Wikipedia talk:Identifying reliable sources

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Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Where should I ask whether this source supports this statement in an article?
At Wikipedia:Reliable sources/Noticeboard. Don't forget to tell the editors the full name of the source and the exact sentence it is supposed to support.
Do sources have to be free, online and/or conveniently available to me?
No. Sources can be expensive, print-only, or available only in certain places. A source does not stop being reliable simply because you personally aren't able to obtain a copy. See Wikipedia:Reliable sources/cost. If you need help verifying that a source supports the material in the article, ask for help at Wikipedia:WikiProject Resource Exchange or a relevant WikiProject.
Do sources have to be in English?
No. Sources can be written in any language. However, if equally good sources in English exist, they will be more useful to our readers. If you need help verifying that a non-English source supports the material in the article, ask for help at Wikipedia:Translators available.
I personally know that this information is true. Isn't that good enough to include it?
No. Wikipedia includes only what is verifiable, not what someone believes is true. It must be possible to provide a bibliographic citation to a published reliable source that says this. Your personal knowledge or belief is not enough.
I personally know that this information is false. Isn't that good enough to remove it?
Your personal belief or knowledge that the information is false is not sufficient for removal of verifiable and well-sourced material.
Is personal communication from an expert a reliable source?
No. It is not good enough for you to talk to an expert in person or by telephone, or to have a written letter, e-mail message, or text message from a source. Reliable sources must be published.
Are there sources that are "always reliable" or sources that are "always unreliable"?
No. The reliability of a source is entirely dependent on the context of the situation, and the statement it is being used to support. Some sources are generally better than others, but reliability is always contextual.
What if the source is biased?
Sources are allowed to be biased or non-neutral. Only Wikipedia articles are required to be neutral. Sometimes "non-neutral" sources are the best possible sources for supporting information (with due weight) about the different viewpoints held on a controversial subject.
Does every single sentence need to be followed by an inline citation?
No. Only four broad categories of material need to be supported by inline citations. Editors need not supply citations for perfectly obvious material. However, it must be possible to provide a bibliographic citation to a published reliable source for all material.
Are reliable sources required to name the author?
No. Many reliable sources, such as government and corporate websites, do not name their authors or say only that it was written by staff writers. Although many high-quality sources do name the author, this is not a requirement.
Are reliable sources required to provide a list of references?
No. Wikipedia editors should list any required sources in a references or notes section. However, the sources you are using to write the Wikipedia article do not need to provide a bibliography. Most reliable sources, such as newspaper and magazine articles, do not provide a bibliography.


Anyone have any experience/opinion on how reliable transit statistics from Moovit are? I feel like because not everyone in a region would be using their app, their numbers can't be properly representative of what's going on. —Joeyconnick (talk) 18:33, 24 August 2017 (UTC)

Those results are transitory and not "published", and so are not reliable. Jytdog (talk) 22:30, 24 August 2017 (UTC)
I'm going to mention User:Joeyconnick and User:Jytdog since I'm so late to this party. Anyway, just because everyone doesn't use the app doesn't mean the statistical data isn't also gathered from the local transit authorities as well as the app users. Also, if the statistics are posted to the website, then they are effectively published according to WP:Published. I can't say if they do/n't gather data from the transit authority, or if they do/n't post statistics to their website, but if they do both of these things, then it could be considered a reliable source. My question is, how would someone be able to link to the statistics as a source unless they were published online in some way? Unless, of course, they were citing the reference the same way someone would cite a book. Has this source been used, if so, how? That bit of information could go a long way to help determine the reliability of it. Huggums537 (talk) 04:20, 3 November 2017 (UTC)

Could the recent explosion in dubious academic journals affect reliable sourcing?[edit]

Don't know if this is the best venue to point this out, and my apologies if this is not news to anyone here, but a couple of days ago the New York Times published an article, "Many Academics Are Eager to Publish in Worthless Journals", discussing a highly worrisome trend in academic publishing which should be of concern to anyone trying to judge the quality of sources. (Wikipedia doesn't come up in the article—I made the connection to our concerns myself.) I think it's definitely worth a read. --Colin Douglas Howell (talk) 00:15, 2 November 2017 (UTC)

