Wikipedia talk:Reliable sources/Archive 43

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  • 1. "Articles should rely on secondary sources whenever possible. For example, a review article, monograph, or textbook is better than a primary research paper."

Textbooks here should be deleted, since they are almost always tertiary sources. So I move to delete this mention of textbooks from this sentence.

Additionally I would like to open up a more general discussion on textbooks. Textbooks are very commonly unreliable. Certain exceptions exist, for instance "widely recognised standard textbooks written by experts in a field" are reliable as the medical claims section states. However, the textbooks students receive up to highschool, textbooks from general education courses in university, and many textbooks beyond that very rarely fit that description, and if possible preference should be given to a reliable secondary source. Caution should be exercised using most textbooks, and in particular these lines worry me:

  • 2. "When available, academic and peer-reviewed publications, scholarly monographs, and textbooks are usually the most reliable sources."
  • 3. "Meta-analyses, textbooks, and scholarly review articles are preferred when available, so as to provide proper context."

Eventually I would like for these guidelines to describe textbooks in more depth, since they are so commonly used(and misused), but for now I would just like to propose that "textbooks" in lines 2 and 3 be replaced with "widely recognised standard textbooks written by experts in a field", it is wordy but in my opinion important enough to justify any loss of flow to the prose.AioftheStorm (talk) 17:21, 7 April 2014 (UTC)

I question #2. Academic and peer-review research are notoriously unreliable. The Economist has a lead story [1] about the problem [2]. While college textbooks are far from perfect, they tend to report that which survives the first round (academic journals) and is seen as worthy of teaching to the next generation. Jason from nyc (talk) 22:41, 7 April 2014 (UTC)
The types of mistakes made are on a whole different magnitude. Original research articles are replete with errors in statistical analysis, poor experimental design, and results that cannot be replicated. This is why we do not like original research articles, and instead want review articles which look throughout the literature, seeing what has been able to be replicated, and synthesizing and summarising the knowledge on a topic which has stood for years. Textbooks on the other hand, commonly do no research, propagate popular myths, contain basic and even bizarre factual errors, and are commonly written by people with no expertise in the field. Examples of mistakes include:presenting Dr. Frankenstein's experiment to bring back a dead human being as a real experiment, claiming that "thousands of black soldiers fought for the South during the Civil War", or showing a map of the Earth with the equator running through Texas and Florida. Textbooks will commonly contain theories that were debunked decades ago(like the theory that an asteroid hit the Earth and caused the Moon to form), or present common misconceptions as fact. A description such as "far from perfect" is inadequate to express how unreliable textbooks are.AioftheStorm (talk) 05:07, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
Textbooks are tertiary sources, yes, so they should be removed from that sentence. At the same time, they are pretty reliable, just like other encyclopedias. Whether they are more or less reliable than research papers is really hard to say. My gut feeling is that yes, but only because they stick to simpler and less controversial content, whereas research papers are on the literal cutting edges of their fields. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 09:48, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
I'm amused that while discussing the need for more reliable sources on the Identifying reliable sources talk page, you are taking the word of "" on the Frankenstein textbook. --GRuban (talk) 18:32, 8 April 2014 (UTC)

Nah, I disagree with removing "textbooks." Maybe if you demonstrate how they generally are not secondary sources or are generally unreliable, I'll change my mind. Flyer22 (talk) 18:39, 8 April 2014 (UTC)

It depends on your Platonic ideal of a "textbook". Textbooks for children are usually tertiary sources. Textbooks for medical students are almost always secondary sources.
The bigger issue is that to determine whether a textbook is "reliable", you need to compare it to a specific statement that you want to support. A textbook for seven year olds is perfectly reliable for determining that Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the US. And you also need to compare it to the typical source: given a choice between a website and a textbook aimed at older teens or young adults, which would you want to recommend? It's all very well and good to say that people ought to spend years studying the scholarly literature, but in practice, the choice for nearly all of our editors is between what they can find on the web and what they can find in school books that they already have in their possession. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:07, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
I ask not for an unqualified statement of disapproval concerning textbooks, but a rewording of a statement that says textbooks, amongst other sources, "are usually the most reliable sources." Perhaps it is different elsewhere, but most K-12 textbooks in the US are written by a committee of non-experts, reviewed by non-field-specific "education experts", and sent to schools. There usually aren't sources listed for factoids presented, and no real fact checking. Here is a CNN article describing scores of errors from physics textbooks including "Chemistry formulas and physics laws that are so "simplified" they are completely wrong." I'm afraid I have been blindsided by this discussion, I did not imagine that people would contend that textbooks are more reliable than review articles written by experts on a very narrow topic, and reviewed by experts before being published and subjected to prompt retractions if mistakes are noticed from the readership. General purpose textbooks are very lengthy, and they get only a cursory review by people unfamiliar with the subject, as opposed to review articles only a few pages long that get read and re-read and fact-checked by people familiar with the subject. There has been here a misconception that problems with original research articles are indemnable to review articles, but they are two very different types of sources and should not be compared. At a very minimum we should not be recommending textbooks as amongst the best types of sources, and if we do we should qualify it to exclude K-12 textbooks. Also, in response to the above question, there are almost always websites available that are more reliable than textbooks, with the exception being certain college-level and post-college level textbooks.AioftheStorm (talk) 00:54, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
Sure, I'm willing to believe that a good one percent or so of physics websites will be better than a university physics textbook. The other 99% are probably not. By contrast, probably 99% of what's in that high school or university textbook is accurate (which may be the same book: high school textbooks in AP or honors classes are often identical to the first-year textbooks at university). If an editor is picking a source at random, would you rather that he took his chances on a random textbook, which at least has a proper publisher behind it or on a random website, which may be put up by some quack?
Nobody is really claiming that review articles are necessarily better than textbooks. What we're saying is that the textbook is more accessible to editors, more uniform in quality, and perfectly appropriate for most of the basic statements in an encyclopedia article. WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:50, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
I'm willing to accept the above post. I believe the mention of textbooks under secondary sources should be removed, however, since if you're using a textbook at the university/grad/post-grad level that is a secondary source then you should already be knowledgeable enough to know what a secondary and tertiary source is, and if you don't know how to tell the difference between a secondary and tertiary source, then you're probably at an entry university or lower level in education, in which case all the textbooks you would be using would be tertiary sources. Textbooks are generally described as tertiary sources anyways, much like encyclopedias even though specialty encyclopedias which are secondary sources do exist.AioftheStorm (talk) 05:15, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
Most grad students outside of history don't know what a secondary source is—and even in the field that originated the concept, some experts can't agree on how to classify some sources. Some of the Wikipedians who wrote these policies had no idea what the term meant. I just spent a couple of years trying to disentangle "independent" from "secondary". I think that we've cleared it all up by now (please squawk if you find problems), except for the WP:Notability guideline. Simple statements like WP:Secondary does not mean independent are news to some people. The fact that routine news stories are primary sources is news to most editors (this is why fixing the language in the GNG is impossible). We really should not assume that anyone has any idea at all.
On the practical point: textbooks, even if aimed at 12 year olds, are often better sources than the alternatives. Putting textbooks in the class of usually good sources does not mean that, for any given statement, a non-textbook source might be better.
Finally, if you haven't read WP:MEDRS, then you'll like it. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:55, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
  • WP is much too focussed on "secondary" and (in typical WP style) this has arisen because it's simple to judge, not because it's useful.
We favour secondary sources, not because two is a magic number, but because "secondary" is hopefully a point where accuracy and objectivity are at a useful maximum. Yet WP then turns this into avoiding court records as being primary – Why? Are we afraid of biased stenographers? We are now turning against textbooks, because if they're tertiary, they're seemingly too far from the truth. Both of these are nonsense and should be rejected. We do not favour secondary sources because they are secondary, we favour them because they will in general offer a concrete advantage to our real goals of verifiable and accurate detail. In the cases where this isn't so clearly bound to this secondary nature, then we should follow the advantage, not the dogma. Andy Dingley (talk) 10:09, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
No, we're afraid of biased speakers in the court, and of biased editors cherry-picking statements out of them. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:55, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
So what? A biased speaker in court is still something that (recorded verbatim) we would regard as evidence of their words to that court. It's a source that they spoke those words in the court and also that they expressed a particular opinion. If that opinion is inaccurate or biased, that's a matter of their inaccuracy, not the inaccuracy of a stenographer. We should use such a source when reporting about them personally, just as we might with a secondary newspaper source, but be wary of both if treating the speaker as an authoritative source of facts.
Cherry-picking by editors is an issue for any source, reliable or not. Andy Dingley (talk) 13:40, 10 April 2014 (UTC)
We worry about this because we have had serious problems with this. A court transcript is not a good source for supporting a statement like "John Doe 'is definitely a murderer', according to court documents", but they have been used this way. We also have had a problem with privacy invasions (e.g., birth dates, home addresses, and the names of family members). If no secondary source sees fit to mention these, then they don't belong in an article. The community banned these as sources because they weren't "offering a concrete advantage". WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:54, 11 April 2014 (UTC)

Clear policy statements?

