Wikipedia talk:No original research

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Peacedove.svg The project page associated with this talk page is an official policy on Wikipedia. Policies have wide acceptance among editors and are considered a standard for all users to follow. Please review policy editing recommendations before making any substantive change to this page. Always remember to keep cool when editing, and don't panic.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
I disagree with the definition of secondary source.
Wikipedia mostly follows the definition in use by historians, which requires more than simply repeating information from some other source or rearranging information from the author's notes. The earliest definition of a secondary source in this policy was in February 2004 "one that analyzes, assimilates, evaluates, interprets, and/or synthesizes primary sources".

Notable Citation

WikiProject Spoken Wikipedia
WikiProject icon This page is within the scope of WikiProject Spoken Wikipedia, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of articles that are spoken on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.

I disagree with the "No original research" policy[edit]

I doubt that I'll convince anyone, but I think this policy impoverishes Wikipedia, rather than making it better and more reliable. It leads to ridiculous situations in which, for example, the author of a book cannot say what is in his or her own book; some third party has to say it.

Original research is anything but unverifiable. If I wrote, based on my own research, "combining compound A with compound B at a temperature of X degrees produces resulting compound C", that is something someone could definitely verify. Or if I read the correspondence of some person and wrote "X frequently discusses Y in his/her correspondence", and said what correspondence I read and where I read it, that is also verifiable. It's not the same as looking it up in a published article, but it's still verifiable.

There is no doubt the fear that if this policy were changed Wikpedia would be inundated with garbage. I don't know what the best solution would be, but I want to state my dissatisfaction with the current policy. deisenbe (talk) 04:13, 11 October 2015 (UTC)

This is not something special to Wikipedia, that is just how encyclopedias work. We are a tertiary source. HighInBC 04:17, 11 October 2015 (UTC)
That's not true at all. Encyclopedia articles are written by experts and frequently contain their own research, or their own perspective. Then there is the real question if whether Wikipedia is in fact still an encyclopedia, or should conform to practices of other encyclopedias, or whether it should be a tertiary source and nothing more. deisenbe (talk) 04:26, 11 October 2015 (UTC)
Besides that discussion, original research should be of sufficient quality. Wikipedia has no quality system in place to review original research at anything close to the level expertise that would be required, nor have experts the authority to remove substandard original research against majority opinion. The generally accepted and enforced original research policy guarantees at least some quality. Unless we are willing to identify experts (and who would that be? Requiring at least a PhD on topic, or even a facultry position, and how would we get sufficient of those) and give those extra powers (and how would that look like). Without such quality system in place we basically open ourselves up for fringe theories and outright nonsense if we allow original research. Therefore we should accept that the current system is sub-optimal but that the solution would be worse than the problem.
Your complaint that Wikipedia has been taken up by others, who have created alternatives like Scholarpedia or Citizendium, both of which only host a few thousand articles and are struggling to keep editorship active. Arnoutf (talk) 07:46, 11 October 2015 (UTC)
@Deisenbe: I agree with you that, contrary to the view expressed by HighInBC, traditional encyclopedias do frequently contain expert views that would here be called "original research". However, this isn't a traditional encyclopedia. The key point is that anyone can edit Wikipedia, with the result that expertise in the topic concerned is frequently (in some areas almost always) lacking. Arnoutf is right: the present policy is the best we can do given Wikipedia's structure.
However, it is important that the policy is applied sensibly. I wish that WP:NOTOR were also policy, an not just an essay. Peter coxhead (talk) 08:16, 11 October 2015 (UTC)
I stand corrected. HighInBC 14:26, 11 October 2015 (UTC)
Thanks for the support and for the reference to WP:NOTOR, which I was unaware of. As a practical matter, WP is chockablock full of OR, if you get off the heavily scrutinized articles. And I want to go on record as saying that within those limited areas in which I have personal expertise, I see the policy doing a lot of harm, and much less good. And I'm not talking about things I've written myself. deisenbe (talk) 10:40, 11 October 2015 (UTC)
I do see the problem. Even in heavily scrutinized articles the OR-pushers who manage to find allies are often happier to edit-war than concede the point; while on the other hand important text edits or paraphrases are frequently butchered incorrectly invoking the OR rules. Nevertheless, imperfect as Wikipedia is, I still think that allowing original research in would make the project worse rather than better. Arnoutf (talk) 11:40, 11 October 2015 (UTC)


Deisenbe, WP:Original research does not simply mean "unsourced." See Wikipedia talk:Verifiability/Archive 63#How wide is the "original research" exception for articles on fictional works?, which is very clear about that. So if you wrote, based on your own research, "combining compound A with compound B at a temperature of X degrees produces resulting compound C", and that is supported by a WP:Reliable source somewhere out there, even if not on Wikipedia, that is not WP:Original research. The WP:Original research policy has a note/reference right after the word exist in its introduction; that note/reference states, "By 'exists', the community means that the reliable source must have been published and still exist—somewhere in the world, in any language, whether or not it is reachable online—even if no source is currently named in the article. Articles that currently name zero references of any type may be fully compliant with this policy—so long as there is a reasonable expectation that every bit of material is supported by a published, reliable source."