Hello, this guideline addresses such issues in the last bullet point of WP:SCHOLARSHIP, is there anything you suggest adding or changing? Alanscottwalker (talk) 11:18, 2 November 2017 (UTC)
I don't have any suggestions myself, no; I don't feel I have enough experience in this area to make any. I just thought the story might be worth your attention, but it's good to know you're already keeping an eye on the problem. --Colin Douglas Howell (talk) 15:52, 2 November 2017 (UTC)
I would suggest automatically blacklisting suspected predatory journals (for example the ones listed by Beall, Bokhove, Moher, Eriksson, KRD CSIR-SERC, Neuroskeptic) but I get the feeling there will be strong opposition to this. WP:SCHOLARSHIP covers this on a case-by-case basis. Generally, Wikipedia articles do not conform to Wikipedia sourcing standards, so at the moment, the best you can do is edit those articles and make them conform, since Wikipedia policy is on your side. Bright☀ 12:20, 2 November 2017 (UTC)
What about auto-tagging citations from a blacklist, rather than auto-removing them? (Or was that what you had in mind already?) --Colin Douglas Howell (talk) 15:52, 2 November 2017 (UTC)
Auto-tagging would be wonderful and probably won't have any significant opposition. Bright☀ 23:40, 3 November 2017 (UTC)
  • I always check publishers that i don't know against Beall's list and remove citations to journals by predatory publishers. Everybody should do this who uses the scientific/scholarly literature. This is addressed in MEDRS at Wikipedia:Identifying_reliable_sources_(medicine)#Predatory_journals (and has been for a long time) and is also mentioned in WP:PUS. I think it would be great if we had a blacklist; might be difficult to implemetn since journal citations won't necessary have a link to the journal website. Jytdog (talk) 16:38, 2 November 2017 (UTC)
  • If this exists, it would be great if ENWP could get access, even if it has to pay for it. Alanscottwalker (talk) 13:35, 3 November 2017 (UTC)

Predatory publishers, fake conferences and academics who find them a way to succeed[edit]

I've raised this at User talk:Jimbo Wales#Predatory publishers, fake conferences and academics who find them a way to succeed. To make it easier, here's what I posted there. I hope interested editors will respond there.

At World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology (WASET] an attempt by an editor to speedy delete it, then an AfD Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology (2nd nomination) and discussions raised at RSN and NPOVN spurred me and other editors to look for current sources. Some of these sources discuss OMICS and Allied Academies, recently acquired by OMICS along with Future Medicine.

These have sparked a number of articles in the mainstream media and complaints by academics, while at the same time some academics are cooperating.

A study reported in the Japan Times[1] by James McCrostie looks at fake conferences in Japan. McCrostie discusses submitting fake papers generated by SCIgen to fake conferences all of which were accepted. It also discusses both the cost to attendees for these conferences (which are cheap to run) and the damage that can be done to reputations.

The New York Times published an article last month[2] called "Many Academics Are Eager to Publish in Worthless Journals". It also discusses aspects of predatory journals such as using names almost identical to prestigious ones, the fact that many or most don't have paper publications or do serious reviews, etc. And the fact that publishing in them is a way for academics to get promoted. "Many faculty members — especially at schools where the teaching load is heavy and resources few — have become eager participants in what experts call academic fraud that wastes taxpayer money, chips away at scientific credibility, and muddies important research." Senior academics publish in them -- 200 McGill University professsors, for instance.[3]

They also run fake conferences where by paying a hefty fee an academic can be listed as a presenter even if they don't attend. It's also easy to become an editor of a fake journal. A fictional academic with ludicrous credentials applied to 360 open-access journals asking to become an editor, with 48 accepting her, 4 making her editor-in-chief.[4][5] See also this article.

There are now more predatory conferences than scholarly ones.[6] Many of these are run by Waset: "research into Waset, which is registered in the United Arab Emirates, shows that it will hold some 183 events in 2018, although these will cover almost 60,000 individual “conferences” – averaging 320 at each event. Conferences are scheduled almost every day up until the end of 2030." These take place in small rooms with multiple conferences held in each room but few attendees, although many will have paid a large sum to attend.