Can someone please point me to the WP:POLICY that supports the following:

  1. Only WP:RS are allowed in articles. Non-RS, and the content they support, may be removed without discussion.
  2. WP:3RR does not apply (as it's exempted for some BLP issues) in the case above.

I know of no such policy. We have policies that some statements must be supported by RS, including the get-out clause that any content may be required to have RS in support of it if the challenger holds a finger in the air and turns three times widdershins, reciting the mantra, "I challenge thee". However I still know of no reason that non-RS should be removed if they are being used in addition to any other sources, and that there are sufficient RS to support the content. Andy Dingley (talk) 14:01, 8 April 2014 (UTC)

The policy in question is: WP:Verifiability. More specifically the WP:BURDEN section of that policy. Blueboar (talk) 14:15, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
The agreed upon policy, as I understand it, is that all material must be verifiable in a reliable source. This does not prohibit providing a reliable source that is sufficient to support the material, and also providing unreliable sources that support the same material. Jc3s5h (talk) 15:02, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
I would think consensus would normally support removing non-RS from an article, as it's by definition not reliable, and therefore makes the article appear unreliable, but perhaps you are using non-RS to mean something else, as you mention BLP, perhaps you are referring to self-published -- those can be reliable, under WP:BLPSPS. Alanscottwalker (talk) 16:40, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
I'm not looking for consensus, but for WP:POLICY in particular.
As to the justifiability of removing them, then that's going to depend on context: how far are they from RS, how useful is the content they contain, how credible is it (in particular for this item, not for judging the source overall) and most importantly, what is the content they relate to in the article. Our rules on RS are quite strict - especially against forum sources. So we (rightly) can't rely on these, yet some of these can still be valuable additions to the article. I don't know of any policy against them, I've certainly seen non-RS sources that improve the encyclopedia without compromising WP:V – we have to judge case-by-case. Andy Dingley (talk) 22:40, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
I can't imagine a case where an unreliable source improves the encyclopedia. They are, by definition, unreliable. In some cases we may use primary sources, or non-independent sources, but unreliable sources are of no value to the project as sources. If content can only be supported by an unreliable source, WP:V permits us to remove it. Pburka (talk) 22:49, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
No-one is questioning the case when content must rely on RS. However there is still no policy against sources that don't meet RS (which doesn't mean they're unreliable, RS is very picky) when used supplementally to this. Andy Dingley (talk) 23:00, 8 April 2014 (UTC)
Are you proposing some sort of source which exists between reliable sources and unreliable sources? By my logic, any source which is not reliable is unreliable. Could you perhaps provide some examples of such sources so I can better understand your argument? Or are you saying that a fact which has been referenced to a reliable source might also have references to unreliable sources? In that case, the unreliable sources still serve no purpose. At best, they're harmless and at worst link spam. Pburka (talk) 01:16, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
I'm not proposing anything – I'm trying to find the supposed WP:POLICY (in caps) that is a blanket ban on any use of non-RS whatsoever. Can you cite it?
As an example, [3] shows that the Canadian Ford Lynx scout car ended up a foot taller than the original Daimler Dingo, owing to a technical issue of suspension design (I'm writing an article on this). As it has "forums" in the URL, it blanket fails WP:RS. Yet it conveniently photographically illustrates the extra height. The Army-published handbooks just give two figures (59" and 70"), which are nothing like as obviously convincing. Andy Dingley (talk) 02:02, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
User:Blueboar already pointed you at the appropriate policy. WP:V is a very clear policy. All material must come from a reliable source. Forums aren't reliable sources, so don't cite them. Cite a reliable source, or don't include the material at all. Pburka (talk) 02:28, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
Yes, WP:V very clearly states nothing of relevance to this question! WP:V states that challenged content must be supported by RS. It states nothing about any supplemental sources beyond this. Andy Dingley (talk) 03:14, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
For non-BLP disputes, 3RR definitely applies. It doesn't matter if the person is citing the Time Cube website, or even no source at all: you simply may not edit war to remove (non-BLP) material.
Depending on the article, you might want to convert the non-RS sources to WP:External links under the WP:ELMAYBE clause that specifically permits links to unreliable sources. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:11, 9 April 2014 (UTC)

Just for Pburka, here, just off the top of my head, are at least three very common cases where clearly unreliable sources noticeably improve the encyclopedia.

  • a photo of Jane FamousPerson, taken by me, and released under an appropriate license. Clearly unreliable, yet a major help to the article.
  • a link to a blatantly-unreliable-tabloid article exposing a BLP scandal (that was then picked up by many more reliable sources; but the tabloid was the original).
  • a fraud or a hoax (that became notable in itself).

I'm sure there are plenty of others. In the latter two cases, we require reliable sources in addition, but we don't delete the unreliable ones. --GRuban (talk) 16:02, 9 April 2014 (UTC)

1)True - one of the more intriguing conundrums on the pedia (to me anyway).
2 and 3 - be aware of WP:BLPEL. So, sometimes we do delete, depending on content. -- Alanscottwalker (talk) 16:34, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
None of those are suitable as references. You can use an image to illustrate an article. The tabloid article might be a valid citation as a primary source, i.e. if one were quoting the article. I have no idea what you mean about the hoax: an event isn't a source. Perhaps I've misunderstood your question, and you want to add unreliable sources in some context other than as references which you've not described. Pburka (talk) 18:14, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
The third is; it's a primary source that can be used as a source for what it actually said. We actually prefer the original hoax when we are sourcing direct quotations. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:56, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
A hoax is an event or a concept. If the hoax originally appeared in a publication it may be appropriate to cite that publication as a WP:primary source, and it would be a reliable source in that particular context. Note that it is the publication, not the concept of the hoax, which we use as a source. Crop circles, for example, are hoaxes, but are not suitable as references. Pburka (talk) 23:37, 9 April 2014 (UTC)
You wrote "All material must come from a reliable source." That is not so. In each case I cite, it doesn't come from a reliable source, by our common definition. And yet it is definitely valuable Wikipedia material. This material might be called "illustration" or "primary source" or "not reference", but that does not make it not "material". So the answer to the question Andy Dingley is asking, is, yes, there are times when we do want to include material that does not come from a reliable source, and they're fairly common. --GRuban (talk) 19:18, 10 April 2014 (UTC)
This is so, because "reliable source" is defined as being dependent on the context. A source that is not usually reliable for most purposes might be the most reliable and authoritative source possible for another purpose. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:56, 11 April 2014 (UTC)


Lapia is a town in niger state nigeria — Preceding unsigned comment added by Nett nitter (talkcontribs) 15:09, 14 April 2014 (UTC)

Statements of opinion

This is unhelpful, since it is circular: "Some sources may be considered reliable for statements as to their author's opinion, but not for statements asserted as fact ... A prime example of this are opinion pieces in mainstream newspapers."

Naturally, opinion pieces are statements of opinion. That doesn't help me figure out what to treat as opinion and what to treat as fact. I think there should be some wording to the effect that any statement which is subjective (by community consensus, perhaps) should be treated as a statement of opinion. Howunusual (talk) 22:16, 14 April 2014 (UTC)

Unfortunately, I think it's one of those "if you need to be told, then you won't understand" problems. It's obvious to most people that a statement like "the sonnet is the best type of poem" is an opinion, and that "sonnets rhyme" is a statement of fact. But you should not use a purely opinion-oriented piece to source a statement of fact, even though the opinion piece might be completely accurate in its facts (because it might not be accurate).
Also, while there are clear examples, there are also a lot of statements that are difficult to classify. Is "the economy is down because of this policy" a fact or an opinion? People won't agree on this. WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:14, 15 April 2014 (UTC)
If experts don't agrree, as in the case of affects on the economy, then it should be treated as an opinion. If it can't tested in some scientific sense, then it should also be treated as an opinion. For example, "war is bad" is probably very non-controversial, but it's still an opinion. Wikipedia has a pretty clear policy about the first case. It doesn't seem to acknowledge the idea of an inherently subjective belief, at least on this page. I can't really speak to how it's usually handled by the community. I just don't see a clear policy about it here. Howunusual (talk) 18:30, 16 April 2014 (UTC)
It isn't just subjective statements... some "facts" are controversial, not fully accepted by the experts in a particular field. In such cases, the "fact" needs to be presented in Wikipedia as the opinion of those who believe it is (in fact) a fact. We do this through attribution. Suppose you read a popular book by a conspiracy theorist that stated definitively that the US Government is controlled by the Illuminati. We can not write "The US Government is controlled by the Illuminati <cite book>"... A conspiracy theorist is not a reliable source for such a definitive statement. However, if we attribute the statement, and write: "According to Ima Nutcase, a popular conspiracy theory author, the US Government is controlled by the Illuminati <cite book>" the situation changes... We are no longer making a statement about the government... we are presenting a statement about Ima Nutcase's opinion. That statement is verifiable and reliably sourced to his book. (note... this isn't the end of the story... that this statement of opinion can be reliably sourced does not guarantee inclusion of that opinion in a particular article... see WP:UNDUE). Blueboar (talk) 11:29, 15 April 2014 (UTC)
Hi. I agree with what you said about controverisal facrts. But, I was wondering about guidelines for subjective opinions. Even "consensus" opinions should be represented as such. Howunusual (talk) 18:33, 16 April 2014 (UTC)

should this change be made?

