Wikipedia talk:No original research/Archive 52

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Argument that today's main page FA violates a thorough application of WP:OR+WP:VER

The title was much later significantly renamed from "Sampler that 90% of Wikipedia violates a thorough application of WP:OR+WP:VER". North8000 (talk) 20:31, 18 May 2010 (UTC)

I'll take today's featured article. "David Alexander Johnson" The first sentence is "David Alexander Johnson (December 18, 1949 – May 18, 1980) was an American volcanologist with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) who was killed by the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington." WP:OR+WP:VER would define this EXCELLENT opening sentence as containing 6 violations.

This sentence contains the following statements:

  • Born 12/18/49
  • Died 5/18/80
  • Was an American
  • was a volcanologist
  • worked for USGS
  • killed by the volcano

None of these are referenced (and the lead is not exempt). So, per WP:OR+VER there are 6 violations in just the first sentence alone of today's featured article. This is a reflection on the policies, not on the article. If I were a deviant personality, or if it would serve my ulterior motives to do so, I could (while referencing WP policies and claiming moral superiority)delete the first sentence or hang 6 tags on it, and it would be a lot of work for the author to get it back in, and it would be footnoted mess when they did.North8000 (talk) 13:59, 18 May 2010 (UTC)

Ledes are except from being sourced - it's an optional style, and sourcing is only required if a direct quote is used there or is a contentious fact (which none of the above are). As long as the salient points are referenced in the body, there's no OR. --MASEM (t) 14:30, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
WP:VER and WP:NOR make no exception for the lead, so this violates them. As a sidebar, wp:lead says leads: "should be carefully sourced as appropriate"
There is no exception to the lead in the sense that all material there must be attributable, and challenged material attributed, as in any part of the article. But as a style issue, the location of the citations, esp. those which are less contentious (such as the ones in the example), may also be in the later text. If something is very contentious, or quoted, the citation should be included inline, close the material it supports. Crum375 (talk) 14:54, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
WP:VER & WP:OR make no distinction whatsoever for the lead.
So, let's say that I, right now, challenge the lead sentence as being unsourced and hang 6 tags on it. Per WP:VER & WP:NOR, can the author just tell me to go pound sand and revert me, or do they have provide in-line citations for those 6 facts in order to put it back in? —Preceding unsigned comment added by North8000 (talkcontribs)
Most likely you would be reverted, and that revert would likely be supported because 1) the material is referenced in the body in line with WP:LEAD and 2) none of the statements are the type that would be considered extraordinary or contentious. If it was something more like "John Smith was considered the greatest volcanologist ever", then you may have a case. --MASEM (t) 15:18, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
When a claim is repeated in an article in order to make the article more readable, it is not necessary to provide a citation for every instance of the claim. Jc3s5h (talk) 15:20, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
(ec)If you feel some material in the lead or elsewhere requires a source, you can ask the editors where the source is cited. If they say it's cited lower down in the text and you would like it moved higher, then it boils down to a style issue, which should be settled by consensus. But there is no question that all material must be attributable, with challenged and quoted material attributed inline. The only question, which is a style issue, is where exactly, and in how many places, to place that citation. Crum375 (talk) 15:22, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
Respectfully, you didn't answer my question. What happens next (per WP:VER & WP:NOR) if I hang those 6 tags on it? And don't forget that WP:VER says that the burden of proof is on the person who wants to retain/restore the material. North8000 (talk) 15:28, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
Since you are on notice, you would be reported at WP:ANI. Jc3s5h (talk) 15:30, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
I don't understand what you said. North8000 (talk) 15:50, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
Masem is correct... every single one of those statements is not only verifiable, but verified by one of the cited reliable sources. The fact that the citations are not included where the facts first appear (in the lede paragraph) does not mean that the facts are not referenced. All of the facts are referenced and cited later in the article. Thus, there is no WP:V or WP:NOR violation. If you were to tag them, I would politely point this out to you and remove the tags. If you pressed the point, I would eventually report you at ANI. Blueboar (talk) 15:34, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
Would you have to prove that all 6 are sourced in order to do so, or just make a blanket statement as you did? If you reported me without wasting your time proving that all 6 are sourced, you would be reporting me for enforcing WP policies......the burden of proof is on the person who wants to restore / keep the material. North8000 (talk) 16:08, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
North, if I made a blanket statement "all FA's are unsourced!", and added {{fact}} tags to every sentence in every FA, it won't take long for me to get blocked, and for everything to get reverted. The reason is that to improve the encyclopedia, we need to focus on individual points, one at a time. Any campaign of mass addition or removal of material to well reviewed articles (including adding templates), even if "armed" with quotes from policies, however well intentioned, is considered WP:POINTy and disruptive. Crum375 (talk) 16:33, 18 May 2010 (UTC)

North, original research is material for which no reliable source exists; it's not material that doesn't have a footnote next to it. About leads, there is no exception for leads, but a convention has arisen, particularly in featured articles, that non-contentious material is not referenced. I don't agree with that myself, but it's quite standard. It arose, I believe, because of Wikipedians with a background in academia who were used to the idea of article abstracts. SlimVirgin talk contribs 15:37, 18 May 2010 (UTC)

I picked the first sentence of the lead, but I could have done the same with material that is not in the lead. North8000 (talk) 16:08, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
Can you give us an example of material in that article for which you're reasonably sure no source exists? SlimVirgin talk contribs 16:14, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
I think that we just did a role reversal. What you just described is what I think that the criteria/procedure SHOULD be in order to tag or delete it. Under the current policies (and the interpretation of the regulars here) I don't have to say I think that no source exists, I can tag or delete it for merely being unsourced and then the burden of proof is on the person who wants to keep it to prove otherwise. North8000 (talk) 16:40, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
North, you can point to something in an article and challenge it, and editors will have to show you where the source for that material is, and defend it if you claim it doesn't directly support the material. But you need to be very specific: you can't just wave your arms and say "it's all unsourced!" Crum375 (talk) 16:45, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
North, the reason I've been pushing you to go through this exercise is because I have strongly suspected (and now been proven right) that you have completely misunderstood the policies.
As an example: Please show me the sentence in WP:V or WP:NOR that requires inline citations next to every single instance of a non-contentious fact (not including direct quotations).
You couldn't find any such sentence? Well, I let you in on the secret: You couldn't find it because it's not there. None of our sourcing policies have ever required this. The policy is that material must be "verifiable", not "already cited". If a suitable source exists -- anywhere in the world, in any language, in any medium -- then the material complies with WP:V. (The point of BURDEN is to help us identify situations in which a suitable source probably does not exist.)
Also, you might benefit from reading WP:LEAD#Citations, which addresses this point explicitly. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:03, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
Just to tweak what you said: if a source exists, whether or not it's supplied, the material complies with NOR. If it's a quotation, or is material that's been challenged or is likely to be challenged, and it has an inline citation, then it complies with V. SlimVirgin talk contribs 17:15, 18 May 2010 (UTC)

