Wikipedia talk:Independent sources

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Thoughts, improvements suggestions?[edit]

Two Independent Sources[edit]

As it stands, this proposal does little beyond the already existing Verifiability policy that articles should rely on credible, third-party sources.

I would go one step further, by making it say "Any article on a topic is required to cite at least two reliable sources, independent ..." This seems to be a modest expectation of minimum encyclopedic standards. --SteveMcCluskey 22:50, 8 July 2006 (UTC)

There are certainly exceptions to this. When a particular reference is generally considered the key authority on a particular subject, I see no need for a second one. Consider the article LR parser - the reference on that article (Aho, Sethi & Ullman) is so frequently-referenced that any other source on the subject may as well not exist, because nobody who knows about the topic would recommend anything but that one book. It covers the subject in as much depth as anyone reading an encyclopedia article on the subject would realistically want. It is accessible to anyone who is able to understand the article. Copies of the book are widely available, and it is unlikely to go out-of-print any time soon as it is a standard undergraduate textbook in almost every computer science degree course in the English-speaking world. What more could a second reference add? JulesH 16:31, 31 August 2006 (UTC)
I like this essay - it explains the rationale behind WP:V very well. While I personally think that multiple independent sources are an excellent idea (it has become a de-facto standard in notability guideline pages, for example), there seems to be some opposition to the idea. Perhaps saying that multiple sources are necessary when using only one introduces the possibility of a non-neutral point of view in the article? Examples like JulesH's above probably wouldn't fall under this, but I can think of a few examples where one independent source just isn't enough. Ziggurat 03:24, 5 October 2006 (UTC)

Meaning of independence[edit]

Independence means much more than this. The sources must be independent of each other, not just the subject. If a journalist publishes an investigative report on some scandal, the several other newspapers that report on the issue but do not independently investigate and verify the issue themselves do not count as independent sources. It all rests on one investigation, one newspaper and is not sufficient for Wikipedia. Also, isn't this redundant with Verifiability? —Centrxtalk • 22:35, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

  • No, sadly it isn't. Too many people think verifiability allows an article to be written using one primary source. Still, this is an essay, I don't see what harm it does. Feel free to edit it to address any concerns you have. Hiding Talk 12:42, 11 October 2006 (UTC)

Topic = Source[edit]

This essay seems to use topic as a synonym for source. It seems to only concern itself with cases where the topic is a publication, such as a book or movie. Suppose the topic is not a publication, though. If the topic were algebra, how would I find a source that describes algebra "from the outside"? --Gerry Ashton 17:43, 11 October 2006 (UTC)

  • Eh? Don't understand you at all. It doesn't use topic as a synonym for source at all. It uses topic to mean the topic of an article. I'll try and make that clearer. Not sure what you are trying to address with your point about algebra. Hiding Talk 18:00, 11 October 2006 (UTC)
  • Actually, it's already explained what a topic is: Any article on a topic. As to algebra, not sure how an article could use algebra as the sole source, but if you think it could, well this essay would certainly apply there too as much as it applies anywhere else. Hiding Talk 18:03, 11 October 2006 (UTC)
Let me be more specific. The essay says "Any article on a topic is required to cite a reliable source independent of the topic itself...." OK, suppose the topic is algebra. That is, I'm writing an article about algebra. What does it mean to say that a source is independent of algebra? That makes no sense.
Now if the topic were the TV series Heros, the statement "Any article on Heros is required to cite a reliable source independent of Heros" makes perfect sense; when writing such an article I should not just write about what I saw while watching the show, I should also find reviews from reliable sources that are not affiliated with anyone who had a hand in creating or broadcasting Heros. That is why I say the essay uses topic as a synonym for source; the essay only makes sense if the topic is a publication. --Gerry Ashton 18:20, 11 October 2006 (UTC)
Still don't follow you. It doesn't just work for publications. It works for people. "Any article on Tom Cruise is required to cite a reliable source independent of Tom Cruise" It works for algebra. I'd say we should source textbooks about algebra, rather than algebra itself for an article. An article regarding a-b=a+(-b) would require a source outside of it, describing it. HTH. Hiding Talk 18:36, 11 October 2006 (UTC)
People, publications, and organizations can be sources. We understand what it means to be independent of a person, organization, or publication. The independent source didn't just copy or paraphrase the first source, doesn't get paid by the first source, etc. But an algebra textbook can't be independent of algebra; how can you write an algebra textbook without using algebra? Now, a book about Tom Cruise would probably be independent of algebra, but it wouldn't be much use in writing an article about algebra. --Gerry Ashton 18:48, 11 October 2006 (UTC)
Um, why on earth would you use a book about Tom Cruise in an article on algebra? I'm confused. Is the book on algebra written by someone who is describing it? If so, I can't see the problem. That's an independent source. Hiding Talk 19:07, 11 October 2006 (UTC)

