice that WP:NOR was recently changed (the diff is here) to remove the clarification you had added to the definition of a primary source to refer to original publication. This removal suggests that the interpretation of a "primary" source you are proposing may not have consensus. Best, --Shirahadasha (talk) 07:01, 26 December 2007 (UTC)


I, for one, would like to see this become a guideline. It has very important information that people need to help them write the encyclopedia. I don't see much dissent above, and most of it is about things that have been fixed. So should this become a guideline? I say yes. MilesAgain (talk) 05:26, 29 December 2007 (UTC)

I wonder if it is probably going to be too specific and too limiting if used as a guideline..DGG (talk) 05:50, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

WP:OR and WP:V etc.

Current text:

All sources should be used in a way that does not give rise to new analysis, syntheses or original conclusions that are not verifiable. Interpretive claims, analysis, or synthetic claims "that are challenged or likely to be challenged" (see WP:V) must be appropriately sourced; they may not be original analysis by Wikipedia editors.

Two problems; don't ignore the first one:

...huh? Read that slowly. The first sentence reads in a way which suggests that new analysis, syntheses or original conclusions that are verifiable are OK. But how can a new analysis be verifiable? It is new.

Moreover, why do we have this "challenged or likely to be challenged" language with respect to Interpretive claims, analysis, or synthetic claims? Wikipedia is a tertiary source. It is unable to draw conclusions of any kind about primary sources, ever, period. That is the job of secondary sources. Uncited conclusions... regardless of whether they reflect consensus in a field.. are presented in Wikipedia's "voice" and thus are instances of treating Wikipedia as a secondary source. In other words.. the wikipedia editor says it is the consensual view, but without a specific citation to a reliable source, all we have is a wikipedia editor acting as a secondary source. Hum.

The "challenged" wording is OK I guess for flat assertions of fact (e.g., "The Holocaust never took place"), but not for any sort of conclusions... drawn from facts. Those always and everywhere need to be explicitly cited.

Ling.Nut (talk) 09:08, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

I edited the wording (diff) for your first point. It now reads:

All sources should be used in a way that does not give rise to analyses, syntheses, or original conclusions that are either new or verifiable.

That should make it clear that neither new nor unverifiable conclusions should be derived from use of sources. --Lquilter (talk) 16:32, 2 January 2008 (UTC)