At Talk:List of Bohemian Club members there is an ongoing discussion about whether a person listed as an honorary member in an SPS from the club thus is automatically an honorary member of the club. And whether a person citing such an SPS source then automatically validates the claim that a person is an "honorary member" because once a secondary source refers to the first source, it becomes "fact."

My belief is that if the original source is questionable, then any cite of a questionable source still does not meet WP:RS. (E.g. the NYT has many times now written about hoaxes as though they were fact - but that did not make the hoaxes into facts.) If any editors here have opinions on that issue, the discussion is perpetual there.

In which case we need to add:

Any organization listing of members, even in a self-published source, is automatically a reliable source for ascribing membership to such people named.'

Ought we do so? Collect (talk) 14:21, 30 April 2014 (UTC)

Assuming the original actually is from the Bohemian Club, then it is not a questionable source... it is an appropriate use of a reliable primary source (You can not get a more reliable source for a statement about the membership of an organization than a published statement from the organization itself). Of course, we would have to be sure that the published statement actually is from the organization (and not a fraud... which, given all the conspiracy theories that involve the Bohemian Club, we have to consider as a real possibility). Blueboar (talk) 15:03, 30 April 2014 (UTC)

Interesting article about the skewing of reviews

Dear reliable sources experts: While reviewing an article at AfC I came across this article which discusses problems with non-professional book/media reviewing. I thought that it might be of interest. Here is the URL: Delong (talk) 14:28, 17 May 2014 (UTC)

Really, really bad English

Maybe this is a small point, but I recently bought a used souvenir book on a Spanish cathedral. The book, apparently translated from Spanish, regularly calls the cathedral a "he," opening up OR/SYNTH problems in using it. And I lknow of at least one reference book from Academic Press, written by an English-as-an-at-least-third-language academic which at several points is basically incoherent. Does a source have to be at least clearly comprehensible to be reliable? John Carter (talk) 15:26, 25 April 2014 (UTC)

A lack of comprehensibility would likely imply questionable reliability, I'd have thought. As always though, one would have to look at the specifics. Of course, it isn't unknown for academics (even respected ones) to be incoherent in their first language... AndyTheGrump (talk) 15:36, 25 April 2014 (UTC)
Poor translation doesn't mean that the author knows nothing about the subject. You could probably figure out what the pronouns refer to, for example. However, poor translation might also make it impossible for you to get the author's knowledge out of the text. Some things (names? dates?) might be easy enough to sort out, but other passages might lead you astray. IMO it would be preferable to look for another source when you think that another is reasonably available. Looking for the original, non-English source might also be a good approach. WhatamIdoing (talk) 23:17, 26 April 2014 (UTC)
I agree... It does not really matter whether a poorly written source is reliable or not... since there is a high probability that any information worth gleaning from the poorly written source will also be found in other sources that are even more reliable. Blueboar (talk) 13:16, 27 April 2014 (UTC)
I do think that it might be useful to somehow have something on this page deal with bad writing. After being prompted by a noticeboard discussion, I recently pulled up from JSTOR an article in what is apparently a peer-reviewed academic journal, Indian Anthropologist [4] which was apparently written in what passes for English there. Had I written an article with its grammar in high school, I would have myself probably gotten an "F" for it based on the grammar. I don't know how many others from outside India or other parts of the world which might not use standard European-American English regularly try to access information from such areas, but I can say based on some limited prior experience that this Indian article is not unique. Having some sort of provision somewhere in policy or guidelines indicating that such sources are acceptable here, for the material in them which can be clearly understood, might be useful. John Carter (talk) 20:45, 25 May 2014 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 31 May 2014

<!Jacoby's Premier Film. "the INVITED". Go to website to view trailer and stream the feature film .st --> (talk) 00:36, 31 May 2014 (UTC)

Red question icon with gradient background.svg Not done: it's not clear what changes you want to be made. Please mention the specific changes in a "change X to Y" format. Also, I have to think you meant to put this request on some other talk page. Regards, Older and ... well older (talk) 01:06, 31 May 2014 (UTC)

Geofry lewis

Hello, I just wanted to add that Geoffry lewis of the movie "Every which way but loose" (juliet lewis' dad) was in a starsky and hutch episode. he played the gangster that kidnapped Hutch and hooked him on herion. Didnt see it in his bio. Thanks, Jimmy — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:47, 31 May 2014 (UTC)

Information icon Thank you for your suggestion. When you believe an article needs improvement, please feel free to make those changes. Wikipedia is a wiki, so anyone can edit almost any article by simply following the edit this page link at the top.
The Wikipedia community encourages you to be bold in updating pages. Don't worry too much about making honest mistakes—they're likely to be found and corrected quickly. If you're not sure how editing works, check out how to edit a page, or use the sandbox to try out your editing skills. New contributors are always welcome. You don't even need to log in (although there are many reasons why you might want to). WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:22, 13 June 2014 (UTC)

1970s earthquake damage and reconstruction

I was a student there from 1969 until 1973, and my brother was through 1975. During that time there was no earthquakes and no construction was taking place on the campus. If this was happening it was after 1975. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:53, 28 May 2014 (UTC)

What article are you talking about? Formerip (talk) 00:25, 13 June 2014 (UTC)

Chain of authority

This extends from a specific case but its a more general question and assumed to be outside the bounds of anything to do with BLP:

Nominally reliable source X, for an article, cites a unreliable source Y for a claim Y makes about information that otherwise cannot be verified or corroborated, and nor that Y is a primary/first-party source for. Should we consider this information, as presented by X, reliable?

I've argued that there's a "chain of authority" problem here, with Y's presence being what makes the information unreliable and would fall under rumor/speculation, but others are trying to claim that X's publication automatically makes the information reliable. But I can't point to anything in policy that decides this either way, outside of the fact that such a case, for BLP, would clearly be disallowed. --MASEM (t) 00:07, 13 June 2014 (UTC)

It depends on what you mean by "unreliable". The common meaning would be that, in the past, the source has frequently provided information that turned out to be wrong, or that there are other reasons to consider the source to be less reliable than average. A different meaning would be that the source does not meet the criteria in this guideline for a reliable source.
If the latter is what you mean, they you have to consider whether X has information about the reliability of Y that has not been published. Maybe Y is a personal friend of a reporter at X. If you can demonstrate that X in New York City read the web page of Y who lives in Yamato Province, and there is no good reason to think that anyone at X is personally acquainted with Y, then I'd tent to be worried about the chain of authority. But I'm not willing to say, in general, that every link in the chain of authority must meet the WP:IRS criteria. Jc3s5h (talk) 00:31, 13 June 2014 (UTC)
The question might be clearer if I state is as this: Unreliable Y makes a statement, and reliable X re-iterates that statement later citing Y. We'd never allow Y's statement, standalone, as a reliable source for contested information, but does putting that same statement through X, without any additional checking, suddenly make it reliable? --MASEM (t) 00:52, 13 June 2014 (UTC)
Just how exactly do you know that no additional checking has been done? WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:05, 13 June 2014 (UTC)
(edit conflict) I'm not even sure that it would be disallowed for a BLP. Imagine that The Times cites Robert Rumor for an assertion that Polly Titian is not expected to run for re-election next year. If that's uncontested, why wouldn't we accept that (attributing it inline appropriately to Robert Rumor, or at least "According to one source")?
We never consider personal communication to be reliable ("I saw Karp in the elevator, and he said..." is not verifiable), but we routinely accept it in sources.
Reliable sources aren't required to cite their sources. It doesn't make sense to accept a source with zero citations at face value, and then say that if exactly the same source were printed with a list of its sources, we'd start picking it apart based on whether we happen to approve of its sources. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:34, 13 June 2014 (UTC)
In the rumor case, we specifically discourage rumor-mongering, even if we can name the entity propagating the rumor.
In the second para, I did try to clarify that we're not talking about the case about Y reporting on information that they should be privy to; if a senior aide for a government official says the official plans to run for re-election, that's reasonable to understand where the information came from. In the case of interest, the party Y should not have privy to the information they are claiming. --MASEM (t) 00:52, 13 June 2014 (UTC)
There can be no one-size-fits-all answer. If Y says "According to X, Mr. Smith ran naked through Hyde Park, but X has been known to make ridiculous statements in the past" then the statement is no reliable as to the run than if it had not been mentioned by Y. On the other hand, if Y decides that self-published website X should be regarded as a reliable source because it has been cited in dozens of papers in scientific journals, we should regard Y's statement, borrowed from X, as reliable, even WP:IRS does not consider citation by reliable sources to be a method to turn a self-published source into a reliable source. This is because Y is not bound by WP:IRS. Jc3s5h (talk) 02:02, 13 June 2014 (UTC)
(edit conflict) "Should not"? As in, the information may have been illegally obtained, or only that you can't think of any reason why Y would know this? And more relevantly, is this contradicted or addressed by anyone else? WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:05, 13 June 2014 (UTC)
In the specific, the information Y published was claimed to be from a yet-on-the-street publication. --MASEM (t) 02:34, 13 June 2014 (UTC)

