Wikipedia talk:No original research/Archive 30

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This is obviously going to go round and round in circles forever and ever and always, till death do us part, for heaven's sake amen. My sanity requires taking it off my watchlist. Raymond Arritt (talk) 20:35, 16 December 2007 (UTC)

Fiction in Wikipedia

Fiction on Wikipedia is one of the worst examples of laziness over good standards. The citing of the fictional material directly is most often justified by the supposed lack of sources addressing the topic. Like nearly all such complaints about a general lack of sources, this is just not true. (And regardless, if we don't have enough independent sources for an encyclopedic article, we shouldn't have the article.) For any given show, even short-lived and relatively unpopular programs, there is a mountain of periodicals that explain the show's principal characters, plot and so forth. Such publications come in both mass-market and industry-orientated varieties. For popular shows, the coverage is intense within those periodicals and also includes numerous books dedicated to the program. There are OR elements of interpreting character traits and plots involved in directly citing artistic works. There are additionally NPOV concerns regarding what elements of the story and characters are important to cover that cannot ever satisfied by directly citing the primary material. To be honest, I find this appeal to laziness to be one of the most pathetic and disheartening aspects of the Wikipedia community. We're supposed to make a high-quality encyclopedia, accommodating those who cannot or will not access quality sources is not the route to take. Vassyana 03:17, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

I agree... and what you say is also applicable to plots of movies. The editors at the Wikiproject Films, have agreed that it is OK to use movie itself to write a plot, in what could be considered a violation of NOR... ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 03:21, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
As long as there is no interpretation going on, there is no violation. Making descriptive claims is not interpretation. If I say, "In his first mission as Agent 007, Bond goes to Madagascar in pursuit of an international bomb-maker named Mollaka," that's not original research, that's stating precisely what happened in the film, which is easily verifiable by watching the movie.  BIGNOLE  (Contact me) 03:29, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
I agree. Plot summaries, so long as nobody would disagree with them, are fully consistent with WP:V, and are not original research. Plus, WP:WAF is a policy. Now, you can argue that WP:WAF does not reflect true consensus, but then I'd argue right back that PSTS, too, does not reflect true consensus and should be changed. It's Policy vs. Policy. Who will win? COGDEN 22:29, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

WP:PSTS: "To the extent that an article or particular part of an article relies on a primary source, that part of the article should... only make descriptive claims about the information found in the primary source, the accuracy and applicability of which is easily verifiable by any reasonable, educated person without specialist knowledge, and make no analytic, synthetic, interpretive, explanatory, or evaluative claims about the information found in the primary source, unless such claims are verifiable from another source. Examples of primary sources include...artistic and fictional works such as poems, scripts, screenplays, novels, motion pictures, videos, and television programs." The only concern with writing plot summaries is if a writer strays from the limitation of being descriptive and crosses into interpretations and assumptions, which would then be a violation of WP:NPOV and WP:NOR. It's the same process as consolidating any source on Wikipedia -- we rewrite the content in a new manner, and we need to review it to ensure that the information stays descriptive. —Erik (talkcontrib) - 03:46, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

Thanks Erik, and Bignole ... the question Vassyana is asking: Why not to use secondary sources that must be abundant? Why to run the risk (which I have witness in several articles about films) of violating NPOV and NOR in such plot summaries? And what bout our readers? How can they trust these plots? ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 03:54, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
(edit conflict)
The readers can't and they shouldn't. :)
Incidentally, only yesterday I fixed a case of obvious OR in the plot section of a Simpson's episode article that is both GA and candidate for FA! I hadn't seen the episode, but the OR was obvious anyway.
This OR wasn't caused by agenda or anything like that; it was just plain ignorance of how to guard against OR. -- Fullstop 04:08, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
Jossi, the same question can be asked about any source that's implemented. At the beginning of my editing run, I used only online sources. Then I learned to tap databases like Access World News. I'm citing something that some people may not be able to access right away, so I could easily introduce false information about a topic, such as citing reviews but re-wording them to make it sound like a critic liked it or disliked it. I think the key here is WP:AGF. I agree with Vassyana that a lot of fictional topics on Wikipedia need massive care. The problem is that fans write about what's near and dear to their heart, which may not fit WP:FICTION or WP:NOT#PLOT. I participate in quite a few AfDs to expunge in-universe compilations. Research is not easy for everyone -- a comic book fan would rather be wrapped up in the DC Universe and its superheroes, rather than looking at interviews about why writers and artists chose to take this particular approach with the storyline and the characters. There are users like TTN and AnmaFinotera that are working very hard to compress fictional topics into real-world context, especially TV show articles that have nothing but plot detail in them. What needs to be encouraged are larger, more popular Wikias where fans can write everything about their favorite fictional topic, and they can come to Wikipedia for the real-world context. I've tried to suggest a transwiki to a Wikia (as one usually exists for a popular topic) in AfDs. —Erik (talkcontrib) - 04:01, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
Yes Erik, I understand your point, and appreciate your candor. These questions still remain: (a) What is better for Wikipedia: My summary of a plot, or the summary of a plot written in a secondary source; and (b) Why film plots are any different than an interpretation of the Bible? ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 04:27, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
The summary of a plot written in a secondary source would still be rewritten by an editor if he or she did not quote at length. Whether we watch the film or have a script of the film handy, information is consolidated in the same manner. As for the Bible, I'm not sure what you're trying to ask here. Passages from the Bible are quoted without issue, but descriptions of copyright works like films or books are derivative works. We limit the content for this reason. I don't think there's truly any appropriate way to write out the plot of the film than watching it in many cases. The argument's been made that sources should be published, but this seems to me to be semantics. A film is in a static form and can be easily reviewed to present descriptive detail about the plot. Sorry if I'm all over the place here, 'cause I'm not quite clear what you're trying to ask. —Erik (talkcontrib) - 04:46, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
I believe our responses were directed specifically at your response. How can one trust any information cited on Wikipedia? How can I trust something you've cited from a book that I don't own, and isn't available online? How do I know you weren't just making it up, or using your own bias to interpret a certain passage a particular way? I don't. I have to trust that you are using the source appropriately, and I have to trust that someone else who has access to the source you used can verify that you weren't using your own original research. Online sources are not the only sources available, nor are they the best sources available. When someone cites anything that cannot be verified by simply clicking a link we are giving them our trust that they were not using original research, or violation a neutral point of view when they pulled from their sources. Citing a movie for itself is no different. I would suggest, that if there is any statements in a film plot that look "interpretative", that someone cite the minutes and the dialogue exchanged so that it can be readily available for verification by other editors.  BIGNOLE  (Contact me) 04:05, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

I wholeheartedly agree with Vassyana, especially with the last part: "We're supposed to make a high-quality encyclopedia, accommodating those who cannot or will not access quality sources is not the route to take." Clearly, not only must research for reliable, third-party sources be encouraged to back up plot summaries, but also the addition of real-world context material that requires secondary sources anyway. I think many shy away from adding anything but trivia and/or plot summaries simply because those require no additional research, or so they think. As for transwiki-ing unsuitable articles, Deckiller once started, but it wasn't a big success, for lack of centralised discussion. Strike that. The project appears to be alive, I just hadn't looked there for quite some time. Shame on me. I dorftrotteltalk I 04:20, December 4, 2007

Please show me where it says "no primary sources" in any policy. Not all information requires secondary sources. I can write up an entire production section of a film article with primary sourcing. I.E., interviews are considered primary sources, and I can write a production section on interviews with the cast and crew of a film. Secondly, you may not be able to find a film plot summarized well enough for "re-summarization"--yes, I mean precisely that, because we can't go steal a reviewer's personal description of the plot--for every film, even really notable ones. They may hit some key points they feel are relevant for their given review, but they may not hit ones that were relevant to the film itself.  BIGNOLE  (Contact me) 04:26, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
You're right, technically. The problem is that too many fiction-related articles are still a completely unreferenced mess. In the face of that, demanding research is a good thing. Even if a source cannot be copied, it would provide clues as to what the key aspects of the plot are and make for a very good reference in the article. And it would show that contributors are actually willing to research and read before they write. The problem is with accomodating those who are not willing or capable to do proper research (many are too lazy to even Google!), to read and use sources. Those few who are actually capable of writing a sound plot summary only using the work of fiction itself (and related primary sources) are incredibly outnumbered by those who can't. I dorftrotteltalk I 04:44, December 4, 2007
Read any number of other sources cited for other information, you could piece together what the film is about. Unfortunately, we are all outnumbered when it comes to people who cannot do proper research. You want to know what will happen if you pass a regulation that plot summaries must have secondary sources? One of two things. Either we'll have nothing but mass quotes from reviews, or people will stop writing them period. For some people, it isn't a matter of them being "lazy", but just not having the necessary skills to research well. You say "too lazy to even Google", but I know plenty of people who cannot even use Google to it's best efficiency. You have to remember that the majority of editors on Wikipedia aren't 35 year old PhDs, who have a background in research. I've met people from 12 to 40, with varying research skills between them, and not always in the direction you'd think. Just because we have editors who produce original research, or POV plot summaries doesn't mean that forcing them to find a secondary source will change any of that. What happens if I find a secondary source that isn't a url, or something you cannot view unless you have the physical copy in front of you? Are you going to say that the source is no good because you cannot click a link and verify the plot information I pulled from it?  BIGNOLE  (Contact me) 04:55, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
"just not having the necessary skills to research well"? If "lazy" constitutes a breach of good faith, saying someone lacks the necessary skills surely must be a personal attack... Anyway, people who can't even Google for a source shouldn't contribute to an encyclopedia project. I dorftrotteltalk I 05:20, December 4, 2007
No. You attacked their character, I was simply iterating that not everyone has the same skill level when it comes to researching; that was something you were basically alluding to when you stated that the reason the articles are in bad shape is because these editors are "lazy", and not because they may not know how to research very well. There's a difference. I know plenty of people who can research sources better than I can, but I know plenty that cannot do it at all, because they haven't developed the eye for good sources and bad sources. Not a huge deal, because it comes with time and practice. Regardless, you didn't answer my question. What makes it any different when you cannot view a literature source, and have to take the word of the editor citing that source? There is no difference. As easy as it would be to go down to the publich library, university library, or some other resource location, it's just as easy to get a copy of the movie/television show and verify the content stated, while at the same time making sure that they haven't introduced original research into the plot. Hell, you don't even have to do that, because you can usually spot potential original research in an article anyway, and if it looks suspicious, then just reword it/remove it/start a discussion on it on the talk page.  BIGNOLE  (Contact me) 13:00, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
Now, dorftrottel, you know that wasn't his intention. Simply put, some people are better and more skillful than others at researching material. What's wrong with speaking the truth? Liquidfinale (Ţ) (Ç) (Ŵ) 09:23, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
In addition, can someone tell me how citing a work of fiction itself for its plot summary is any different to citing a video interview with the director, a DVD commentary, or something else non-print, for (say) the production section? Well…it just isn't. It's not even different to my opening up a book or a magazine and paraphrasing for the same. Unless someone is willing to make a case for a Wikipedia-wide change to demand sourcing from written, online articles only, there's no argument to be had here, especially considering the problems we'd have in locating plot summaries for every article which requires one (especially older films, TV shows and novels, I would imagine). But I do agree that some plot summaries are either too long, too detailed, or contain too much interpretation ("Feeling conflicted over his twin desires to escape the city and to retrieve his father's watch…"), but instead of barring the use of primary sourcing for plot summaries, we should instead focus on properly educating Wikipedia users in the correct way of going about it. I would support, and participate in, a rework of the Plot guideline in the Manual of Style for Films (or elsewhere, if there's a better place for it) to get this across more forcefully. And not to hammer it home, but as long as the summary is written with as little interpretation as possible (e.g. "Butch hears a toilet flush; Vincent Vega exits the bathroom and Butch shoots him dead"), history has shown that there are relatively few problems beyond a sometime failure to adhere to the wider points of WP:NOR and WP:POV. After all, even WP:CITE says that attribution is only required "for...material that is challenged or likely to be challenged." Now, when there are problems with the method (e.g. "how do we know Butch hears the flush, eh?"), the routes open to us are, yes, find a citation for it if necessary. But also to look for a consensus; other people will have seen the film. The offending passage may even be removed if it has little impact ("Vincent Vega exits the bathroom and Butch shoots him dead.") You may not find this ideal, but the proof is in the pudding and, for the most part, it has worked thus far on Wikipedia. Difficulties emerge from time to time, but they're surely only a few moments thought away from resolution. Several times I've run up against a plot summary which contravenes all kinds of policies; it's been the work of ten minutes to rework some of them. And the problems (which I don't deny) of primary sourcing are still a drop in the ocean compared to the more common edit wars involving conflicting citations from two or more ostensibly-reliable secondary sources. Best regards, Liquidfinale (Ţ) (Ç) (Ŵ) 09:23, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
Thank you for a bit of fresh air in the midst of some excessive demands for a strictly legalistic interpretation of WP:NOR and WP:PSTS. Plot summaries do indeed get worked out by consensus, and their validity is verified by others who also are familiar with the particular work of fiction. PSTS isn't that complicated, and in the event there is a disagreement about the sourcing, it should indeed be worked out in a consensus process by those familiar with the work. According to PSTS, where a primary source is used as the source of a plot summary (e.g., the film or other original presentation of the work) the only restriction is that the plot summary should not make analytical claims about the plot. If someone puts in a statement in the WP article that, for example, "the final death scene of the film is a metaphor for the psychological death of losing a loved one [or, insert another preferred metaphor]", that will require secondary source(s) unless the film itself says "this scene here is a metaphor for the psychological death of losing a loved one [or other particular metaphor]". If people involved in the WP article want to use a written screenplay as a primary source, in addition to the film iself, they do so by consensus. If people involved in the article want to use secondary sources like commentaries and interviews to summarize the plot, there's no hint of anything in the policies to prevent this. The only proscription w.r.t. PSTS is against using the book or film itself to analyze the book or film beyond giving a straightforward plot summary that can be verified by anyone else who's read or seen the work. ... Kenosis 13:37, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for all your comments. I would argue that this statement but instead of barring the use of primary sourcing for plot summaries, we should instead focus on properly educating Wikipedia users in the correct way of going about it, puts it quite well. The fact remains that many plot summaries are violating NOR, with too much detail, too much editorializing, and too much personal opinion, and indeed editors of these articles need to be cautioned not to cross the line into what is not permissible. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 16:25, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

But that has nothing to do with using primary sources, and all to do with simply informing new editors of the proper way to summarize a plot. Maybe the MOS for films needs to be a bit more specific. I don't know. But most new editors don't know any of the rules of Wikipedia, let alone the guidelines or style manuals that we have. It's less about what they are using the cite and more about how they just go about writing it in general. It wouldn't matter if you required secondary sources or not, because if you did, editors would still write plots without secondary sources. The only thing one would accomplish would be more needless edit wars.  BIGNOLE  (Contact me) 17:28, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
It has everything to do with not using primary sources such as the film itself to analyze the film itself. It is, though, completely consistent with policy to use either the primary source(s) or secondary sources, or both, as sources for the plot summary. Secondary sources such as reviews, and/or tertiary sources such as compendia of film plots, can be handy ways of summarizing plots and the policy actually encourages their use by way of stating that primary sources should be "used with care because it is easy to misuse them". But there's nothing in current editorial policy that prevents the use of primary sources such as the film itself for plot summaries, nor, IMO, should there be. If people want to bring articles on films or other works of fiction more into compliance with editorial policy, they should simply remove the extra commentary and analysis, along with any other "editorializing" about a plot, unless the analysis is drawn from secondary or tertiary sources. As a practical matter, such commentary probably should not be interwoven in a plot summary anyway. Like Liquidfinale pointed out, if someone cares to invest a bit of time to improve one or more of these articles, it appears fairly straightforward to remove most of the extraneous commentary with edit summaries like "removing personal POV from plot summary" or "Removing OR", or other appropriate description of the cause for the removal of the extraneous statements, adjectives, adverbs, etc. It sure would be nice to me if this weeding-out process were equally as striaghtforward in many of the Category:Philosophy articles. ... Kenosis 20:00, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
PSTS presently goes further than just barring the use of films to analyze the film itself. It also bars obvious and non-controversial summary or interpretation of the film—the type of summary that is explicitly allowed by WP:V and WP:WAF. The present PSTS language also bars using films to analyze other films. There is nothing wrong with citing one film that analyzes another film, such as This Film is Not Yet Rated. Films such as this are defined as a "primary source" for purposes of PSTS, even though they are a secondary source with respect to the movies analyzed. COGDEN 00:11, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
Just a comment releated to the above : remember that this should apply to all fiction on WP, not just films. I'm wondering if we should scope Writing About Fiction into MOSFICTION, of which then MOSFILMS can inherit from. --MASEM 18:14, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

Why does WP:PSTS allow primary sources for movies and tv series, when requiring secondary sources would help get rid of all the non notable fancruft? -- Jeandré, 2007-12-09t12:53z

The word "fancruft" immediately implies that it's unreliable, by calling it a form of cruft. If it's deemed by consensus of those involved in the article to be unreliable, then the participants can analyze it under WP:V#Reliable_sources, and don't use the material at all. Or if it's widespread and so notable that some particular take on the film or TV series can't seem to be ignored, cite it accordingly to put it in perspective for the reader. The word "fancruft" may also further imply bias or motive, and when this is the case, it appears likely to fall under an NPOV analysis as well. ... Kenosis (talk) 13:54, 9 December 2007 (UTC)
If primary sources were not allowed, you would not be able to mention once single fact about the work that you found by reading or viewing the work; if it isn't in a secondary source, you can't use it. It's just stupid to tie editors hands to that extent. Wikipedia is all about free access to information. I find it infuriating that people "contributing" to these policies seem to want to prevent editors from using reliable information at every turn. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 15:43, 9 December 2007 (UTC)
More or less agreed. Except that it's simply not the case that the policy ties editors' hands by preventing the use of primary sources-- at most that's either a misunderstanding by some, or a misreading of the plain language on the policy page, or in a certain few cases propaganda against the WP:PSTS policy that's been rendered on this talk page. There's no rule against using primary sources (it's in fairly plain English on the policy page) but only a directive that requries us essentially to be much more stringent in sticking to the facts when using primary sources. If the editors of an article on a film or TV series want to summarize plots directly from primary sources such as a film, the editorial goal, the policy, is to stick to the facts in such a way that persons who've watched that film or series would readily agree the plot summary or reporting of a particular scene agrees with the primary source. If the reporting involves stating, e.g., who's in the film or TV series or how the storyline goes or what color clothes an actor was wearing in a certain episode, that's straight-up use of the primary source because anyone can go watch the film or part of the series and double check it. If they disagree and come back to the article and say "hey, so-and-so isn't in that film!", the editors can deal with it accordingly. If "so-and-so" isn't in certain episodes, for example, then that's a normal part of editing an "open-source" encyclopedia like this one, and the article editors can talk it through and collectively figure out how to explain that to the reader in such a way that it makes better sense. And so forth. But nowhere does it say you can't use primary sources. .... Kenosis (talk) 16:44, 9 December 2007 (UTC)
I didn't mean unreliable, I meant not notable tho it may be end-of-the-world important for fans and fansites. Yes you can buy a VHS tape of some TV show on ebay, and see that the character for which a page was made was born on planet Zorqan; but without reliable published secondary sources it's not notable enough for an encyclopedia. Quoting original research published in peer reviewed journals I can understand, but why allow non notable info to be included by allowing TV shows and movies as primary sources?
Surely Wikipedia is about notable information, not all information? -- Jeandré, 2007-12-09t21:26z
You obviously know that the answer to the question "Can the subject of an article be notable if there are no secondary sources for it?" is no, per WP:N. Allowing TV shows etc. as primary sources, per WP:PSTS doesn't override that: apart from actually providing the useful definitions of primary and secondary sources, PSTS is concerned with statements that are made in articles on subjects that have already been proven notable. The only place that your man from Zorqan could be written about (in descriptive terms only because he only has a primary source) is within an article about the program or series in which he appears (with the same notability rule applying to the program or series of course), see WP:NNC. I'm pretty sure I've got that right - someone will quickly jump on me if not!  —SMALLJIM  23:53, 9 December 2007 (UTC)


The page just got unprotected again. Please do not express opinions through the editing of the policy. Bring concerns, disagreements, etc here to the talk page for discussion. The expression of opinions through editing instead of discussion is what has lead to this policy being page protected on multiple occasions. Let's talk things out instead of making opinionated edits. Vassyana (talk) 05:01, 8 December 2007 (UTC)

Some amount of bold editing is required, which could be interpreted as the expression of opinion. But if it an edit clearly hasn't stuck, leaving the wrong version for 24 hours to discuss the issue won't hurt anything in the long run. — Carl (CBM · talk) 05:53, 8 December 2007 (UTC)

Request wording change and clarification

I seem to have a problem with the current wording of the policy, where it states:

  • only make descriptive claims about the information found in the primary source, the accuracy and applicability of which is easily verifiable by any reasonable, educated person without specialist knowledge, and
  • make no analytic, synthetic, interpretive, explanatory, or evaluative claims about the information found in the primary source, unless such claims are verifiable from another source.