(unindent)Ok, lets start again. I decide to write a Wikipedia article about the topic algebra. Just the general mathematical ideas that together form the topic of algebra. I should be able to go into your essay and substitute algebra for topic and the guideline should still make sense. So I take the statement

Any article on a topic is required to cite a reliable source independent of the topic itself...

I substitute algebra for topic and I get

Any article on algebra is required to cite a reliable source independent of algebra itself...

So what does it mean for a source to be independent of algebra? --User:Gerry Ashton 11 October 2006 (UTC)

  • Um, I'm still not clear here. Perhaps you are taking the sentence and the essay out of context? Hiding Talk 15:24, 22 October 2006 (UTC)
    • The essay seems to presume that the topic is a person, a group of people, or a publication (which of course are authored by a person or group). In this case, the word "independent" means something; it would be other people, or their publications, who are not subject to undue influence by the topic person or topic group. But some subjects have nothing to do with any particular person or group, such as algebra. These topics do not require independent sources because there is no person or group to be independent from. --Gerry Ashton 18:29, 22 October 2006 (UTC)
Gerry, I was initially impatient with this line of questioning, and thought you were being pedantic. I was going to lecture you about not requiring human language to work with the precision of logical symbolism (as in algebra). Then it occurred to me that this essay is likely to be resorted to by people in the midst of controversy, and some are likely to try to twist this article so as to support an agenda. The point you've identified might serve as a loophole in that case, exploitable to prolong circular argument and preserve a POV edit.
Example: Suppose I'm a creationist seeking to impose my POV on an article on the theory of evolution. I resort to this article, arguing that because the subject is the origins of genus Homo, and all scientific scholarship on this article is produced by members of the genus, the only "independent" source on this topic is divine revelation. It's a sophistic, dishonest argument, but could be sustained for a time -- which is the whole point: to wear down editors who abide by the 5 Pillars and thus keep their bias on display.
So you've won me over. I support adding some precision to this discussion. Have any ideas? -- Alarob 23:56, 22 October 2006 (UTC)

I would suggest clarifying along these lines:

  • When the topic of an article is a person or organization, information reported as fact (which should be the bulk of the article) should be derived from reliable sources which have gathered information by some means other than merely collecting the statements and representations of the subject of the article. Quotes and statements from the subject of the article are appropriate to add detail or support to general coverage, especially when describing the opinions of the subject (such as a reaction to something, or how they prefer to be identified).
  • When the topic of an article is an artifact or entity with informational content, such as a book or a scientific theory, both dependent and independent sources are appropriate. The article should probably summarize the intellectual content, using the subject itself as a primary source in the case of something like a book, or likely using authoritative secondary sources in the case of a collectively created entity like a scientific theory. But independent sources must also be brought to bear. What is the social and intellectual context? How is the entity perceived (controversially, as a factual depiction of the universe, as a masterful work of fiction, as part of a larger theory, etc.)? In some cases, there are disputes over the interpretation of the subject of the article, making its use as a primary source problematic. For instance, theological disputes over the meaning of various verses in the Christian Bible have resulted in some groups taking positions that apparently contradict the literal meaning of the words being interpreted. Independent context is also critical to understanding parody and allegory.
  • Many articles concern topics that have no direct intellectual content. For instance, one cannot quote the planet Neptune, and the typical rock has very little to say about its history. In these cases the subject of the article cannot be used as a source, so "independence" of sourcing from the subject of the article is not a concern.