Let me ask the question a different way, as I can see the way I asked begs a case-by-case interpretion. More specifically, is the claim "if an article is published by a reliable source, that article must be reliable" a truism? The statements above say, no, you have to consider the case-by-case, but I'm running into people that think that being published by X automatically blesses the material as reliable for inclusion. --MASEM (t) 02:34, 13 June 2014 (UTC)

If Y is a normally reliable publication, and makes a statement with its own voice, then the statement is normally reliable. The fact that there is a footnote, or equivalent, mentioning that the information came from X does not change this. But if Y gives the information from X in a manner suggesting the information is doubtful or not fully vetted, then the information might not be reliable. Of course, information in usually reliable sources can be refuted if contradicted by other reliable sources. Jc3s5h (talk) 02:41, 13 June 2014 (UTC)
Is "if an article is published by a reliable source, that article must be reliable" a truism? Of course not. Three words... Dewey Defeats Truman)... We know that the Chicago Tribune got that specific story wrong. Dewey did not in fact defeat Truman. The fact that the Tribune (an otherwise reliable source) reported that he did does not automatically "bless" the material. However, the fact that the Tribune got that story wrong does not make the paper unreliable for all the other stories printed in that day's edition. Blueboar (talk) 11:40, 13 June 2014 (UTC)
The answer to Masem's question is "yes", in general, it is reliable. That's one of the ways we protect againt editor bias. The author and the publication have sufficiently put thier reputation on the line - unlike Wikipedians. But then you go on and ask NPOV and OR questions, like: what do other sources say, do they confirm, refute, or put the "fact" in a different light? Is it the only source etc? Then you consider policy specific concerns, eg. BLP. Alanscottwalker (talk) 12:36, 13 June 2014 (UTC)

Scientific research presented at a congress

I found the following information: Eating White Bread Puts You At A 40% Higher Risk Of Obesity: Study - the research was done by a team, Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez is one of the team members. The new study was presented in may 2014 at the European Congress on Obesity - [5] [6] The research was not published in a peer reviewed journal.

My question is: does such a study satisfy the notability and reliability criteria?

Is it ok to use a translation in another language (like this) of such a study as a reference in order to mention the information in a Wikipedia article?

If I mention the study in the talk page of the Obesity article, is it ok if someone else supresses it (removes) it on sight?

Thanks. —  Ark25  (talk) 11:36, 20 June 2014 (UTC)

It does not meet the WP:Notability criteria; therefore, we should not have an entire encyclopedia article about that study.
Obesity (a large and actively studied area) should be written based on WP:MEDRS-compliant secondary sources. This is a primary source and therefore should not be used. WhatamIdoing (talk) 15:41, 20 June 2014 (UTC)
Ok, but how about the talk page? I think it's good to know that such study exist and to let others know about it. —  Ark25  (talk) 18:25, 20 June 2014 (UTC)
You can post a note about it on the talk page, but the only practical result will be editors telling you to wait until it's confirmed or rejected by secondary sources. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:24, 20 June 2014 (UTC)
I can't speak to that particular conference, but conference proceedings are generally not reviewed; even for those conferences which have only invited presentations, the content of the presentation is not reviewed in advance, nor is any attempt at accuracy used in determining which presentations are published. I don't think they can be considered WP:RS except under WP:SPS, considering the expertise of the author(s), or if also published in (actually) peer-reviewed journals. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 09:00, 29 June 2014 (UTC)

RfC - are newspaper headlines a reliable source per se?

The consensus is no, a newspaper headline is not in itself a reliable source. As encyclopaedia editors, it's our role to read the whole source and evaluate it for reliability. The headline is designed to attract attention rather than present a balanced summary of the article, and to read it in isolation is not sufficient.—S Marshall T/C 22:06, 1 August 2014 (UTC)
The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Are newspaper headlines, in themselves, a "reliable source" as absolutely usable as the publication they appear in? 23:40, 12 June 2014 (UTC)

Prior discussion at Wikipedia:Reliable_sources/Noticeboard/Archive_75#Headlines


This query arises from a discussion in which one editor avers that

Headlines are subject to a newspaper's editorial control, just like article content, and thus equally reliable. To contend otherwise strikes me as a bizarre example of motivated reasoning, but I suppose you could take it up in a more suitable forum.

with regard to what would normally be considered a contentious claim where the headline is not absolutely congruent with the text of the article. I would note that headlines are not written by reporters as a rule, and that the intent of a headline is to "grab" readers, and IMO, often overstate the content of an article or, in many tabloid format papers, actually misrepresent the content of the article. The current New York Post has "Millennium Falcon Injures Harrison Ford", "Ireland Baldwin's bikini body advice: 'Get your cheeks sandy'", "Is the Earth going to be cooked on Friday the 13th" etc. Daily Mail " Nicole Brown Simpson's sister reveals her close bond with her 'happy' niece and nephew and how they never talk about their mother's murder." LA Times "Double standard when it comes to U.S. banks and foreign transactions ." Including even the highest ranked sources. Cheers. Collect (talk) 23:40, 12 June 2014 (UTC)

Sources must be used as a whole; passages, including headlines, must not be used in a way that misrepresents their meaning in context. This is why using abstracts as sources when one lacks access to the full source is unwise. If an editor only has access to a headline, not the associated article, the editor should not cite the source (unless the only point to be made is that the headline existed, and even that is skating on thin ice).
That said, I never read anything written by Collect before, but as a general pattern, when some one starts a discussion here complaining about another editor's interpretation of this guideline without providing a link to the discussion in question, the editor's characterization of the discussion is seldom accurate. Jc3s5h (talk) 00:02, 13 June 2014 (UTC)
I linked to the specific pertinent discussion on the RS topic previously held - which is my basis for this RfC. And as I desired a general discussion (else I would have placed an RfC on that article talk p-age) I feared that a specific discussion might not result in a general consensus. Cheers. Collect (talk) 01:06, 13 June 2014 (UTC)
Headlines count as reliable for the purposes of the policy, but should be used with particular caution for the reasons stated. It is wrong to think of headlines as verboten, because there are circumstances where they can be useful. Sometimes it may be appropriate to actually quote a headline. There may be occasions where a headline includes information that is useful to the WP article but is not in the body of the source. For example, a headline might say "Head of Roman Catholic church visits Scunthorpe", whereas the body might refer to "The Pope" and "Francis". In that scenario, you still have a good source for the Pope being the head of the Roman Catholic church (ignoring the issue of religion and self-identification if you dare). Formerip (talk) 00:09, 13 June 2014 (UTC)
It appears that Collect is quoting User:MastCell at Talk:Marco Rubio#headlines. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:21, 13 June 2014 (UTC)
The discussion which I find pertinent is the one I directly linked to "above the fold" here. Collect (talk) 01:06, 13 June 2014 (UTC)
WhatamIdoing, thanks for the notification. My view is that headlines are subject to a newspaper's editorial oversight, just like the rest of the article, and thus they are similarly reliable. Of course, common sense is essential, and I'm not advocating using headlines misleadingly. I'm just opposed to the idea that headlines are completely unreliable. I mean, if we don't trust the accuracy of newspaper's headlines, why do we trust that newspaper at all? Collect makes my point for me, inadvertently; the New York Post and Daily Mail are notoriously poor sources, and their headlines are unsurprisingly no more reliable than the rest of their content. MastCell Talk 01:12, 13 June 2014 (UTC)
The headline writer may not be the reporter, and in fact may be writing the headline based only on the information in the article. In a few cases (perhaps a bigger problem with webzines), the headline may be intentionally skewed, sort of like our April Fools' DYKs, but for normal newspapers, I would normally assume the headline was approximately accurate unless there was a good reason not to (e.g., it's in the Daily Mail Face-wink.svg). WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:05, 20 June 2014 (UTC)

The answer to the question posed in the section title is imho a rather obvious No. This isn't really a question regarding what type of source is considered reliable, but how to use any source reliable or not to paraphrase or summarize it correctly. As already pointed out by other above, you can never simply (cherry-)pick a single line from a reference to source content in Wikipedia, you always need to consider the context of that line in the given reference to assure that you read that line correctly. Now the headline is nothing but a single line from a reference, if you cannot access the article it belongs to or at least its abstract, you cannot use it for sourcing. If you have access however there is no need to argue with a headline, but you can use the abstract or the article itself. If you have trouble to access the actual article or its abstract of a given headline, you can use Wikipedia:WikiProject Resource Exchange/Resource Request or resort to alternative sources. In any case just taking/providing a mere headline as a source is not acceptable.--Kmhkmh (talk) 12:09, 20 June 2014 (UTC)