Can this be reworded better, so the intent is more clear? How can you make a descriptive claim without some sort of analysis, interpretation, explanation, or evaluation? These two sentences seem to be directly contradicting each other, making it impossible to meet both criteria. For example, I include a table from a primary source (which is a map). The table uses the column headings of realms, regions and sub-regions. A similar table from other maps use the column headings of divisions, provinces, and sections. These tables describe the same things, but one uses different headings. The way those two sentences are written, even in the article contents I can't say they're the same things, just with different terminology, unless there is a secondary source that specifically says that. In my perusals of the various literature so far, none of them specifically say that, instead they ignore the column headings used in the primary source and just use the 'standard' terms of divisions, provinces and sections, without any explanation of what or why. I'm sure cases like this have to happen in more than just this one instance. wbfergus Talk 13:35, 8 December 2007 (UTC)

Standardizing terminology is perfectly common, accepted practice, provided that there is agreement that it's obvious what the terminology used means. It's a necessary part of writing from multiple sources, since they almost certainly will occasionally use different words for the same thing. The difficulty is describing this practice accurately; I don't think the policy has gotten it right to date. The word evident in the sentence "Drawing conclusions not evident in the reference is original research regardless of the type of source." is a preliminary attempt to deal with this issue, as changing between two sets of equivalent terms should could as evident, provided the terms are clearly equivalent. — Carl (CBM · talk) 14:06, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
That's what I thought, that it is acceptable to standardize the terms, but as written, the policy can easily be interpreted to not allow this, as it can easily be challenged as OR since none of the secondary sources specifically state that they've standardized the terms or why they did it. As written, it seems like about all I 'really' could say about a table from a map would be "table taken from map 'XYZ', consisting of 3 columns and 45 rows with names in 'cell' contents". To say anything else could be easily interpreted as being "analytic, synthetic, interpretive, explanatory, or evaluative" not specifically stated in any secondary source. I don't see how any other statements could be made about the table or contents, or why it was merged into the other tables to create a 'master' table, without violating the second condition, since those are to trivial for the other authors to have specifically adressed. For reference, these maps are of the different continental landmasses, and each continent has it's own table of these 'areas'. I'm merely creating a master table with the contents of all those individual tables, since that doesn't seem to exist anywhere else. Every source I've run across so far is solely limited a specific continent or smaller area. For us computer (database) geeks, having a 'master' list for reference as a lookup table is quite common, so I was surprised nobody had done so previously, and thought I'd share so others can use and improve it, so my 'master' could benefit eventually as well. There's been an awful lot of work on the subject over the years, but trying to find all of the applicable sources and re-definitions, etc. is a dauntng task, even for a group of people trying to stay abreast of it. wbfergus Talk 14:30, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
I feel you may be being unduly pessimistic over what a reasonable educated person could easily verify. But apart from that the phrase descriptive claims in the first bullet doesn't read quite right to me. Wouldn't descriptive statements be better? I think the lead-in to those bullets could be simplified too, and the addition of the word further to the second bullet would also help clarify. So it would read:
"When any part of an article relies on a primary source, that part of the article should:
  • only make descriptive statements about the information found in the primary source, the accuracy and applicability of which are easily verifiable by any reasonable, educated person without specialist knowledge, and
  • make no further analytic, synthetic, interpretive, explanatory, or evaluative claims about the information found in the primary source, unless such claims are verifiable from another source."
What do you think?  —SMALLJIM  15:49, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
Well, the difficuly part is the "and". That clearly means both conditions must be met, so again, it is extremely difficult at best to make a descriptive claim (statement does sound better), without being "analytic, synthetic, interpretive, explanatory, or evaluative". Those are the core components of a description. So, if you meet the first part, you almost always violate the second part. If you meet the second part, what did you add? wbfergus Talk 23:19, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
Yes, I agree that it will be hard (except in trivial cases) to make descriptive statements without adding small amounts of analysis, synthesis et al. That's where the reasonable, educated person comes in to verify the accuracy and applicability of what you wrote. There are obviously many different ways of writing a non-trivial descriptive statement; some of them will be good, some unacceptable. The point is that, as usual, these things are not separated by hard boundaries: they grade into one another. As Vassyana said earlier today (up the page somewhere) in reply to a similar remark, these are the normal editorial decisions subject to local consensus that we all make every day when writing articles. That's why I suggested the addition of the word further in the second bullet, to allow that minimal amount of "give" that just happens when we don't simply quote the original directly. I'm sure the wording isn't perfect, but that's the concept to work towards, isn't it?  —SMALLJIM  00:24, 9 December 2007 (UTC)

COGDEN's tag

Let's discuss COGDEN's disputed policy section tag that was apparently created specifically for this dispute and has since been rediercted to a disputed policy tag, which is completely inappropriate. I think Mikka said it best about this tag, I'm searching for that quote now, but essentially if a section of Policy is disputed then it should either be removed or left until consensus is reached for it's removal. Dreadstar 22:18, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

I do not care what tag is on this section, but there is a substantial dispute going on about it right now, and it seems honest to mark that dispute. I really don't give a fuck whether we mark it with an old template, a new template, or what, but marking it is appropriate. Phil Sandifer (talk) 22:21, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
It's really quite disruptive to keep on adding a tag. All policies and guidelines have disputed sentences or sections, and this particular section has been here for a long time. Disagreements should be discussed here, but not allowed to destabilize the policy. Cogden, I for one don't even understand a lot of what you're arguing, so please find a way to clarify what you're saying. Also, it would be helpful if you'd provide academic sources for your definitions, as it's not clear whether you're inventing them or taking them from another source. SlimVirgin (talk)(contribs) 22:23, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
Slim, his definition is drawn from an appropriate source (at least the most common one he uses). However, it's not even a universal definition within its field of origin. The problem with an "academic" definition is that there are several, varying both between and within fields, and that none of them match exactly with the Wikipedia usage (though some could be considered as comprising aspects of our operative definition). Vassyana (talk) 22:33, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
Policy changes should be discussed first, not made by one person. RlevseTalk 22:42, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
Dreadstar is correct about the tag template. Originally, it was {{disputedtag}}, but I changed it, creating a new tag, because there were some objections to it. The new tag was a compromise, but I agree now that we really should use the standard tag for these situations. COGDEN 22:57, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
May I suggest finding community consensus for any new or existing "dispute tags" before applying one to an Official Policy page. Personally, I don't believe such tags should be used at all on an official policy page - if the content is there, it's policy by consensus - disputed or not, if it's not there by any prior consensus and is disputed, then it should be removed - not tagged. Dreadstar
Respondint SlimVirgin, the definitions I'm going by are from primary source and secondary source, and there are many academic citations there. COGDEN 22:57, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
Responding to Vassyana, I have not yet seen any reliable source stating that the definitions in the primary source and secondary source articles do not apply in some particular academic field. It's really the same set of definitions everywhere. Some web pages will lump various types of sources together, like diaries and maps, as primary sources, but in an academic article discussing what the terms mean, historiographers, historians, library scientists, and scientists all agree on what the terms mean, and that whether a source is primary or secondary really depends on how you use it. COGDEN 22:57, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
Responding to Rlevse, please read WP:BOLD and WP:EP, which I think are very good ideas. We've tried discussing proposals first then editing, but it never went everywhere because there is always some lone dissenter to any idea, no matter how good. For a while, being bold was getting us somewhere, but we've backslid a little. Maybe it's time to go into protection mode again, where we are forced to duke it out here. I'm open to all options. We can also try mediation again, but that didn't work the first time. This dispute has been going on since July, so I don't think anybody can say that the present version of PSTS represents widespread Wikipedia consensus. That's just not credible anymore. That's why we need the tag, because otherwise, people will see the tag at the top of the article that claims this represents widespread consensus, when it does not. COGDEN 22:57, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
When changes are as contentious as these have been, WP:BOLD doesn't really apply, Wikipedia:Consensus and Wikipedia:Resolving disputes do. A few editors here claim that this policy does not have widespread consensus, others maintain that it does and they have shown proof of consensus. A few disputing editors do not counter prior consensus, a new consensus needs to be found for the proposed changes. We've been round and round this issue too. Dreadstar

Just a bit of history, the tagging issue has been going on since August, and there’s been no resolution to the issues it raises, nor the inclusion of such a tag on a Policy page such as the one Cogden proposes, this has been a hotly contested issue. The changes to OR that are still under dispute have been discussed since August, with some pointed commentary on the changes here, amongst other things about this ongoing dispute. We need to find a way to bring an end to this by either finding consensus for changes or leaving the policy as it was before the edit war started back in August. Dreadstar 23:08, 4 December 2007 (UTC).

This edit summary by FeloniousMonk states part of the case for the removal of the tag perfectly. The tag has long outlived any justification for it, "you've had your chance to make your case. time for you accept that and move on". I suggest you make a solid proposal and put it up for consensus, if you like, but quit edit warring and tagging the section after all these months of getting nowhere. Dreadstar 23:18, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

The anti-primary-source faction has had its chance to make its arguments over the last four months as well, and consensus has not yet been reached. But so what? Is there a time limit for establishing Consensus? If we can't establish consensus within four months, does controversy magically go away? This is simply a cop out for avoiding discussion. Reaching consensus is hard work, and there are no shortcuts or time limits. COGDEN 00:33, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
We're talking about your tag Cogden, not Consensus itself. The quest for consensus is ongoing. Dreadstar 21:27, 9 December 2007 (UTC)
Removal of the tag is a statement that consensus has been reached, since the tag at the beginning of the article claims that "It has wide acceptance among editors." The tag is a temporary way to allow non-consensus language to remain in a policy article. Without the tag, the controversial information needs to be deleted pursuant to WP:POLICY and WP:CONS, which require that the article reflect current widespread Wikipedia practice and consensus. Which do you prefer, a tag or deletion of the PSTS section? COGDEN 10:36, 10 December 2007 (UTC)

For clarity

Is it correct that this is basically about the definition of the word "Primary source"?

--Kim Bruning (talk) 23:22, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

I wish it were that simple. :-P Vassyana (talk) 23:33, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

I'd recommend reviewing the following to get a better idea of the long-running discussion here:

Vassyana (talk) 00:17, 5 December 2007 (UTC)

It's very complex, like Vassyana said, but biggest bullet-points as I see them are:
  • The definition of primary source and secondary source (made up or standard academic);
  • Whether those terms should be used in policy, or whether they are too high-falutin' and ambiguous;
  • When, if ever, primary/raw/otherwise-bad sources should be prohibited/discouraged and when if ever, they should be mandatory/encouraged;
  • Whether any of this belongs in No original research at all, or whether this is a Verifiability issue; and
  • Whether the section needs to reflect current Consensus or whether it can remain unchanged by virtue of inertia based on apparent past consensus.
COGDEN 23:23, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
The issue of inertia and consensus for Policy pages was discussed in this section, which contains some compelling comments on this subject. I think Policy pages need to have strong Consensus to change prior consensus, and that policy pages need inertia to avoid chaos from constant changes becase an editor or small group of editors don't believe in the prior consensus - yet do not have consensus for their proposals, but they believe they can change or remove the material they dispute anyway. Dreadstar 23:35, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
That's what a lot of people think, but that's not actually true, based on what the policy articles say. There is no "intertia" that keeps a non-consensus policy section active even though consensus in favor of that section is demonstrably lost. According to WP:POLICY, "Wikipedia polices may change as consensus changes, but policy and guideline pages must reflect the present consensus and practice." According to WP:CONS, "A small group of editors can reach a consensual decision, but when the article gains wider attention, others may then disagree. The original group should not block further change on grounds that they already have made a decision." Moreover, "In the case of policy pages a higher standard of participation and consensus is expected."
So really, the choice here is not between keeping PSTS vs. replacing PSTS, but between deleting PSTS and replacing PSTS. Either way, we have to end up with something with strong consensus. If that means "no consensus policy", that's what we'll have to accept, according to present policy. COGDEN 00:43, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
Again, you are mistaken. There is no present consensus for changes, so the prior consensus is what we go by. There is no reason to delete PSTS, there is strong support for that section now, all we're doing is attempting to rewrite it for clarity. The original group is not blocking your changes, the lack of consensus for your changes is. Accept that and move on. I'm not going to go round with you again, or repeat again the need for inertia in Policy articles, this is the same tune you've been playing for months on end. Move on and find consensus for your proposals. Dreadstar 01:04, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
That is a novel concept of Consensus on WP. If that were true, consensus could be easily usurped by simply jealously defending an inaccurate transcription of actual consensus. By refusing to consent to change, all progress could then be indefinitely blocked. That is why the Consensus policy wisely allows consensus to change, and that policy must reflect current consensus, not a perception of past consensus. Naturally policy should not change on a whim, but it does change over time, and must be allowed to continue to change over time. Dhaluza (talk) 02:13, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
No one is refusing consent to change. Vassyana's proposal is making clear progress. What is being strongly disputed by many editors are the extreme changes that have been proposed by Cogden, who apparently would like to delete PSTS in its entirety because it's 'unnecessary', something I cannot agree with. That's the only novelty here, Dhaluza - the deletion or dilution of long-standing policy without having a consensus for such actions to be taken. What I have described is how Wikipedia:Consensus works. And no, “simply jealously defending an inaccurate transcription of actual consensus" is not what is happening here, nor is it ever going to trump a new consensus, that's a total distortion of what has been said about prior consensus. We cannot say that because a few editors disagree with content that was put into place with consensus that the consensus and the content it relates to are no longer valid - that would lead to chaos and ever changing Policy, if we were even able to establish a stable policy under those conditions. Dreadstar 16:23, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
You are taking my hypothetical comments literally. I was not accusing anyone of anything, just pointing out that your argument that there must be consensus for change is wrong. There must be consensus, period. Dhaluza (talk) 13:51, 7 December 2007 (UTC)
No, my statement is correct. There must consensus for a change to content that has been long-standing policy by consensus. You must find consensus for your changes, period. I also do not see the lack of current consensus for it to remain - even though I believe that is backwards. We have a few editors disputing it, that's all. In any case, this is the same sorry discussion about consensus that we've been going around with for months. Find new consensus for your changes, period. Dreadstar 21:04, 9 December 2007 (UTC)
If the philosophy you are stating here is actually Wikipedia practice and consensus, you should take this up with WP:POLICY and WP:CONS, which contradict you. Of course, according to your policy, you'd have to build an independent consensus to change WP:POLICY and WP:CONS, which you aren't going to get. Do you see the paradox of your position? And do you see why it is unworkable? COGDEN 10:50, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
Dreadstar is wrong that I think PSTS should be deleted because it is "unnecessary". First, I don't think it should be deleted, just made to conform with present Wikipedia practice. But if editors block such current-practice-conforming changes, the only option is to delete the section. No other possibility will leave the policy page in a state of conformance with WP:POLICY and WP:CONS.
Second, it's not because it is unnecessary, it's because the present PSTS language does not conform to actual, widespread Wikipedia practice, and thus is in violation of WP:POLICY. It's some person's good faith effort to distinguish between "raw" and "interpretive" sources, which might reflect actual Wikipedia practice; however, the section has morphed into a philosophical treatise against primary sources, which it was never intended to be. It is an attempt to get people to stop using primary sources--to change widespread practice--something which policy pages cannot do. You change widespread Wikipedia practice first, then you write the policy. COGDEN 21:07, 7 December 2007 (UTC)
So you're just complaining about this sentence in the policy: "Primary sources that have been published by a reliable source may be used in Wikipedia, but only with care, because it is easy to misuse them." Is that right?  —SMALLJIM  21:44, 7 December 2007 (UTC)
Apparently, that's it in a nutshell, Smalljim... Dreadstar 21:04, 9 December 2007 (UTC)
Dreadstar, you have been sort of out of the loop for a while, and probably are not fully aware of all the issues we've been discussing for the last four months. There are several issues with the current language, the most significant problems being in the following phrases:
  • "anyone—without specialist knowledge—who reads the primary source should be able to verify that the Wikipedia passage agrees with the primary source";
  • "the accuracy and applicability of which is easily verifiable by any reasonable, educated person without specialist knowledge";
  • "make no analytic, synthetic, interpretive, explanatory, or evaluative claims about the information found in the primary source, unless such claims are verifiable from another source"; and
  • The current "examples" of "primary" sources; and
  • "Where interpretive claims, analysis, or synthetic claims about primary sources are included in Wikipedia articles, use secondary sources rather than original analysis by Wikipedia editors"
COGDEN 11:21, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
I disagree, I think policy pages can change widespread practice. Also, just because something is being done in a widespread manner, does not mean that the practice should become policy. Policy should dictate practice, not the other way around. Say for instance it becomes widespread practice to add libelous material to Biographies of living persons, should the policy change to reflect that new practice? No way. I know it's an extreme example, and one that has special circumstances, but I believe it makes the point - practice should follow policy, not the other way around. Practice can guide policy, but it must not dictate policy so that policy merely becomes a tool of the majority or the most vocal. There are plenty of times when Policy must rise above practice and dictate the proper path to take.
Additionally, where is the widespread practice that violates the limitations on the use of Primary sources that makes the PSTS so far off the mark? Where is all this going on about having Wikipedia articles completely rely on Primary sources with only limited or no use of Secondary sources? How is the current wording so bad that it need to be removed or seriously throttled back? I've quoted directly from policy above, and I don't see what your argument really is. And just because something is in widespread use doens't make it the right use. Policy should still dictate the right way to do things, not become muddled beause some or many aren't following policy. Having policy follow practice is just classic tail wagging the dog. There has to be a well thought-out mixture of sensible Policy dictating practice, and while there should be policy that is based on good practices, policy should never just blindly follow widespread practice.
And Cogden, I was merely quoting your own words, where you stated, "Personally, if I had my way, I'd just blank the section. It doesn't reflect consensus, and is unnecessary. It looks like you were talking about the PSTS section, is that not the case? Dreadstar 21:04, 9 December 2007 (UTC)
Dreadstar, I'd take a look at WP:POLICY, which apparently you disagree with. WP:POLICY states that
"The purpose of a written policy or guideline is to record clearly what has evolved as communal consensus in actual practice, rather than to lead editors prescriptively toward a given result. Wikipedia polices may change as consensus changes, but policy and guideline pages must reflect the present consensus and practice."
Are you arguing that the WP:POLICY article should be changed? If so, I'd challenge that policy. Unfortunately, though, your position would make that difficult, since you apparently believe, contrary to WP:CONS, that there is required a "consensus to change policy", rather than "consensus to the policy, period". Unless you plan to challenge the rule, I would invite you to join many of us in enforcing WP:POLICY, and ensuring that the WP:NOR page reflects current, actual practice, without trying to lead editors. COGDEN 11:21, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
As to your question about "where is the widespread practice that violates the limitations on the use of Primary sources that makes the PSTS so far off the mark?", here are some of the answers we've been discussing during the last four months:
  • Highly technical citations in math, science, and philosophy articles cannot be—and never have been required to be— "easily verifiable by any reasonable, educated person without specialized knowledge";
  • Citations to primary sources are not, and never have been, rare or disfavored, but have been highly encouraged and honored with featured status;
  • Editors do not routinely think about the primariness or secondariness of sources, except perhaps to favor primary sources like some of the more historically-trained editors have been taught in school, which is a good practice and makes better articles more useful to readers and more likely to be featured;
  • Works of fiction are cited and treated in a manner inconsistent with PSTS.
  • The present PSTS language creates verifiability requirements beyond and inconsistent with those of WP:V, which most editors primarily rely on to judge the verifiability of sources.
COGDEN 11:21, 10 December 2007 (UTC)

This dispute is disputed.