Answering several folks:

In this discussion section I am making a point. Which is that, the policies as written make 90% of Wikipedia material vulnerable to the abuses that I describe. The common abuses in real life typically aren't to make such points. The two most common are to selectively knock out material to POV an article, or the social misfits who just go around doing such things to articles (and never creating anything) just because they enjoy doing so, being social misfits.

As before, we are debating two different things. Y'all are talking about the principles and intentions of the policies, and how high-minded people would resolve issues regarding them. an area where I am in total agreement with you. I am talking about the unintended consequences of the policies as written, and that they make 90% of Wikipedia content vulnerable to such abuse, and that such abuse is widespread.

And I think I can answer the question that nobody has been willing to answer directly. If I were to sanctimonously hang those 6 tags on that sentence, the editor that created this excellent material is going to have to waste their time proving that all 6 are sourced in order to remove the tags. North8000 (talk) 17:23, 18 May 2010 (UTC)

North, if your point is "can an editor intent on disruption create disruption and waste people's time?" The answer is "yes", any free and open project like Wikipedia is "vulnerable" to people intent on mayhem. This means that no matter what the policies said, the disruptive users will find a way to waste our time, so we might as well focus on writing reasonable policies to help reasonable people who want to help, not those bent on disruption. Crum375 (talk) 17:41, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
Yup, these things happen: People misapply policies and guidelines all the time. Editors who know better fix the resulting problems whenever they encounter them. Depending on the perceived motivation, this particular mistake is either called a bad-faith challenge or a simple misunderstanding of the policy.
North, you have repeatedly asserted on this page that the actual policies require a silly level of inline citations. You have been repeatedly told that the policies only require that material be verifiable rather than already supported by a specific inline citation. Do you now agree that the policies mean what they say, and thus that the sentence you quote above is fully compliant with Wikipedia's actual content policies? WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:49, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
Per WP:ver anything challenged requires an in-line citation. Per both policies and per the regulars here, the challenge need be only that it is unscourced. The challenger does not even need to say that the don't believe a source exists, they just need to say that it is unsourced. So, once it is challenged for being unsourced, it is in violation until it gets in-line citations. (not that I agree that it should be so) North8000 (talk) 18:18, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
We don't try to read people's minds; if they challenge material which is not attributed, it needs to be attributed. That's all there is to it. It's simple, and it works. You have yet to demonstrate any problem with it. Crum375 (talk) 18:28, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
Those are two new topics / discussions and I'm getting writer's cramp for the moment.  :-) Peace. North8000 (talk) 19:06, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
North, the six facts you identified in this sentence have not been challenged and are not likely to be challenged. Do we agree that these six facts therefore comply with the policies, as written, in their current form? WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:09, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
YES, until some misfit challenges them simply for being unsourced at which time they become in violation until they get in-line citations. North8000 (talk) 19:19, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
So? When they are challenged, they will be attributed (if they are not already). Whether on the same sentence or on another one is a question of style, to be decided by consensus. But there is no "violation", and no problem. Crum375 (talk) 19:23, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
I was just answering WhatamIdoing's question. My "so" was already said.
But my main point is that there is a problem, and that the following change (paraphrased) would go a long way towards fixing it:
  • To take action (tagging, deletion etc.) against an unsourced statement, you should also either state disagreement with the statement or that you believe that it is unsourcable.
  • (handle the more stringent BLP and quotation sourcing requirements separately)
Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 19:48, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
North, I am sure you are familiar with "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." In this case, you have yet to demonstrate that anything is "broke". There is no need to insist on a reason for a challenge: all we need is a challenge. And since all material on Wikipedia must be attributable, it means that the person who added the material should have a source for it, and it should be cited. That's easy, simple, and it works. Crum375 (talk) 19:56, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
Well, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on several of those points. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 20:09, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
North, if some "misfit" editor were to challenge your six facts for being "unsourced"... I would do exactly as I am doing with you... I would point out to them that these facts ARE, in fact, sourced... every single one of them. The facts are repeated (with citations) in the "Life and carrer" section of the article (the first section after the lede). I would then point the misfit editor to WP:LEDE to explain why they are cited in this section and not cited in the lede. I would explain that WP:BURDEN has in fact been complied with and that there is no WP:V or WP:NOR violation. If they insisted that the facts be cited in the lede... no problem... it takes but a second to cut and paste these existing citations. In short, what you think is a problem... isn't a problem. Blueboar (talk) 20:27, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
WP:VER says that once challenged they need in-line citations. But we're going in circles. Though somebody changed the title, this started out as a sampler (example), not an all-inclusive example of the things covered by my assertion. There are many other components. Any high level of summarization is wp:synthesis, most sources do not meet the criteria of wp:ver, etc. I think that yourself and Crum are committed to defending and keeping 100% the status quo regarding this (apologies if I misunderstand) I think we have to agree to disagree. I came here emboldened to pursue this issue because it is the policy most often questioned by experienced editors and most often abused by abusers. Probably I'll get worn down and give up and leave this discussion like all of the others. North8000 (talk) 21:05, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
I am definitely not committed to status quo ... In fact I have several issues with the current language of the policy. However, I also accept that current consensus does not agree with my view point, so I don't belabor the point. Blueboar (talk) 02:08, 19 May 2010 (UTC)
I'd also take Blueboar's basic approach in that instance. That is, I'd first see whether I could convince the concerned editor to withdraw the challenge.
North, one of the reasons that we don't require any bureaucratic overhead when a fact is challenged is that the reason for the challenge has no practical effect. Here's the system:
I challenge because... Your response is...
I think it's factually wrong Provide an inline source
I think it's unsourceable Provide an inline source
I'm disrupting Wikipedia to prove a point Provide an inline source
I'm wikilawyering against a POV I hate Provide an inline source
My teacher won't let me cite Wikipedia directly Provide an inline source
I'm feeling grumpy Provide an inline source
I don't understand the content policies Provide an inline source
The moon is full Provide an inline source
The sky is blue Provide an inline source
I'm a jerk Provide an inline source
Given that your response is always the same, it actually doesn't matter what my excuse (nominal or real) is for challenging material. If I challenge it, then you provide an inline source, full stop. Why I (claim to) have challenged it is irrelevant.
If you want to discuss your (erroneous) assertions that most sources used on Wikipedia fail WP:V and that summarizing sources violates WP:SYNTH, then I suggest starting new sections. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:43, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
Excellent! That should be in the policy. :) SlimVirgin talk contribs 01:11, 19 May 2010 (UTC)