I would also either change the title of the essay to something like "Independence from subject" or add a section to address the meaning "independence of sources from each other" which is the common meaning covered on our actual article on independent sources. -- Beland 07:58, 1 December 2006 (UTC)

It really depends on the situation...[edit]

I have seen this AFD debate where the link to this essay has been written up, and I think some thoughts on the value of independent sources is in order. Since the debate I linked to was about airlines, I will continue with using that as a case study:

  • There is no need whatsoever to not take an airline's word for it when they say that they fly to a location in their airline schedule. Honestly, what airline would deliberately lie and say that they flew to a destination when they didn't? If an airline claimed that they had flights to New York and didn't they would run into problems immediately when passengers tried booking tickets.
  • On the same token, we can take the airlines word for it when they say they have a fleet of so-so many airlines and they have so-so many seats on the airliner. Oh, yes, we can get independent sources for this as well, [1] and [2] for example, but they have probably based much of their data either straight from the airlines or from random observations of people sending in comments which is no more reliable than a wiki. The nonindendent source of the airline is reliable enough. Again, the airline would soon be called upon if they claimed that they had a fleet of Boeing 787 with first class seating in the entire cabin, while actually flying Boeing 247s. The airline has very little motivation for lying about this.
  • In a case where there is a clear conflict of interest however would be immediately after an air crash. If the airline provides a press release saying "We feel a deep grievance for the tragic loss of life which happened. At present, the cause of this tragedy appears to be mistakes made at Air Traffic Control who gave our pilots orders to descend too early with the result that it collide with another aircraft. Safety remains a top priority at our airline, and the event will of course be investigated thoroughly by our team of experts who will offer any lessons to our team of dedicated and highly skilled pilots." In this case it would be inappropriate to use this as a source for statements like "ATC error was the cause of the accident" and "Safety is a great concern for the airline". In this case we would truly expect a non-independent press release to be clearly biased. We could perhaps use it as a source for saying "the airline claimed that ATC was to blame for the accident". It is not out of the question that an independent report would may conclude that the accident was partly caused by the airplane's radar malfunctioning, and that it should not have been flying in the first place.

My point is: Non-independent sources should be used with some caution. If there is a reasonable cause to believe that the source might be biased or inaccurate, we should either abstain from using it or make it explicit that this is a claim from a non-independent source. But in many cases such a source would have no real motivation for saying something directly false, and in such cases it is a source as reliable and as valid as any other independent source, in fact sometimes more reliable. I would expect an airline to know more about its own company than a random journalist writing in an independent newspaper. Sjakkalle (Check!) 10:41, 17 January 2007 (UTC)

Non profit organizations[edit]

For a non-profit organization, what would be an acceptable source? Would a newspaper article describing the work it has done in a community be acceptable? Thanks for any help! Julieatrci 15:40, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

This is an essay, not a policy or guideline. By the standards of this essay, a newspaper article would normally be considered independent. Wikipedia:Reliable sources contains the current guidelines on what is a reliable source. Wikipedia:Notability (organizations) is the current guideline on what it takes to show notability for organizations. For a local non-profit that is not a piece of a larger organization, look for multiple publications in the local press or local history books. Be sure the article shows some encyclopedic importance of the organization and the independent sources validate that. GRBerry 23:27, 30 January 2007 (UTC)


we already have {{primarysources}}, which is pretty much exactly the template this article asks for. Night Gyr (talk/Oy) 10:10, 21 February 2007 (UTC)

Essays do not need to be simply requests. They can be justifications and explanations. —Centrxtalk • 16:31, 1 March 2007 (UTC)

Discussion Section?[edit]

Does this article really need to tell us we can discuss the article on the talk page? Does this imply that I'm not supposed to be discussing other essays on their respective talk pages? -Verdatum (talk) 09:29, 7 December 2007 (UTC)