Per WP:CONTEXTMATTERS I would say that headlines from reliable sources are reliable but always err on the side of context. By this I mean that if a headline reads "Why Successful People are Douchebags" but then goes on to say that they really aren't (Not a hypothetical), then contextual common sense should prevail. SueDonem (talk) 19:43, 20 June 2014 (UTC)

No! I do have some experience of working with journalists & cannot see any benefit whatsoever in relying on the headline which is simply intended to be very short but eye catching. Any self respecting wp:npov editor will read the whole article and summarise it, including anything any criticised party said in their defence. A simple headline will not suffice. An unintentionally humorous (but very rude) example of a misleading headline was given by the late Fritz Spiegl who as a teenager was shocked by a post D-Day WW2 headline "British push bottles up Germans." JRPG (talk) 19:59, 22 June 2014 (UTC)
LOL! Ha! Yes, indeed, this is another reason why WP:CONTEXTMATTERS. Always use the entire article to provide context to the headline. SueDonem (talk) 19:58, 23 June 2014 (UTC)
Headlines or titles are never reliable sources. In FormerIP's example, the source describes the pope's visit. We are always free to use synonyms for the pope, we do not need the same source to say he is "head of the Catholic Church." A headline in today's Toronto Star" is "Geese gone wild. Why Canada's most loathed icon is a hazard." So we could use it is a source to say Canada geese were not always wild, people hate them and they are inherently hazardous. TFD (talk) 19:07, 27 June 2014 (UTC)
Headlines, titles, and subheadings are never reliable unless, in fact, they reflect the actual content of the article or (sometimes) are written by the author of the article. Headlines represent the opinion of headline-writers as to how titillating they can make the headline without it becoming libelous. Titles and subheadings are sometimes written with the intent to inform, but there is rarely a way to be sure. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 08:52, 29 June 2014 (UTC)

Headlines and titles are not necessarily reliable unless they are written by the author or journalist writing the text (or in the case of papers known to use them for true summaries) Newspaper headlines in particular are controlled differently than the articles, and in many papers are usually deliberately slanted to wards sensationalism. the person who write the headline is not the editor who controls and revises the article. I deplore the fact that out standard citation format overemphasizes these titles, for this is many cases, including BLPs, gives a visual bias to the articles regardless of ow neutral we attempt to make the text. DGG ( talk ) 20:50, 29 June 2014 (UTC)

Is there a change to the guideline that is being proposed? The gist of comments so far seems against using headlines, per se, as RS. (And I agree that CONTEXTMATTERS is the criteria that we should consider most heavily when editing.) – S. Rich (talk) 03:39, 6 July 2014 (UTC)

We ignore expiry dates, say supermarket chiefs - this (from The Times, no less) is a misleading headline. From less august organs one can find progressively worse (or better) examples. Regardless, editorial discretion is required - while Riddick Bowe files for bankruptcy from USA Today, is pretty accurate (even this should really be filed for bankruptcy) - but the text of the article is a far better source. All the best: Rich Farmbrough18:53, 9 July 2014 (UTC).

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Repeating and translating primary sources about scientific experiments

Hello again, I would like to ask if the simple act of repeating the reports of a scientific experiment makes it a secondary source. For example Science journal publishes the results of a laboratory experiment.

Then, Nature publishes an article (written by a journalist) commenting the result, but without confirming the experiment (i.e. doing the same experiment again). And LiveScience does the same.

Then the news is translated into Romanian (and the journalists make a few comments too).

So my question is: an article repeating what the primary source says and then making some journalistic comments, makes it a secondary source?

I am inclined to think that, in order to be a secondary source, the article needs to be written by scientists who confirm or to infirm the experiment, after trying the same experiment in laboratory.

This is not a mathematical formula that can be confirmed (and published as a secondary source) using just a pen and a paper.

The simple fact of repeating, translating, and making some (journalistic or scientific) comments does not really make such a scientific experiment a secondary source. Or does it?

Thanks. —  Ark25  (talk) 02:01, 3 July 2014 (UTC)

Repeating and translating have no effect. See WP:LINKSINACHAIN. If Nature News just repeats what Science said, and Descopera translates it, then you have three primary sources.
Commenting may have an effect. It depends on whether the comments are routine journalistic comments, or if they amount to an analysis of the original. Repeating the actual experiment has no effect: that produces a new primary source (one that tells you, for the first time, the results of the second round of that type of experiment). WhatamIdoing (talk) 04:19, 6 July 2014 (UTC)
Thanks. I see, so if the author of the article comments what he thinks about the experiment, then we have a secondary source. If the experiment is repeated and confirmed 100 times, and then the author comments about those 100 repeated experiments, it's still a secondary source. Both are secondary sources but the difference is that the second article is more reliable. I think that in the example stated above, the Nature article is a secondary source. —  Ark25  (talk) 00:31, 7 July 2014 (UTC)
Yes it is a secondary source, and may be very useful. This is because it explains the results in a way that a non-expert can understand, and use to contribute to and support statements on Wikipedia. However common sense rules over all. If we have an expert on cohomology theory editing Wikipedia, then I would see little problem with them citing peer-reviewed primary sources in their field (and even preprints) - however mathematical results are generally far more robust than those of other areas. In medicine specifically results are only required to meet 95% confidence to be publishable, so from that point of view reviews are better. Medicine still suffers from selection bias - papers that fail to show a correlation have less chance of being published. In the areas of the humanities (and to the lesser extent the sciences) there are wide ranging academic disputes which factionalise not just papers but authors and academic-communities. And of course there are personal disputes (try getting a paper peer reviewed if one of the few other experts in the field hates you) and non-academic disputes such as the academic boycotts of Israel. All the best: Rich Farmbrough19:37, 9 July 2014 (UTC).

Translated scientific news are reliable?

Hello, I would like to ask a question about notability and reliability about a certain kind of newspaper articles.

On May 15, 2014, the world could read the following information: A potent dose of engineered measles virus has been shown for the first time to have completely wiped out a woman's cancer. The original news is posted in Mayo Clinic Proceedings (peer-reviewed scientific journal) here and then broadcasted by Agence France Presse and also by Reuters. And then, Gândul — one of the top 5 newspapers in Romania, translates the news as they get it from Agence France Presse into Romanian language and publishes it here. Instead of Gândul it can be Adevărul, Evenimentul zilei, or even BBC or LiveScience (without the translation thing, of course).

Now my question is: can I use the article published by Gândul as a reference to add the information (a woman was cured of cancer using a virus) in a Wikipedia article? Does such a translated article pass the notability and reliability test?

If I add the information on the ro:Cancer Wikipedia article, using the Gândul article, is it ok for someone else to suppress both the information and the reference with the justification that Gândul is not a reliable source? Because I think the information pass the notability test and, in the "worst" case, the reference should be replaced by the original article published in Mayo. I think the best solution is to just add the Mayo article as a reference, instead of replacing the Romanian reference? For the Romanian readers it's best to have a translated article too - at least that's what I think.

If I just notice the other editors about the information in this news article (the one in Gândul) in the ro:Cancer Wikipedia article talk page (ro:Discuție:Cancer), is it ok if someone else comes and deletes what I said there, based on the claim that Gândul is not a reliable source, and maybe even claiming that such news are junk? —  Ark25  (talk) 09:55, 20 June 2014 (UTC)

Stay as close to the original souurce as possible. See Chinese whispers. (talk) 10:15, 20 June 2014 (UTC)
Sorry but while your advice is good, it doesn't answer to my specific questions. —  Ark25  (talk) 11:25, 20 June 2014 (UTC)
You need to ask questions about sourcing for Romanian Wikipedia on Romanian Wikipedia. Formerip (talk) 13:32, 20 June 2014 (UTC)
In this case please consider that instead of Gândul is BBC in english. Can I use the BBC articole, if BBC quotes AFP, wich in turn quotes Mayo? If BBC translates into English a news article from AFP which in turn quotes a French scientific peer reviewed journal, is it ok to use the BBC article as a reference? —  Ark25  (talk) 15:19, 20 June 2014 (UTC)
You seem to be asking about what you can do on the one hand on en.wp and on the other about what you can do on ro.wp. Questions about en.wp are the only ones that can get properly answered here. The language of the source isn't the issue. Formerip (talk) 15:22, 20 June 2014 (UTC)
Each language edition of Wikipedia sets its own rules. The Romanian Wikipedia rules might be very different from the English Wikipedia rules. We don't know what their rules are, so we can't tell you what's permitted there. If you want to know the Romanian rules, then you will need to ask the editors at the Romanian Wikipedia. WhatamIdoing (talk) 15:39, 20 June 2014 (UTC)

Yes I was wrong to ask a question about Romanian Wikipedia here on English Wikipedia. But I don't want to translate the English Wikipedia rules into rules for Romanian Wikipedia. I just want to know how such an issue would be handled here. Please forget about Romanian Wikipedia. So, Mayo publishes a study. Then AFP and Reuters broadcast it. And then a well known English language newspaper or site publishes that information - Daily Mail or

If I add the information on the Cancer Wikipedia article (or into other related article, like for example Oncolytic_virus), using the Daily Mail (or article as a reference, is it ok for someone else to suppress (i.e. remove) both the information and the reference with the justification that Daily Mail (or is not a reliable source? Say the original information (in Mayo Clinic Proceedings) is in Spanish or French. Does it make any difference? And how about noticing the information on a talk page?