I just had to comment on this. This has to be the most asinine possible thing for the page to get protected over.--Father Goose (talk) 06:49, 5 December 2007 (UTC)

The best thing to do with 'this is disputed' tags is to ignore them and work to resolve the actual dispute. Adding the tag doesn't change the content of the page, and removing it doesn't actually resolve disagreements. — Carl (CBM · talk) 13:20, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
I'll admit, I thought the same way as Father Goose when I first encountered this discussion. What changed my opinion (besides the fact all of the parties were making thoughtful contributions) is the chief challenge to any version of this policy, which is that it must be understood by people who have never written a research paper, & thus they have no idea why the rules for writing a Wikipedia article are different. <not entirely joking>I blame the educators: they claim that Wikipedia is full of unreliable information, but somehow overlook the fact it is created by the same people they educate.</not entirely joking> -- llywrch (talk) 17:33, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
First: don't blame the educators. :p And no, its not true that they claim that WP is full of unreliable information. What educators say is "do your homework!," which in the main means "read the damn sources yourself," and secondarily means "do not cite WP or any other encyclopedia." Encyclopedias are indispensable for background information.
Second: if students did not learn do the legwork themselves, how on earth can they be expected to write for the 'pedia? (cf. "it must be understood by people who have never written a research paper")
-- Fullstop (talk)
I think the truly asinine thing is that there is a heated dispute about whether or not the section is truly disputed. I guess people just don't see the irony. This is now the second time the article has been protected over the tag issue. COGDEN 22:42, 5 December 2007 (UTC)

Cogden, this whole dispute is a non-issue. No one is saying don't use primary sources. All people are saying is use them with particular care by sticking very closely to what the sources say, because they're easy to misuse. Why would you object to this? SlimVirgin (talk)(contribs) 00:04, 6 December 2007 (UTC)

Slim, that's just not true. The PSTS section used to say not to use primary sources. That is what brought the slow simmer over PSTS to a boil. Dhaluza (talk) 02:01, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
Can you provide a diff for that Dhaluza? Before this dispute started, the PSTS section stated:
Primary sources that have been published by a reliable source may be used in Wikipedia, but only with care, because it is easy to misuse them".
This was the status quo for a very long time. The real dispute has been over further loosening and even removing the limitations on use of Primary sources. Dreadstar 02:20, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
OK, here is the diff that put "Wikipedia articles should rely on reliable, published secondary sources." in bold, which preceded the first in the chain of recent page protections. And prior to this change, it actually said: "Although most articles should rely predominantly on secondary sources, there are rare occasions when they may rely entirely on primary sources (for example, current events or legal cases)". So the whole line of argument that this has been consistently part longstanding policy is just revisionist history. Dhaluza (talk) 11:28, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
The contents of your diff clearly does not prohibit the use of Primary Sources in Wikipedia articles. It clearly states "Primary sources that have been published by a reliable source may be used in Wikipedia, but only with care, because it's easy to misuse them" (emphasis mine). Saying articles should "rely predominantly on...secondary sources" in no way prohibits the use of Primary Sources. Perhaps clearing up this simple misunderstanding of what the policy states can end this entire dispute. NOR does not, nor has it ever been intended to prohibit the use of primary sources. It just says to use them with caution, and that Wikipedia articles should rely on secondary sources - not must rely only on Secondary sources...that's a total misreading of what the policy has stated all along. Dreadstar 15:47, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
Forgive me for being somewhat imprecise. What NOR originally said is that WP is not a primary source, and that has been changed over time to say that articles cannot be based on primary sources, which is a completely different thing. In fact, until 6 months ago, the "long standing" version of this policy specifically said that in some cases articles could be based entirely on primary sources, but this was changed as well. Dhaluza (talk) 00:44, 7 December 2007 (UTC)
Well, that's very different from what has been argued here all along, and also different from your statement above, "The PSTS section used to say not to use primary sources." Dreadstar 21:38, 9 December 2007 (UTC)
Plus, in some cases, primary sources are still entirely banned. Highly-technical primary sources are banned, because nobody without specialized education can verify to them, while, anomalously, highly-technical secondary sources are allowed, even though nobody can understand them other than Ph.Ds, and even though the secondary sources are, themselves, also primary sources. COGDEN 02:20, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
As I argued several sections ago (in the section about the hypothetical highly technical math article drawn from a primary source), I don't think it's necessary to interpret the policy this way. But, frankly, it's a reasonable approach for a general encyclopedia such as Wikipedia ("the encyclopedia that anyone can edit"). If the material is called into question and WP's most highly technical editors can't find a reliable secondary or tertiary source that says the same thing they assert is in the primary source, then don't use the primary source of the highly technical material and remove the material in keeping with the policy. ... Kenosis (talk) 03:26, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
Saying that the present PSTS language does not "need to be" interpreted this way means that you probably agree it can be interpreted this way. Why, then, would you oppose eliminating the ambiguity? Is it because you really want it to be interpreted this way? If so, this seems like a back-door way to insert this interesting editing philosophy upon Wikipedia in violation of WP:POLICY. The important point is that this is not the way things have been in math, science, and philosophy articles since 2001. If you believe things should be done differently, you are free to try to convince editors of that, and if the idea catches on and becomes consensus practice in highly technical articles, it becomes policy, but not until. COGDEN 11:57, 10 December 2007 (UTC)

I also think the protection was over the top. As far as I could see, everyone was keeping to the one-revert-rule, so that is hardly an edit war. By protecting the page, we never see how many people are willing to go on the record for one version or another. And it blocks further work on other issues. Dhaluza (talk) 02:01, 6 December 2007 (UTC)

You should refresh your memory about edit warring. If people want to be on the record, they can make a statement on this talk page. — Carl (CBM · talk) 02:11, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
We have discussed this on the talk page, and the editing was in conjunction with talk page discussion. So cutting off this process is hardly conductive to reaching consensus. And how is protection better? If the only "problem" is adding and removing the tag, what is the harm? Since there is no agreement over whether it should be in or out, how does arbitrarily selecting one alternative solve the problem? I would submit that having it on the page part time is less disruptive than locking it in or out. Dhaluza (talk) 02:19, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
It was an edit war, plain and simple; so the protection was right on target and needs to stay in place until this entire dispute is over and done with. I do not believe that Policy pages should contain dispute tags. Dreadstar 02:25, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
Tags are not pretty, but they are far better than having perpetual protection and a policy article that claims to have widespread consensus, but really doesn't, while a discussion on the talk page rages on for eternity, consensus gradually falling further and further away from the protected language, and there's nothing we can do about it until the original cabal of authors dies. COGDEN 02:40, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
I agree with you, right up until the end. Please try to be patient, and civil. Dhaluza (talk) 10:42, 6 December 2007 (UTC)

The primary source section has been in the policy for three years

To people who are arguing that this is a new(ish) section, or that the meaning was recently changed, the stress on secondary sources was added on December 10, 2004 (see lead), [1] and entered the policy in more or less its current form on March 8, 2005, when it said:

"In order to avoid doing original research, and in order to help improve the quality of Wikipedia articles, it is essential that any primary source material used in an article has been published or otherwise made available to people who do not rely on Wikipedia. Moreover, it is essential that any generalization, analysis, synthesis, interpretation, or evaluation of information or data come from a secondary source that is available to readers (e.g. in a library or non-Wikipedia web-page). [2]

Three years means that this is very much the consensus version, and it really can't be changed or kept tagged because one or two people don't like it. All policies would be in a constant state of war were that the case.

Cogden, it strikes me that you must have had a particular experience of trying to add primary-source material somewhere, and being prevented by this section, for you to be as keen as this to change it. Can you show us what that issue was, please? It's possible that the policy was simply misused in your case, and that this is all a giant misunderstanding. Wouldn't that be nice? :-) SlimVirgin (talk)(contribs) 07:24, 6 December 2007 (UTC)

Amen to that, Reverend Mother. And, in anticipation of COGDEN's reply, let's not forget that when an ad hoc policy change closes a door, somewhere it opens a window. Avb 11:17, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
Not at all. Actually, I've never had a problem adding primary sources to articles, and I've cited a lot of them. See, for example, featured articles Early life of Joseph Smith, Jr. and golden plates. Nobody ever has a problem with this because PSTS as it is currently written does not actually reflect current widespread Wikipedia practice outside the rarified air of us policy wonks. Citation to primary sources has actually solved countless edit wars in various articles caused by the use of conflicting, highly-biased secondary sources that misquote and spin the original material. The solution to that problem is always to cite the primary source, then discuss any notable interpretations of that source. In controversial fields, for reasons mostly of WP:NPOV, you can never rely primarily on secondary sources. You use primary sources, if possible, to say what, why, when, where, and how, and secondary sources to say who's lying and who's version is more accurate. COGDEN 21:35, 7 December 2007 (UTC)
So, if I'm understanding you correctly, you never had a problem with WP:NOR because you ignored it, didn't know about it, or your usage either didn't actually violate the policy or you weren't called on it, and now you want to change the policy to reflect your apparent usage and views on the subject. I'd like to see some evidence of these 'countless edit wars' that were resolved by Primary sources that were somehow forbidden by this policy. Primary sources are not forbidden, they are just to be used carefully and judiciously. The problem with primary sources is that they are often misused by editors to add their own spin and create a new analysis or research. Removing the limitations on the use of primary sources will open a Pandora's box of problems. Dreadstar 01:25, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
I must say, that just because editors aren't abiding by policy doesn't mean the policy needs to be changed or not enforced when we find violations. Policy should be changed if it's bad policy, or something new and better is written - not because some editors out there aren't following it. There has to be more reasoning behind a change than that. If a whole bunch of editors start walking off a cliff, I'm not going to suggest we write a policy that says others should follow lemming-like off the precipice. Dreadstar 01:37, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
As discussed above, you seem to have a problem with the WP:POLICY article. If you think we should violate WP:POLICY here, you should be arguing that WP:POLICY should be changed. I don't see you making any such arguments. Policy is not the same as policy articles. The articles are not some sort of "code"—they are a description of widespread consensus practices, and they can be wrong. The PSTS section has been wrong for quite some time now, and I follow the actual consensus policy, rather than the way the policy is mis-characterized in PSTS. COGDEN 12:04, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
SlimVirgin, you have made this "really long time" assertion before, and I have refuted it with the diffs, so here they are again:
This edit from March 8, 2005 introduced the original definition of primary sources as factual sources. In this edit from October 23, 2006 you significantly changed the definition to close sources.
Okay, that's what I'm not seeing. What is the substantive difference between the two versions (i.e. please show me which of the new sentences changed something) and what is a "close source"? SlimVirgin (talk)(contribs) 08:08, 7 December 2007 (UTC)
And what is a "factual source"? Look, the definition of primary source hasn't changed, because we're using the definition that scholars use -- we're not making up our own words here. I was one of the editors who worked on the draft back on 2004/2005 with Slrubenstein and others, and I can't see that it has changed substantively over the years. Nor can Slrubenstein, so far as I know. SlimVirgin (talk)(contribs) 08:12, 7 December 2007 (UTC)
A factual source is one that makes a basic statement of fact, a close source is one close to the subject. If we are looking at a source rendering an opinion on itself, it would be a secondary source under the old definition, and a primary source under the new one. Frankly, I think the source typing is not helpful in this case. Regardless of whether we classify it as primary or secondary, or whatever, we need to judge if the source is reliable in the context in which it is used (not how it was written). But this is a fundamental change, which is just further evidence there really is no "long-standing policy" on PSTS at all. Dhaluza (talk) 02:30, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
Considering that this policy has only been in existence for a total of four years, and has only been fully fleshed out into its current state within the last two and a half years, I'd say something that has been included in the policy for over a year is indeed "long-standing". Dreadstar 00:44, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
Frankly, I don't think there is any significant disagreement with the quote you cited above. Nobody has made a serious argument for allowing unpublished primary sources, and there has not been any serious argument about excluding editors' analysis or synthesis over those published by RS. So if you are proposing to trim PSTS down to these essential points, I would support that. The only thing I question is the need to use the defined terms primary and secondary sources. Just leave that out and you get this even more succinct and direct version:
"In order to avoid incorporating original research in Wikipedia articles, source material must have been previously published or otherwise made available to people other than on Wikipedia. Moreover, it is essential that any generalization, analysis, synthesis, interpretation, or evaluation of information or data come from a source that is available to readers (e.g. in a library or non-Wikipedia web-page)."
-- Dhaluza (talk) 11:02, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
The 'nice' thing about having the dispute tag visible is it has probably played a part in more people finally coming onto this talk page to try and find the 'what and why' of the dispute. Before the tag was present, the discussion was limited to only around 30 or so editors. Since the tag first appeared, it seems like another 20 or so have joined the discussions. It seems to me that more people that know about a dispute, and the more people who care to participate, the easier it will finally be for one side or the other to truly claim concensus. Just because a large group of people don't know a dispute (or discussion) is going on and therefore don't participate is hardly grounds for claiming concensus. The disputed section was placed into policy when only a small group of around five people were working on this policy. Notice was never made at the VP, so the overwhelming mahority of wikipedia editors were completely unaware of what changes were being done (not even being proposed, but just done). Then, the changes sat quietly unopposed for a period of time (because only a handful knew of them maybe?), and then other claim that they were long-standing policy. (This can clearly be seen by looking at the archives of the talk pages and the dit history). While some may see the dispute tag as harmful to policies, I see it as advertising for more people to actively participate and attempt to make their points heard so this can truly reach a concensus, instead of being kept in a dark closet most people rarely venture into. I'd wager that when most people do venture to this policy page, they take a look at what the policy says, shake their heads trying to figure out what it means, especially with the sidetracked definitions of PSTS, figure it's all just Administrator mumbo-jumbo, and go back to their articles. If they see the tag, some will actually decide to see what it's about, as maybe there's something that may help explain a bit more, and they get an oppurtunity to see what the fuss is about and maybe participate. Unless of course, some would rather keep the discussions away from the masses that make up concensus. wbfergus Talk 11:50, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
The bad thing about a dispute tag is that it undermines the policy and sets a precedent for tagging anytime someone disagrees with something in a policy. Since someone is always disagreeing with some aspect of each and every policy we have, we would just have permanent dispute tags on every policy. A dispute tag is not the best way to advertise a Policy dispute, there are plenty of other avenues to draw attention to it. Dreadstar 15:40, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
I can see that a tag on a policy page stating that its contents are in "dispute" could be damaging. So would it be better if there was a tag that was worded in a less argumentative fashion? Something like "There is currently a discussion about some aspects of this section - please see the talk page, and join in if you have an opinion." That would still potentially grab my interest, without apparently shouting out that there were major problems at the core of WP.  —SMALLJIM  00:04, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
There was another tag that was used, {{Policycontroversy}}, which was more neutral. We could always use it again instead of {{Disputedtag}}. COGDEN 12:13, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
Thank you for responding to me, but even my battered old brain can tell that that template is nothing like what I suggested! I'm not familiar with creating templates (yet), as you obviously are - so could I ask if you could create one called "Policy discussion" for me, containing the text I suggested above, please? Then we can see if it is helpful.  —SMALLJIM  20:02, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
As long as the tags were only on the sections that were under discussion, that might be acceptable. Then they would move around as one issue was settled and another was discussed. The issue at present is that just removing the tag (or adding it) doesn't affect the actual disagreement. I think SlimVirgin is on the right track above - we should find out what each person here is concerned with, which would clarify the discussion. Personally, I am mostly concerned that the wording of this policy stays compatible with actual best practices used in science and math articles. What are other people worried about? — Carl (CBM · talk) 15:52, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
Conforming to science and math article practice is one of my main concerns as well. Also, since I work a lot in highly-controversial history fields, I know from experience that the greater the subject matter's controversy, the greater must be the reliance on primary sources. You don't really understand this until you work on articles in ultra-controversial fields. Another concern of mine is general Wikipedia quality: an article that does not make use of available primary sources is an inferior article. On the other hand, I agree that we don't want people interpreting raw scientific data or maps in controversial or non-obvious ways, but I feel we can advise against this by using concepts other than primariness and secondariness, which would not limit or discourage use of excellent primary sources such as a scientist's interpretation of her own data, or a historical figure's interpretation of a historical situation they were part of. COGDEN 21:54, 7 December 2007 (UTC)
Regarding the statement " I know from experience that the greater the subject matter's controversy, the greater must be the reliance on primary sources." : In other words, you're doing, or wanting to do, original research in Wikipedia articles. ... Kenosis (talk) 22:56, 7 December 2007 (UTC)
What on earth do you mean by that? Are you saying that citing peer-reviewed journal articles is prima facie evidence of violating WP:NOR? Sorry to be blunt, but that's ridiculous. Raymond Arritt (talk) 23:07, 7 December 2007 (UTC)
I'm saying, also bluntly, maybe not bluntly enough, that this statement taken together with Cogden's other statements amounts to an advocacy of primary-source based research in Wikipedia articles. When Wikipedia editors can't find secondary or tertiary sources to back up the assertions found in primary sources, the statements in the articles should be limited to the scope permitted under the present expression of WP:PSTS. If the insights or information in those primary sources you're referring to are useful, the secondary sources will be published quickly enough. If they're not that useful, the information asserted in such a primary source tends to die in its tracks. Take, for instance, Jacques Benveniste's article in the journal Nature as a famous example. The secondary sources were all over ithe place within months and the information Benveniste provided about water memory was ultimately put into its proper perspective by the secondary sources w.r.t. about that particular set of assertions whose primary source was the peer-reviewed Benveniste article. In other cases the secondary sources will bear the primary source out in due course. It's not our job in Wikipedia to be drawing the information presented to readers from the primary sources, except within the limits of WP:PSTS. ... Kenosis (talk) 00:32, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
Good Lord, you were serious... How do you reconcile this with the advice in WP:V that includes peer-reviewed journals as being among the "most reliable sources"? And how do you reconcile it with the utterly abysmal state of science journalism -- the fount of those wonderful "secondary sources" -- in the U.S. and some other countries? Raymond Arritt (talk) 00:43, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
I'm saying use them in any given article as often as the local consensus sees fit, but use in keeping with the policy, keeping the information closely consistent with that primary source in such a way that any reasonably educated person can recognize its consistency by looking at that primary source and comparing it to what's written in the wikipedia page that cites to that primary source. Where an interpretation is involved, one or more secondary sources must be involved in the interpretation. Otherwise it's original research. The policy is quite clear on this, repeating the concept on the policy page in several different ways. Maybe someone should give an example of an article where this actually is a problem before calling it a problem. ... Kenosis (talk) 03:09, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
Now I'm thoroughly confused. Before, you made a sweeping assertion that using journal articles (i.e., primary sources) constituted OR, but now you're saying that it's OK as long as any "reasonably educated person" (try getting any two Wikipedians to agree on what that means!) can see that the article is in agreement with the source. I think I'll go back to doing what most people here do, which is to ignore the endless byzantine policy discussions and go about writing and improving articles... Raymond Arritt (talk) 03:32, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
I apologize if it seemed that way. I drew this conclusion based upon the sum total of Cogden's comments in the context of his spearheading a several-months-long effort to remove WP:PSTS from the policy. And I'm not the only one who has interpreted the sum of Cogden's arguments w.r.t. PSTS in this basic fashion. Unfortunately I don't have time to organize a list of Cogden's relevant comments that IMO quite reasonably lead to such a conclusion. ... Kenosis (talk) 03:50, 8 December 2007 (UTC) ... And perhaps needless to say, I'm angry at him right now -- IMO, much of this debate has been an unfortunate drain of time and energy in defense of what I and many others consider to be a very reasonable policy that was originally set into motion by J.Wales several years ago. ... Kenosis (talk) 03:52, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
So it was in the context of a particular editor's actions. Thanks for pointing that out. I can get a little paranoid about the anti-science POV that is common in Wikipedia, as I tend to edit in some rough neighborhoods. Raymond Arritt (talk) 03:56, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
I'm definitely familiar with some of the work you've done, and appreciate and respect it highly. ... Kenosis (talk) 04:12, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
I'm glad you are angry, Kenosis, you've moved past denial, and once you get over your anger, bargaining is the next stage of grief, and maybe we'll reach an agreement. I'm just kidding. Lighten up! Arguments like these, and the difficulties at arriving at consensus are what Wikipedia is about. COGDEN 12:28, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
No big problem; I think it's already at "acceptance". ;-) But TBH, the argumentation became unproductive awhile ago, IMO. The arguments against PSTS have been all over the map, so to speak, shotgun style, and IMO are not representative of any significant problems with the policy. The disagreements about how to implement it, among editors of individual articles, are no more prevalent than arguments over NPOV or V.
Kenosis, are you saying that editors cannot use their own experience to determine what is actual current Wikipedia practice and consensus? How else to we determine whether policy articles reflect current practice as per WP:POLICY? COGDEN 12:28, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
To the first question: The answer is that the question is irrelevant-- where editors use their own experience to determine what is current practice and consensus, whether across the entire wiki or in a given area or category within the wiki, it is of necessity a community assessment, not an individual one. Dreadstar and others have already made the point that silence or lack of constant participation by everyone on the talk page w.r.t. a longstanding policy does not demonstrate widespread disagreement with the policy. And, vocal opposition by a relatively small group of editors does not demonstrate community rejection of a longstanding policy. This current policy, despite what was IMO some reasonable quibbling about the precise language, is longstanding in comparison to the age of Wikipedia itself, and is fundamentally a stable, widely accepted policy. To the second question: This question too is irrelevant-- editorial policy is not solely determined by a set of arguments over current practice but also reflects editorial ideals and goals. This policy was set into motion by WP's founder, and its objectives are reflected in numerous articles across the wiki in which it has been applied successfully to mitigate and/or resolve problems relating to the validity of the articles' content. Most of the objections to the policy, on the other hand, have been hypothetical, and where actual examples have been alleged to be a problem, we have given ways that the article editors can use to solve the problems they may have in conceptualizing the policy w.r.t. their particular article or category of article.. ... Kenosis (talk) 20:00, 10 December 2007 (UTC)

Kenosis seems to read the policy differently than I do. To take the Beneveniste case, there may not have been any primary source involved. Some people regard all peer-reviewed articles as secondary sources, because the reviewers evaluate the author's claims. In any case, any information that appeared in the Nature article could be included in Wikipedia, even if the information in Nature made "analytic, synthetic, interpretive, explanatory, or evaluative claims", provided it was the author of the Nature article that made the claims, and it wasn't a case of the Wikipedia editor inferring the claims from the Nature article. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 00:47, 8 December 2007 (UTC)