How can this be upgraded to a guideline?[edit]

I really think this essay should become a guideline. Why? Because, especially in the more contentious articles where much criticism can be found, biased, though possibly reliable, sources can create a laundry list of contentions which can unnecessarily bloat an article. It would be a good idea to temper that phenomenon by strengthening the weight of this essay. MrMurph101 (talk) 21:20, 29 April 2008 (UTC)

  • Add the guideline tag and see what happens. Be prepared to explain the addition on this talk page. Hiding T 21:48, 29 April 2008 (UTC)
    • I guess I can be WP:BOLD. If there are no objections I'll do so in the next day. MrMurph101 (talk) 23:24, 29 April 2008 (UTC)
      • Where to start? Okay, it doesn't have a nutshell; (b) the "Discussion" section (as noted immediately above) is pointless; (c) if an article that doesn't have at least one independent source, the proper thing is to look at the notability guideline, because it's questionable whether the article should exist at all; (d) the first sentence on the page refers to the page itself; if this is a guideline, it should be offering advice to readers, not saying that the page "gives the opinions of some editors"; similar sentences include ones that begin "The idea is"; "It has been noticed, however"; and "This requirement for independent sources is so as to"; and (e) if one removes all the redundancy and self-referential sentences, there really isn't much left. -- John Broughton (♫♫) 20:50, 1 May 2008 (UTC)

(undent) Having said that, there are a lot of links to this essay. But I get the sense that many of links are there because of the issue that independent sources are needed for controversial facts, something not mentioned at all in the essay. So, for example, a website can be used for the basis (say) of when a company was founded, unless that fact is disputed. Or an autobiography or a company history authorized by a company should not be treated as a fully reliable source, though still usable. Or that a journal published by an association does not prove, in itself, notability. In fact, perhaps the best way to (re)build this into a useful guideline would be to look very closely at when the essay was cited, and figure out the points being made. That would include:

(a) a lack of independent sources indicates a potential notability problem, as well as a potential NPOV problem (b) independent sources should be preferred for controversial facts, and any disagreement regarding these must be made clear when the facts are discussed. (c) independent sources must be used for judgmental aspects of a subject (for example, an organization is a "leader in the field of X", or "has demonstrated that Y can do Z"); to do otherwise is an NPOV problem. Use of non-independent sources as support for such statements is wrong and should be deleted by editors.

Such a guideline needs to begin with a clear definition of what are and aren't independent sources; that in itself would be very helpful (and examples would be good, too).

In summary, guidelines normally use the word "should" (or similar) a lot - their purpose is to tell editors what to do (and not to do). Again, the links to the essay are where people were citing the essay as support; that means that it should be possible to figure out the points of disagreement between editors, and actually take sides - word the guideline so that one editor is clearly right and the other is clearly wrong (where "right" and "wrong" mean following or not following the new guideline). -- John Broughton (♫♫) 21:13, 1 May 2008 (UTC)

  • (ec-will read second post)****Thanks for the reply which was basically what I was asking for, what needs to be done to make this a guideline. It went over a day and no one objected so I was bold. And now to your points: a) adding a "nutshell" shouldn't be a problem b)section removed. c) all the more reason this should be a guideline d)The wording can be changed to reflect that e)A guideline is not a policy so this does not "written in stone" and "common sense" should be used so not everything has to be eliminated but it can be a check on the bloat I see. I'm mainly concerned with contentious material. POV pushers find sources that are generally reliable but only tell one side of the story and leads to a POV pusher on the other side to find another source that tells the other side of the story which creates massive text on one topic of the subject which leads to an unbalanced article on the subject. Requiring an IS helps keep this from happening. MrMurph101 (talk) 21:27, 1 May 2008 (UTC)
As it stands the Essay speaks mainly about current topics where independent sources are news media rather than internal sources. Before it makes it's way to Guideline standard, it should address the issue of independent sources in the context of academic topics. There it would involve issues like is a report of the text of a drug that is funded by the manufacturer an independent source -- before we say "of course not" we'd be wise to remember that manufacturers fund the acceptance trials of their drugs.
My thoughts on independent sources come from the newspapers' criterion, familiar to anyone who saw "All the President's Men," of two unrelated sources as being necessary before publishing a report in the paper. From this perspective, independent sources are independent of each other, not independent of the entity being described. This transfers nicely to the academic world, where two independent researchers come to similar conclusions.
Perhaps, as was suggested earlier, this concept should be limited to especially controversial topics, as a corollary of Exceptional claims require exceptional sources. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 00:20, 2 May 2008 (UTC)
  • A nutshell is not required for something to be a policy or a guideline. Hiding T 13:25, 12 May 2008 (UTC)