I don't understand your logic. You seem to be seeing that sameness of the response means that the cause is irrelevant. That does not follow. But either way, it does not refute my assertion that my proposal would reduce abuses. North8000 (talk) 23:59, 18 May 2010 (UTC)

He is saying that requiring an "explanation" for a challenge is useless, and would only increase discord. It's better to just say "I challenge" and then to provide the source. Crum375 (talk) 00:04, 19 May 2010 (UTC)
What abuse? None of the causes I named above are prohibited. Several are silly and several are stupid, but none are actually prohibited. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:46, 19 May 2010 (UTC)
  • I think North8000 has some point, but it is so subtly complex that I think he should write an extended essay on it for him to be better understood. I suggest that he illustrate this essay with examples of good and bad practice within and outside wikipedia, and suggest solutions. Does he suggest referencing and cross-referencing multiple times per sentence, or does he suggest something else? --SmokeyJoe (talk) 00:17, 19 May 2010 (UTC)
Maybe you are right. But I'm not sure of the Wikipedia "syntax" on creating an essay. Do you just create an article except with a Wikipedia:xxxxx name and then put an essay template on it?. BTW I think that the article is fine. North8000 (talk) 02:54, 19 May 2010 (UTC)
Yes, you just write it and tag it. The official rules are documented here, but the short version is: Any editor can write whatever essays s/he wants. If there are problems (i.e., it is a strongly anti-consensus viewpoint), then you'll hear about either a proposal to move it into your userspace (where editors are given even broader discretion), or to have it deleted at WP:MFD (usual rules apply; most editors argue from common sense for essays). WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:08, 19 May 2010 (UTC)
Please remember these are editorial policies which imply--indeed presume--a very broad extent of discretion at every stage of the writing and editing process. The three core content policies describe methods by which editors are essentially a conduit for summarizing facts and ideas w.r.t. any given topic in the "entire world", so to speak. W.r.t. requiring sourcing, the WP:V policy says content must be cited to reliable sources if it's "contested or likely to be contested", as opposed to e.g., arguing endlessly over what's a fact or what's the truth. This has pretty much from the beginning been a standard WP editorial principle. Which has in turn, for example, lead some to argue on this and other policy talk pages that we don't deal in facts, but only in verification of what others say. But that argument is very incomplete because there are editorial decisions to be made in conveying the material to readers. Which leads me to three interrelated assertions at the moment.
..... First, the core content policies prescribe the basic methods and proscribe the approximate limits beyond which editorial discretion is not to be exercised.
..... Second, the content policies describe a basic editorial method across an extremely wide range of topic areas, many of which are hardly controversial at all, but a very significant number of which are definitely controversial in one respect or another, with all shades of controversiality-grey in between.
..... Third, there is a very big difference between article writing that's more than just citing "Advocate A says x about y and advocate B says z about it" and on the other hand "original research and original synthesis. Here too there is a broad range of discretion, shades of grey and permissible disagreement over both the facts according to reliable sources and how to best express them encyclopedically.

IMO, a broad accusation of multiple "violation[s]" of policy in a featured article as asserted at the top of this talk section, or in "90%" of articles as also alleged by North8000, is very misguided, mistaking editorial policy for some kind of draconian mandate about how contributors are to do each and every thing in the never-fully-complete editorial process in this project. Which is why WP:IAR is also a treasured part of the ever-evolving WP project--however imperfect it may be. W.r.t. the notion that the featured article on David Alexander Johnston has "violated" WP:NOR and/or WP:V as alleged at the beginning of this talk section, I have yet to see anyone contesting the notion that Mr. Johnston was, e.g., born on 18 December 1949, or any other basic fact about Johnston. If someone has reason to contest or be likely to contest this or any or any other fact about Johnston, I have yet to see it demonstrated here in a way that implicates fault in WP policy or in the mentioned article about Johnston. .... Kenosis (talk) 04:41, 19 May 2010 (UTC)

Thank you to WhatamIdoing for the info and Kenosis for the overview. I think that SmokeyJoe a few lines above that was right. I tend to think structurally, and how elements can interact including creating unintended consequences. In the outside world I often get called on to write by-laws, policies, constitutions of organizations, articles of incorporation, and occasionally laws. (also in running organizations and a company) My strengths in that area are more as a logician and understanding cause / effect and the related people dynamics rather than writing skills. I see that I have not communicated my central theme in this section. Basically, it's that when there is a large disparity between the "letter of the law" and reality, i.e. where most things that get done get done by bending or breaking the rules, you have a problem, including making the situation ripe for abuse. (And I was using one sentence of one FA as a quick attempt to show that such a disparity exists.) And when one wanders Wikipedia, one can see that there ARE some problems which are big and getting bigger. Wikipedia is a huge success story. The core policies are fundamentally good, and are just what Wikipedia needs. They also have some granularity, structural, organizational and unintended-consequences issues where fixing them would help Wikipedia, including in those areas where there are problems which are getting bigger. I might start that "essay" section....if so I'll mention it here. Who knows.... a long shot....if done a certain way, it could become a collaborate area for analysis and work on things which which are too long term / complex for successful handling a talk page+tweaks-on-a-major-policy format. A big thank you everyone, even to those I disagree with. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 11:28, 19 May 2010 (UTC)