An article last month in Die Zeit[7] says the ownership of WASET is unknown, and "website of Waset does not give an address anywhere. Interested parties can only fill out an anonymous form or send an SMS - with the United Arab Emirates dialing code." "The purpose of a waset conference is to extend the CV by a conference as well as a contribution in a scientific journal. Because every lecture is published in an online publication, which is also published by Waset. Over 40,000 articles are said to have come together since 1999, according to the website."

There are more sources of course, I could go on and on. And warnings from academics.[8][9][10][11]

This raises serious issues from Wikipedia. The obvious one is that it is now very difficult for most editors to distinguish between reputable journals and predatory ones, especially when the contributor seems "normal". My other issue is whether Wikipedia or the WMF has a role to play in the fight against these. Maybe we don't, I'd like to think there is something we can do. We do have Predatory open access publishing which oddly doesn't linketo Predatory conference. Perhaps one of the relevant wikiprojects should set up a working party to improve all the related articles?

Mild rant over. Please read the sources, they are pretty alarming and go into much more detail than I can here. Doug Weller talk 20:20, 8 November 2017 (UTC)

What about reputable academics unwittingly publishing in such journals? Pandeist (talk) 17:40, 9 November 2017 (UTC)
This raises serious issues from Wikipedia To be frank, there was no shortage of bunk papers and bogus sources before the recent explosion, but this certainly makes it much easier to find bad sources because these journals pretty much exist to be found on the first page of search results on Google. This is an issue for academia to solve, and Wikipedia will hopefully follow suit. If we want to be proactive we can blacklist or automatically tag edits that source suspected predatory journals. Bright☀ 20:15, 9 November 2017 (UTC)

I've seen a list of predatory publishers somewhere in Wikipedia non-article spaces. Can anyone remind me? Staszek Lem (talk) 01:36, 10 November 2017 (UTC)

Exception for Blogs As References[edit]

In General Wikipedia does not allow UGC in blogs to be cited as reference. I feel this rules need to add exception for Release announcements for Open Source Projects. As many of these projects are developed in a collaborative environment, Forums / Blogs maintained by the company are the authoritative location where announcements regarding new releases are published. So this scenario should also be an exception to the WP:UGC rule.

Hagennos (talk) 08:05, 12 November 2017 (UTC)

Is this not covered by the exception "authored by, and is credited to, credentialed members of the site's editorial staff"? Eperoton (talk) 16:22, 12 November 2017 (UTC)
Yes; Also please do not forget ii is a primary source for Wikipedia, with all consequences.Staszek Lem (talk) 18:40, 13 November 2017 (UTC)
Why would you need to cite Release Announcements in Wikipedia? Wikipedia is encyclopedia, not a billboard for Open Source. If something is not noticed by independent references, then I doubt it is of note for Wikipedia. Staszek Lem (talk) 18:40, 13 November 2017 (UTC)

No mention if organizations or governments are reliable sources[edit]

For some reason there is no mention if the local police department or the FBI are reliable sources, or the Senate or the Department of State, or the ACLU or Human Rights Watch. Or foreign governments agencies. At least some mention should be given to these sources, talking about examples of when they can be reliable sources. Thinker78 (talk) 05:42, 17 November 2017 (UTC)

Organizations are not reliable. Their publications may be reliable, but the question which must always be answered is "reliable for what"? The particular publication, the part of the publication, and what its being used for here must all be taken into consideration in determining reliability. As for governmental sources, remember that public records are not reliable sources for information about living persons, see BLPPRIMARY. Publications by the ACLU and HRW are judged for reliability in the same way as any other private organization. Regards, TransporterMan (TALK) 21:55, 17 November 2017 (UTC)

Biased or opinionated sources[edit]

The current section on "Biased or opinionated sources" appears to me to be an open invitation to problematic editing. It invites Wikipedia editors to decide which non-neutral views are significant. For example, we might be asked to accept a statement of opinion by Michael Moore published in Politico, where there is no evidence from politically neutral sources that his view is considered significant, let alone accurate, by progressives more generally. Or we might be asked to accept a statement by Roger Stone repeated in Breitbart, again without any evidence that this is considered significant even by the far right.

