Wikipedia talk:Identifying and using independent sources

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No hope of useful definition[edit]

There is no hope of creating a useful definition for "third-party source" because it is fundamentally a term from contract law, and has no legitimate application in Wikipedia policies and guidelines. Jc3s5h (talk) 21:37, 27 July 2010 (UTC)


Indeed. How true. I had not quite realized how casual the guidelines of Wikipedia were until breaching this topic. I would suggest that, if Wikipedia wishes to maintain a robust model, far more energy is needed in mapping the details of what "reliable sources" means.

With more accuracy and proper differentiation of soure types, and with an understanding in place that different subject matter involves very different source types and means of verification, contributors have a sound basis to create and evolve mechanisms of checks and balances.

Inevitably, if Wikipedia is not to become the world's most relied-upon source of disinformation, a much more meaningful hierarchy of source-type will have to be implemented.Wikibearwithme (talk) 04:24, 16 January 2016 (UTC)

How are expert reviews classified?[edit]

For many scholarly subjects, review articles can be found. These appear in on-line encyclopedias like The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, in traditional encyclopedias like The Encyclopedia Britannica, in specialized collections like The Oxford Companion to ‘xyz’, in online resources like Philosophical Papers, and in review articles in scholarly journals like Reviews of Modern Physics, Reviews of Geophysics and so on. These articles are primarily written by one author, only occasionally more, and these authors are selected by the publication's editors for their expertise or the contributions are subject to some peer review process. Whatever the winnowing criteria, these authors are ipso facto active in the field and so hardly what one would call 'independent' observers. (In fact, a critique by a non-involved party is tantamount to a non-expert opinion, and not usually sought after.)

Such articles are the only type of general overview of a scholarly topic that is available. In my opinion, this guideline WP:THIRDPARTY is open to interpretation as excluding material reported in such scholarly reviews from WP. It says: "A third-party source is not affiliated with the event, not paid by the people who are involved, and not otherwise likely to have a conflict of interest or significant bias related to the material."

Wording should be added to this guideline explicitly indicating acceptance of scholarly review articles as being substantial and valid, and a reasonable alternative to non-existent "third-party" sources. If there is uncertainty about objectivity, for instance conflicting review articles, then WP:NPOV should govern the presentation by requiring expression of all scholarly opinions. However, exclusion of such articles on the basis of WP:THIRDPARTY is simply unrealistic. Brews ohare (talk) 14:48, 27 March 2015 (UTC)

I have added a version of these comments to the sub-section Articles without third-party sources. Of course, modifications are invited. Brews ohare (talk) 17:22, 27 March 2015 (UTC)

As on previous occasions Brews is forum shopping to try and resolve a dispute with editors on another article. He mis-states the position above ----Snowded TALK 18:50, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
Snowded: Please clarify what are your objections to this rather simple and obvious proposal. Trying to make this into a special pleading on my part ignores the point of the proposal in favor of conjectures about its motives, which are in fact pure. Brews ohare (talk) 18:54, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
You've simply moved a content dispute to a policy page Brews and I see you are edit warring again. The point being made elsewhere is that there difference between sources from a participant perspective (for example neuroscience) which are valid in respect of a newuoscience perspective on a field, but do not cover the field as a whole. They therefore do not support your general edits. Using policy areas to continue a content dispute is poor form to say the least. I suggest you revert your revert and await comments from more experienced editors ----Snowded TALK 19:03, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
Your assertions about the bearing of neuroscience upon free will have no bearing whatsoever upon the proposal here, which is not a discussion of your views on that particular matter, but is framed very generally in terms of how to handle scholarly review articles, an issue that exists quite apart from any specific dispute you may have with me. Brews ohare (talk) 00:08, 28 March 2015 (UTC)
It is obvious that proposals for changes will arise in some context or another, and often do not spring to mind out of thin air. It is then time to consider the proposal on its merits. Brews ohare (talk) 00:12, 28 March 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Snowded, reading your changes, after you removed all examples and the quote from WP:SECONDARY, you added:

"Review articles can be considered [what] WP:SECONDARY calls secondary sources but should be treated with care."

The removed material already pretty much covers this point; it says:

"Review articles are among what WP:SECONDARY calls secondary sources...If there is uncertainty about objectivity, for instance, if there are conflicting review articles, then WP:NPOV governs the presentation and requires a balanced expression of all scholarly opinions."

This is more specific guidance than "using care", and indicates what policy to follow. You also removed the quote from WP:SECONDARY:

""Wikipedia articles usually rely on material from reliable secondary sources. Articles may make an analytic or evaluative claim only if that has been published by a reliable secondary source."

which is helpful in telling a reader the proposed role for secondary sources as something WP "usually relies upon".

An interesting point is "What is a secondary source, which the policy WP:SECONDARY sees as the backbone of WP?" The WP policy WP:SECONDARY puts the matter like this:

"A secondary source provides an author's own thinking based on primary sources, generally at least one step removed from an event. It contains an author's interpretation, analysis, or evaluation of the facts, evidence, concepts, and ideas taken from primary sources. Secondary sources are not necessarily independent or third-party sources. They rely on primary sources for their material, making analytic or evaluative claims about them.1
1 University of California, Berkeley library defines "secondary source" as "a work that interprets or analyzes an historical event or phenomenon. It is generally at least one step removed from the event".