  • No offense, but why is this thread continuing? At most, this is not an original research question but a verifiability one. That should have been stated and then the thread left alone so we don't continue a long, unproductive discussion and distract from other threads with actual issues. I realize it's ironic for me to be saying that, but I think it needs to be said - and I'm ignoring an oft-used acronym which comes to mind out of civility. Incidentally, North8000, I try to reference leads if there's something that's likely to be questioned. If you really want to see them cited, look through the article and add a cite to an obituary to the lead, which would likely cover all the facts. I also sometimes cite every single fact, which can lead to the same citation being used multiple times in the same paragraph. Some people don't like the style but I think the convenience of verifiability and the prevention of my addition being deleted makes it worth it. North8000, I also see you're saying that you're trying to make a larger point about Wikipedia's ignore all rules but I don't see any constructive proposals here. II | (t - c) 08:23, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
I was done with this and signing off. My point was summed up in that last paragraph (and goes to the root of lots of actual issues) and quite different than you described. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 11:27, 20 May 2010 (UTC)

POLL: Constant misunderstandings about NOR and my proposed solution

I note the the 'Terminology' section above [1]. Indeed huge amounts of WP time are constantly wasted by eds misunderstanding the NOR policy and OR. This is because the title is misleading, and focuses on 'research' rather than 'opinion'. Editors do not undertake research when they add their personal opinion to articles. So they don't think they have done anything wrong when they add their opinion, and don't understand that the only opinion WP wants is restricted to what can be found in secondary sources. Over and over again I have seen editors told their edits are OR, and they appear to be baffled, saying 'but I haven't done any research, this is a known fact'. It would be helpful to them, I think, if they aren't told that they have conducted 'Original Research' but that they are 'Opinion Restricted' to what they can find in secondary sources. Consequently I propose NOR should also stand for 'New Opinion Restricted' and OR should also stand for 'Opinion Restricted'. These would simply be additional terms that we add to the lede of this article. Perhaps the description of 'Opinion Restricted' could also state the case that WP is not advocacy journalism, nor is it a Third-person omniscient narrative with intrusive narrators and omniscient narrators. The result, I hope, is that editors will understand faster that their personal opinions are irrelevant, and will steer them toward sourcing. Please vote below. Obviously I strongly support this addition to the NOR article. -Chumchum7 (talk) 08:28, 20 May 2010 (UTC)

In practice "OR" has become the noun for any violation of wp:ver. I think that its use has become much broader than just "Research" or "Opinions". But it might help. North8000 (talk) 12:14, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps this policy could have been named differently when it was created, but I think we are stuck with it. Unfortunately, there are some things that have become so ingrained in Wikipedia that it is all but impossible to change them. The term "Original research" and the abbreviation "OR" may have evolved into "Wikipedia Jargon"... but that jargon is so much a part of Wikipedia that trying to change it would be impossible.
Besides... NOR isn't just about new opinions (ie conclusions). It is also about not adding original interpretation and analysis and (most importantly) original synthesis of sources. Far more common than people who say "but I didn't do any research" are people who say "but this isn't my opinion... it's fact. I did exhaustive research on this, and my research proves what I say" (to which the appropriate response is: "you may well be right... but the NOR policy says that Wikipedia isn't the place to debut your proof. Go publish it somewhere else first, and then we can consider adding it to Wikipedia.) Blueboar (talk) 12:50, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
A better name for the policy would be no tenuous attribution. If someone adds something to Wikipedia based on analysis, interpretation or synthesis of sources and then cites those sources, it should be labbelled tenuous attribution. If someone adds something and cites no sources at all then that is an issue for WP:V. Yaris678 (talk) 13:17, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
A snappy alternative would be WP:STS... which could stand for both "Summarize The Sources" and "Stick to The Sources"... which are both what this policy is really all about. But, as we learned with WP:ATT... people like what they are used to, and dislike changing the names of established policies. Blueboar (talk) 13:28, 20 May 2010 (UTC)

I should emphasise I'm not suggesting we change the meaning or NOR nor am I trying to limit it. My point is that keep WP:NOR as it is, but add another definition, in order to deal with editors who add their opinion in good faith, and don't understand what 'original research' has to do with their edits, no matter how many times people try to explain it to them. Most time-wasting conflicts seem to start because editors wrongly assume they are entitled to include their personal opinions in articles. My proposed lede would be something like this: Wikipedia does not publish original research. The term "original research" refers to material—such as facts, allegations, ideas, and stories—not already published by reliable sources. It also refers to any analysis or synthesis by Wikipedians of published material, where the analysis or synthesis advances a position not advanced by the sources. A second, and equally important meaning of this policy is "new opinion restricted": Wikipedians may not add their personal opinion to articles. Opinion is restricted to what can be found in reliable secondary sources, and does not extend to what is in Wikipedians' hearts and minds. -Chumchum7 (talk) 14:44, 20 May 2010 (UTC)