It also invites a false equivalency between somewhat biased and extremely biased sources. Do we "balance" Mother Jones with Breitbart? Is NPOV actually equidistant between Politico and Federalist? I don't think we should be making those judgments as editors. It puts us in the place of arbiters of truth, something we are explicitly not allowed to be.

I do feel this section reflects gentler times and is no longer appropriate in the current heavily polarised climate - though in fact it is quite recent ( 2013). I think we should step back from using biased sources to show what outliers say about things, and pull back to the standard Wikipedia practice of relying on sources that are reliable and independent, to establish the significance and context of a statement or claim. If the Washington Post quotes a partisan on a partisan website as an exemplar, then that's fine, but I do not think we should be weaving together the narrative from primary, partisan sources, however much we might like any individual one of them.

We deprecated the Daily Mail as a source because it is biased, and its bias leads to poor fact-checking. This section positively invites the inclusion of sources that are equally bad. It fails to properly distinguish between respected organisations with a bias (e.g. Guardian, Wall Street Journal, NY Times, Washington Post) and organisations that exist to promote an agenda, especially think tanks. It places policy-based evidence making on an equal footing with analytical reporting. As I say, I think this section is inappropriate in the current climate. Guy (Help!) 11:15, 1 December 2017 (UTC)

I could not disagree more... Polarized times are when we most need to present all sides of an issue. We (Wikipedia's editors) need to set our own biases to the side and remain neutral. But, while WE need to remain neutral, our sources most definitely do not. Remember that this guideline is focused on the question of reliability... The section in question is important because it highlights the fact that, when presenting an opinion, the most reliable source is always the one where the opinion was actually stated (ie the Primary source for that opinion). When presenting the opinions, we actually don't want any filters... we want the source that is as close to the original opinion maker's actual statements as possible (again, the most reliable source for an opinion is the Primary source where that opinion was actually stated, as that will be the most accurate presentation of the opinion).
The question is not whether we can use biased sources (we can)... but rather how we should use biased sources. We should not use biased sources to support statements of fact. Instead, we must attribute the information we take from biased sources, so the reader knows that it IS biased - that the opinion is opinion, and not necessarily fact.
That said... I totally agree that articles should not simply compare and contrast primary opinions. Articles do need analysis to put the various stated opinions into proper context ... and for analysis we absolutely need independent secondary sources. While we can use biased primary sources in a limited way, we should not build an article that is purely based on biased primary sources.
My point is simply that biased primary sources do have their place. Biased sources should be limited in use - but within that limited usage, they are fine (and can even be the most reliable sources possible). Blueboar (talk) 13:05, 1 December 2017 (UTC)
Yes, we need to represent both sides, but not by deciding which biased sources to include. Instead we should reference sources that are reliable and analytical. As I said, this is an open invitation to "balance" valid sources leaning one way with rabid insanity leaning the other. False balance is one of the more significant problems with the current polarised news media. How else do we know if J. Random Nutjob cited in is an outlier, whether his views are significant, or what?
I'm not saying never use, I am saying that the existing text encourages over-use. is arguably a valid source for the views of people associated with, but obviously not for its significance. With the scale and extremity of craziness currently in circulation I think it's incredibly dangerous, especially when we go WP:PRIMARY, as often happens. Ten we are straying towards a news style coverage.
How about if you give some examples of the kind of usage you think would be valid? Guy (Help!) 14:11, 1 December 2017 (UTC)
Aside: I will come up with some examples, but it's quite singular how little pushback I have had removing left-partisan sites like Occupy versus right/libertarian partisan, so I have to be careful to find requests that won't gratuitously engage the cognitive dissonance of well-meaning onlookers. I removed Occupy as a source in mainspace months ago, and only a coupe have crept back in. Guy (Help!) 14:16, 1 December 2017 (UTC)