I already have such a discussion on the Romanian Wikipedia I just want to know how such cases would be treated on English Wikipedia, in order to learn something new. —  Ark25  (talk) 18:22, 20 June 2014 (UTC)

There are special rules for biomedical content, which are outlined at WP:MEDRS. One main reason for the restriction is that, with millions of sources available, it's very easy to cherry-pick sources that happen to agree with your personal ideas, or to give WP:UNDUE attention to whatever was in the news today.
Also, just for context, Daily Mail might be "well-known", but it's best known for being unreliable, especially for medicine-related content. One joke told about the Daily Mail is that its true purpose is to classify every known substance into something that either causes or cures cancer.[7] WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:22, 20 June 2014 (UTC)
But the information is notable since it's published in Mayo, isn't it? The Daily Mail article even points to the original research (The findings appear in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings). Isn't it just better to replace the reference instead of removing the information along with it's (Daily Mail) reference? My question is nothing about sources that agree with my ideas. In this cae we are talking just about using a re-published research originally presented in a secondary source (peer reviewed journal). I don't agree that negative temperatures can exist for example, but I think that the claims of achieving negative temperatures should be added into Wikipedia article(s), since it was published in a secondary source - [8] (and it's already added into Absolute zero#Negative temperatures). I am not for favoring information that "pleases" me or for suppressing information that I do not agree with. By the contrary, I am very much pro for highlighting the claims that I find strange, if they have notability. I am not editing Wikipedia in order to convey any „scientific ideology”. I am just for adding notable information, regardless of it being cool or stupid from my point of view.
And how about noticing the other editors about the information quoting Daily Mail in an article's talk page? Is it ok if someone else removes the discussion I start just because I quote Daily Mail? (My question is about particular cases like this one, not about any Daily Mail article). —  Ark25  (talk) 03:05, 21 June 2014 (UTC)
A peer-reviewed journal is not always a secondary source. A review article, which has nothing to do with peer review, is a secondary source. An academic article that publishes results from an experiment is a primary source.
I like "strange" findings, too. They just aren't always WP:DUE. If it's important, a review article will cover it later this year, and also give us the benefit of analyzing it and placing it in context. Then we can use the review article. WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:21, 21 June 2014 (UTC)
But then, how do I know if I may add the information or not? How do I know if it passes the notability and reliability criteria? You said not always - that means sometimes they are and sometimes they are not a secondary source. How can I be sure that the results published in this particular Mayo article are reliable source (secondary source) or not and how can I be sure that the article about negative temperature (which is also about an experiment) in the Nature journal is notable and reliable?
Trachea contains two references from CNN and BBC, which really do not look like they are coming from review articles. Vaginal transplantation contains references from NHS, USA Today and BBC - not exactly review articles. Why are they notable and reliable then? Or aren't they? —  Ark25  (talk) 03:36, 21 June 2014 (UTC)
An academic article that publishes a study is a primary source too? Or there's a significant difference between studies and experiments, which makes experiments primary and studies secondary source? —  Ark25  (talk) 04:29, 21 June 2014 (UTC)

Let's try to address several of these points:

  1. Any source (academic or not, peer-reviewed or not, any source at all) that is the first source to publish a piece of information (for example, the results from a clinical trial) is always a primary source.
  2. An academic journal is permitted to publish primary sources. An academic journal is permitted to publish secondary sources. An academic journal is permitted to publish tertiary sources. To find out whether this article is primary, secondary, or tertiary, you need to look at this article, not at the whole journal.
  3. Unless you are trying to create a whole article on the subject—unless you want to start a brand-new article called Effect of white bread consumption on obesity—then you do not care whether the paper is WP:Notable. "Notable" means "gets an entire article exclusively dedicated to that subject.
  4. WP:OTHERSTUFFEXISTS is a lousy reason to add poorly sourced material to an article. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:41, 21 June 2014 (UTC)
Nice explanations, thanks!
By the way, the statement you made An academic article (even peer-reviewed) that publishes results from an experiment is a primary source. should be included in this guide, I think. And the guide should also contain the definition of primary, secondary and tertiary sources, like WP:MEDRS does. It would make things much more clear for people like me.
Just for me to make an idea: how many of the academic journals (in percentage) in the USA or in the UK are peer-reviewed?
I will be very careful about medical topics, not to add information presented in primary sources into Wikipedia articles. In case of the Absolute zero#Negative temperatures article though, I would have added the information from the experiment presented in Nature, in order to present the claim of the scientists who made the experiment, and I would not have added the information as a scientific fact. How much is acceptable or unacceptable such an edit? Sorry to bother with so many questions. —  Ark25  (talk) 08:28, 22 June 2014 (UTC)
Nearly all academic journals say they are peer-reviewed; most really do it. (A few have a fake "peer-review" system, like comments on blog posts.)
The primary/secondary/tertiary stuff is officially at WP:PRIMARY. I think that WP:USEPRIMARY and WP:Party and person are more practical.
Statements that they claim to have achieved a negative temperature are much easier to support than claims that it's a scientific fact. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:46, 23 June 2014 (UTC)

WhatamIdoing: I really think that your last sentence should be added to this guide, with a focus on non-medical science. It seems there are many editors who don't make the difference between adding claims of achievements into articles and adding statements of (generally accepted) scientific facts. They simply dislike any claim of scientific achievement that was not confirmed. Water-fuelled car is full of such claims and there is no problem to add them into an encyclopedia. —  Ark25  (talk) 08:17, 27 June 2014 (UTC)

What do other people think about this? Where would you all add this? It's related to the caption at WP:QUESTIONABLE, but I don't think that would be a good place for it. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:08, 27 June 2014 (UTC)
The problem with claims of achievement is imho, that very often they are simply not appropriate for an encyclopedia. They often fail notability as content (most individual claims are simply not notable, unless they received significant coverage by serious media) and are often abused by POV pushers, who blur the distinction to established knowledge for their own reasons.--Kmhkmh (talk) 20:23, 27 June 2014 (UTC)
I think the best place for that statement is in the section that talks about primary sources: Wikipedia:Identifying reliable sources#Primary, secondary, and tertiary sources - after the sentence rather than original analysis of the primary-source material by Wikipedia editors. I changed my opinion: the focus should not be reduced to non-medical science. Just mention that more attention is needed on medical topics. If a notable singer like MiaoMiaoCiaoCiao claims he can fly, that claim can be mentioned into the article.
@Kmhkmh: The history of Science is full of claims and speculations that proved to be just speculations and WP has articles about them. Many (or most?) of them are notable or relevant. Some speculations were very important steps for the advancement of science, because they opened important debates and others had an effect of slowing the advancement of science. I agree that many of the fancy speculations and claims made today might not deserve attention. However, I, as a reader, I'm quite interested to know how many times (and especially since when there were) people claimed that they can transform led into gold, how many times the washing machines that don't need water or detergent were invented, and so on. Knowing such things makes me, every time when I hear such news, to feel less naive and makes me feel better prepared in front of all kind of future fancy claims. Where to draw the line, I don't really know. But honestly I prefer to know all of them, if possible. Maybe WP articles can have „Claims” sections? The talk page of each individual WP article should be used in order to discuss which claims deserve to be mentioned in the article. However, whenever I can, I mention such claims into talk pages of WP articles, although that makes more and more people to claim that I'm a spammer - en:Wikipedia talk:Talk page guidelines#Adding external links to talk pages. —  Ark25  (talk) 23:55, 27 June 2014 (UTC)
I will also consider about opening a new Wikia project dedicated to all kind of fancy claims :)
Anyways, the fact is that some of the fancy claims like those in the Water-fuelled car article can be added into WP articles and sometimes it's a very a good idea to mention them into encyclopedic articles. —  Ark25  (talk) 16:33, 28 June 2014 (UTC)
Kmhkmh, unless you're trying to write an entire article about the claim, then it doesn't matter if it's WP:Notable. I have no problem with including claims (supported by an independent source) that something has been said or done. Statements like "XYZ, Inc said that they achieved suborbital flight in 2013 with their recoverable pigeon technology" or "Dierdre Doctor said she transplanted an appendix at Charity Hospital in 2014" doesn't need a gold-plated academic source behind it. WhatamIdoing (talk) 23:43, 28 June 2014 (UTC)
Speaking of notable: Until 8 days ago when you made it clear to me, I was also calling "notable" the statements or sections that deserve to be part of articles. But notable is a term just for articles. By the way, many people make this confusion? What's the right term for statements/sections? Relevant? —  Ark25  (talk) 00:17, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
Usually, people mean DUE, as in giving WP:DUE weight to appropriate encyclopedic information. But that's also jargon. Relevant is also a reasonable synonym. WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:57, 29 June 2014 (UTC)

WhatamIdoing. Thanks. Again, about your statement Statements that they claim to have achieved a negative temperature are much easier to support than claims that it's a scientific fact. - it can also be mentioned into:

  • WP:USEPRIMARY#You are allowed to use primary sources... carefully - Something like: An article on a scientific topic can use primary sources as references for statements like A group of scientists claim they achieved negative temperatures and it should not contain A group of scientists demonstrated that negative temperatures are a reality.
  • WP:USEPRIMARY#Are news-reporting media secondary or primary sources?. Something like: Scientific claims. - A news report about a scientific achievement can be used as a reference for statements like A group of scientists claim they achieved negative temperatures and it should not contain A group of scientists demonstrated that negative temperatures are a reality. Ark25  (talk) 00:50, 7 July 2014 (UTC)

Huffington Post

I was wondering whether Huffington Post is a reliable source for working on article related to the recent upheavals in middle east. Mhhossein (talk) 05:32, 11 July 2014 (UTC)

You should read the /FAQ at the top of the page for general information, and then take your question to WP:RSN, where you'll get a much better answer. WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:36, 11 July 2014 (UTC)

This guideline contains a redundant content fork

Two of these sections are almost entirely redundant. Wikipedia:Verifiability#Sources that are usually not reliable contains much of the same text as Wikipedia:Identifying reliable sources#Questionable and self-published sources. Should these sections be merged? Jarble (talk) 17:15, 12 July 2014 (UTC)

Some things are worth stating more than once, and in more than one place. I would leave them as is. Blueboar (talk) 20:09, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
WP:Content fork applies to Wikipedia articles, not to Wikipedia policy or guideline pages. Furthermore, like the Related articles section of WP:Content fork states, "Articles on distinct but related topics may well contain a significant amount of information in common with one another. This does not make either of the two articles a content fork." Flyer22 (talk) 20:19, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
(E/C) First, if there is any substantive difference, this guideline should be changed to conform with the policy. I don't think you can call a guideline a fork of a policy, in the usual sense of fork. Second, it's not bad to say it again, as it were, and someday we may come up with a more detailed guideline to go along with the policy. Alanscottwalker (talk) 20:23, 12 July 2014 (UTC)
I agree that there is no issue with relevant info being on two pages if it is pertinent to both of them. Now, if the two sections significantly contradicted each other then therecis a problem.-- (talk) 00:30, 14 July 2014 (UTC)

Addressing "cannibalistic" tertiary sources

FYI: Pointer to relevant thread elsewhere.

Wikipedia talk:No original research#Cannibalistic tertiary sources should be of interest to many participants here, and mentioned RS's as well as NOR's handling of tertiary sources.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  15:53, 17 July 2014 (UTC)

Shouldn't this be unreliable as it does feature bad qualities like on Disney Jessie it has Jessie's Big Break written as 299 but it also has it listed as 210/211 when it is actually 216/217 and 210 and 211 are Teachers Pest and To Be Me, or Not to Be Me(,0&Search%5FArg=disney%20jessie&Search%5FCode=TALL&CNT=25&PID=tXaZrOZgwO-4iU_gSF-xM7OZp164z&SEQ=20140718020644&SID=1) CHall2002 (talk) 06:07, 18 July 2014 (UTC)

cherrypicking primary sources

In this dif I added "Also be wary of using a primary source that supports a particular point of view when there are others that support different or contradictory point of views; one of the key reasons that all of Wikipedia's policies and guidelines urge reliance on secondary sources, is to avoid this kind of cherrypicking among primary sources and instead rely on secondary sources that show what weight (if any) are given to various primary sources by experts in the field." with edit note "add bit about cherrypicking primary sources and importance of 2ndary sources in determining what weight if any to give primaries"

In this dif Blueboar reverted, with edit note "Instruction creep... Already covered at WP:UNDUE... cherry picking primary sources is a neutrality issue, not a reliability issue, and so should not be mentioned here."

I think it is important to have this here, since editors cherrypick primary sources frequently, and cite this passage as justification for it. As per WP:BRD am opening a discussion. Happy to amend/shorten but I feel strongly about that cherrypicking in this way damages the encyclopedia and we should state this here. Thoughts? Jytdog (talk) 12:54, 18 July 2014 (UTC)

The thing is... what you are concerned about isn't really a reliability issue. When we say: "According to primary source X, blah blah is true", primary source X is a reliable source for that statement (in fact, it is the single most reliable source possible for that statement). Now, there may be many reasons why we should not include that statement in the first place (WP:UNDUE being a prominent one)... but the reliability of primary source X isn't one of those reasons. As used... it is very reliable. Blueboar (talk) 13:10, 18 July 2014 (UTC)
I hear you on that. very much. but i think it is better for the encyclopedia to have these two notions knitted together clearly - many editors fail to see the way this guideline and the NPOV policy work together, and won't listen, just saying "I can use this, in this way -- it says so in RS". is there a way you can see a way to knit the guideline and policy together here? like i said happy to make it shorter... and i fully understand the concern with creep. Jytdog (talk) 13:38, 18 July 2014 (UTC)

Comment: I'd appreciate if text suggestions are discussed here first and preferably edits occur only after a consensus of sorts is reached. The bold editing approach which is fine for articles is imho less suited for (core) policies. In fact that they sometimes might feel like a moving target is really annoying for other editors looking them up. The core policies should be conservatively edited and remain as stable as possible.--Kmhkmh (talk) 14:18, 18 July 2014 (UTC)

Jytdog, it's still unnecessary instruction creep to discuss it here. The problem is that someone can improperly cherry pick from a primary source and actually be correct in saying that the source passes WP:RS... that's because cherry picking isn't really a reliability issue. Yes, cherry picking is a problem, but it is a problem that has nothing to do with whether the source is reliable or not.
To combat cherry picking, what you need to do is point the editor at the policies and guidelines that actually do apply... WP:NOR, WP:UNDUE, etc. You want to move the cherry picker away from his/her focus on WP:IRS... and help that editor to understand that there are other policies and guidelines that apply. Blueboar (talk) 21:05, 18 July 2014 (UTC)
Can we do that like this?
"When relying on primary sources, extreme caution is advised: Wikipedians should never interpret the content of primary sources for themselves. See Wikipedia:No original research and Wikipedia:Neutral point of view."
That will point the editor at the policies that do apply, and also help out Jytdog. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:37, 18 July 2014 (UTC)
That would be lovely and fine by me. Thank you. Blueboar can you live with that? thanks Jytdog (talk) 21:59, 18 July 2014 (UTC)
Meh... I would prefer to not mention NPOV at all in that paragraph... but I can live with a simple link. Blueboar (talk) 22:37, 18 July 2014 (UTC)

thank you for wikicompromising. implementing. Jytdog (talk) 22:56, 18 July 2014 (UTC)


Some administrator tell me if IBOS is a reliable source. Because I found they have all the details of Bollywood box office collections with inflation adjusted--Enterths300000 (talk) 17:30, 19 July 2014 (UTC)

Enterths300000, you want to ask at WP:RSN. Any editor can respond, we Admins don't have special rights to declare something reliable. Dougweller (talk) 12:00, 20 July 2014 (UTC)

What really is a reliable source?

I'm not really sure if there are any when it comes to government related issues, and most of those topics brand editors conspiracy theorist nutters if you don't include an article from a well known organization. Wikipedia tells you to include reliable sources such as articles from news sites, but what if those articles are government-related topics? You would call for the reliable sources, but they are government-run news companies. So what then? It's a really confusing issue because you don't know what is reliable as news companies have a tendency to cover up the truth when governments come into those types of issues because they have been told to. Eck 08:49, 19 July 2014 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Eckstasy (talkcontribs)