If people add their own opinions and don't cite sources that happen to say the same thing then the policy they need to refer to is WP:V. Some people will say "I am removing your original research" but such statements are misleading. As with the earlier discussion, this confusion could be avoided if WP:NOR and WP:V were merged. Yaris678 (talk) 15:13, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
I agree... but how do we convince all the people who prefer to have two separate policies? Blueboar (talk) 15:46, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
I dunno. It looks like a really good idea from where I am standing and no one has really come out against the idea while it has been discussed recently. On the other hand, I was quite taken aback by the opposition to the seemingly obvious WP:PSTSPROP so I guess we can't just assume that common sense will prevail. Is it worth bringing up at the village pump? Perhaps we should wait till Slim comes up with a draft... or would that make people think it had been stitched up in advance?
What were the complaints last time? That the resultant policy was too long? That they liked the old terminology?
Yaris678 (talk) 21:50, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
You can read both the positive and the negative comments at Wikipedia:Attribution/Poll Blueboar (talk) 23:11, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
To really understand that poll, you have to remember the shock that ran throught the community when a prominent and powerful policy editor made this edit
(This is superseded by WP:ATT, as discussed on Wikipedia:Village pump (policy) and Wikipedia talk:Attribution.)
appear on watchlists. Note the bold red cross. Think what "superceded" means. Note that few were watchlisting WP:ATT and few keep up with editing at WP:VPP. Note the uniformative preceding history of edits to WP:NOR and WT:NOR. Out of the blue, a core policy was, fait accompli, overturned per an established concensus that the community didn't know about. In hindsight, no one should be surprised at the kneejerk reaction. It doesn't mean that what was done at WP:ATT was wrong, but it proved that can't move the community without keeping them abreast. Many of the comments at that poll were in kneejerk reaction, and as such, the meaning of the poll should be nullified. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 05:07, 21 May 2010 (UTC)
  • This is another thread which appears to conflate original research and verifiability. Whether something is an opinion, or whether the person who adds the content has an opinion on the content, is irrelevant; if something is unsourced it violates WP:V, and if something is sourced to a source which does not directly say what the source is implied to say, it violates WP:NOR. These are very distinct concepts and that's why separate pages is an absolute must. In response to Chumchum7: if a Wikipedia adds their new personal opinion to the article, but uses a reliable source (someone who holds their opinion), there's nothing wrong (although they should perhaps WP:ATTRIBUTEPOV). Chumchum7, can we mark this resolved and collapse? II | (t - c) 02:39, 21 May 2010 (UTC)
Blueboar, thanks for pointing me towards Wikipedia:Attribution/Poll. It made interesting reading. One thing that stood out to me was that quite a lot of people liked the idea of merging WP:NOR with WP:V, but they didn't like the idea of also merging in WP:RS. I completely agree with that position and note that we are not advocating merging in WP:RS/WP:IRS this time. My thoughts on the three pages are summarised by Rusty Cashman in point 97 of Wikipedia:Attribution/Poll #Neutral/qualified/compromise/other.
II, I agree with how you distinguish between WP:NOR and WP:V. However, most people seem not to be able to get that distinction into their head, which leads to people labelling everything OR. A merged policy would be simpler because people wouldn’t have to make the distinction. If we don’t go for a merge, an alternative suggestion would be to rephrase everything in WP:NOR that makes it look like WP:V. For example, it currently says “If no source exists for something you want to add to Wikipedia, it is what we call original research.” It should say “If no source exists for something you want to add to Wikipedia, it is what we call unverifiable.”
Yaris678 (talk) 07:51, 21 May 2010 (UTC)
Actually, I think the distinction can be made even easier...
  • If no source exists for a fact that you want to add to Wikipedia, it is what we call Unverifiable (cite WP:V).
  • If no source exists for an interpretation, analysis or conclusion that you want to add to Wikipedia, it is what we call original research (cite WP:NOR)
In both cases, the problem is lack of sources... the difference is what type of statement is not sourced. Blueboar (talk) 11:32, 21 May 2010 (UTC)
Having a large overlap between subjects and some duplicated content is not good. Something should be done. My advice would be to move the WP:VER type content that's in WP:NOR out of WP:NOR and into WP:VER, and leave WP:NOR smaller, focusing on the (the outside world meaning of) it's title. This would be much easier to do than to get a strong consensus on a merge and accomplish a merge. But a merge would also take care of the issue. North8000 (talk) 10:51, 21 May 2010 (UTC)

North, I like the idea but I don't think it is any more likely to gain consensus. If you remove the prohibition of X from WP:NOR, people will say "We can't allow people to do X! This is a fundamental principle of Wikipedia!" They will ignore the fact that X is also prohibited by WP:V. I think my idea of just rephrasing some sections of WP:V is more likely to gain acceptance... but even that could be problematic. The second sentence of WP:NOR is currently

The term "original research" refers to material—such as facts, allegations, ideas, and stories—not already published by reliable sources.'

We could change it to either

The term "unverifiable" refers to material—such as facts, allegations, ideas, and stories—not already published by reliable sources.

or, since we are supposed to be writing about original research,

The term "original research" refers to material—such as facts, allegations, ideas, and stories—only tenuously supported by reliable sources.

Yaris678 (talk) 11:57, 21 May 2010 (UTC)

"original research refers to material...only tenuously supported by reliable sources": That's incorrect. On Wikipedia OR refers to any material not supported by reliable sources, period. Crum375 (talk) 12:33, 21 May 2010 (UTC)
Crum, you are certainly right, but by what you just said, wp:NOR is 100% the same as / a duplication of wp:ver and shouldn't exist. North8000 (talk) 12:49, 21 May 2010 (UTC)
I was thinking along the lines of moving 80% of WP:NOR to WP:VER, the remaining 20% would basically just "explain" / expand upon one aspect of / set of scenarios within wp:ver, that wp is not the place for putting forth new ideas, new research, new theories etc. In reality, that is sort of a merger, but an easier / more pragmatic way to get there. North8000 (talk) 12:49, 21 May 2010 (UTC)
Just some advice at this point... don't do anything so significant to this policy (and WP:V) without giving a LOT of warning... in as many venues as possible... especially at the Village Pump. If there is one thing that I have learned in more than five years of editing policy pages ... you ensure a knee-jerk rejection of any change if those who do not actively follow this talk page are taken by surprise. Blueboar (talk) 13:58, 21 May 2010 (UTC)
Sorry I was unclear. I didn't mean to sound like I was thinking of ME starting to make those changes. I was just suggesting that overall. North8000 (talk) 14:12, 21 May 2010 (UTC)

Distinction between original research and unverifiable material

Over recent posts there seems to have been many different ideas about what original research actually is and how it is distinct from unverifiable material. I can see some merit in each but it would be nice if we actually decided which to go for so that we don’t keep talking at cross purposes. The distinctions I can see are:

  1. Unverifiable means not supported by the sources whereas OR means only supported through interpretation, analysis or synthesis of the sources.
  2. Unverifiable means a fact not supported by sources whereas OR means an interpretation, analysis, synthesis or conclusion not supported by the sources.
  3. Unverifiable means not supported by the sources and OR means not supported by the sources.

Part of the difference between 1 and 2 is that in 2 the OR writer is making the analysis etc. explicit in the text whereas in 1 the OR writer is just relying on the reader to make the jump from the source to the conclusion. 2 also has the issue that someone interpreting the policy must be able to distinguish between a fact and a conclusion.