  • James Oakley (politician) (edit | talk | history | protect | delete | links | watch | logs | views) [12]. We discussed the statements of Colin Taylor (who he? - ed) on Occupy Democrats, sourced solely from Occupy Democrats, and of Juanita Jean on her own website. I agree with their sentiments, by the way. Guy (Help!) 14:29, 1 December 2017 (UTC)
  • The most obvious example is citing “Mien Kamph” when explaining what Adolph Hitler’s views were. While “Mien Kamph” is an extremely biased source, it is also the single most reliable source when it comes to explaining what Hitler’s beliefs actually were... in his own words. Now, context is always important, and there are all sorts of restrictions on HOW and WHERE we would appropriately mention what Hitler’s views were... but within those restrictions, “Mien Kamph” is as reliable as you can get, and most definitely can be cited. Blueboar (talk) 15:34, 1 December 2017 (UTC)
Sure, but in most cases we don't need to cite Mein Kampf directly, we can refer to historical analysis of exactly what Mein Kampf reveals about Hitler's beliefs - and in fact that is what we generally do. It would be dangerous and wrong to mine the primary source to divine his intent, and I have not seen any examples where we do that. The only thing we might do is quote paragraphs which are identified as particularly significant by numerous sources. With these neo-nazi and white supremacist websites, their rants are rarely discussed outside the walled garden of the alt-right. Guy (Help!) 09:53, 4 December 2017 (UTC)
What you are concerned about is covered in the WP:Undue weight section of our WP:Neutral point of view policy. Sure, there won’t be many situations where it would be appropriate to cite such primary sources... but within those limited situations the source is deemed reliable. Blueboar (talk) 11:18, 4 December 2017 (UTC)


Someone rejected an edit where I supplied a translation of a German phrase, on the grounds that I did not cite a source for the translation (which I couldn't do, because the translation was my own). Now of course, a translation might be wrong or biased; but it's readily open to challenge. Rejecting it purely because the translation is original seems absurd. Mhkay (talk) 17:25, 4 December 2017 (UTC)

It would be better if you post a link to the article where the edit happened so the context can be analyzed. Thinker78 (talk) 22:07, 4 December 2017 (UTC)
Also, this isn't the place to talk about that. Try Wikipedia:Reliable sources/Noticeboard.

Phone conversations as reliable sources[edit]

I ran across the Frank Stanford in which numerous phone conversations are cited as sources for a great deal of information in the article. I started to remove the cites for phone conversations (I haven't removed the actual info that was relying on those "sources", yet), but it turns out there's a lot of them, and I came here to see if this issue has been raised before. My gut feeling is that it should probably all go, as none of it is verifiable, but I wanted to ask for other opinions first. Rockypedia (talk) 15:14, 8 December 2017 (UTC)

Your instinct is correct. Sources have to be published and fixed so that others can go verify the content from them. A phone conversation is none of those things. Jytdog (talk) 15:16, 8 December 2017 (UTC)
Though I would say that reliable sources that themselves use phone or email conversations should be fine. The source's reliable vouches for the content they publish. We as WP editors cannot use these ourselves. --Masem (t) 15:20, 8 December 2017 (UTC)
Let me suggest a further nuance. When an interview is published in a reliable source, we can use it here. The reliability of the source verifies that the interview was real and that the published interview is an accurate representation of what was actually said. The reliability of the source does not, however, verify the truth and accuracy of what was said by the person interviewed but only that he or she said it. Thus what is said in the interview must be regarded as a PRIMARY source, and thus subject to the strict restrictions under PRIMARY about avoiding analysis, evaluation, interpretation, or synthesis of what was said, made even stronger by the "extreme caution" and other restrictions under WP:BLPPRIMARY if BLP is applicable. Within these restraints, a phone call is no different than an interview. Best regards, TransporterMan (TALK) 16:22, 8 December 2017 (UTC)
IF the phone call was recorded (or transcripted), AND that recording (or transcript) is made available to the public by a reliable source, THEN we can say it is similar to a published interview, and deem it a reliable primary source (with all the restrictions that apply). But a phone conversation between the subject and a Wikipedian... no. Blueboar (talk) 16:35, 8 December 2017 (UTC)
Wholly agreed; the call or interview has to be reliably published. My comments were building on Jytdog's and Masem's. Best regards, TransporterMan (TALK) 18:58, 8 December 2017 (UTC)
  • The phone call ref was like this and simply recounts the phone call. Absolutely not OK. Ref.[1]
I am more curious about whether these two refs are OK: Refs.[2][3] Hm... these also seem to be recounting phone calls but the records are apparently there to be verified.