Of course the evaluative claims made by Benveniste were part of that primary source and are fair game to use within the limits prescribed by WP:PSTS. They're fair game as long as any reasonably educated person can look at the text of the wikipedia article and then look at the page cited to in the source and conclude that it has been reported accurately. To give an example of why this is a reasonable policy mandate, take for instance the article on homeopathy, where numerous primary sources involve experiments with differing experimental results. Firstly, just the fact that they're published in "peer reviewed journals" doesn't make them all equally reliable. This necessitated that Wikipedia editors find reliable secondary summaries so as to avoid sifting through the numerous primary sources of experimental reporting on the matters at issue there. Similarly it was with intelligent design, where the primary sources on the various permutations of intelligent design needed to be quoted or otherwise represented in a way that any reasonably educated person could verify the accuracy of the Wikipedia reporting by looking at the Wikipedia text and comparing it to the primary source without being a molecular biologist or another type of specialist. The evaluative portions in that article were all drawn from reliable secondary sources including material published by the NAS and many other scientific organizations. Same with global warming, where there is not one primary source that makes any kind of broad evaluative claim that wasn't backed up by one or more reliable secondary sources, and in the instances where primary sources such as a particular study are used, the article sticks to the facts. That article, in my estimation of it, is an excellent example of one that is in compliance with both the letter and the spirit of WP:PSTS. ... Kenosis (talk) 03:25, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
Arguments have a context. The context of everything in this page is No Original Research. When someone writes about problems with primary sources published in reliable publications, and how secondary sources eventually evaluated the primary sources as wrong, the natural inclination is to think this has something to do with No Original Research, since the argument is occuring on this page. In fact, the process of deciding that a source that meets the criteria in WP:RS is wrong, and in fact is so wrong that it isn't even worth mentioning as a minority view, is really just a matter of good source-based research, and has nothing to do NOR. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 04:07, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
I disagree that editorial supervision, such as peer review, converts a primary source to a secondary one--that is a reliability issue only. But I do agree that OR is about what the source is. If it's the editor, it's OR; if it's a published author, it's not. The rest of the primary source baggage is just unnecessary obfuscation of what should be a simple principle and policy. Dhaluza (talk) 02:39, 8 December 2007 (UTC)

The article was just unprotected. Let's try to keep it that way; it's somewhat embarrassing that editors on either side continue to revert the disputed template, not to mention WP:LAME. I'm glad to see the productive discussion just above, which I hope will clarify the nature of the disagreement. — Carl (CBM · talk) 04:33, 8 December 2007 (UTC)

Need Clarification

Are blogs by political candidates acceptable for their bio?. For example, if candidate A claims that they are the best candidate to elect, can we accept that as a primary source and write the sentence, 'Candidate A is the best candidate to elect' in their biography?. TwakTwik (talk) 03:30, 9 December 2007 (UTC)

Well, that would be fine except that it would violate NPOV - you'd have to phrase it as "Candidate A says that they are the best candidate to elect." But that's not really a NOR question as such. Phil Sandifer (talk) 03:32, 9 December 2007 (UTC)
Ok, thats exactly the edit I requested on Gary Weiss when admins referred me to this page and said I am wasting time. Go figure!! TwakTwik (talk) 07:28, 9 December 2007 (UTC)
Actually, blogs are not normally considered reliable sources at all... but in this case, I suppose it could be considered a "self-published" source (see WP:V and WP:RS). It certainly would be against several Wikipedia policies and guidelines to say "Candidate A is the best candidate "... such a statement should indeed be attributed ("Candidate A states that he is the best candidate "). I'm not sure if this is a NOR issue. Blueboar (talk) 22:30, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
An addendum... I took a look at the situation at the Gary Weiss article... your example is not quite apt for the debates that are raging at that article. Blueboar (talk) 22:40, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
In that article, a Gary Weiss's blog itself was cited as source for the claim that he was threatened. That article has over 40-50% all references from Gary Weiss himself. Its indeed like saying 'Candidate A is the best candidate'. TwakTwik (talk) 05:29, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

Revisiting a proposal

User:Vassyana/NOR 002 was suggested and repeatedly advertised on RfC and the village pump. It was one of the least controversial and most supported (including people on "both sides) of the various serious proposals to change PSTS. This suggests it may be worth revisiting it, even if to understand what worked "better" about it so we can create another draft. I'd like to review the comments made about it and see if we can adjust it sufficiently for use. Let's see what we can do to address any concerns, so we can move forward.

Support (some supporters included more than one):

  • There was support based on the draft being a reasonable clarification.
  • There was support based on the proposal better reflecting practice.
  • There was support based on the draft being a reasonable compromise.
  • There was support based on the proposal being a step in the correct direction.


  • One person changed from opposition to neutrality after their concerns were addressed.


  • There was opposition based on a strong opposition to PSTS, without feedback on the draft.
  • There was opposition based on the presence of the source-typing caveat and the conflation of secondary and tertiary sources.
  • One person opposed without explanation or feedback on the proposal.
  • One person stated the status quo is clearer, without further explanation or feedback.
  • One person expressed the draft is wordy and hard to follow, and objected to a requirement for explicit in-text attribution of primary sources.

Obviously, some positions cannot be accommodated due to a lack of feedback and/or explanation. However, I am going to endeavor to revise the draft accordingly to the reasonable opposition. The conflation of secondary and tertiary was founded in a concern that some summary sources (like textbooks) are exceptional sources and that this should be noted. The draft includes such language. There was less opposition to the caveat as a footnote, so I've moved it to such a format. I've moved a few other side comments and examples to footnotes as well, to help shorten/clarify the text. I've removed a chunk of text that may be better suited to another part of the policy. I've revised some of the language for clarity. (Additional comment) I also moved secondary before primary, because some concern was voiced about secondary sources being mentioned before their definition.

Regarding the requirement for explicit in-text attribution, I'm unsure of what other compromise I can make for this issue. Some expressed deep concern with primary sources being used in such a way at all, others argue that perfectly usable primary sources make such claims. The latter was accommodated with clear language permitting the use of such claims, but former accommodated with a requirement for blatant in-text attribution. If someone has a better compromise between the two extremes, it would be welcomed.

Please review the altered proposal. Let me know what you think. Vassyana (talk) 01:00, 5 December 2007 (UTC)

Thanks Vassyana. The lead of the section could benefit from better grammar and simpler wording, but overall I see this as a good summary that may be acceptable to all involved. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 03:05, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
Revised/simplified the lede language. Anything else that can be tweaked? Anything particularly flawed or lacking about it? Any additional concerns from the long long discussion here that you think could be accommodated? Vassyana (talk) 11:46, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
I don't see any significant problems. — Carl (CBM · talk) 13:31, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
To my mind, everything after (2) is still an overly strong version of the advice. Not wrong, as such, but overly restrictive, and without enough awareness that the rules do not apply in many circumstances. The wording SV proposed above about good judgment and the rewording of your suggestion below both open the door to the possibility of grey area in a way that the tail end of this doesn't.
That said, I love everything before (2), particularly the abandonment of the secondary/tertiary distinction. Phil Sandifer (talk) 14:50, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
I'll agree it is one of the more restrictive parts of the proposal, largely because it adheres closely to the current policy. I included language about explicit attribution for analytic et al claims from primary sources and about primary sources in secondary sources, because everyone can agree that both practices (as such) are OK. I will continue to think about how that portion can be improved and revised to provide an acceptable compromise for the policy editors and better reflect practice. However, I think any significant departure from that model/advice is really another step in and of itself (much like a change of terminology would be). Thanks for the feedback! Vassyana (talk) 17:19, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
I don't think we need a significant departure from that model... I think, actually, a big part of it is that that portion is best considered as advice and a guideline, unlike the rest of NOR - it's a small bit of not-quite-policy in a policy document. And thus some hedging to reflect that is in order. Phil Sandifer (talk) 18:08, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
I'm pondering this and if I think of a good solution, I'll share *chuckle*. If you have any suggestions about how to alter the wording, they would be welcome. Vassyana (talk) 03:26, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
This is an excellent proposal, Vassyana. I think it does a very good job of addressing a lot of the concerns expressed about the current version and it keeps the core of the policy intact. I like it. Dreadstar 17:22, 5 December 2007 (UTC)

Yes, I like it too, particularly the way you have changed the emphasis of the section from the sources themselves to the purpose of the section, thereby better integrating it into the policy. I assume it would be under a heading of "Types of sources" or similar? A minor point, but perhaps the first sentence could be simplified to something like "To help identify and avoid original research, this section broadly defines primary and secondary sources." I found the reference to a tool unnecessary and slightly confusing: I couldn't tell if it is the section or the collective primary and secondary sources that is meant to be the tool.

Sorry for popping up here suddenly, by the way. You haven't seen me, but I've been working my way through this page and trying to follow its convoluted discussions for a couple of weeks. (Only a couple of weeks!) This is the first time I've felt able to contribute something. Hope I'm not making a total ass of myself!  —SMALLJIM  21:54, 5 December 2007 (UTC)

No apologies needed. I took your helpful suggestion for rewording. Are there are problematic phrasings? Any notable flaws (in general) in the draft? Vassyana (talk) 03:26, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
  • Here are my comments on the proposal:
  1. It's better than what we have now, and I support any change that moves in the right direction, with the proviso that it is not the final resting place.
  2. Why keep the terms primary and secondary if we are now entirely divorced from the academic terms primary source and secondary source and from the concepts of "primariness" or "secondariness"? Why not combine my proposal with yours and use the terms raw and interpretive, and then just define them how we want? In fact, I notice you use the term "raw" in the definition of primary source. The beauty of using the term "raw source" is you can define it however you want, and don't have to worry about anomalies like peer-reviewed articles being secondary sources. They'll just be "interpretive sources", which makes perfect sense.
  3. You are keeping the "reasonable, educated person" standard of super-verifiability for "primary" sources. I can see the benefit of an extra layer of verifiability for "raw" sources, but not in "interpretive" sources that are also primary sources, such as mathematical and philosophical works. We don't want editors interpreting raw data, but we do want them relying on technical primary sources like Principia Mathematica, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, and Of Grammatology.
  4. The requirement for finding an explicit reference in the primary source for any interpretive statement contradicts WP:V, which does not require citation to any source when you make claims that nobody would dispute, such as "The book has 100 pages". You won't find that statement explicitly stated in the work, but so what? If you replaced "primary" with "raw", you would not even need this requirement because, by definition, raw sources have no interpretations to which you can cite, explicitly or otherwise.
COGDEN 02:05, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
I really think tackling terminology would be a whole proposal unto itself. I may not necessarily agree with your word choice, but you know I support a change in terms nonetheless. (My desire for different terms is due to the myriad definitions of PSTS and the resulting complications due to the law of primacy.) I think the wording will take a lot of time and effort to address, but it would be for the best in the end. After we get through this round of proposals, I'd be glad to work with you to try and work out a proposal for using different terminology.
I think narrowing the scope to purely "raw" sources is a significant change in and of itself. As such, it's another thing that should be addressed separately. I also believe it would remove many sources (from the "primary" category) that are a cause of concern in relation to NOR (such as historical and religious texts).
Point taken. I have added a footnote directing the reader to WP:V#Burden of evidence.
Thanks for the support and feedback. Are there other flaws in the draft that can be addressed? Is any of the wording problematic? Vassyana (talk) 03:26, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
I don't think you and I are that far apart, if we can use the right terminology. I also don't think changing the definition to "raw" (or some other similar term) is much of a change at all. I think that is exactly what the original author of this language intended, as evidenced by some of the early definitions of "primary source". The idea was that "primary" sources were those sources (or parts of sources) that had no analysis or interpretation. It was to prevent people from going to a chemistry article and interpreting the raw data, but ignoring the original author's interpretation of that data and instead inserting their own crackpot theory about the data. This is was Jimbo was concerned about, as well. This is not really a change, just a return to fundamentals. COGDEN 21:15, 7 December 2007 (UTC)
I also believe we're not that far apart. However, I must note that Jimbo did agree ("completely") that (at least in historical topics) even accurate citation of primary sources can produce a novel synthesis and that Wikipedia is ill-equipped to review such usage.[3] Vassyana (talk) 06:25, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
Jimbo was talking about taking the data from the primary sources to support a novel crackpot theory. He never opposed the use of primary sources; in fact, he once spoke with approval in the publication of interpretative scientific theories in "traditional primary sources", followed by direct citation in Wikipedia. It was never the primariness of the source that was the problem—it was the fact that the theories were being conjured up by the editor, independently of how the original primary source scientist interpreted the data. COGDEN 11:45, 10 December 2007 (UTC)

Any further comments on this revised draft? Not to jinx things, but I'm quite surprised at the relative silence. Vassyana (talk) 06:25, 10 December 2007 (UTC)

As has been stated several months ago during other discussions on this subject, when asked how the 'controversial' section was added, the point was made that silence was implicit acceptance, so the 5 or 6 involved in it (adding the controversial part) at that time argue that consensus was reached. I guess that same can easily be assumed here, with far more than 5 or 6 people involved. wbfergus Talk 11:09, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
I see no problem with making the edit, although I fear that no matter what we do, you will likely find that people here are very willing to violate WP:OWN and WP:CONS ("The original group should not block further change on grounds that they already have made a decision"). WP:CONS states that "In essence silence implies consent if there is adequate exposure to the community. In the case of policy pages a higher standard of participation and consensus is expected." Your draft does not have much participation, and not yet consensus, but it's a move in that direction, and should not be reverted in a knee-jerk manner. Your draft probably has better consensus than the language there now, and I think anyone that reverts it to the present language should have a damn good reason. COGDEN 11:45, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
Well, there's been a couple RfCs, multiple listings on the village pump, lots of opinions voiced, etc. I honestly think the revised draft accommodates the concerns voiced on the last version, as best as I know how. Of course, I'm open to revision suggestions. :) There's a note about using summary (essentially tertiary) sources to accommodate the only clear concern about conflating secondary and tertiary. I moved the caveat to footnote, per the clearest/strongest objector to that language. I've reordered it, moved some text to footnotes and simplified the main text, to help address the criticisms regarding complexity and clarity. There's still some sticky points to work through, but progress is progress. At the least, it seems like the closest thing to a consensus compromise we've been able to reach in several months of discussion. I'll make the change and see what happens. Vassyana (talk) 12:55, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
Well, that experiment lasted less than ten minutes. It was reverted by someone who hasn't bothered to comment during any of the times that any version of this draft was posted for discussion. I'm not going to kneejerk revert, but I would like to make it very clear that I think it is utter bullshit that is was reverted by someone who cannot not be bothered to comment during the multiple copious opportunities to voice opposition. Unless the opposition is voiced and well-reasoned, I will restore the compromise draft tomorrow. Vassyana (talk) 13:24, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
Sounds good to me and I totally support you and your position, along with agreeing entirely with your statements. wbfergus Talk 13:34, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
It was reverted again by another person who has not commented on this draft. They commented on the last proposal, and some of their concerns are among those addressed. However, they have declined to make a substantive objection to this version and in the last discussion failed to substantiate their objections. As such, I've undone their invalid reversion. Vassyana (talk) 16:45, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

I object to the proposal because it is not as clear as the present version about when it is referring to material from an outside source, and when it is referring to material in a Wikipedia article. I also strongly object to the term third party. That term means, for example, that the publications of the National Institute of Standards and Technology the Bell Labs Technical Journal are usually not secondary sources, because the organizations often do not have a third-party relationship to the topic of the article. That's just wrong. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 17:34, 10 December 2007 (UTC)

I have no idea at all how you are drawing the first conclusion. It pretty clear talks about article claims and sources. Could you point out a few examples? The term "third party" is common terminology in policy. However, would "independent" be a better synonym? Vassyana (talk) 18:29, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
No, "independent" is only slightly better than "third party". A source that draws on primary sources is a secondary source, whether it's independent or not. I'll address the question about which material is being referred to in a separate post. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 18:47, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
After re-reading, I see that I was thinking of a different version of the policy that was vague about whether it was discussing Wikipedia articles or outside sources. However, I did find one passage that I don't understand: "Of course, primary sources may be used freely as they are used in reliable publications. In that instance, an editor would be relying on a reliable secondary reference to present, analyze and/or interpret a primary source." --Gerry Ashton (talk) 18:58, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
Removed "third party".[4]
For the confusing passage, I've tried clarifying the language.[5] Thoughts? Vassyana (talk) 19:46, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
That's an improvement. At this time, I'm not expressing a preference for either the present policy or Vassyana's proposal. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 19:55, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
Good deal. Thanks for the feedback. If you note anything else "off" about it, please let me know. Vassyana (talk) 19:58, 10 December 2007 (UTC)

The only voiced opposition since the revert has been addressed, as noted above. As such, I am replacing the section again, as I noted above. Vassyana (talk) 12:31, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

Not to denigrate your changes, but I feel I must point out that the link to secondary sources in WP:N's "This page in a nutshell" is now broken, as well as another link to it lower down that page. I guess that's not going to be the only page. I'm not sure if this is a problem, or if it's something that gets fixed if the change sticks.  —SMALLJIM  14:37, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
I've added a span id to ensure that link works. If the change sticks, the links can be corrected on the Wikipedia: space pages. Thanks for pointing that out. Vassyana (talk) 15:06, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for that quick fix! —SMALLJIM 

I'm really sorry to query this now - I know I should have done so much earlier, but I was distracted. I'm thinking of the average editor coming here and reading this:

  • "Article claims that rely on a primary source should..."
What are article claims - is it a techical term? Wouldn't statements in articles be clearer?
  • "...(1) only report the content of the source, the accuracy of which is easily verifiable by any reasonable, educated person without specialist knowledge, ..." (my italics)
To me this sounds like it's the accuracy of the source's content that we're saying should be verifiable, but it should be the accuracy of what the article states, I think.
  • "...and (2) make no analytic, synthetic, interpretive, explanatory, or evaluative claims unless explicitly attributed in-text to the source." (my italics)
That end part isn't perhaps as clear as it might be. I think you've pushed together two separate rules: 1. don't make those sort of claims unless the source does, and 2. if the source does, then explicitly attribute. Is that right? A lot of thought in a few words! I'd prefer to use a few more words for clarity.

Please do tell me if I'm not making sense.  —SMALLJIM  16:21, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

I've tried addressing the first two by revising the language used. The third was an admittedly clumsy compromise and I've replaced it with the language used in the existing version. Vassyana (talk) 16:39, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

Using sources

I propose adding the following to a section called "Using sources" immediately below the "Reliable sources" section:

Information in an article must be verifiable in the references cited. Article statements should not rely on unclear or inconsistent passages, nor on passing comments, even if the source is especially reliable. Passages open to interpretation should be precisely cited or avoided. Drawing conclusions not evident in the reference is original research regardless of the type of source. It is important that references are cited in context and on topic.

I don't think any of this is controversial and I believe it reflects what most people have voiced about sources and original research. Of course, I could be wrong, so let us know what you think. :o) Vassyana (talk) 01:04, 5 December 2007 (UTC)Text struck. See below. -- Text revised based on Fullstop's feedback.[6] -- Struck text removed.[7] -- Overt --> evident. -- Minor wording change[8]

Alternate, with revised version of struck text (11:37, 5 December 2007 (UTC)). Italics are to note the additional text, nor for "live" use:

Information in an article must be verifiable in the references cited. Article statements should not rely on unclear or inconsistent passages, nor on passing comments, even if the source is especially reliable. Passages open to interpretation should be precisely cited or avoided. Drawing conclusions not evident in the reference is original research regardless of the type of source. When possible, cite only passages from the central topic of the source. A summary of extensive discussion should reflect the conclusions of the source's author(s). It is important that references are cited in context and on topic.