Those of opinion 3 tend to think the two policies should be merged. Some of those of the other opinions think they should be merged to avoid confusion whereas others hold the distinction dear. Yaris678 (talk) 14:44, 21 May 2010 (UTC)

I think there are two separate issues here, the meaning of OR on Wikipedia, and the need to keep the OR policy separate from V. As for the first issue, OR has had the same definition on WP over the last 5 years, which is "OR means material not attributable to a reliable source." Here are some sample definitions from OR policy over the last few years:
  • 2005: "What is original research? Original research refers to material added to articles by Wikipedia editors that has not been published already by a reputable source."[2]
  • 2006: "Original research is a term used in Wikipedia to refer to material that has not been published by a reliable source."[3]
  • 2007: "Original research is a claim for which no reliable source can be found. Producing a reliable published source that advances the same claim taken in context is the only way to disprove an assertion that a claim constitutes original research."[4]
  • 2008: "to demonstrate that you are not presenting original research, you must cite reliable sources that are directly related to the topic of the article, and that directly support the information as it is presented."[5]
  • 2009: "To demonstrate that you are not presenting original research, you must cite reliable sources that are directly related to the topic of the article, and that directly support the information as it is presented."[6]
  • 2010: "The term original research refers to material—such as facts, allegations, ideas, and stories—not already published by reliable sources."[7]
Clearly the definition has not strayed much from the basic meaning of "OR = 'not attributable to a reliable source'." Crum375 (talk) 15:40, 21 May 2010 (UTC)
Unlike Crum375, I don't care what the talk page regulars think the terms mean, or how that group have used the terms in the past. Unverifiable, in the context of source-based research, means the information cannot be found in a reliable publication. Original research, from the point of view of a publisher, means unpublished. Jc3s5h (talk) 17:10, 21 May 2010 (UTC)
My message above had nothing to do with "talk page regulars". I was referring to and quoted what the WP:OR policy actually says, and has said, over the last five years, as its own definition of what it is. That reflects what the entire Wikipedia community means by "OR", not some limited subset. And just like "verifiability", WP has always had its own definition of OR, which may be different than that of other groups. Crum375 (talk) 17:24, 21 May 2010 (UTC)
The WP def of OR isn't just contrary to the definition of it in one or another group, it's in conflict with the universal connotation of that term in the English language. As long as that conflict exists, we can expect to have to keep repeating over and over and over that once you enter Wikipedia, the real world meaning of the term no longer apples. If you write down a famous 1,000 year old quote and it is unsourced, in WP that is "Original Research" North8000 (talk) 17:49, 21 May 2010 (UTC)
There is no such concept as "universal definition" of anything. Every group has its own definition of things. Some are more common than others, but none are identical everywhere. In the WP case, as I noted above in the #Terminology section, both "verifiability" and "OR" have a somewhat peculiar definition, which can cause confusion. But the actual wiki definitions of both terms have not changed much over the years. Crum375 (talk) 17:58, 21 May 2010 (UTC)
My comment was that the WP definition of the term is very different than the general meaning of the term outside of WP. Ask a bunch of non-wikipedia-familiar people what "original research" means, and I think that the answers will be similar and nowhere near the WP definition. Implying that I was saying there was a universal definition (definition being more specific/precise) is sort changing what I said to a straw man version of it. But no biggee. North8000 (talk) 19:50, 21 May 2010 (UTC)
Crum375, the 04:34, 10 June 2006 version of the original research page says in the lead: "the only way to demonstrate that you are not doing original research is to cite reliable sources which provide information that is directly related to the topic of the article, and to adhere to what those sources say". This is what original research is about, and it is not the same as verifiability per se. Content can be plenty verifiable - it can be attributed to a reliable source which directly says what the content says, but if it is in the wrong article, it can still be original research (VERY COMMON). Some of the quotes you provide reflect this understanding (2008, 2009), but others don't. Something can be verifiable, but if the verification requires too much particular expertise and analysis (which may nevertheless be completely valid), it is original research. In other words, it can be "attributed" to reliable sources such as original scientific papers, but it can still be original research. It seems as if you're trying to pull out random sentences from versions of the article to try to make the point that verifiability and original research are broadly synonymous and mean that there aren't reliable sources. Since there are 3-4 threads which have this misunderstanding here, it's no surprise that certain versions of the policy have had an unsophisticated and basically incorrect understanding of the actual policy. It's also worth point out that if something is uncited, it can either be original research (no source around) or unverifiable (person forgot to add a source). II | (t - c) 21:07, 21 May 2010 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────North8000: you're right that the terms here don't match the terms in other areas. I agree with Crum that the definition of "original research" is essentially the same as "unverifiable". The only possible change over the years has been an increased focus on synthesis. The basic meaning has been pretty stable. — Carl (CBM · talk) 20:15, 21 May 2010 (UTC)

I 100% agree that you are both right on that. North8000 (talk) 20:57, 21 May 2010 (UTC)
The term "original research" in the academic world doesn't mean "not based on reliable sources". Students writing research papers and academics writing papers use reliable sources all the time in their original research--indeed they're expected to use reliable sources. What we do in WP is more comparable to, well, writing an encyclopedia, or writing a report on a topic, without synthesizing those sources in support of an original thesis, POV or other conclusion which puts forward an argument based on the cited reliable sources. This practice is well tolerated--even encouraged, in an original research paper. But it's not what we do in WP. And therein lies the important difference between WP:V and WP:NOR. ... Kenosis (talk) 20:46, 21 May 2010 (UTC)

Re Crum375's remark "both 'verifiability' and 'OR' have a somewhat peculiar definition, which can cause confusion." - We have the opportunity to make the "OR" definition less peculiar with the change proposed in the RFC above. As it is now, the definition of "OR" includes the case where editors' don't try to put their original thoughts into Wikipedia, but try to include material by citing unreliable sources. This prohibition belongs in WP:VER where it currently is, not in WP:NOR as part of the definition of "OR", where it is peculiar and a source of confusion. And this can be fixed easily with the RFC above.--Bob K31416 (talk) 20:49, 21 May 2010 (UTC)