  1. ^ Irv Broughton in Spokane, Washington by phone on February 18, 2008. Re: writers interviewed, misprints have included others, but Broughton clarified that, with Stanford, only Eberhart, Cowley, and Ransom were interviewed. Re: film festival, some sources have printed "West Coast Film Festival," but Irv clarified, confirming Northwest Film & Video Festival; he also corrected that the award was not for "experimental filmmaking," as Rain Taxi misprinted.
  2. ^ University of Arkansas records, Registrar's office. Accessed by Alexis Leppich at the Registrar's office on February 26, 2008. Leppich confirmed that Stanford began in fall 1966 (as opposed to the commonly misprinted 1967) in the College of Business (not Engineering, which is most commonly printed) and later switched to the College of Arts and Sciences. Leppich confirmed that Stanford took only undergraduate courses through fall 1968 and that his first graduate course was in spring 1969 (as opposed to commonly misprinted dates of 1968 or 1967). Leppich also confirmed that Stanford took classes in 1970 but not 1971 (as opposed to common misprints of Stanford dropping out in 1969 or 1971), and Leppich confirmed that Stanford never received a degree.
  3. ^ Subiaco Academy records, Registrar's office. Accessed by Registrar Lou Trusty at Subiaco Academy on November 19, 2008. Stanford attended Sherwood Junior High School for 7th grade (1960-1961), Mountain Home Junior High School for 8th grade (1961-1962), Mountain Home High School for 9th and 10th grades (1962-1964), and Subiaco Academy for 11th and 12th grades (1964-1966). Stanford graduated from Subiaco on May 27, 1966.

-- Jytdog (talk) 16:47, 8 December 2017 (UTC)

Hmm... I would be inclined to accept this... while the editor may have communicated by phone, there is an independent researcher behind the information. In each case, the actual “source” seems to be attendance records that were pulled from a file by an employee of the institution (someone in the school’s registrar’s office). Presumably, any one wishing to verify the information could go to the registrar’s office and see for themselves that the records contain what we say they contain. This seems more like a “rare document” situation than an “interview” situation. Perhaps the citation needs rewording? Blueboar (talk) 18:33, 8 December 2017 (UTC)
Yeah i left it for now. my feeling is the same. Jytdog (talk) 19:01, 8 December 2017 (UTC)
  • i looked at this more closely. edit notes like this Many more changes made. Talked to Willett by phone and Linda by phone (twice), confirmed details with the Northwest Film Center as well as U. of A. Special Collections, etc. and this Many more changes made. Confirmed U. of A. student details extensively, talked to Stokesbury (and many uncited contemporaries), corresponded with Ginny, etc.
Two poems are included in the article as it stands now and there have been as many as three (e.g here). The footnote on one currently says "reprinted here with permission from C. D. Wright, rights holder" and on the other, "reprinted here with permission from Ginny Stanford, rights holder.".
The minnow poem was added in this diff. The claim of a right to publish it in WP is in this edit note, and the claim of permission was added to the footnote here
another poem was added here and the right to publish it in WP was claimed in this edit note. that claim of permission was added to the footnote here
So that kind of stuff has gone on. That was all done away back in 2008. Jytdog (talk) 20:40, 8 December 2017 (UTC)

News organizations[edit]

I notice that "editorial oversight" or "editorial control" is mentioned elsewhere, but here, in this section, where, it would seem, it would be most relevant.

I would also like to see more guidance about how to evaluate non mainstream news sources. Benjamin (talk) 15:04, 11 December 2017 (UTC)