Furthermore, you already addressed your disagreement with the WP:Original research policy earlier this year, and got your answers then; see Wikipedia talk:No original research/Archive 60#No OR is a bad policy, in my view.. In fact, that was the last time I commented at this policy talk page...until now. Flyer22 (talk) 20:21, 11 October 2015 (UTC)

User:Flyer22: Your memory is much better than mine. Congratulations! As it is a WP principle to "assume the best", I'm going to assume that you're not intending to publicly embarrass and chastise me yet again.
You don't need to restate the policy to me. I know what the policy is, though you no doubt know its details much better than I. My point was that I disagree with the policy. But I'm just one lowly editor. deisenbe (talk) 23:20, 11 October 2015 (UTC)
Deisenbe, pointing out Wikipedia policies and guidelines to you and expecting you to follow them, especially after you've been repeatedly pointed to them either on your talk page or elsewhere on Wikipedia, and getting annoyed/frustrated when you repeatedly ignore/disregard them, has never been about trying to embarrass you. I understand that you feel that I've been condescending to you, but we've already been over that on my talk page; I see no need to rehash it. Flyer22 (talk) 04:27, 12 October 2015 (UTC)
Your disagreement is duly noted, but since you are suggesting nothing newer and better, I don't see the point in this discussion beyond personal blogging. Staszek Lem (talk) 17:12, 12 October 2015 (UTC)
I agree, let's either talk relevantly about content and not contributors or stop this. The only thing I learned is, that although I had forgotten the previous discussion flagged up by Flyer22, my comments there are remarkedly similar to the ones here. So I do have a consistent opinion on this :-) Arnoutf (talk) 17:18, 12 October 2015 (UTC)

I agree 100% with the original comment at the top above and have written the following on a talk page:

"I think that this issue highlights one of the problems of Wikipedia. There is (thus far) an almost robotic adherence to the policy of referencing published resources. However, the publication of statements in magazine or book form does not in itself constitute evidence of reliability or accuracy. Far from it !

Ultimately the most reliable sources of information for matters of a historical nature are original, contemporary documents. There is no real substitute for these. Even then, there are times when, for political or selfish reasons, individuals may lie, but in this case, the context of the document and the date is evidence enough of reliability.

I think, indeed I hope that it will in time be recognised that original research, backed up (as in this case) by references that can easily be checked, is not only acceptable, but extremely valuable in improving the reputation of Wikipedia as an information resource.

I am very disappointed in general with Wikipedians and I find posting on Wikipedia - despite the fact that it is supposedly a place where any interested parties are free to edit articles - an extremely frustrating and generally very depressing experience."

I emphasise strongly again:

"the publication of statements in magazine or book form does not in itself constitute evidence of reliability or accuracy"

The quality and reliability of published material is extremely variable. It depends on many factors. The age of the material for one. Can a book first published in 1700 be a reliable source just because it is printed? And who should be the arbiter of whether it is a reliable source?

Are magazine articles a reliable source of information? Again, who should be the judge of that?

In matters of a historical nature, original research, especially research carried out by private individuals can be of great value. But all the same it must be referenced clearly. For example, a particular piece of research may highlight a previously unknown fact about a historical figure. (Probably a minor historical figure). If that research can be verified by a clear reference to a document that is held in a public place (such as an archive or library) and can easily be either read or digitally copied for verification by anyone then it is just as acceptable as a published source! Indeed it may be more so.

A published source is reliable - why? A published source may be very old. It may have been published privately. The appearance of a piece of research in book form does not make it reliable. There are not bunches of Wikipedia Editors installed in publishing houses making sure everything is done properly! There seems to be an assumption that editors in publishing houses are paragons of virtue. Custodians of absolute truth and accuracy. Well, are they? I doubt it!

I found a recent case of where the opinion (a controversial opinion) of an individual who had written an article in a magazine was being used in a Wikipedia article. That is not acceptable. Opinion is not fact. Its was publication in a magazine does not make that statement reliable or truth.

There is much more I could say. I hope that my comments will at least be read and noted. John2o2o2o (talk) 09:28, 28 October 2015 (UTC)

@John2o2o2o: you are actually making two points, I think.
  1. Material which has been published but is wrong should not be included. On this we can agree entirely. You can challenge an unreliable source, based on reliable sources, and remove such material (or include text to the effect that although X has been claimed to be trueref bad source, it is notref good sources).
  2. It should be possible to include material based on original research, provided this is sourced. I'm not sure how you are interpreting "original research". If you mean by "research" searching though sources to find factual information, like someone's date of birth, which can then be attributed to a source, then there's usually no problem in adding it to an article. But this isn't really "research". The prohibition on "original research" is directed at original analysis, interpretation, evaluation, and the like. It's this that is rightly prohibited in Wikipedia, because there's no control on the expertise of the editor carrying out the analysis, interpretation, evaluation, etc.
Peter coxhead (talk) 12:39, 28 October 2015 (UTC)

This page appears blank on my browser[edit]

What is going on?--Tomwsulcer (talk) 18:20, 14 October 2015 (UTC)

I had pages like that at the same time as you; it's gone now – a server bug?? Peter coxhead (talk) 18:28, 14 October 2015 (UTC)
Yes, gone now -- maybe it was a server bug. I had been considering reverting an edit.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 18:30, 14 October 2015 (UTC)

RfC announce: What does Wikipedia:Identifying reliable sources (medicine) cover?[edit]

There is a request for comments at [ Wikipedia talk:Identifying reliable sources (medicine)#What does MEDRS cover? ].

At issue is whether the lead paragraph OF WP:MEDRS should remain...

"Wikipedia's articles are not medical advice, but are a widely used source of health information. For this reason it is vital that any biomedical information is based on reliable, third-party, published secondary sources and that it accurately reflects current knowledge."

...or whether it should be changed to...

"Wikipedia's articles are not medical advice, but are a widely used source of health information. For this reason it is vital that any biomedical and health information is based on reliable, third-party, published secondary sources and that it accurately reflects current knowledge."

This has the potential to change the sourcing policy from WP:RS to WP:MEDRS on a large number of Wikipedia pages, so please help us to arrive at a consensus on this issue. --Guy Macon (talk) 06:09, 3 November 2015 (UTC)