What I pointed out in #Terminology is that the historical names we chose for the policies are misnomers and therefore cause confusion among newer editors. But the actual concepts behind those names are just fine, and don't require any modification. What I did suggest is to combine the two policies, which are essentially saying the same thing in different words, into a single combined version called WP:ATT (not that it's my idea in any way, but I support it). What you are suggesting in this RfC, however, would create even further confusion, because it would leave the confusing names in place, and introduce new concepts and new definitions, which at the moment have no consensus. And any conceptual changes in these core policies would require a fairly broad consensus, project wide, because they would affect everything. Crum375 (talk) 23:09, 21 May 2010 (UTC)
You could clarify your remarks for me by answering the following questions:
1) Do you think that the present definition of "original research" is a good definition and is not misunderstood by editors?
2) If the two policies NOR and VER are combined, would you want to eliminate the term "original research"?
--Bob K31416 (talk) 23:48, 21 May 2010 (UTC)
1) I think the definition of OR is fine, it's simply the complement of "attributable" — material is either attributable to a reliable source, and thus eligible for inclusion, or not attributable to a reliable source (aka "OR"), and thus ineligible for inclusion. As far as being misunderstood, I think most long time editors with some good articles and perhaps FAs under their belts understand the core policies clearly, but unfortunately many newer or less experienced editors find the concepts behind both WP:V and WP:NOR hard to grasp, regardless of the specific names. Having names that are counter-intuitive is not helpful, as I noted in #Terminology.
2) If V and NOR are combined, I'd like to eliminate both confusing names by calling the combination "attributablity" (WP:ATT). We can keep V and OR for historical reasons, but encourage people to focus on attributability instead. Under WP:ATT, life would be almost too simple: material is either attributable to a reliable source, or it isn't. If the editor adding it says it is, and the material is challenged, likely to be challenged, or quoted, he'd need to supply the reliable source. The more subtle concept of WP:SYN will be integrated into WP:ATT, by clarifying that any synthesis of sources which advances a position must be directly attributable to a reliable source, just like any other material. In other words, we define "material" as not just words, but implications arising from their presentation or juxtaposition. Crum375 (talk) 00:17, 22 May 2010 (UTC)
Crum375, are you proposing to put WP:ATT up for policy status again? ... Kenosis (talk) 00:58, 22 May 2010 (UTC)
I'd like to take some parts from the current version, including the WP:ATT name and the key attributability/attribution concepts. I think all counterpoints and objections raised in the past, as well as the issues recently mentioned on this talk page, need to be addressed. I would try to get a good sounding for it, and inputs from the wider community, before putting it up for vote. Crum375 (talk) 01:11, 22 May 2010 (UTC)
I would expect that the process would be served by bringing WP:ATT into a state where it at least has a chance, preserving the widely used WP:Shortcuts, integrating the language of WP:NOR that is redundant with WP:V, and not cutting any corners but instead making sure WP:SYN and WP:PSTS are preserved intact if not verbatim. It took a lot of minds to arrive at that sensitive and important language in those two policy sections. And then maybe get some feedback on it at WP:VPP and see where it leads?
....... So many users have come to rely on WP:V and WP:NOR in their basic long-standing form that I expect a move towards a combined policy page would at minimum take a long transitional period so as to allow those who rely on the existing tripartite core-content policy structure to continue to use it for a reasonable length of time, perhaps up to several years? IOW, it's not just about historical preservation, but also about how countless experienced users—most of whom don't necessarily frequent the policy pages or WP:VPP by instead just apply and cite as may be necessary the three interactive core content policies—approach their description of policy in explaining it to others. ... Kenosis (talk) 03:02, 22 May 2010 (UTC)
I agree with all your points. Crum375 (talk) 03:15, 22 May 2010 (UTC)
One possible way of managing such a transition might be to make sure the most important shortcuts continue to link to their respective current pages, e.g. WP:NOR and WP:V. Perhaps more importantly, I suspect that among the biggest issues in managing this kind of proposed major transition in policy structure would be deciding which sections involving section-specific shortcuts will be transcluded onto which page. For example, will WP:PSTS link to the relevant section in WP:ATT or WP:NOR? Will WP:PSTS in WP:NOR be transcluded onto WP:PSTS in WP:ATT? Or the reverse? And if neither, who would be responsible for keeping up with making sure both versions are consistent while the proposed transition is underway? Same with WP:SYN and any other shortcuts that might be chosen to link at some as-yet-undetermined outset to WP:ATT instead of WP:V or WP:NOR. These issues perhaps not insurmountable, but they appear to me to be substantial. I feel sure it would be important for participants at WP:VPP and elsewhere to be familiar with these issues, and perhaps others that I don't presently foresee off the top of my head. ... Kenosis (talk) 03:36, 22 May 2010 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I think the shortcuts should not be a problem. Consider that even today, when they point to the current versions, the words they point to change over time. Which means that if you want to point to a fixed target, you need to link to a snapshot, not a dynamically changing page, and virtually nobody does that with a policy page. Now let's assume the transition is made, and take WP:SYN as example. I would think that, assuming the ATT#SYN section starts out essentially the same as NOR#SYN, most people would want to point to ATT#SYN, because it would be guaranteed to remain current, following the latest community consensus, while NOR#SYN would gradually become stagnant. In any case, I see shortcuts as less problematic than nailing the language down, and making sure all factions are pleased, which is easier said than done. Crum375 (talk) 03:50, 22 May 2010 (UTC)

Well, OK then. You certainly don't need to convince me or even the current regular participants at this talk page (though it might be a potential start—as we know that has very commonly failed before when thinking about proposed community-wide issues, which is why WP:CONLIMITED is now part of the WP lexicon). I'm only trying to give a bit of a "heads-up" about some of the implications and easily foreseeable practical aspects of such a major proposed foundational policy change. The complaint among those here who are trying to figure out how to reduce policy language to only what each sees as the basics has been, essentially, that if we solve certain arguable logical flaws in naming the policies and also eliminate certain redundancies and distill the content-policy provisions that it will help the project. Of course you'll easily recall, as I do, how strong the backlash was when WP:ATT was implemented as a policy to replace V and NOR. I wasn't involved in forming it--in fact I didn't even hear of it until it was implemented--nor do I now necessarily object to such a change. But, a very significant part of the reason for its rather astoundingly rapid and quite vociferous rejection-after-implementation-as-policy was that numerous users who come to rely on shortcuts and established language suddenly found themselves being redirected to a new policy page or new policy section, not even to mention at the moment new policy language. (No I'm not going to go back and collect diffs, and I'm not saying that was everyone's objection, but it was a very influential part of the adverse reaction to WP:ATT roughly a couple years ago. And another very influential part had to do with the WP:CONLIMITED discussion at WT:ATT, while most of the rest of the community was simply going about its business, relying on established policy. Again, as I indicated just now, I'm just trying to point out some things to which I think careful attention should be paid in a quest of this kind.) ... Kenosis (talk) 04:23, 22 May 2010 (UTC)