I've revised the text based upon Fullstop's feedback and looking towards a bit more simplification. I have also removed the struck text and provided an alternate reading with revised versions of the struck text. How are the revisions looking? Which version is preferable (if either)? Vassyana (talk) 11:44, 5 December 2007 (UTC)


I think this is an accurate statement of current practice and good guidance for editors not familiar with choosing the best sources to support their claims. Something like this would be a positive addition to the policy. — Carl (CBM · talk) 02:59, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
Carl, would you still support the shortened version? Vassyana (talk) 03:07, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
Shorter policies are more likely to be read. The proposed passage is a mixture of NOR policy and advise about what portion of a source is most reliable, which probably belongs in WP:RS. The advice that does not pertain to NOR makes the article longer. It also makes the definition of NOR fuzzier (as if it isn't bad enough already); it tends to make NOR a synonym for sloppy writing. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 03:01, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
I've crossed-out the text that could be seen as more general advice. The remainder directly relates to original research. Vassyana (talk) 03:07, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
Without the that sentence, I think this is a valuable addition and consistent with current understanding and practice. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 03:20, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
In the end, the OR policy is intertwined with the verifiability and reliable sources policies, so some similarity is unavoidable. The shorter version is still accurate. The crossed-out versions are helpful, I think. They explain some of the criteria that are used in practice, in real articles, to decide which claims can be attributed to which sources. — Carl (CBM · talk) 03:23, 5 December 2007 (UTC)

(edit conflict)

Yep. Good job Vassyana. This is precisely the relationship of OR to sources. Nothing more. Nothing less.
For stylistic reasons (see following notes) I would write it as follows (sentence for sentence):
Statements in a Wikipedia article must be verifiable from the sources cited.
Avoid transmitting a passing comment or ambiguous sentence (open to interpretation) even when the source is a reliable source.
<strike third sentence since folded into second>
Drawing own conclusions or extrapolating a position is original research regardless of the type of source.
Where possible, use only those statements in the source that deal directly with the subject (being written for?).
A summary of an extended discussion must reflect the conclusions of the source's author(s).
Sources must be cited in context and on topic.
(alternatively: A source statement must have the same context and topic as the Wikipedia statement that uses that source.)
I've switched from passive to active voice (eg "Claims left open" -> "Claims open") and avoided nested conditionals, etc.
I've avoided the word "claims" in favor of explicit mention of whether we mean source or target. This is ambiguous in the original, Eg. In sentence 3,4,5 its source while in 1,2 its target. Also "claims" sounds a little pejorative to me.
The word "transmitting" in sentence two should be replaced. I couldn't think of a better word.
The "even" clause that appears in sentence #2 is probably superfluous (ideally, all used sources are reliable). I've retained it anyway.
I'm not sure what "central topic of the work" in sentence #5 refers to (source or target), thus my "(being written for?)" in parenthesis.
Comments? -- Fullstop (talk) 03:25, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
I've matched struck out sentences now. -- Fullstop (talk) 03:28, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for the feedback. I've revised the language somewhat in light of your comments. What do you think? Vassyana (talk) 11:45, 5 December 2007 (UTC)

I disliked the phrasing of "overt conclusions" in the first, but most of my concerns are well addressed by the rephrasing in the second version, and I support it. Phil Sandifer (talk) 14:31, 5 December 2007 (UTC)

I don't quite follow - both include the word 'overt'. The motivation for it is that the wording becomes too strict if it is replaced by 'stated' and too weak if it is replaced by 'obvious' or 'implicit'. If you can think of another word that fits better, that would be fine. — Carl (CBM · talk) 14:43, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
Ack, sorry - I missed that the "overt conclusions" sentence had survived. I would like to lose this sentence. I think it closes off too much. To my mind, there are three (very poorly defined) types of conclusion we can have in a source - overt, implicit, and, let's say, subtle/tenuous/extended/whatever. Overt, obviously, are OK. The latter category seem to me what we want to avoid. But I think implicit ones are also important, and, while not always acceptable, certainly not always wrong on the face of it either. (I'm using "implicit" here to refer, essentially, to obvious conclusions that the reader is meant to draw.) I don't know how better to phrase the sentence, and I'm inclined to simply remove it- I think the rest of the paragraph stands well on its own, and that the sentence is somewhat disposable within it. Phil Sandifer (talk) 14:49, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
Hmm, what about "evident" in place of "overt"? I think it's neutral enough to cover the acceptable spectrum of use, but still conveys the right idea. Vassyana (talk) 17:07, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
Evident works great. Phil Sandifer (talk) 17:13, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
Change made. Anything else that can be tweaked or improved that you see off-hand? Vassyana (talk) 17:22, 5 December 2007 (UTC)

Shouldn't incongruent be incongruous? Or if you really do mean incongruent (is there a fine distinction in meaning?), perhaps choose another word, as it's not as clear as it might be.  —SMALLJIM  14:33, 5 December 2007 (UTC)

I suppose "variant" or "discrepant" could be used instead of "incongruent". Any reasonable synonym indicating passages that are self-contradicting and/or dissonant with the overall tone/claims of a reference would suffice. Vassyana (talk) 17:07, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
After a bit of research I thought you were using this meaning of "incongruent", though I'm not sure now. Anyway based on the assumption (hope?) that I'm no dumber than the majority of WP editors, a simpler way of phrasing that concept should be used so that everyone can understand. Sorry, but "variant" or "discrepant" are not clearer, IMHO. It's important that all people who will be pointed to the page can easily understand it.  —SMALLJIM  17:49, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
Hmmm, "inconsistent"? I think it's a simpler word and still conveys the general idea. What do you think? Vassyana (talk) 18:23, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
Solution: replace "passing" with "incidental", then drop the comma before "or" and switch word order around to place "incongruous" last.
The sentence then reads:
Article statements should not rely on unclear, incidental or incongruous comments, even if the source is especially reliable.
An incongruous/incongruent comment is a comment that is at odds with something. The unspecified "something" is the problem here, but is really only obvious because "incongruent" is immediately followed by a <comma> <adverb/adjective> <subject>
In the form it appears now, the clause with incongruous/incongruent needs a "with."
This can be made evident by replacing "incongruent" with a synonym: e.g. "... incompatible with ...," "... in disharmony with ...," "... in disagreement with ...," "... at variance with ...," "... at odds with ..." etc.
The rest is fine.
-- Fullstop (talk) 19:04, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
OK. Not sure now about the apparent emphasis given to "comments". So what about something like:
"==Using sources==
Information in an article must be verifiable in the references cited. Statements made in articles should not rely on unclear or inconsistent passages, or on incidental comments in those references, even if the source is especially reliable. …"
or even, reorganising a little:
"==Using sources==
The references cited in an article must verify the statements made in that article. However, these statements must not rely on unclear or inconsistent passages in the references or on incidental comments in them, even if the source is especially reliable. …"
(but maybe that's changing too much)  —SMALLJIM  20:05, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
I've revised the wording accordingly. Vassyana (talk) 11:25, 6 December 2007 (UTC)

A version of this "Using sources" passage has just been added to the policy. I object to the sentence "Article statements should not rely on unclear or inconsistent passages, nor on passing comments, even if the source is especially reliable." This sentence is about the reliability of the source, not whether the editor performed original research when he/she included information from the source in a Wikipedia article. Furthermore, if an editor argues on the talk page that information from the source should be excluded, the editor is making an interpretation of the source, and deciding that certain passages in the source are unclear or inconsistent, or that the author regarded certain statements as merely passing comments. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 05:01, 8 December 2007 (UTC)

Reliability and verifiability are directly related to original research. For example, unverifiable and original research are close cousins, if not synonyms. Relying on unclear, inconsistent and/or passing statements to support clear article statements is almost certainly original research. I really don't think that's an unusual or controversial train of thought. Also, I'm unsure what you intend to imply by your closing statement. It sounds like a normal application of editorial discretion and local consensus to me. Vassyana (talk) 05:06, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
I tried for a minute to rephrase the sentence, but didn't quite get it. I'm sure some rewording can be found that explains better how the issue is related to OR vis-a-vis RS. — Carl (CBM · talk) 05:18, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
If you come up with something, please let us know. :) I know from my experience in making proposals and trying to find areas of agreement & compromise that the devil is in the wording and phrases chosen. I honestly don't understand how the statement is particularly unclear/problematic, but if you have some idea of how it's weak, I would appreciate the explanation so I can try modifying the wording accordingly. Vassyana (talk) 05:28, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
Turning unclear statements into clear statements is original research. Quoting an unclear statement verbatim might be useful to show that confusion exists on a particular topic. It might be useful to use even a passing comment, if the writer who made the passing comment is known to be an expert in that field. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 18:42, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
Using an unclear statement for that purpose would most certainly be original research. The proper way to show confusion exists for a particular topic would be to preferably cite a source detailing the confusion, or to simply follow normal NPOV practice and report the conflicting or differing accounts of the matter. I can imagine that in some rare cases that passing comments may be useful and appropriate. However, in the vast majority of cases I have seen and could conceive of, it is far more likely that relying on passing comments will present a distorted view of the subject not truly reflective of the sources (original research). Vassyana (talk) 06:05, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
  • In response to Gerry's observation that (with the "even..." clause) "the sentence [becomes] about the reliability of the source"...
I have to agree here. The "even if the source is especially reliable" doesn't actually contribute anything to the spirit of what precedes it. At least as I read it. So, the "even" clause might just as well be dropped. "Article statements should not rely on unclear or inconsistent passages, nor on passing comments" is sufficient.
  • In response to "might be useful to use even a passing comment"...
A passing comment might be useful but it would always be OR. A passing comment is by definition incidental, i.e. not on topic. Even so, such a reference would not violate "should not rely" would it? The "should" pretty much flags that sentence as a guideline and not as a hard-and-fast rule.
-- Fullstop (talk) 03:05, 9 December 2007 (UTC)
When a reliable source contains a statement, it is not original research to use that statement in Wikipedia, unless the editor does something to change the meaning of the statement from what it meant in the reliable source. Such unacceptable changes could include rephrasing the statement to make it more more (or less) definite than it was in the original source, or using it in a different context such that the meaning changes. For example, if author A wrote that celebrity C received cocaine in connection with eye surgery (a legitimate medical use of cocaine), and a Wikipedia editor wrote that celebrity C received cocaine in an article about celebrity drug abuse, that would be OR, and violate a score of other rules too. But if the statement were used in Wikipedia in a way that it has the same meaning as in the original source, it's OK. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 03:20, 9 December 2007 (UTC)
Yes! Yes! Yes! We're perfectly in agreement here. And an excellent example of out-of-context OR, btw. :)
My point with the "passing comment" was that incidental comments are - by definition - not really relevant to what the author is actually talking about. Ergo, they have no context. Passing comments - particularly when they snipe at colleagues - are lovely to read, but they rarely contribute anything of substance. When they are underhanded, they aren't even usable to demonstrate critique. -- Fullstop (talk) 03:38, 9 December 2007 (UTC)
Let me try to invent an acceptable use of a passing comment. Computer scientist X writes, in a reliable source, about the origin of computer the computer language ROTBOL. He mentions in passing that he helped computer scientist Y to find a conference room because Y became blind at the age of 50. A Wikipedia editor includes this in a biography of Y. The information has the same meaning in the reliable source, and in the Wikipedia biography article, so it's OK. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 04:44, 9 December 2007 (UTC)
Original research is not judged purely on a statement by statement basis. One can stick to the sources on a statement by statement basis and still end up with a result that provides a synthesis or implied view that does not accurately reflect the references as a whole.
For example, one could easily multiple statements in the Bible that state that one should follow the example of, or obey the statements of, apostles. One could then follow that with multiple biblical references stating that Judas Iscariot was an apostle. Then, that could be followed by a citation to Judas' betrayal of Christ and suicide.
Even without providing additional commentary or going beyond the source in individual statements, a picture is woven that the Bible says we should follow the example of Judas Iscariot in his betrayal and suicide. To be sure, this type of synthesis can be done simply by cherrypicking sources. Context as a broader whole needs to be considered to identify whether it is a prohibited synthesis and it is context that is lacking with incidental comments.
To be sure, there are probably some cases where passing comments are uncontroversial and the context is clear. However, this is a very small minority of such statements, simply by their nature. As with all guidance, which cases are acceptable in practice needs to be determined by editorial discretion and local consensus. Vassyana (talk) 06:05, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
This is a policy. A flat requirement in this policy must not exclude any legitimate source. A requirement that usually applies, but has some exceptions, should be phrased accordingly. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 19:03, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
"Should" seemed conditional enough to me, but I've added the word "generally" (in the "live" version) to more clearly indicate that there are some legitimate exceptions. Vassyana (talk) 19:53, 10 December 2007 (UTC)

Using the "long" version

Would there be an objection to adding the two additional sentences from the longer version? My reasoning for their inclusion:

These statements provide advice that is plainly sensible to help avoid misrepresenting the subject. I think we can all agree that misrepresentation is original research (since such a distortion does not accurately reflect the sources). Comments? Vassyana (talk) 06:17, 10 December 2007 (UTC)

I agree with the second sentence. I think the essence of the first statement is that the authors of the source probably paid more attention to, and did a better job with, passages directly related to the central topic. Thus, the source is less reliable for material that is only peripherally related to the central topic. So this is a statement about the reliability of sources, and belongs in WP:RS.
Certainly there are certain categories of crackpots that make a practice of quoting sources out of context. (Tax protestors immediately come to mind.) But for people who edit in good faith, and understand the distinction between source-based research and wishful thinking, the issue is reliablility, not original research. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 19:14, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
Makes sense. Thanks for the feedback. Vassyana (talk) 19:54, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
The second sentence seems agreeable to everyone, so I have added to the live policy. Vassyana (talk) 12:35, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

WP:IAR has more reasons to now to be the guiding policy

In light of the recent revert history over the past week or so (see above), there is now much more impetus for all users to just adopt a 'screw it' attitude about policies and just edit as they wish. A clear minority of people who happen to have Admin 'powers' are blocking a clear consensus towards improvement of a convoluted and confusing policy, mainly consfusing by defining terms in a policy from one discipline that have different meanings in other disciplines. Defining such terms as a policy are wrong. That they aren't a clear definition that addresses all uses, or makes no attempt to clarify that these are only from one disciplines perspective and even still modified to be Wikipedia-unique terms is even more egregious. When the actions of a few dictate the resultant course of so many others, it's simply time to IGNORE ALL RULES, especially since it is a policy. wbfergus Talk 18:18, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

Unfortunate but true - the inability to make sensible edits to policy is very damaging, and the sorry state it has left our content policies in is only the most obvious flaw of it. Phil Sandifer (talk) 18:20, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
"Ignore all rules" is already in motion. The latest case of it being the abysmal disregard of WP:REVERT for WP:POINTy reasons. -- Fullstop (talk) 20:33, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

law / articles about legal cases

I have some distinct opinions about the above (activist videos have recently shown up on another article, too; technical "source distinctions" should be used when helpful to explain things but should not, themselves, form the basis of policy or guidelines; I think of encyclopedia articles as akin to "review articles" in science) but that's all being said to death in one form or another. So here I have another area of writing & scholarship that hasn't been discussed but poses another set of issues; perhaps this will be a useful test case for people to test their opinions & proposals against.

Articles about law pose several issues for original research, particularly articles about legal cases. The opinion is itself a (cited) synthesis of research and is simultaneously the subject of other, conflicting opinions -- scholarly, popular, and legal/authoritative. Very few statements in a case unambiguously mean what they say -- we lawyers will certainly find ambiguity in any statement, over time. In practice, those of us who write on legal topics don't have much difficulty navigating this field; but attempting to apply the various iterations of WP:PSTS (I'm tempted to think of this as "WP:PTSD") clouds the issue, for me, at least. It's a good bit like the philosophy problem, above, except that citation practices are quite formalized in law and often very particular to individual quotes.

Discuss amongst yourselves. (-: Lquilter 16:44, 3 December 2007 (UTC)

My understanding is that court documents are considered primary sources. This would include the Judge's decision. Its perfectly acceptable to include a declarative statement about a legal decision in an article on something that directly relates to the case (for example: a biography of one of the litigants), and it is fine to cite that decision to back that declarative statement ... but any analysis or interpretation of the decision... any discussion of what that decision means beyond the narrow context of the individual case should be referenced to reliable secondary sources such as legal journals. Blueboar 21:54, 3 December 2007 (UTC)
Court documents are considered primary if they are a primary or original source of the information on the topic, but if not, then they are secondary. It all depends on how the court document is used. Any source "may be primary or secondary, depending on what the researcher is looking for". Monagahn, E.J. & Hartman, D.K. (2001), "Historical research in literacy", Reading Online 4 (11). COGDEN 02:20, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
By most scholarly definitions of "primary source", the Supreme Court is a primary source. It's not difficult to imagine a case where the Supreme Court disagrees with virtually all law professors. The Solomon Amendment case, Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, Inc., may have been such a case. How could we handle such an outcome? By most reasonable definitions of "primary source", the Supreme Court is a primary source. Do we really want to say that the U.S. Supreme Court, as a primary source, can't be quoted in a law article and that old law review articles must be preferred to its recent decisions when the two disagree? Functionally, the Supreme Court represents one of many examples of non-academic bodies that conduct peer review. Its function is to peer-review other legal decisions, and it only takes cases it considers notable (and its calls on notability are widely accepted in the field). Thus it functions in its field in a way that permits its decisions to be regarded as reviews of legal matters in a way that reliably permits basing notability on its actions. But by the primary-secondary-tertiary source schema, a Supreme Court opinion is a primary source. Best, --Shirahadasha 02:22, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
the decision is the the authoritative source for what it says, but not necessarily for what it means. The primary-secondary distinction is not relevant here, except to the extent that finding a reliable summary of even what the decision says may be best done from a secondary source--not necessarily even a law review, but a reliable quality newspaper. DGG (talk) 05:16, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
You absolutely may quote a Supreme Court decision... The only caveat is that you should stick to discussing exactly what the decision says, and not include any interpretation or analysis the decision unless you have a reliable secondary source that does so. Declarative statements about what a court document says (ie quotes from the document) can be cited to the primary source (the document itself)... Statements about what the document means (analysis or interpretation), on the other hand, need to be cited to secondary sources. Its that simple. Blueboar 14:32, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
This is true of any source. Why make a distinction between primary and secondary if the same rule applies? COGDEN 00:28, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
What about what a court says about another court? What if it's an inferior court's decision on a superior court's decision? ... Answering own question: I think you just have to say that "x-and-x courts have interpreted this as xyz, a view which has been followed by all the courts that have examined the issue" etc. I agree that secondary/tertiary is not helpful here -- "secondary" would be law reviews, newspapers, etc. -- but more relevant are the cascade of "authority": statute & cases first; followed by regulations & administrative interpretations & AG opinions; some of the most authoritative treatises or scholars that achieve widespread acclaim; all the rest of them; etc. This is what every first-year law student learns -- secondary/tertiary distinctions exist but are not that important, even in writing legal encyclopedias. --Lquilter 14:39, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
Actually, this is an important example of where secondary and tertiary literature are vital. Secondary literature is indeed inclusive of law reviews and newspapers, as well as numerous law summaries by competent lawyers and law professors. Tertiary sources include AmJur, legal hornbooks and a wealth of various other reliable legal summary material that specializes in integrating and analyzing the many important aspects of case law and statutory law. It most certainly is not our job in WP to be analyzing court decisions without benefit of secondary and tertiary sources. If the issue has to do with a specific court decision and how it affects public policy or other aspects of people's pursuits in the context of a particular WP article, secondary sources are similarly vital, and presently required by WP editorial policy so as to not conduct our own WP:Original research such as may be expected of law students, lawyers, professional legal researchers, law clerks and judges (indeed all of these frequently rely quite heavily on secondary and tertiary sources for their own background research). Any complaints within WP about reliability, or lack therof, of secondary and/or tertiary sources, can be discussed by participants in an article under a WP:Verifiability#Reliable_sources analysis. ... Kenosis 15:33, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
But why must we distinguish b/w secondary & tertiary? --Lquilter 16:25, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
There is absolutely no need to make any distinction between secondary and tertiary sources, let alone a hard-and-fast one. The utility of tertiary sources, though, wherever one chooses to draw the transitional stage between secondary and tertiary, is presently mentioned on the policy page. And the mention of tertiary sources also resolves the conceptual question of "what is Wikipedia?" as well as the question of what are other encyclopedias and other resources that feature summaries based upon very large numbers of primary and secondary sources. As with all the editorial policies including WP:V, it generally requires some degree of flexibility, some degree of respect for other people's often differing approaches and ideas, some degree of thinking about the editorial approach, some degree of interpersonal interaction, some degree of discussion as may be necessary, and some degree of reasonable judgment, in order to arrive at reasonable results that will be useful to a reader of the content. This is particularly the case where there are disagreements about a topic among those interested in that topic. Editors who are unwilling or unable to discuss with other editors how to arrive at a reasonable judgment in applying policy to editing practice, in my estimation, will tend to find editing very difficult with or without these core content polices. I say this in defense of the PSTS section in light of the obvious fact that the "lines" between primary, secondary and tertiary are not hard-and-fast and, as with other policies, may require discussion to arrive at a workable result in a particular wikiproject or a particular article. ... Kenosis 19:34, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
Well argued, thanks. A breath of fresh air... ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 21:55, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
Don't breath too much of it. We still haven't made any headway in determining which legal sources are primary and which are secondary, and why it even matters. You apply the same rules for any type of source, regardless of primariness, because all legal sources are both primary and secondary, depending on how they are used. For cases, you might say that the true primary sources could be the briefs, court papers, transcripts, and precedent. After all, the judge is just commenting on the evidence placed before her—just creating a secondary source from primary materials. Every legal source is both primary and secondary, and there's no principled way to distinguish them except by pulling definitions out of our asses that have nothing to do with the idea of "primariness" or "secondariness" and add WP:CREEP. We need a principled policy. COGDEN 00:28, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
I'm sorry, but no. Any randomly chosen group of twelve lawyers would be almost certain to arrive at a consensus that legal cases and legislated laws are primary sources, IMO. And yes, a group of participants in an article about a legal topic could readily decide that so too are the briefs and testimony and other specific documents that make up the content of a single court case. And similarly it goes with legislation, where various documents are involved prior to the publication of the official legislation. I could understand that there might be some debate about whether, say, CFR is primary or secondary, but this kind of topic-specific determination should IMO be left to the local consensus in such a way that if a particular dispute requires WP:Comment, WP:Mediation or WP:Arbitration, that a group of reasonably educated commentators, mediators, or arbitrators can handle the situation as may be needed, without needing specialist knowledge to do it. ... Kenosis (talk) 04:47, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
Local consensus cannot trump Wikipedia-wide policy. If we say (as we currently do) that secondary sources "draw on primary sources to make generalizations), and we admit that court records and briefs are primary sources, then ipso facto, legal opinions are secondary source. Of course, they are primary sources too. Yet another example of why the "primariness" or "secondariness" of sources is a totally unprincipled distinction, compared to a distinction such as "rawness" or "interpretiveness". COGDEN 20:47, 7 December 2007 (UTC)
Cogden, this statement is a blatant abuse of the concept that consensus doesn't trump policy. Consensus interprets policy virtually all the time at the local level. We don't need policy wonks like yourself (or myself or anyone's self) telling every article participant as a matter of policy where precisely the dividing line is between primary and secondary sources, except to say, as the policy page already does, that an original source of a particular concept is a primary source and to let the wikipedia participants work out the rest of it article by article or at least category by category. You yourself have noted that sources can be primary in one context yet secondary in another context. The article editors work the rest out for themselves, just like they work out what NPOV is article by article. ... Kenosis (talk) 22:45, 7 December 2007 (UTC)
In other words, without the ability of parties in an RfC, RfM or RfAr to point to secondary and tertiary sources that support an alleged primary-source interpretation, a highly technical topic will tend to seem like gobbledygook to the non-specialist, but with WP:PSTS there is at least a rational policy-based method within which WP users can point to other sources that back up the particular interpretaion at issue in a particular topic, without necessitating that only users with specialized knowledge will participate in such a content dispute where there is disagreement about it. (If there's no disagreement about it among the experts, there's generally no issue related to any policy at all, including of course WP:PSTS.) Does this solve every possible permutation of how such a debate could go? No, of course not. But IMO it goes a long way towards allowing WP to handle most of the reasonably forseeable editorial conflicts without amounting to excessive policy creep. ... Kenosis (talk) 05:21, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
There is no guarantee that secondary sources are any less technical or specialized than the primary sources. In math, physics, and all scientific fields, secondary sources are more technical than their references (with the exception of tertiary sources). In the legal field, as well, secondary sources are usually just as technical and specialized as the cases they cite, often more so. If we are concerned about specialized sources, why even talk about primariness and secondariness? Why not just propose a rule that all technical and specialized sources are bad (be they primary or secondary), while sources written to a lay audience are good. If we oppose technical sources, let's use the right tool for the job. COGDEN 20:47, 7 December 2007 (UTC)
Nonsense. we speak of "primary" and "secondary" because it's a standard way of expressing it in libraries worldwide, and because like the other core editorial policies it's the way the founding director expressed it when setting the policy in motion. The only really significant aspect that WP editors have added is the mention of tertiary sources to account for encyclopedic material and other large compendia of numerous primary and secondary sources, and that's not a major conceptual departure from the original expression of the concept by J.Wales. And as a matter of fact, Wales first put forward the concept in the context of highly technical material in the first place. If certain highly technical material is questioned or contested and the very highly technical editors can't find secondary sources that back up the statements or formulas that those editors assert is in a certain primary source, the directive is that it can't be used in Wikipedia except within the limits prescribed by WP:PSTS. ... Kenosis (talk) 22:45, 7 December 2007 (UTC)
In response to Lquitler's question above, I think the problem lies in what is the intent of a Wikipedia article on a legal topic? On one hand, many laws have effects on society far beyond the law books. An example of this I have in mind is a perennial crank argument that the Sixteenth Amendment is unconstitutional because of technicalities whether Ohio (one of the states that ratified the amendment) is legally a state. (I find this point entertaining, & hope that a history of this belief would not consitute orignial research & may never appear in Wikiepdia.) On the other hand -- & far more importantly -- is the article's intent to provide legal advice? In that case, sure it's OR but that is trumped by (wait for it) Wikipedia does not offer legal advice. -- llywrch (talk) 22:18, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
  • In legal encyclopedias, the point of an article on a topic -- say, "rights of public school students to publish content in student newspapers" -- is to summarize and synthesize the law (i.e., the constitutional & statutory law & particularly the case law) on a topic. In a legal treatise the author goes a bit further and may draw inferences and even develop what the author sees as underlying principles. In a general encyclopedia, I believe an article would summarize and synthesize the law, avoid doing what the treatise does (which is the original research contribution of the treatise author), and also include history and social context as appropriate. (None of these works would ever presume to give legal advice so we need not even go there.)
At any rate, it's absolutely correct that the primariness or secondariness or whatever-ariness of a source depends on its use and context. In other words, its relationship to the subject at hand. It seems to me that for legal topic Wikipedia articles, and other articles as well, labeling sources as primary/secondary/tertiary is simply one way to get at the core point: That information published in Wikipedia should only be a restatement of information which has been verifiably published elsewhere; the more reliable the source, the better. Enforcing the PS/TS distinction is just going to lead to what, in law, we might call a "mini-trial" -- a secondary argument. If I want to put something in and it's challenged, I can, instead of arguing about the material, argue about whether it is a primary/secondary/tertiary source. (If I ultimately lose, somehow, then I can argue whether it should be an exception.)
It seems to me that the PS/TS material is helpful in some instances but positively unhelpful in others, and I wonder if strengthening the initial statement at the beginning of the section might help this dispute. "Sources may be divided into three basic categories of how they relate to the subject being written about." That suggests that this is an optional way of thinking about things. If this prefatory material were elaborated upon, to explain that the PS/SS/TS distinction may help in thinking through the issue, but if it is not easily and immediately applicable, then it may not be an appropriate model to consider the question.
--Lquilter (talk) 01:13, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