Reading your Edit Summary, you say:

" Remove examples (some of which could be disputed)"

You removed all the examples, which are:

Now, on other Talk pages you have suggested that The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is a doubtful choice, although you have not said why. I suppose that some of the items listed in The Oxford Companion to ‘xyz’ might also not meet your (so-far unspecified) criteria. Maybe The Oxford Handbook of 'xyz' would have better examples? Otherwise, I doubt you have any objections.

Obviously, examples can be helpful in clarifying for a reader what is thought of as a suitable secondary source. So it might be useful to go into this subject in more detail. What do you think? Brews ohare (talk) 22:03, 29 March 2015 (UTC)

For all the above reasons, I find that the original subsection is more informative and helpful to the reader than the emasculated version you have left behind, and I have restored it to the Project pages. Brews ohare (talk) 22:08, 29 March 2015 (UTC)

The examples are themselves controversial and are directly linked to content disputes on other pages. Your statement about my position on the Sanford Encyclopaedia is a misrepresentation as I suspect you known. To be honest I don't see any value in the addition to the existing wording but I was trying to compromise given that you seem committed to justifying a position you are taking elsewhere (by the examples you have chosen) I have reverted to the prior stable stage. Lets see if other editors want to engage ----Snowded TALK 23:07, 29 March 2015 (UTC)
If there is no controversy about the examples fitting what WP:SECONDARY calls secondary sources, what do you mean by saying some of them "could be disputed"? If you do dispute some of them, which ones and why? Perhaps you think some of these sources contain some examples of secondary sources, but one has to judge the included items on a piece by piece basis? If that is so, how do you recommend sifting them? For example, I have not seen an example from any of these sources that does not cite and critique those sources considered pertinent by the author(s), which appears to mean the articles I am aware of do fit the WP:SECONDARY criteria for secondary sources, and may exceed them in view of the publication's editorial winnowing employed in their acceptance. Brews ohare (talk) 23:56, 29 March 2015 (UTC)
Brews I don't think you are adding any value to this article with the additions. WP:SECONDARY is fine as it is but in a spirit of compromise I left your text with two changes (i) a requirement for some caution and (ii) removing examples which might be secondary sources in some cases but would not be exclusively so in others. So an essay in the Stanford Encyclopaedia may be a secondary source in some cases, but not in others where something taking a wider perspective on the field would be necessary. Given you just did a revert, made misleading statements on the talk page and generally ignored that attempt at compromise I had little alternative but to restore the stable state. On the content you have changed in two Philosophy articles I hope to have time to review late tonight (hong Kong time) at the airport but it may have to wait for tomorrow. Again changes are needed but if you can't live with changes and simply revert it will go back to the stable state again. I'm loosing patience ----Snowded TALK 00:18, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
You have many more choices than blanket reversion. And you have adopted my speculation that you think some articles in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy meet the WP:SECONDARY criteria for secondary sources, but some lack "a wider perspective". That is to say you wish to add your personal criterion of 'adequate breadth' to those in the policy. I'd be inclined to say a review article very commonly expresses its author's perspective, and WP:SECONDARY is very clear that is expected. The possibility that several sources may be needed to convey the breadth of opinion is what WP:NPOV is all about. Apart from your desire to rewrite WP policy, the rest of your comments regarding your proposed actions elsewhere have nothing to do with anything here. Brews ohare (talk) 00:38, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
Brews you are the one trying to change a policy article not me, I'm happy with it as it is. It is very clear that an essay written from a perspective in an on line encyclopedia which collects essays is different from a formal Directory or similar with an editorial panel and review process which seeks to review the field as a whole. I've sat on a few but I realise you may not be familiar with the process. In some contexts the former may be OK, in the others it may not be hence my modification to suggest caution. You are being disingenuous in that you chose examples to support your content dispute elsewhere, and its is rather amusing to be told there are more choices than a blanket reversion when that is the choice you made in responding at my attempt to reach a consensus. ----Snowded TALK 00:59, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
Snowded: I apologize for too quickly reverting your first cut at this proposal.
The policy WP:SECONDARY spells out what a secondary source is. Using that definition, there is no doubt that it is not about a treatise attempting a definitive statement of an entire topic and approved by a jury of experts. It is much more modest in scope, and the policy recognizes that it is a personal interpretation and may reflect only a perspective on the sources examined and facts brought forward. I think you are not in step with what the policy definition states, and are not a believer in the process that WP:NPOV envisions can lead to an objective presentation that transcends the presentation of any single secondary source.
In the present proposal, which is simply an addition to help clarify an essay that is neither a policy nor a guideline, all that is attempted is to point out the case of a scholarly topic where third-party sources are unavailable, and point out that WP policy in this particular example allows secondary sources, and relies upon WP:NPOV to achieve the breadth you seek. Some attention to this notable exception to the use of third-party sources is useful to the editing community. Brews ohare (talk) 02:53, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
If you think its helpful go back the version I suggested :-) Please note the point on context ----Snowded TALK 03:17, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
I'll try a compromise. Brews ohare (talk) 03:47, 30 March 2015 (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)

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)
    • I've "officially" merged the pages (and moved the page, too). I'll finish up the text merge/consolidation to remove the TLDR aspects later (i.e., after people have had yet another chance to notice this proposal and to complain that they haven't been consulted about this despite more than two years' worth of talk page discussions). WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:49, 2 November 2016 (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)

An independent author or publisher[edit]

IMHO independence isn't a property of the source material. The exact same text can be found at dependent and independent sources. For instance, a press release, once published by a (third-party) newspaper, yields an independent source for that press release. If no third party publishes it, there is only a self-source. Lyrda (talk) 21:21, 26 February 2017 (UTC)