Notice of discussion[edit]

A few days ago, SlimVirgin went around a number of essays, changing them to say that a third-party source is always a secondary source. If you're interested in that discussion, it's been centralized at Wikipedia talk:Party and person. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:23, 16 November 2010 (UTC)

Scope of the Independence[edit]

An issue I keep running into with this policy is the vague scope of the "independence". If you take a very specific concern, such as, say, a particular model of a transistor, then there are multiple layers of association, and the significance of these associations are highly interpretable. For example, suppose that there is are sources from a manufacturer, a retailer, an electronics hobbyist author, an independent peer-reviewed electronics journal, or a general science writer, all of whom have so-called "significant" coverage. From my perspective, the last three do not have a significant dependence on the part.—RJH (talk) 16:21, 1 April 2011 (UTC)

Conflation of "independent" and "unbiased"[edit]

This essay says that "An independent source is a source that has no vested interest in a written topic and therefore it is commonly expected to describe the topic from a disinterested perspective." This is, however, a better description of an unbiased source. A source may be completely independent, but definitely biased. This distinction is made in the 4th paragraph, but I think it needs to be clearer if the essay is to be relied upon in editing debates or deletion discussions, or in helping new editors to understand our policies and practices. DES (talk) 16:32, 26 February 2014 (UTC)

I think this needs to be significantly re-written, and also merged with WP:Third-party sources. If I ever find a spare 20 or 30 hours lying around, I might even manage to do it someday.
That said, disinterested and unbiased aren't exact synonyms. A disinterested source doesn't expect to get anything out of it. If I were to say that Mac OS X is better than Windows, I'm biased, but disinterested. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:47, 6 April 2014 (UTC)
(To say nothing of utterly wrong! {insert "just kidding" template here}) KDS4444 (talk) 03:47, 24 August 2016 (UTC)


"For example, a newspaper that depends on advertising revenue might not be truly independent in their coverage of the local businesses that advertise in the paper."

There are many pages which use hobby magazines as sources, magazines which run articles (pretty much always positive) about companies or products that are advertised in their pages. Am I right that those wouldn't be considered independent? --LBiller39 (talk) 20:31, 6 April 2014 (UTC)

Hi LBiller39,
You are correct that, if the existence of the magazine is dependent on those ads, the magazine might not be independent. However, you want to be very careful about accusing "real" magazines of being shills for advertisers. If it's a serious problem with a sizable publication, you can probably find other sources that talk about it. In most of those cases, the fact that ads and stories cover similar subjects may well be innocent: the journalist interviewed an employee for a story, and the employee suggested to the company's advertising department that the publication might be a good place to run an ad. Or perhaps they've always advertised, and now the magazine has decided to run a story that happens to be about an advertiser. If the audience is going to be interested in model trains (or whatever the hobby is), then both the editors and the advertisers will want to reach that audience with their information about model trains.
On the other hand, there are webzines whose entire business is letting companies run un-labeled advertising that looks like real articles. There are magazines whose dependence on a sponsor might make them unwilling to criticize the sponsor. There are magazines that are directly owned and sponsored by the businesses that benefit from them, like HP's Measure magazine. The main problem that we're concerned about is rather direct control.
In general, if you run into a problem with this, your first question should be whether it matters. Even the most dependent magazine is likely to be reliable for basic facts. Beyond that, your first recourse should be seeing whether you can find a better source. People rarely object to having sources improved. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:11, 6 April 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for the speedy reply! I see now that this is "just" an essay, so maybe I'm in the wrong place to ask my question. Anyway, in the topic I'm thinking of, one entrepreneur says he tried to pitch a story idea about his product to a prominent magazine covering the field, and the editor supposedly replied that they'd consider running an article if he first bought some ad space. I suppose it matters because some products only get mentioned in these hobby magazines, so I'm wondering if they're really notable in the larger scheme of things. If publications like "Toasters Today" and "Toaster Oven Digest" (made-up names) are the only publications to write about a product, and its manufacturer advertises heavily in them, then I wonder whether they're independent enough for an article based on those sources to present the neutral point of view. — Preceding unsigned comment added by LBiller39 (talkcontribs) 21:49, 6 April 2014 (UTC)