Um... most news companies tend to expose the truth, not cover it up... (catching the government in a lie sells more papers). Blueboar (talk) 11:29, 19 July 2014 (UTC)
Eckstasy I reviewed your recent edit histories to see what specific issues might be driving your question. Our sourcing requirements are built exactly to ascertain what ideas are WP:FRINGE and which are mainstream and to treat them as such in Wikipedia. Holocaust denial will not get far here. Jytdog (talk) 11:47, 19 July 2014 (UTC)
Those Holocaust s/denials/revisions/ were nothing to do with this question, but thanks. I also fail to understand why you guys call it that, it's as if Wikipedia doesn't support the academics of this subject in the words of "here, take this fact, don't try to look into it further" - also, I'm Jewish so that doesn't work atall. Eck (talk) 12:50, 19 July 2014 (UTC)
It doesn't matter who you are here - it is not verifiable and no one cares. What matters is what you do, and how you do it. Wikipedia is built from the ground up to provide reliable information to the public, as determined by reliable sources produced by the institutions that generate and validate knowledge in our society. This is not a place to right great wrongs of any kind - you cannot fight those battles here. Jytdog (talk) 13:19, 19 July 2014 (UTC)
So we only take large media output and common knowledge as reliable sources? That's alot of room for corruption and false stories which may one day even render Wikipedia's integrity obsolete on certain topics. The best reliable sources are the scientifically proven ones. Eck (talk) 23:52, 19 July 2014 (UTC)
That's not what I said. Done here. Jytdog (talk) 00:24, 20 July 2014 (UTC)
A sample edit from this poster to clarify his position: ",It is believed that around 1.1 million Jews died during WW2 as a result from disease and malnutrition in camps due to the Nazi's being unable to make deliveries of food and medicine as major roads were bombed by the Allies <ref> [] An 'Unknown Holocaust' and the Hijacking of History</ref><ref> [] The lie of the century, 2014</ref>" Not surprisingly that replaced "Around 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust,". Dougweller (talk) 12:06, 20 July 2014 (UTC)
Again, what does this have to do with this? Eck (talk) 20:38, 20 July 2014 (UTC)
First, I note that you reverted my edit above, from your talk page partially in response to your being reverted, and you commented there " Talk pages are not a forum for editors to argue their personal point of view about a controversial issue." Next time ask me first. It's clearly relevant as it seems to demonstrates the type of sources that you think should be considered reliable sources to back statements of fact. That seems blatantly obvious as I made sure the sources could easily be seen. Dougweller (talk) 20:45, 20 July 2014 (UTC)
I only reverted it because this is closely becoming a personal attack, The comment I made was entirely irrelevant to my past edits and it was just a general question about the entirety of reliable sources; as I already stated above in reply to Jytdog, you technically reposted Jytdog's question by copying the source of an edit. Eck (talk) 20:55, 20 July 2014 (UTC)
Eckstasy, given the vagueness of your initial question, it is unsurprising that other contributors would look at your editing history to see if they could figure out what you were referring to. Maybe you should have enquired about Wikipedia policy on identifying reliable sources before making what was clearly going to be a controversial edit to the Holocaust page... AndyTheGrump (talk) 20:50, 20 July 2014 (UTC)
I was referring to government related issues in general including the existence of scientific evidence but the media still gets gagged and in turn renders no reliable sources. Throughout history institutions have attempted to verify things the scientific way but they still get black markers because the government/mass media deny it. I have read alot of WP:IRS but it doesn't cover this. Eck (talk) 21:07, 20 July 2014 (UTC)
As far as Wikipedia is concerned, the acceptability of a scientific source is dependant on its credibility within the relevant academic field. If you want an encyclopaedia that bases its assessment of sources on vague assertions about 'government gagging' and similar conspiratorial premises, you will need to look elsewhere. AndyTheGrump (talk) 23:04, 20 July 2014 (UTC)

On the original question, in case anyone ever looks through the archives for help:

Question: "What really is a reliable source?"

Answer: It depends entirely on the statement you're trying to support. A type of source that is unreliable for X may be authoritative for Y. There is no source that is reliable for all possible statements, and no published source that is unreliable for all possible statements. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:14, 21 July 2014 (UTC)

Well said, thanks Eck (talk) 00:21, 21 July 2014 (UTC)

Undergraduate honors theses

I would like to propose an edit to the guildelines:

  • old: "Masters dissertations and theses are considered reliable only if they can be shown to have had significant scholarly influence"


  • new: "Masters dissertations, theses and honors undergraduate theses are considered reliable only if they can be shown to have had significant scholarly influence."

Rationale: Some colleges and universities have undergraduate honors programs where students undertake a year of rigorous study working closely with faculty advisor, in the end producing an honors undergraduate theses. While perhaps some do not rise to the level of making an original significant contribution to the scholarly community, some have. The following are examples of such undergraduate theses which represent a small sample of the many undergraduate theses that should be considered reliable sources per this wikipedia policy:

  • Merchant, Karima (2012). How Men And Women Differ: Gender Differences in Communication Styles, Influence Tactics, and Leadership Styles (B.A. thesis). Claremont McKenna College.
Cited 8 times in Google Scholar
Cited 4 times in Google Scholar
Cited 3 times in Google Scholar

Hi. Your change doesn't accomplish your goal (a "Masters thesis" is what you do in a masters program, not a BS or BA program). And google scholar is no measure of much anything, especially when you look closely at the results. None of your examples had serious impact. (the first one is cited by what appear to be 6 other undergrad theses, a popular book, and a blog) Jytdog (talk) 07:07, 21 July 2014 (UTC)

Fair point on the first example, I was doing a quick site search in Google Scholar from well known undergraduate theses repositories looking for examples that have been cited in peer reviewed journal articles. The 3rd one definitely has. I didn't do an exhaustive search on the matter. Regardless, I still think the policy should be open to allow for undergraduate theses with a significant scholarly impact to be cited, similar to master's theses.Lugevas (talk) 14:22, 21 July 2014 (UTC)
sorry i see that you did add "undergraduate" so the amendment does accomplish what you wanted. on the third dissertation, it was cited in one published paper, and that paper discusses the dissertation primarily to criticize its methodology. the 2nd link is dead (goes to the guys' linked in page instead of his website) but in any case the article at the dead link appears to have been writteb by the same person who cited the dissertation in the published paper. the third link is to a paper presented at a conference. you call that "significant scholarly impact"? in general i am opposed to this. there is already so much schlock that people try to bring as sources. and if folks are going to have as low a bar as you do for "significant" i think this will just open the door to more bad sources. and finally, if the work really does have big impact it will surely be cited by reliable sources and the results can come in that way. that is my take. Jytdog (talk) 16:07, 21 July 2014 (UTC)
I'm wary of this as well. Normally theses aren't considered part of the literature even at the graduate level until they are published in a peer-reviewed journal. Partly that's because an advisory committee technically does peer-review the content (usually with a degree of rigor), but people uninvolved with the work or person aren't involved. Undergrad theses typically aren't as rigorous as grad level theses because they usually (to my knowledge) lack a committee and typically just have an advisor. A graduate thesis is already a step below our typical primary sources within journal articles, so it'd seem like we'd be knocking down the reliability of sources even further to include undergrad work.
On a slight side note, is there supposed to be a distinction between a PhD and Masters thesis/dissertation? There doesn't appear to be a functional difference in reliability between the Masters and PhD level when it comes to why we consider some sources unreliable on Wikipedia. The two vary in the amount of work and depth into the topic, but the two appear inherently the same when it comes to reliability. Kingofaces43 (talk) 17:35, 21 July 2014 (UTC)

What if the RS refs/quotes Wikipedia?

Sort of hypothetically, so what do we do if an otherwise "reliable" source references or even quotes from a Wikipedia page on some topic? I've seen some such citations of late. If a source uses Wikipedia as a source can we still reference that source or is it too recursive? If they use Wikipedia as one of several sources? DeistCosmos (talk) 20:46, 29 July 2014 (UTC)

See WP:CIRCULAR.—Wavelength (talk) 20:53, 29 July 2014 (UTC)
It is not as hypothetical as you might think. There's quite a number of academic publications on subjects other than WP itself that do cite or reference Wikipedia for various reasons. Whether those publications can be used as sources for Wikipedia as well (and whether it is case of circular referencing) depends on the concrete context and what you actually want to source.--Kmhkmh (talk) 23:02, 29 July 2014 (UTC)
If it is in a reliable source it is reliable. It is our role to determine if sources are reliable, not to fact-check everything in them. Secondary sources frequently cite unreliable sources, but their authors have the expertise to evaluate the information in them.
OTOH, we should always use the best, most relevant sources. It is unlikely that good sources would use Wikipedia as a source for essential information. So a book about the Rolling Stones may mention that while they were playing in New York they went to Coney Island then say in passing several other famous people who had visited the island including Leon Trotsky based on Wikipedia's Coney Island article. Then an editor will insert that "fact" into "Leon Trotsky." Rather than say we should not use the source because it is in turn sourced to Wikipedia, say a book about the Stones should not be used as a source for articles far from the subject. And note that this would be the same wherever the Stones author got their information and in fact much information in reliable sources is not sourced.
TFD (talk) 17:55, 30 July 2014 (UTC)
There's no clear consensus from the community. In once case, people will say that it's excellent and proof that we're doing good work, and in the next, they'll try to throw out an entire scholarly book, written by an acknowledged expert and published by a reputable university press, because 0.02% of the sentences probably came from Wikipedia.
I think that (leaving aside the occasional bit of transparent POV pushing) sometimes people accept (sort of) circular sourcing for things they already believe to be true (because providing a source for WP:BLUE material is kind of unimportant), and reject it if the source challenges their preconceptions (when they want bullet-proof sources). But the bigger factor may be purely personal preferences: Some people want their sources "pure", and any tiny blemish disgusts them. Others just don't care so much. WhatamIdoing (talk) 22:42, 31 July 2014 (UTC)
A few other things to factor in...
1) the fact that a source cites Wikipedia for one bit of information does not make it unreliable for other bits of information (presumably cited to other sources). Specifics do matter.
2) Let's say a source S does cite Wikipedia article X for some bit of information, and you want to include that bit of information in Wikipedia article Y... instead of citing source S, check Wikipedia article X (cited in S). If we have done our job correctly, that Wikipedia article (X) should have its own set of sources... and you may be able to use those sources to support the information in Wikipedia article Y. This breaks the chain of WP:Circular citations. Blueboar (talk) 13:35, 1 August 2014 (UTC)