--Lquilter (talk) 01:13, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

Recent changes

Regarding the change of WP:PSTS back to a newly proposed form of WP:PSS here, for example, I do not see significant expression of consensus for this kind of change. Firstly, it goes back to over a year ago when the mention of tertiary sources gave a perspective on encyclopedic sources in the context originally set into motion by Jimmy Wales three years ago. This change was a very significant one that eliminated the examples of primary sources suggested by many participants in various areas of the wiki. It also placed secondary sources prior to primary sources in a way that appears likely to be even more confusing to readers that have not been directly involved in this discussion or who may not have closely analyzed the concept before. So I reverted here, leaving intact some other changes Vassyana made to the section on "Using sources".

I noted two proposed sentences at the beginning of the section ("Appropriate sourcing is a complicated issue, and these are general rules. Deciding which sources are most appropriate for an article is a matter of common sense and good editorial judgment, and should be discussed on individual article talk pages."). I do think there's meaningful information in these sentences, but I don't believe it's adequate to stand by itself as a complete replacement for the current introduction to the section on PSTS. The proposed change really was a major one. ... Kenosis (talk) 16:38, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

Feel free to substantively explain your objections in the draft discussion. Please explain why the conflation of secondary and tertiary sources is a problematic move. The only objection voiced about that was that some tertiary sources are good summaries, and the replacement includes such language. Secondary sources were moved first, because there was objection that the primary source section mentions them before the definition of secondary sources. How does it going first confuse the issue at all? Could you explain your objection about the introduction further? The extant introduction doesn't say anything of substance except to say there are three categories and that they're defined by the section. The revision is surely a significant one, but this is merely a further revision of the last proposed draft, accommodating the substantiated and reasonable objections raised. It has been repeatedly exposed to the broader community through RfCs and postings on the policy village pump. It has generated a broader agreement than anything else that's come on the table, including the preexisting version. Between the fact it was broadly advertised, that it's generated more support than other alternatives and that substantive objections have been addressed, it is your burden to provide well-explained objections. Vassyana (talk) 16:58, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
I now see the discussion farther up on this page. Offhand, it seems like the two proposed sentences I mentioned just above have the potential to clarify a lot to those users who feel like they might be forced to make precise distinctions w.r.t. every single source, which AFAIK is not the intent of either PSS or PSTS. I do know that the addition of tertiary sources, a standard term in libraries, helped clarify questions like "what is Wikipedia?" and what are other encyclopedias and compilations of numerous sources, that are conceptually a step removed from secondary sources. The main usefulness of the two proposed sentences is, IMO, in clarifying that the distinctions are not hard-and-fast and that shared editorial judgment is a key component in allocating sources, especially in articles where different sources disagree with one another on particular issues. ... Kenosis (talk) 17:42, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
Those sentences are nothing more than a mild variation of the text added by SlimVirgin to the end of the extant section. While the philosophical questions such as "What is Wikipedia?" are fascinating, I fail to see the need to address them in the NOR policy. Again, why is the conflation of secondary and tertiary sources problematic? Also, could you please answer the other questions? Vassyana (talk) 01:00, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
If you look through the history of the project page, you'll see that people inserted such things as "Wikipedia is an X type of source". Fact is, there's editorial value-added in properly conceptualizing the "lay of the land" as far as sources, in terms of NOR and in terms of just-plain-editing-in-general. Indeed, this is why PSTS is a convenient and useful schema for libraries in conceptualizing the content that sits under their roof. As far as editing practice in wikipedia-- well, hey, if the consensus becomes that the "tertiary" perspective is counterproductive, I surely will not stand in the way of its removal. ... Kenosis (talk) 01:21, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
Due to the long ranging discussions, I've looked through the history many times. I doubled checked to be sure, but as far as I can tell "Wikipedia is X kind of source" came up is tertiary sources were added to the policy. The mention of Wikipedia as a type of source arose with the introduction of tertiary sources, not the other way around. Could you please answer my other questions? Vassyana (talk) 16:55, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
I also thought it worth mentioning that the standing version of policy does not source-type Wikipedia. Interestingly, you were the one who removed the mention of it from the policy.[9] Vassyana (talk) 18:03, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
Correct that I removed it. By far the most important issue was that WP is never a primary source. If it weren't for all the wrangling, I'd surely have inserted, or re-inserted, the sentence backing up both WP:V and WP:NOR that "Wikipedia is never to be a primary source of information". As to the prior insertions by one or more other editors that, e.g., "Wikipedia is an X type of source", if you look thoroughly enough, you'll find them. I'm not going to go looking back through it again for this purpose. ... Kenosis (talk) 21:22, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
At this point, I'm a complete loss as to why you are objecting. Could you please answer my questions and elaborate? Vassyana (talk) 21:55, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
I also couldn't see the benefit of the changes, and it introduced some problematic issues such as "raw facts." What is a "raw fact" as opposed to a normal one? Also, it doesn't hurt to keep the tertiary distinction. It's not often used meaningfully on WP, but it's a distinction that's regularly mentioned, so we may as well explain it to people. SlimVirgin (talk)(contribs) 17:32, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
It should be possible to edit the changes to address concerns about tertiary sources without reverting. — Carl (CBM · talk) 17:34, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
Slim, is this the change you're discussing in this section? If not, let's discuss so an edit war doesn't break out and we have to protect the article again. Dreadstar 18:30, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
Yes, that change. [10] The version Phil reverted to has no consensus that I can see, and it introduces problematic terms. Can someone tell me what a raw fact is, as opposed to a fact? SlimVirgin (talk)(contribs) 02:28, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
Does this section relate to WT:NOR#Revisiting a proposal?? If so, can you make that clear Slim? Jsut to be sure we'll all on the same page..or same section of the page..or whatever... Thanks, Wbfergus for pointing that out. Dreadstar 18:41, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
Slim, the benefit is that the replacement is a compromise reflecting months of discussion, including multiple policy RfCs and solicitations on the village pump. Regardless of whether or not it is better, is it worse the than standing section? If not, then why oppose the change? If so, then how? Is "raw facts" really that confusing to you? "Raw" is used in the conventional sense, as in "minimally processed". Things like laboratory data and census reports are compilations of "raw facts". Do you have a better way to express the idea? Why is the absence of tertiary sources a problem? You admit it's not really used meaningful in the wiki. I also don't really think it's "regularly mentioned" (or at least, I've never seen any indication of such) outside the context of this policy (or referring to it). Vassyana (talk) 01:00, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
I must say that I'm definitely in favor of adding to the statement that parts of an article drawing on primary sources should "make no analytic, synthetic, interpretive, explanatory, or evaluative claims unless explicitly attributed in the Wikipedia article's text to that source", which Vassyana tried to do something like that here. To me, that adds a lot more clarity. Also, IMO the proposed paragraph for secondary sources is an improvement, and I'd support replacing the brief current paragraph on secondary sources with that proposed paragraph. That secondary source paragraph can be found at User:Vassyana/NOR_002. I definitely am not in favor of removing tertiary sources nor in favor of reordering primary and secondary sources and rewriting the whole PSTS section, and think this creates more problems than it solves. ... Kenosis (talk) 02:14, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
I would greatly appreciate if you would explain your opposition, including your opposition to conflating secondary and tertiary sources (which you have not adequately explained). Unless you explain your concerns, they cannot be considered and addressed. Vassyana (talk) 18:17, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
Again, as I said before, I don't see any the proposed changes as being any improvement at all over the longstanding version because proposals simply the supposed points of confusion with new sources of confusion, but more of them than before. Once more, the problem is not with the policy but editors not reading and understanding it. FeloniousMonk (talk) 05:20, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
Last time you expressed your opinion without explanation. Could you perhaps be more explicit in explaining what you find to be problematic with the draft? What adds confusion in the proposed replacement? If large swaths of (obviously intelligent and wiki-experienced) editors read the policy and don't understand it, then obviously there's a problem with the wording of the policy. To suggest otherwise is more than a bit ridiculous. Vassyana (talk) 16:48, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

Someone else deal with it

I'm done. I don't have the time or interest to play games with children or to deal with people where getting substantive responses is like pulling teeth. If someone else wants to handle making changes to the draft page in my userspace, they're welcome to do so. I will not be participating on this page for the time being. It's repulsive and sickening that editors who damn well know better seem to think that reversions are a replacement for discussion and that they have veto power over edits. Two of those people have declined to take part in discussing the drafts, which is all the more revolting. When basic wiki process (discussion/formation of consensus) is meaningless, there's no point in wasting my time on this joke. Vassyana (talk) 17:10, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

Note: I removed a {{fact}} tag by SeizureDog on the phrase "damn well know better" above. I encourage all editors to make their own comments rather than placing tags in other editors' comments. — Carl (CBM · talk) 17:31, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
As always, editors should remember that changes should not be reverted when they can be improved towards compromise. It would only be polite to leave explanatory comments on the talk page when undoing edits. — Carl (CBM · talk) 17:33, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
It's a shame that small group of stubborn, pig-headed Administrators can eventually force someone as eloquent and hard-working and dedicated towards the improvement of Wikipedia as a whole, such as yourself to give up. A quick look through the edit history and the past discussions clearly shows that that group is in the minority, yet they freely abuse their Administrator 'powers' to block consensus. Even a quick and cursory (let alone a detailed) review of these discussions show that they are clearly in the minority and do not have consensus to keep things set in stone. wbfergus Talk 18:08, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

I have to say, I am also shocked by people reverting this when they ignored the discussion about it. Phil Sandifer (talk) 18:15, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

Is this section a part of that discussion? It looks like it's discussing the same wording that was just added and reverted, such as "raw facts", so I think this needs to be clarified before saying it hasn't been discussed by those reverting. Dreadstar 18:50, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
My objection is that discussion sections sat around for days with no input, then people began reverting once the discussions had gotten anywhere. That's an irritating waste of everybody's time. Phil Sandifer (talk) 20:30, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

The reverts of the last few days are not just shocking and shameful. Even iff it were down to petty crap like the use of "raw," tossing hard work of months only because the word "raw" doesn't appear in the very first sentence is just plain fanaticism. That the reverters didn't care to participate in the discussion to begin with is bad enough. But reverting and not participating even after having been pointed to it, is downright despicable. -- Fullstop (talk) 20:07, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

Please don't use terms like "downright despicable"; they aren't going to help the conversation at all. — Carl (CBM · talk) 20:19, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
This might be a good point where we take this to the Arbcom. I think we have some actionable behavior, including clear violations now of WP:OWN, WP:POLICY, WP:CONS. I'm generally on the opposite side of Vassyana in these discussions, but I very much respect Vassyana's commendable efforts in working toward consensus, and it is a shame that pro-PSTS editors here are eating their own kind. COGDEN 20:59, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
Arbcom? The policy page has been suffering from chronic revertitis for quite some time--should we form a list of each editor who has reverted the policy page in the past however many weeks now? One reason for the revertitis is that there is never any consensus reached that actual consensus has been reached. We can't even agree that there has ever been consensus on the clause, ever. Some even claim instead that their own view on the issue counts most of all because it's supposedly aligned with the consensus view of wikipedia as a whole, as if they're gifted with special insights into the unknowable which the unfortunates on the other side just don't have. It should be an interesting lineup for any arbcom. Professor marginalia (talk) 23:03, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
(ec, is followup to Cogden. Apologies if this distracts from Philip's question)
Right. Not being able to see eye-to-eye is one thing. But reverting, itself disrespectful, and simultaneously ignoring the modalities of discussion in progress are anti-social, if not actually contemptuous (as Vassyana justifiably saw it as "repulsive and sickening").
This, coming from experienced editors, and only just after the page was unprotected, is really inexcusable.
So, yes Cogden, this may be the right point to take it to mediation/arbitration. As far as the page is concerned, the only other option is a self-imposed 0RR, and even this I don't see happening as long as some people think the circus is their circus. -- Fullstop (talk) 23:54, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

I have reverted the section recently and to complaints that "I have to say, I am also shocked by people reverting this when they ignored the discussion about it." I would like to point out that this particular topic has been discussed in detail for several months and I have already explained how I interpret the current text and been involved in some subtle changes where the meaning has not been clear. If a person had read what I have written on the talk page over the last month or so, then my comment in the edit history should be clear enough. Is it really necessary for me to repeat my concerns every time I reverse a change, or should I be able to assume that the person making the change will have read the recent talk page and talk page archives? --Philip Baird Shearer (talk) 23:39, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

I've just reviewed a lot of your comments here (going back more than a month), and I have no idea exactly why you would feel the replacement is an unacceptable compromise. Regardless, the burden is not on other editors to extrapolate and assume your positions. The burden is on you to participate in discussions and clearly express your opinions. If you cannot be bothered to do so, we need not be bothered to consider what you might think. Vassyana (talk) 00:36, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
While I applaud your attempt to work out a compromise proposal among those who've participated directly in this talk page lately, I think it underestimates the breadth of unspoken support for the basic PSTS approach. I'm willing to be shown to be wrong about that, of course. But not everybody who supports it wants to participate endlessly defending a policy that's been in place for some time now. What I'm unsure of is how much hidden disagreement there is among people who haven't participated. Offhand I'd speculate that silence generally would be more-or-less equivalent to support or at least general acceptance. And if there were widespread disagreement, people would have read SlimVirgin the proverbial riot act as soon as she added the tertiary-source part over a year ago. That said, why not try adding the material in the one paragraph on secondary sources in Vassyana's proposal? and see where it goes. ... Kenosis (talk) 02:24, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
You mean these diffs? Looking at the Talk page for this period, only 8 people were participating on the talk page. One user mentioned the rash of edits and asked for others to review and comment, and only one person replied (who happens to be one of the 'reverters'). Looking at the edit history for that period, only 8 people were participating in the edits (before and after), a couple of them IP's and most edits by others were reverts. These were major changes to policy without any discussion or announcements anywhere on Wikipedia (if there were, I can't find them in any history/archive pages). In short, these were made by a very small group of 'editors', against current (then and now) Wikipedia policy, where it explicitly states "Editors should not make significant changes to policy without seeking consensus first." Or I suppose 8 people alone (total) can form consensus if the discussions (if any) are performed in a 'closet' where nobody knows about them until after the fact, when it can then be claimed to be 'long-standing' policy? One person tried to bring the issue up, a couple others tried to modify the changes somehow (I haven't looked at how) but were reverted, so at least a couple people tried to address the issue then. It seems very difficult to me to be able to claim 'consensus' when there was what appears to be a very large vacuum (intentional or not). wbfergus Talk 14:44, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
I will point out that provided adequate exposure to the community that silence implies consent. Those previous changes were not widely advertised before implementation. However, both the overall discussion of revising the section and the proposed draft were advertised many times on the village pump and through policy RfCs. Given the broad exposure of the discussions and drafts, one at least can infer that the community exposure met the higher standard required of policy and that any notable silence is reflective of non-opposition. Vassyana (talk) 18:12, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
and possibly wording things more flexibly, to indicate that it depends a good deal on the type of article? It will make this less likelyt to be used one way or another in an inappropriately rigid fashion--considering there is a least a little question of where the consensus now stands.DGG (talk) 04:57, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
I don't see any the proposed changes as being any improvement at all over the longstanding version, so I for one oppose the proposed changes. Again. This is a dead horse, the proposals simply the supposed points of confusion with new sources of confusion, but more of them than before. The problem is not with the policy but editors not reading and understanding it. FeloniousMonk (talk) 05:19, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
Felonious... I don't think you can say that those wishing to clarify the PSTS section have not read the policy. The year long debate over the minutia of the wording clearly shows that they have. You might have a point in stating that they don't understand the policy... but, if that is so, have you considered that the reason why so many editors don't understand the policy is that it is poorly written and confusing? That the "longstanding" language of this policy needs revision and clarification? Blueboar (talk) 14:55, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
Just in this section, I see the above comments as 7 for Vassyana's changes, 4 against. So, I guess this brings up the question, what is consensus? 51%, 60%, 75%, 90%, unanimous approval? wbfergus Talk 14:48, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
That's a question I've been asking myself in the last few days, although I know it's not a matter of percentages. I've also been wondering how such a small number of self-selected people can determine what a policy says. And why is Wikipedia's consensus system such a pale shadow of real-world Consensus decision-making systems. That page is linked to in the first line of WP:CONS, by the way, and it made for very interesting reading. I think we should have at least a couple of facilitators appointed for any major issue such as this. Though having written that, I have to admit that I still can't tell whether the long-running discussions about PSTS here actually do constitute a major issue, or are just tinkering around the edges. Can someone help shed light on any of this?  —SMALLJIM  16:05, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
I think what we have to look at is a consensus of interested parties. The vast majority of Wikipedia editors certainly have no interest in this policy, and will continue to primary sources with impunity, in violation of PSTS, and not worry about whether or not lay people can verify highly technical references. What we need to establish is (1) that PSTS has a ("higher standard of") consensus among interested commentators on the talk page, and (2) that PSTS reflects actual Wikipedia practice. Clearly, at least #1 is not established. I think that #2 is pretty clearly untrue, as well. COGDEN 21:19, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
FM, you do not get to just say no and claim it is a dead horse. Votes don't count towards consensus. Feel free to elaborate your position and respond to my questions in the previous section. Vassyana (talk) 17:49, 12 December 2007 (UTC)


What is the difference between a raw fact and a fact? I'm asking because "raw" is a term I keep seeing being used on this page, but I've no idea what's meant by it, and now it's in the policy. SlimVirgin (talk)(contribs) 02:29, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

It's not just "raw facts". Primary sources are original sources or sources very close to the origin of a topic or issue under discussion in an article (which could IMO be explained a bit better than it currently is in the PSTS section). In general, Aristotle's works are primary sources w.r.t. Aristotle's original concepts. A work of fiction is a primary source w.r.t. discussion of that work of fiction. The publications of leading intelligent design proponents are primary sources w.r.t. intelligent design, except where they are reinterpreting concepts in molecular biology or cosmology that originated elsewhere. Etc., etc, more or less in keeping with the currently provided set of examples of things that in general are primary sources. ... Kenosis (talk) 02:41, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
"raw fact" may be:
  • a differentiation of empirical observations from rationalized ones:
    "The sky is blue because the atmosphere scatters light of shorter wavelengths more than light of longer wavelengths" is a rationale for the "raw fact" that the sky is blue.
  • a symptom of the human propensity to differentiate things even when such differentiation is irrelevant (cf information bias and distinction bias).
    In this, it seems necessary to distinguish "raw facts" from "facts" for the same reasons that it seems necessary to distinguish "primary sources" from "sources."
  • a secret weapon to distract less astute editors, giving them the opportunity to hold forth on other irrelevancies.
In all cases, the focus on the distinction between "fact" and "raw fact" is called "anchoring."
-- Fullstop (talk) 16:54, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
Slim, I've previously responded to this question and posed questions for you.[11] Vassyana (talk) 17:47, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

WP:POLICY dispute

The wording introduced by Cogden to WP:POLICY on October 1st, which was disputed at that time, but still remains in the policy, and has since been used by Cogden to push his changes to WP:NOR are currently under dispute. I suggest all interested editors join in on that discussion, since the wording is obviously meant to affect WP:NOR policy. Dreadstar 20:25, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

Dreadstar, what you are doing here and with this RfC to ad-hominem attack Cogden is way out of line.
"Since the wording is obviously meant to effect" is speculative. Cogden has not even alluded to the changed text in WP:POLICY, and even if he had, it would have been sufficient for you to note that he had written it himself. To preemptively assume that he did it because of NOR is way over the top.
But please don't turn your inability to admit a mistake for having reverted Vassanya's text into attacks on Cogden or anyone else. Thanks. -- Fullstop (talk) 21:15, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

Is there any room for compromise?