About that merge[edit]

We've talked off and on about merging WP:Third-party sources over here. I've started a draft, modeled after WP:USINGPRIMARY in my sandbox at User:WhatamIdoing/Sandbox_3. If anyone has any comments (other than "it's too long" Face-wink.svg), please post them here. Thanks, WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:19, 1 May 2014 (UTC)

I'd like to make this happen. I've talked about it here and elsewhere for years. Nobody's ever objected (yet – and probably won't, until the day afterwards  ;-). If you have ideas or suggestions, please let me know. My goal is to have something that's practical. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:53, 10 August 2016 (UTC)
  • Well, I for one would like to express my support for said merge. It makes sense to me, and I am sure you yourself have thought about it enough to have come to a solid conclusion that it really is a good idea. And a good idea is a good idea. Let's make this happen before the merge proposal gets stale, which they seem to do all too quickly, and then nobody cares anymore. I care now, and I say, "Go"! KDS4444 (talk) 14:12, 20 August 2016 (UTC)

Funding of peer-reviewed review[edit]

This is a discussion of whether it is appropriate to cite a published, peer-reviewed review article that was funded by a party interested in the study's conclusions. While the ultimate answer I assume is "it depends", is there anything like a presumption that we could use to center the discussion around? Appreciate your insights. Thanks! Lfstevens (talk) 21:02, 19 June 2014 (UTC)

What is an independent source?[edit]

This is an actual request for your comments. There's no dispute and no proposal. I am just requesting that you share your own ideas about what it means for a reliable source to be independent (or not). Please make a ===subsection=== and tell me what you think. Feel free to tell stories and share examples about disputes, interesting cases, confusions you've encountered, considerations for subject areas that you're interested in – whatever is on your mind. WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:39, 31 March 2016 (UTC)

Any source which the subject does not have any immediate control over[edit]

So, like press releases and the like would be not be independent sources. Any source which the subject doesn't have any reasonable control over, so for instance an article on the editor of a major newspaper; sources from that newspaper wouldn't be considered independent sources. Tom29739 [talk] 16:11, 21 April 2016 (UTC).

Any source not directly or significantly related to, or influenced by, the subject[edit]

A source which is either not related to the subject, or has a tangential relationship- one which is too insignificant to influence- the subject: e.g. an unaffiliated ice hockey magazine talking about an ice hockey team could be said to be connected, as both involve ice hockey. Rubbish computer (HALP!: I dropped the bass?) 12:06, 24 April 2016 (UTC)

I just wanted to make sure that I understood your idea. In your opinion, is the ice hockey magazine independent of the team, or not? WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:50, 24 May 2016 (UTC)
"I can't define an independent source, but I know it when I see it." Both may involve ice hockey, but unless the team has paid for the article in the magazine (?) or the magazine is a promotional tool for the team (?) or the author of the article is also a member of the team (?) or the team's coach, or the wife of the team captain, etc., then in my mind the two should be considered independent of each other. Unless I am missing something. A useful question can be, "Does the author or publisher of the material have anything to gain by the piece being published?" If "No", then independent. KDS4444 (talk) 14:22, 20 August 2016 (UTC)