Looking at the current state of the debate... I thing we are once again falling into three "camps" here...

  • Those who have major issues with the current language of PSTS and think it needs a complete overhaul (if not deletion)
  • Those who have minor issues with the current language PSTS and think it needs some re-writing at most, and tweeking at least.
  • Those who have no problem with the current language of PSTS, and think it should remain as it is.

From what I can see, most of us fall into the second "camp" (although we might not all agree on any one given proposed wording) ... but any constructive edits and attepts at building a new consensus are being hindered by the extreme stance of those in the other two camps. So I have to ask two questions... 1) Can those with major issues accept that there is consensus for some form of firmly worded PSTS section to remain in this article? and 2) Can those who like the current language accept that there is consensus for some changes to be made? Blueboar (talk) 01:19, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

What about documentaries

Examples of primary sources include ... videos, and television programs. What about documentaries? --Philip Baird Shearer (talk) 15:10, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
I would say no. I think it was intended to be an example of artistic works, but obviously it's worded in an overly broad fashion. There are plenty of video and television productions that would be secondary sources. Vassyana (talk) 18:22, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

How can we fix the wording to exclude those things which would usually be considered secondary sources like documentaries investigative journalism etc? --Philip Baird Shearer (talk) 10:29, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

My suggestion would be redacting the list to a short one with fundamental examples. As a fix for this particular issue, just remove the list of examples for "artistic and fictional works". I believe that most editors can identify works of art and fiction without an extensive list of examples. If they need some examples for guidance in that regard, the footnote clearly lists better examples of artistic works. I would also recommend removing "published experimental results by the person(s) actually involved in the research" as that includes most peer-reviewed scientific literature and a broad swath of academic and mass market science books, which I think most people agree are more like secondary sources under our policy. Vassyana (talk) 11:20, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
The nature (e.g. book, documentary, poem, news program) of a source is actually irrelevant to whether it is a 'primary' or 'secondary' source. All that matters is the relationship between the source and the topic of discussion. Can a documentary be a primary source? Sure... Bowling for Columbine is obviously a primary source for the article about itself. Just as the Encyclopedia Brittanica is a primary source in that article and even the Encyclopedia article. --CBD 13:28, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
While the primary/secondary nature of a work can change with context, this is a fairly limited set of circumstances. Additionally, the nature of a work is a large part of both the academic and operative Wikipedia definitions of primary and secondary sources. Sure, in relation to itself such works are primary sources, but outside of that limited context they are clearly secondary sources. Vassyana (talk) 13:31, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
As with written documents, I think there are some documentaries that qualify as primary sources and other documentaries that qualify as secondary sources. It depends on the individual documentary Blueboar (talk) 13:54, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
Vassyana, essentially you seem to be arguing that 'encyclopedias are more often cited as secondary (or 'tertiary') sources than as primary sources' and 'novels are more often cited as primary sources than as secondary'... of course that is obviously true, but it has more to do with what those sources are 'reliable' for. A novel wherein the characters discuss the toxic effects of Amanita mushrooms could be cited as a secondary source for information on that topic... but novels are not generally considered reliable sources for scientific information. Anything can be either a 'primary' or 'secondary' source, but the kind of information a source is considered reliable for varies considerably by 'type'. However, that is the purview of the reliable sources policy and really has nothing to do with 'original research' or 'primary/secondary' sources. --CBD 17:00, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

A question of consensus

I have, sadly, seen this debate played out in just about all our policy and guideline pages. A group of editors express the need to change something in a Policy... They claim a local consensus (ie consensus among themselves) as to language. Another group resists that change. They claim a local consensus for keeping the "long standing" version. Each group claims that the other group has not demonstrated "Community Consensus" (ie beyond the local consensus) for their view. It come down to this... When such debates arise, do we need to demonstrate a larger community consensus to change, or do we need to demonstrate a larger community consensus to maintain? And, in each case, how do we determine whether that larger community consensus has been achieved or not?

As I see it, the underlying problem is that the "larger community" does not really worry about what the policies and guidelines say until they get into a dispute and need to resolve it. Thus, there is very little input from that larger community when a dispute comes up. We can post a notice of the dispute at the Village Pump and various e-mail lists... but usually such postings do not generate a lot of comment one way or the other. The larger community remains silent on the issue. The question then becomes, how to we interpret that silence? Is the fact that the larger community has not bothered to express an opinion on a proposed change a tacit approval for the change... or a tacit approval for the "long standing version"? How do we judge "community consensus" when the "community" does not give an opinion? Blueboar (talk) 16:16, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

Exactly. Well put. A question: can admins as a group be considered representative of everyone else? If so, maybe admins could be encouraged to consider important issues when they arise. I was going to say "coerced to give their opinion on...", but I'm not quite sure if that would be viable :)  —SMALLJIM  16:26, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
Well, along these lines, I've asked all of the candidates for the Arbitration Committee questions similar to this. But, what is concensus? Consensus of those actively participating in the discussion constructively? Consensus of the Admins invloved in the discussion? Consensus of those who wrote it? And what percentage shows if or when concensus is reached? Lately (the last few months), it seems that consensus must mean unanimous approval of at least Admins, if not solely the original writers. Previous changes that had a higher percentage of those actively participating were reverted with the (dubious) claim of no consensus, so it really shows there must be differing viewpoints about not only how much makes a consensus, but who those are that get allowed to be counted in the consensus. wbfergus Talk 17:07, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
Consensus is a state achieved not through active approval of something, but through lack of active opposition against something.
-- Fullstop (talk) 18:02, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
Judging something by the lack of comments seems wrong to me... how do we judge something that isn't said? The lack of comment can be understood two ways... Take our current debate... Vassyana proposed a revised PSTS section. Notice of that revision was posted at the Village Pump and at several other prominent locations. Those notices did not result in a flood of editors dropping in to express their opinions. The larger community remained silent. Now, how are we to judge that silence? Does it indicate approval of Vassyana's proposal?... or does it indicate approval for the "long standing" status quo? Both arguments can be sustained if we base consensus on a lack of active opposition. Blueboar (talk) 18:22, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
Generally, silence implies consent provided adequate exposure to the community. Policy requires a higher standard, but the discussion over revision of PSTS has been been on-going and both the drafts, overall discussion and various individual points have been widely advertised on the village pump and via policy RfCs. Considering the on-going nature of the discussion and the many notices to the community, I'd believe that the higher standard required of policy changes has been met. Vassyana (talk) 18:26, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
So to use our current debate as the example, you feel that the silence of the larger community indicates a consensus in favor of the change? Blueboar (talk) 18:29, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
Indeed I do. I also believe that unjustified opinions do not "count" towards consensus, because people don't get to vote for or against consensus. Vassyana (talk) 18:45, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
(ec) If silence implies consent, I would interpret the general silence of most people oncerning this polcy to mean that the vast majority of the community think it (meaning, the version that existed, more or less, back in July) was good enough and not in need of fundamental reform. I think some people here are motivated by a desire to have perfect policies. But no policy can or ever will be perfect. Alas, if you are looking for a perfect policy, you can take a very good policy and start picking and scratching at it until nothing is left of it. I have never opposed attempts to improve the wording of this policy; indeed, I have made my own suggestions. But there was a fairly stable version for a pretty long time - in Wikipedia, six months is a long time, one year is an eon, and two years is an eternity (map it against the growth in contributors or articles and you will have a proper scale for measuring time at Wikipedia). People who reject PST because it is not perfect are i think making a major mistake but I respect their intentions. There are other people who reject PST because they fundamentally reject the idea of NOR; they want to put their own OR into the encyclopedia - they want to use Wikipedia to correct published works they believe to be wrong. These people will always be opposed to NOR, will always stir up controversy ... but they are not worth arguing with. In such situations, silence definitely does not mean consent. Slrubenstein | Talk 18:35, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
I do somewhat agree (see some of my above comments though). However, the change on the table is a revision of PSTS supported by people on both sides of the PSTS issue and it has been broadly advertised in the community. What do you think of the silence in that context? Vassyana (talk) 18:46, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
I think most people coming here will find just today's discussion so complex and daunting that they will give up and go away (in silence) before they have even figured out what the issue "on the table" is. (for what it is worth, I wrote a long paragraph expressing my own view of the issue on the table and Wikipedia timed out on me and it wasn't saved and I lost it and I am too tired and busy to rewrite it now. Trust me: it is nothing I haven't written many times back in August or September when we were discussing the same issues; in brief, I think Feloious Monk speaks for me). Slrubenstein | Talk 19:00, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
Slrubenstein, you are selling yourself short. Where you have been eloquent and open to discussion, and have even participated in some recent changes for the improvement of the policy in the last few months (4-6 months) through consenual editing, FeloniousMonk has been quite the opposite. I have taken your absence the last month or so to mean that you feel it would be prudent to distance yourself from most of the regular and mundane talk as one of the original drafters of the policy. You have not been party to the edit wars, whether you agreed with any changes or not, so you are not 'tainted' as it were by any overt acts of revertitis without discussion. wbfergus Talk 23:08, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

I agree the reverts are pointless, and I wish myself that editors would leave the policy mainspace alone until there's well vetted copy ready and a solid consensus for any changes to it. And I know nerves are frayed and Vassyana, you especially have gone above and beyond working hard to see this dispute resolved. But how can there be any resolution? This is a picture of a monthish-worth of edits on the mainspace: edited over 200 times, just under half of them reverts or undos, and about half of all edits were at the hands of the same 4 editors. And this is a picture of the talk page during the same time period: 1500 comments left by about 80 editors, though again-just 4 editors dominating it, doing just a little less talking than all the other 75ish put together. The arguments are disjointed, confusing, voluminous, circuitous, and numbingly repetitious. A few days of "no response" is not evidence of consent-bleary-eyed weariness maybe, but not consent. Professor marginalia (talk) 19:30, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
>>Judging something by the lack of comments seems wrong to me
Read what I wrote very carefully. Perhaps read your own initial question first before you do.
If you don't like the word "lack," then read it as: "Consensus is a state that is achieved when there is no active dissent."
Note well: "no dissent" does not necessarily mean "only consent."
>>Now, how are we to judge that silence? Does it indicate approval of
Note the word "active" in what I wrote. Silence is not active. It does not indicate anything.
Consensus is a state achieved when there is a lack of active opposition. Silence equals lack of active opposition.
Using a potpourri of your own words: "we determine whether (that larger community) consensus has been achieved or not" when (and as long as) there are no objections (==there is only silence).
-- Fullstop (talk) 19:32, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
What nonsense silliness. The endurance of a handful of editors does not represent consensus. The dispute here has been more a long running marathon than a gauge of community consensus. Professor marginalia (talk) 19:42, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
You write "what nonsense" but I believe you really mean "what silliness." I propose to revise what you wrote. We need some discussion on this. Or should we take a poll? After that, I have some comments about the use of your word "handful" which I think others will want to comment on! Slrubenstein | Talk 20:19, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

It is difficult to know when consensus has been achieved, but it is easy to know when consensus has not been achieved. When any significant group of editors consistently opposes part of a policy article, and continue to present reasonable arguments and discussion, there is no consensus.

And the answer to the above question by Blueboar about whether you need consensus to change the policy or consensus period, the answer is clearly the latter. WP:POLICY states, and has stated for a very long time, that policy and guideline pages reflect current consensus and practice, not consensus from some past era. Second, WP:CONS states that "A small group of editors can reach a consensual decision, but when the article gains wider attention, others may then disagree. The original group should not block further change on grounds that they already have made a decision." There is no inertia for language in policy articles based solely on some previous group having made a decision. When a section of a policy article is subjected to more widespread participation, the language has to be re-justified as a consensus within the wider community. See, e.g., what happened with WP:ATT. COGDEN 20:23, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

You're totally wrong, Cogden. There has been long-standing consenus for the PSTS section, a handful of editors are challenging that section, but do not have the consensus needed to make changes or remove PSTS from WP:NOR. New consensus for changes is necessary, as has been argued over and over here. And I should point out that your changes to WP:POLICY in that vein are being challenged right now. See below. Dreadstar 20:29, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
"You're totally wrong"!? Do you seriously think the 4+ MB of talk (in the last six months alone!) is an indication of "consensus"? Or is this use of "consensus" a speshull one that we need to be aware of?
Even if it were only a "handful of editors" that you suppose, that is already 4 more than it takes to negate a "consensus." It doesn't take unanimity for change, thats not the wiki way, otherwise with 55-15 you wouldn't be an admin, and with 6-<any number> you could just as easily be absolved of it.
-- Fullstop (talk) 21:30, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
Interesting. I note that the article on consensus appears to demonstrate a lack of consensus about consensus. The project page WP:Consensus, on the other hand, has some very nice flow charting, but appears to be oriented more towards writing and editing content (articles) than it is towards managing already-established policy pages. The policy page WP:Consensus (or is it a "metapolicy page") appears to me to neglect the importance of reasonable continuity in policy pages. The four or five opponents of PSTS that have regularly showed up on the talk page have set the tone of recent discussion over the past two or three months, while others have come and gone. I've long since decided not to even bother with discussing various complete rewrites, so I can be counted out as can many others. As some defenders of existing policy drop off the talk page or only comment briefly, and decide only to stand firm by reverting major changes to the policy that've been advocated mainly by these four or five participants, those users become open to charges of not participating in the talk page discussion in accordance with WP:Consensus. But there are some options in the larger view of things which may not have been adequately considered yet. For example, by consensus we could decide that one user henceforth makes all policy decisions on Wikipedia (say, Cogden, or FeloniousMonk). If the advocates at the WP:consensus policy page are persistent enough, perhaps that could work. As complainers fall off and give up, consensus would be out, and policy by persistent talk-page fiat would be in. ... Kenosis (talk) 22:03, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
I wrote on a different page yesterday that consensus had become self-defeating by virtue that the requirements for reaching consensus have become so high.
So here is the problem, Consensus is written in such a way that agreement amongst all the editors involved is implied. “Consensus does not mean that everyone agrees with the outcome; instead, it means that everyone agrees to abide by the outcome.” Commonsense would seem to indicate that if 10 editors where involved in an effort to reach consensus on a controversial topic, the best anyone could hope for would be that six or seven would agree, two or three would still disagree but abide by the will of the majority, and that with luck no more than one would stick firmly to their position come hell or high-water. So at best your breakdown would be 7/2/1; the one alone throwing any hope of reaching a consensus beyond reach. I would have to say that having multiple editors agree on any subject is a challenge, and on controversial subjects it is unrealistic. If you compare this to a civil trial, unlike a criminal trial, there are few jurisdictions that would require unanimous consent of all jurors before returning a verdict. And that’s based upon “preponderance of the evidence”, one side's case must simply be considered more provable than the other's. Or again drawing upon the judicial system; how often do the 9 Justices of the Supreme Court reach unanimous agreement? If they can not, why should there be any hope for the rest of us?
I would say that 7/10 agreement is sufficient meet consensus and move forward. But as I look through CON, and what others have written concerning CON, I would say that WP seems to be shooting for 10/10. The higher the requirement for agreement, the easier it is to block material that is contrary to your POV, or block the removal of material that is contrary to your POV; thus the higher that the bar is set for CON, the easier it is to undermine NPOV. I wonder if CON is not written so tightly that it has become in some ways self-defeating. On the other hand I am not sure how you write 7/10ths into policy (my figure, 7/10 could just as easily be 2/3 or 6/10, or even 51/49 -but hopefully not that low.)
Having said that, I would argue that inertia is built into policy, probably not intentionally but its there none the less. The requirement for consensus is in regards to change; or in other words maintaining the status quo happens by default until there is consensus for change. “the answer to the above question by Blueboar about whether you need consensus to change the policy or consensus period, the answer is clearly the latter.” How would this work? It would lead to a “the policy of the week” situation. Whoever had the upper hand in numbers would control policy until the other side picked up some new recruits. Stability, even when it supports imperfect policy is a necessity: period. And no policy is perfect. Brimba (talk) 22:09, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
(all off-topic off course, but...)
Although your conclusion (stability over imperfection) is very sane, the block quote has one big glaring flaw: it implies that "consensus" shouldn't actually reflect agreement/harmony, but instead should reflect the will of the majority.
While 'significant majority' idea might be useful to prevent filibustering, it would also make everything steam-roller'able and would reinforce the idea of the cabal.
In effect, we turn Wikipedia into a romping ground for the testosterone-laden WP:mastadons; all it would take is a significant enough number of them and they could hijack any group of articles to do whatever they wished. This already to some extent happens with the fanatic fringe, but the checks and balances can (hypothetically) still work.
Being nice people, we ideally do take minority opinion into account. For instance right here, where the objectors to change are in the minority (even if not so in their own minds).
Further, while we don't really have to listen to the fringe now, but we might have to if there was a 'significant majority' clause. Percentage-wise, very few editors have even seen a secondary source.
Then, WP is neither a democracy nor a bureaucracy. Who's going to arbiter all those votes?
-- Fullstop (talk) 23:16, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

Percentage-wise, very few editors have even seen a secondary source.” What ??? Are they blind? Really what are you saying? How could that be, or how can someone take such a statement at face value? Brimba (talk) 23:32, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

Bad choice of words. "academic source," not "secondary source." (let it suffice to say you'd excuse my for considering the two synonymous if you knew what I do in real life :-)
And no, they aren't blind. Just too damn young/naive. Thus the propensity for giving weight to pop theories over academic ones, and older theories (i.e. PD sources) over current ones. -- Fullstop (talk) 23:56, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
The PSTS here shouldn't be viewed as a standalone policy on the use of primary sources and secondary sources. There are also policies and guidelines in place regarding how best to evaluate reliable sources and against giving undue weight to the sources. Professor marginalia (talk) 00:11, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

Two sides

Vassyana you claim [in the last section] there are two sides. I am not aware of two sides. I see it more as a multifaceted diamond and I am aware that different people can have different interpretations of the same text, but I think there are a lot more than two interpretations expressed on this talk page and the archives, so please explain to me what you mean by sides. --Philip Baird Shearer (talk) 19:16, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

The opinions and approaches of those commenting here over the past several months can be sorted by a few different groups. Regardless, it's just a turn of phrase meaning that individuals from each major group of opinions (strong PSTS, minimal PSTS, moderate reformers, etc) have supported the proposal. If the draft is a problem for you, it'd be wonderful if you elaborate. If you don't your concerns cannot be accounted for and addressed. Vassyana (talk) 22:00, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
I would rather put the question the other way around what do you think you wording changes and what do you think you have not changed? --Philip Baird Shearer (talk) 23:48, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
You don't need me to explain the difference between the standing version and the proposed replacement. If you want to know why I think it is "better", I can answer that. It is a compromise of the various opinions clearly expressed over the past months of discussion. I also believe it better reflects practice as a whole than the current version (in large part because it is based on the vigorous and diverse discourse here). For example, mentioning that certain primary sources have a broad consensus for use. If you're interested in particulars, I'd recommend looking at the couple recent draft proposals, as some issues were addressed and wording changes made in response to reasonable concerns. They will give you a good idea of how I went about incorporating various views. So, any chance you're actually going to elaborate on your own views? Vassyana (talk) 02:11, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
I don't need you to but I would like you to explain to me what you think are the changes that you have introduced, because you have replaced the section and not made an incremental change it is hard to deduce what you think you have changed against what I think you have changed. It would help me to asses if the changes that I think you have made are intentional or just a difference in the understanding that you and I have over the two texts. For example to pick up on what you have written immediately above "mentioning that certain primary sources have a broad consensus for use", where in the current version does it prohibit the use of primary sources and why does such a statement need to be included? The reason why I am conservative over this issue is it is much easier to weigh incremental changes and my experience in the past is that large changes to policy have unforeseen consequences for how things are interpreted. One example in 002 you have the clause "unless such claims are verifiable from another source" and that can have a totally different meaning to "unless such claims are verifiable from another source". The first uses the dictionary definition of verifiable the second a Wikipedia meaning that includes the type of source that can be used for verification. --Philip Baird Shearer (talk) 10:24, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
First, thanks for pointing out that I missed the WP:V. That was the result of a sloppy cut/paste from the live article. The noting of broad consensus for certain primary sources was a counterweight to noting that articles should use depend on reliable secondary sources. It was included due to the concerns raised by several editors. Thank you for this excellent reply. It helps me understand why the change was problematic for you and your reasoning makes perfect sense. Do you think approaching the matter in a more incremental fashion (suggest particular replacements, removals adjustments) would be helpful? (Regardless, I'll work on piece by piece explanations of the changes for your benefit and that of others.) Vassyana (talk) 11:10, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

Misrepresentations by all 'sides' concerned

Okay, after some thought, it clearly dawned on me that in the emotional arguing back and forth, all sides have made misrepresentations, either intentionally or unintentionally (WP:AGF).

So, I would ask that all parties use this section to list misrepresentations made by the other side. Maybe if there was a semi-complete list of examples, both sides could see the 'silliness' of their ways and begin to hammer out something that could be acceptable to both sides.

To start, let me quote Kenosis directly from a statement he made Dec. 10 in the 'The primary source section has been in the policy for three years' section above. "Dreadstar and others have already made the point that silence or lack of constant participation by everyone on the talk page w.r.t. a longstanding policy does not demonstrate widespread disagreement with the policy". Okay, this argument has been made by various parties on one side numerous times over the past few months. Yet today, on WT:POLICY, SlimVigrin stated very forcefully "This is not what consensus is when it comes to policy. Silence doesn't mean people agree".

So, in this case two parties from the same 'side' in this 'debate' are using the 'silence' argument in completely opposite usage to further their claims. It seems to me that others on this 'side' have used the same argument as well, though I don't have any other quotes handy yet. If I find them, I'll add them later.

In all fairness I know the other side has made some statements that were misrepresentations as well, though I don't have one handy at the moment, and my wife just said she's ready for dinner. I would welcome any and all further examples that people could provide. wbfergus Talk 23:44, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

I think what SlimVirgin was referring to in this context was that silence may be the result of something they heartily disagree with having gone unnoticed. Is the next argument here that SlimVirgin's addition of tertiary sources to what was then "Primary and secondary sources" went unnoticed until Cogden (followed by several others) began advocating removing the whole PSTS section several months ago? or that the inclusion of tertiary sources was heartily disagreed with but no one bothered until nine months went by? or that the whole primary-secondary distinction was heartily disagreed with by the WP community until recent months? ... Kenosis (talk) 00:21, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
the difficulties, as i see them, became more apparent with the more frequent use of this criterion to remove articles about fiction and popular culture, which widened the ranged of people aware of it, and brought to light some of the ambiguities. Regardless of the past, the best solution would be to find some statement on which there is present consensus. DGG (talk) 01:08, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
Wait a second. If people were using WP:PSTS as a criterion for WP:Notability in WP:AfDs, it was an incorrect use of PSTS. True that notability can be judged to some extent by the extent of secondary coverage of a particular topic, but it's just an incorrect use of policy, not a problem with the policy. ... Kenosis (talk) 02:04, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
Wait another second, Kenosis :) You say "If people were using WP:PSTS as a criterion for WP:Notability in WP:AfDs, it was an incorrect use of PSTS." But since the end of May[12], "This page in a nutshell" on WP:N has stated "A topic is presumed to be notable if it has received significant coverage in reliable secondary sources that are independent of the subject." Note that secondary sources is wikilinked directly to PSTS. According to that statement, which has survived well, the PSTS criteria are at the very heart of decisions about notability and therefore it is surely correct that they are widely referred to in that context.  —SMALLJIM  11:11, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
Actually… maybe part of the problem here is that PSTS is trying to serve two purposes. The distinction between primary and secondary is important for notability, but it arguably isn't for OR (just "stick to the sources"). As it stands the definitions and usage are jumbled together, so maybe what we should do is define the source types in one subsection, and then use the next subsection to talk about how to use them, i.e. split "PS&T sources" into "PS&T sources - definitions" and "PS&T sources - usage". Apart from being neater, it should also help clarify exactly where the disputes lie. Does that sound good?  —SMALLJIM  11:49, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
SJ, WP:PSTS is not written to address notability issues. "WP:notability" is one of several criteria for making assessments of whether an article merits inclusion (i.e., should stay rather than be deleted). ... Kenosis (talk) 14:43, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
Sorry wb, but I have to object to this idea ... I really think it is a bad idea to rehash what people have said in the past... playing "gottcha" ends up making people defensive and less willing to talk to each other. I agree with DGG... forget the past... let's focus on finding wording that has present consensus. Blueboar (talk) 01:26, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
It wasn't my intention to soley play 'Gotcha'. My intention was mainly if people could bring to light all (or at least quite a few of) the various misrepresentations all sides have made, maybe we could embarass all sides enough so that people would be more thoughtful and introspective in further edits and discussions, so that some progress could actually be made again.
A couple of months ago, we were slowly working along with small changes being worked out and agreed upon or disregarded completely, but it was progress. Lately though things have just been polarized and emotional, and I think some parties in both of the two main 'camps' need some humility and distance from the issue before further progress can be made. I know I myself have made a few misrepresentations during previous discussions here as well, though they were quickly brought to light by other editors, but in my defense, they weren't intentional, I just didn't look far enough into various edit or talk histories, but I did stand corrected. I think at least 15 different editors and reverters who don't participate need to take a step or two back for a bit and really revaluate their positions and the other 'sides' position honestly before we can get back on track. wbfergus Talk 11:48, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

Minor clarification to WP:PSTS

I've changed some text in the project page here with a brief followup here. Any objections? ... Kenosis (talk) 03:21, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

I do. I don't know where the idea comes from that primary sources are "extremely" close to the subject matter. Why do we need that adjective? (Note that I'm giving you the courtesy, in accordance with WP:EP of not just reverting you without comment because of "lack of consensus".) COGDEN 09:01, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
what is a source? Primary source, secondary source etc. But source is not now defined -- previously it was defined "is a document or person". --Philip Baird Shearer (talk) 09:36, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

The statement "A primary source is a document or person very close to the situation being written about" appeared to me to have been a potential source of confusion because of the use of the word "person". Unlike journalists, Wikipedia users do not, or should not, use persons as primary sources, but instead use written sources or other media such as film, images, video or audio recordings. Also, "very close" didn't quite adequately capture the essence. Previously it had been discussed on this page that, for instance, published court cases arguably involve further internal documents, trial transcripts, briefs, etc. Published research studies and published experiments involve field notes and data records and such. Other primary sources may have similar elements with respect to which the participants in an article or category of article can decide what are the primary sources in their particular locale on the wiki. "Extremely close" seemed to preserve the essence of the concept but emphasized proximity to the origin of a reported fact, idea, concept, topic, theme, etc. The words "original source", I take it, are not part of Cogden's objection-- or are those words too under question? ... Kenosis (talk) 14:13, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

I think you must have misunderstood me. I am not necessarily saying it has to be document and person (although more on that shortly). As I see it the new wording does not addressed the problem of defined what is "a source" as it defines a primary source as an "original source + or other sources". Perhaps "A primary source is a verifiable source [very/extremely] close to the origin of a particular topic..."
What is the difference between "very close" and "extremely close"?
BTW I think that the usage of a person goes back to what is a reliable source. One of the criteria for assessing what is a reliable source is the character of the person who is the author of the source. Using Wellington as an example (yet agains!) he is a primary source for the Battle of Waterloo, even when he was speaking several years after the battle, "They have altered my field of battle!" which is a quote often used to explain that the current topology of the land was significantly changed when the Lion's Hillock was constructed. The source of the quote (Wellington) makes it both reliable and primary assuming it was published in a reliable secondary source.
Also to use your court case example. I have been working on the Bosnian Genocide article there is also a Bosnian Genocide Case specifically about the ICJ judgement. I consider the ICJ judgement to be a primary source for the Bosnian Genocide as well as the Bosnian Genocide Case article and would consider the interpretation of such a source a breach of this section, and I would not like to see it argued that it was not a primary source because the judgement was not delivered until 10+ years after the events it sat in judgement on occurred and therefore is not "extremely close". --Philip Baird Shearer (talk) 15:41, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
If the word "extremely" is a serious issue, then change it back to "very" and see where it goes. I made these small-but-potentially-significant changes to try to cut down on the possible sources of confusion. If "very" tends to capture where approximately the basic, admittedly not always precise, transition between primary sources to secondary sources, no problem. ... Kenosis (talk) 17:20, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

FYI, there is a request for arbitration and a request for comment regarding PSTS

FYI, Dreadstar has filed a Request for Comment here about my alleged "conduct" regarding PSTS issues on this page, and I have submitted a Request for Arbitration here. I hope everyone will take the time to comment one way or another regarding both requests, which are currently proceeding simultaneously. COGDEN 09:02, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

Just a quick notice that I plan on commenting on both 'issues', but it's a very convoluted and multi-faceted problem, so before I do, I want to try and get all of my ducks in a row. Also, I find fault with 'both' sides and I also agree with 'both' sides on various points, so I also want to try to ensure that my comments are fair, evenly balanced, and that I research my statements as best I can within reasonable time limits (I do have other things to do). wbfergus Talk 11:53, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

Draft explanation

Explanation for the text of User:Vassyana/NOR 002 was requested in a reasonable and well-thought fashion. User:Vassyana/NOR 002#Explanation is the response to this request. Please ask any further questions you may have, so I can answer them to the best of my ability. Cheers! Vassyana (talk) 13:17, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

Proposal: just change the terms primary-->raw and secondary-->interpretive

{{RFCpolicy}}: | section=Proposal: just change the terms primary-->raw and secondary-->interpretive !! reason=This is a proposed replacement for the controversial PSTS section of NOR, which makes the minimal change of substituting "raw source" for "primary source" and "interpretive source" for "secondary source". !! time=23:32, 5 December 2007 (UTC)

After a bit of experimentation, here is a proposal that I could almost live with, and it's really a minimal one, but unfortunately it was reverted as kind of a knee-jerk reaction. Maybe that's part my fault for being to bold, but why would this not move us at least 85% of the way toward consensus?:

Sources may be divided into three basic categories of how they relate to the subject being written about. For the purposes of Wikipedia content policies and guidelines, raw, interpretive, and tertiary sources are broadly defined as follows:
  • A raw source contains raw facts but no interpretation of those facts. Raw sources that have been published by a reliable source may be used in Wikipedia, but only with care, because it is easy to misuse them. For that reason, anyone—without specialist knowledge—who reads the raw source should be able to verify that the Wikipedia passage agrees with the raw source. Any interpretation of raw source material requires another reliable source for that interpretation. To the extent that an article or particular part of an article relies on a raw source, that part of the article should:
  • only make descriptive claims about the information found in the raw source, the accuracy and applicability of which is easily verifiable by any reasonable, educated person without specialist knowledge, and
  • make no analytic, synthetic, interpretive, explanatory, or evaluative claims about the information found in the raw source, unless such claims are verifiable from another source.
Examples of raw sources include archeological artifacts; photographs; historical documents such as diaries, census results, video or transcripts of surveillance, public hearings, trials, or interviews; tabulated results of surveys or questionnaires; written or recorded notes of laboratory and field research, experiments or observations, published experimental results by the person(s) actually involved in the research; original philosophical works, religious scripture, administrative documents, and artistic and fictional works such as poems, scripts, screenplays, novels, motion pictures, videos, and television programs.
  • An interpretive source draws on raw sources to make generalizations or interpretive, analytical, or synthetic claims. Where interpretive claims, analysis, or synthetic claims about raw sources are included in Wikipedia articles, use interpretive sources rather than original analysis by Wikipedia editors.
  • A tertiary source is a publication such as an encyclopedia or other compendium that sums up other sources. Many introductory textbooks may also be considered tertiary to the extent they sum up widely accepted results of large amounts of raw and interpretive sources. Tertiary sources can be useful in avoiding original research in topics where there exist very large amounts of raw and/or interpretive sources.

All sources should be used in a way that does not give rise to new analyses, syntheses or original conclusions that are not verifiable. Where interpretive claims, analysis, or synthetic claims are included in Wikipedia articles, use appropriate sources rather than original analysis by Wikipedia editors.

Frankly, I'd get rid of the "tertiary" section, but I want to make this the most minimal change possible at this point. COGDEN 23:04, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

I agree with loosing the tertiary section. It may be truth, but there is no need for it in a policy document. It belongs in Wikipedia. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 03:13, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
The problem with this is that you're substituting your own terms (raw and interpretive sources) for terms in common use (primary and secondary sources), and they're not equivalent anyway. A primary source can include interpretive material, for example. SlimVirgin (talk)(contribs) 23:24, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
(ec)This only serves to confound and mar the issue further. "Raw" sources are but a subsection of primary sources. For example, the Bible is not a raw source of facts, but it's certainly a primary source. I appreciate the good faith attempt to move forward. However, I don't think using language that either drastically narrows the scope of the definition or is contradictory to the operative definition is going to work. Vassyana (talk) 23:32, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
Raw sources are a subset of primary sources as I understand primary sources. But it seems that the rationale behind this language, back when it was written was directed toward preventing use of raw sources. What the policy really is trying to get at is the use of sources that do not contain within them published interpretive material. The original authors apparently didn't see any difference between raw and primary sources, and apparently thought that anything interpretive was a secondary source. So this is not really a departure from that original intent.
I don't see any philosophical need for us to stick with the terms "primary" and "secondary". The importance is the policy, not the terms we use. Go back and pretent that the PSTS section never existed, and you had never heard of the terms primary source and secondary source. How would you write the policy in your own words? COGDEN 23:07, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
Is there any real support or viable alernatives to change the terminology from “Primary, Secondary and Tertiary”? This has long been discussed, and I think we should try to lock it down now. Personally, I think we should keep the current terms. Dreadstar 18:20, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
There's clearly no consensus for primary and secondary, but I think we can build consensus aroung other terms such as raw and interpretive. As I see it, nearly everybody opposing the primary-secondary language is receptive to some of the ideas in the PSTS section, but the main problem is that primary source and secondary source are ill-defined in such a way that it creates a whole host of problems. The terms carry too much baggage. If we want the policy to reflect consensus, which I think most of us do, I'm not sure we can get there with the terms primary source and secondary source. It seems like the simplest replacement terms are "raw" and "interpretive". Does anybody actually disagree substantively with the proposal as written above? Or at least not disagree. That could be a basis for consensus, and we could go from there. COGDEN 23:07, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
Please build that consensus for the actual terms quickly, this has been an ongoing issue for months and is continuing to drag things down. The current terms (Primary/Secondary/Tertiary) have clear and undeniable prior consensus, so a new consensus will need to be formed to replace them. Are there any other viable alternatives besides "raw" and "interpretive" (which I see have already been opposed opposition which I join, as I prefer the original terms to any I've seen thus far). Let's lay them all out on the table.
The P/S/T language has arguable prior consensus, but very low participation. "In the case of policy pages a higher standard of participation and consensus is expected." (WP:CONS). Whether or not there ever was consensus, however, is irrelevant because there is no consensus now, and policy pages must reflect current consensus (WP:POLICY).
If the reason you oppose "raw" and "interpretive" is because you prefer the present language, that is not a valid objection. You have to independently oppose "raw" and "interpretive" in their own merits, and actually discuss them, rather than just say "they're different from my own preference, so no deal". COGDEN 20:55, 7 December 2007 (UTC)
As for the proposal above, I prefer how Vassyana has laid out the terms. Dreadstar 23:16, 5 December 2007 (UTC)
I don't think we need defined terms at all. And there is no need for source typing, because how sources are written by their authors is not as important as how they are used by WP editors. So we should discuss how to use sources in descriptive terms using plain language. See my example in the section below. Dhaluza (talk) 11:35, 6 December 2007 (UTC)
I really like this idea. I think that by scrapping terms and definitions that were developed for a different purpose we're really dealing with our "Idol of the Marketplace" problem (this also parallels some ideas that we raised had in August).. We really have to think here in terms of developing an "encyclopedic method", of employing definitions that are most useful to our context.--Pharos (talk) 07:07, 7 December 2007 (UTC)
Why would we want to substitute established terms for neologisms? --bainer (talk) 07:55, 7 December 2007 (UTC)
which "established terms" would those be? :) -- Fullstop (talk) 08:07, 7 December 2007 (UTC)
Because we are dealing with novel concepts and processes that are quite different from those involved in the historical method (for which the original concepts were developed). We have never really used these terms under their proper definitions, anyway, because our reasons for distinguishing three classes of sources comes from attempting to solve a rather different problem.--Pharos (talk) 04:48, 8 December 2007 (UTC)

Also, we might want to replace "tertiary source" with something like "summarizing source" while we're at it.--Pharos (talk) 05:21, 8 December 2007 (UTC)

I've been ignoring this thread, in the hope it would just go away, but so far, that hasn't happened. I object to the term "raw". One important meaning of raw information is information just as it appears in whatever medium it first appears. Very often, such information is processed in very minimal ways, such as editing out data from sensors that are obviously defective, removing chaff from punch-card ballots, and the like. The result of such minimal processing isn't raw any more, but it isn't interpreted either. I think this meaning of "raw" would introduce a great deal of worthess argument, so the word should be avoided. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 05:35, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
Every word in the English language is going to have some degree of ambiguity. The point is that "primary source" is highly ambiguous, and the academic definition is quite likely to be confused with our specialized usage on Wikipedia, because they're similar in broad strokes, and topics in the Humanities can get fuzzy anyway. The use of "raw" under the definition of "experimental data to which computerized post-processing has not yet been applied" is not even a Humanities concept, and is very unlikely to cause serious confusion (and if it ever did, that confusion could be very easily corrected). And the term is actually "raw source", which as a clear neologism has a very specific definition, and is indeed something other than the mere adjective "raw".--Pharos (talk) 05:57, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
Wikipedia is not limited to articles about the humanities. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 06:07, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
Of course not. But the writing of Wikipedia (the collating of sources etc.) is purely a Humanities process, no matter what the article subject is.--Pharos (talk) 06:10, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
Nonsense. And even writing Wikipedia articles is a humanities process, editors of articles on, for example, science, engineering, or computers will often have backgrounds in those fields, and will tend to interpret words in policies in light of their backgrounds. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 06:15, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
I think that people, no matter what their background is, will tend to read the wording of the policy in the context in which it is presented, i.e. basically a non-scientific context. That said, I would support adding a clarification that the narrow "experimental data to which computerized post-processing has not yet been applied" meaning of "raw" is not intended. It will be a lot easier IMO to explain away this slight ambiguity (because it is more clear-cut), than to explain away the other one, which has only lead to reams of confused talk page discussions.--Pharos (talk) 06:32, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
Gerry Ashton, maybe there's another term to use instead of raw, like uninterpreted. That would leave no gaps: either a source or part of a source is interpreted or uninterpreted. Much better than primary vs. secondary, which are not mutually exclusive, and in fact every significant secondary source is also primary, and most primary sources are also secondary. COGDEN 10:43, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
I actually find this superior to your first proposal, since we're down to only one new concept: "interpretive" vs. "uninterpretive".--Pharos (talk) 07:38, 14 December 2007 (UTC)

I am not in favour of this proposed change. I have nothing to add to the arguments already presented, but I do not want anyone to introduce the change by arguing that silence means there is consensus for the change. --Philip Baird Shearer (talk) 10:58, 10 December 2007 (UTC)

Just so we know, which camp are you in, (1) the "raw is not inclusive enough" camp, (2) the "we should use established terms like primary source and secondary source because making up terminology for Wikipedia purposes is a bad thing" camp, or (3) the "I prefer another version to this one, but don't really have any actual arguments against this version" camp? Knowing this would be helpful in determining where the actual consensus lies, if there is one. COGDEN 11:28, 10 December 2007 (UTC)

You proposed a change at the start of this section I am not in favour of that change and I am bored with the interminable arguments you are advancing for what seems to me to be no discernible improvement to the policy. I would be much happier using the time I spend reading this page editing and discussing improvements to articles, but I do not want to turn round and find that the legs have been kicked out from under this policy while I was looking elsewhere. --Philip Baird Shearer (talk) 13:22, 10 December 2007 (UTC)

OK, so perhaps you think this is a superficial change. Let me explain to you why I think this is a substantive change of policy worth pursuing. The guidelines, as currently written, are more-or-less OK, but problems arise when they are interpreted in terms of the standard academic definitions of "primary source" and "secondary source". The concepts of "primary source" and "secondary source" were invented by historians to execute the historical method, and by continuing to use them I feel we're dragging along decades and decades of scholarly baggage that is not at all relevant to the art of encyclopedia-writing. Half of the back-and-forth on these policy pages, I'm convinced, can be attributed to such linguistic baggage.--Pharos (talk) 07:38, 14 December 2007 (UTC)