What is expected by the proponents of the merge, to be the positive impact of this merging, on the vast majority of editors? --Bob K31416 (talk) 04:35, 23 May 2010 (UTC)

You can read my own rationale here. Briefly, what I expect is to replace two poorly-named policies which essentially say the same thing, by one. The single "Attribution" policy will help everyone, because its name and meaning will be clear and simple, eliminating (or reducing) the endless threads which stem from confusion. Crum375 (talk) 14:01, 23 May 2010 (UTC)
I started a draft here. Crum375 (talk) 21:36, 23 May 2010 (UTC)
You will have my full support in this. I'd like to make a few comments on the draft. Would you prefer those here or on the talk page of the draft? --Mike Cline (talk) 21:57, 23 May 2010 (UTC)
I think the draft's talk page would be best. Thanks for the encouragement. Crum375 (talk) 22:04, 23 May 2010 (UTC)

Question about original research

Recent edits that I made to Tai chi chuan and Chen Wangting were good-faith-reverted by an editor indicating that original research cannot be accepted. He also directed me here.

The edit in question has to do with the birth year of Chen Wangting, a martial arts grandmaster who lived in the 1600s. I have found inconsistencies about his birth year between all articles about him in Wikipedia (English, German, French and Portuguese versions); they all have different birth years. So to resolve this issue, I asked Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei, a Chen family member who is also a world-recognized authority in Tai Chi Chuan and a direct descendant of Chen Wangting. He wrote me back indicating that the birth year of Chen Wangting is not well known, and what year the family uses. I can produce the email that he sent me in support of this.

I then proceeded to edit the articles with the official year of birth that the family uses, and indicated Chen Zhenglei as the source. I believe that grandmaster Chen Zhenglei must be recognized as a reliable source, as he is one of the few spokesmen for the family, so any direct communication from such an authority must be legit and reliable. Consequently, I find that the reversion of my edits was improper.

So if there are any doubts about propriety of my edits, can somebody indicate to me what is the proper way of documenting the reliability of responses of this kind? What recourse does one have to prove the validity of these types of edits?

Thanks for any help.

(I have also asked this in Wikipedia_talk:No_original_research/Noticeboard

 Bruno  20:38, 21 May 2010 (UTC)

What you did is the very definition of Original research. You are adding information that has not been published in a reliable source. Your information may be correct... but because it has not been published it constitutes OR (it also violates WP:Verifiability).
Even if published (say on a web-site), we would still question the material. However we would do so for a different reason... family members do not constitute a reliable source. Blueboar (talk) 21:24, 21 May 2010 (UTC)

Draft new ATT proposal

For anyone interested, based on recent discussions here, I have started a draft version of a new proposed ATT policy under my user page, which includes the current versions of WP:V, WP:NOR and some material from WP:ATT. It is very much a works-in-progress, but comments would be appreciated on its talk page. Thanks, Crum375 (talk) 00:26, 24 May 2010 (UTC)

Where lies credibility?

I erased the references to early seals of kommerkiarioi of the Armeniac Theme because I know that no such seals for the given years have been published so far. This has been judged by Cplakidas "personal research" and the old text maintained on the authority of an entry of an online "Hellenic Encyclopedia." The author of this entry mentions the seals without citing the editions. She is simply wrong. In principle, it seems ridiculous that I should have to prove that something does not exist! However, I write back to Cplakidas:

Dear Constantine, your idea of what a "credible source" would be is frankly surprising. Once more, the entry in the Hellenic Encyclopedia, whoever the author is, DOES NOT give any references to editions or auction catalogues where the seals in question should be found! Where lies then credibility? Aren't sources rather than accepted authority that make a statement credible and 'authoritative?' Isn't that found in the Hellenic Encyclopedia "personal," and in the case "very poor," research too? At any rate, I understand that the average reader like you may hold such a source to be credible. What I am telling you is that I checked the information and it revealed to be false. Is that to be banned as evil "personal research?" Moreover, since there are NO SEALS, I have NOTHING to prove. Yet you are stubborn and pretentious like many narrow minded "administrators" of your kind. Now, to be honest, it annoys me a bit having to give one like you the proof that I SHOULD NOT provide. However, I find it a pity that other people should have to read bul**hit on Wikipedia because of a Cplakidas. Therefore: the latest scholarly publication on Byzantine seals of kommerkiarioi from Anatolia, available on line at, gives a complete list of the published specimens in which you won't find the alleged seals of the Armeniac Theme for 650 or whatever. Regards.

I wrote to the administrators of the "Hellenic Encyclopedia" to complain about the mistake, an especially serious one given the 'authority' that many people may naturally attribute to this source. I think that this story teaches us a lot of things. Can serious reference checking be excluded from Wikipedia as "personal research?" I insist that selection criteria, when in the hands of mediocre people, put knowledge in chains and make us all waste a lot of time. Cheers, fm Fredmont (talk) 08:00, 25 May 2010 (UTC)

Original research only restricts what content can be displayed in an article. It does not restrict (and it would be kind of stupid to) efforts to ascertain the reliability or accuracy of content that is not original research. That is, you are as free as you wish to use original research to argue for the removal of content from an article. In other words, verifiability is not a suicide pact. If reliably sourced content can be demonstrated to be inaccurate, there is no obligation to still publish the incorrect information. I'd recommend following dispute resolution. Someguy1221 (talk) 08:07, 25 May 2010 (UTC)

Definition of original research, WP:NOR, and the proposed WP:ATT

(I copied the following discussion to here from another talk page, following up on a comment/suggestion by another editor at a discussion re WP:ATT at that other talk page. The horizontal line indicates the end of the material that was quoted using <blockquote>.)

Offhand I think it would be necessary to include a section on "No original research" in order for this to have any chance at passing muster in front of the community. Perhaps somewhat similarly to what's already at WP:ATT? Given its rich history as one of the three core content policies, I don't think it can realistically be made to just vanish into thin air. ... Kenosis (talk) 00:06, 28 May 2010 (UTC)

It's not vanished at all. It is simply renamed to "no unattributable material", or "no unattributable content". The WP:NOR shortcut remains the same, and the definitions are the same, with much of the text copied verbatim. The reason for the renaming of NOR to NUC (NUM is taken a the moment) is that the term "original research" creates vast confusion on WP, and is in many ways a misnomer, because by NOR we don't really mean "original", nor do we really mean "research". So the renaming (with no change in the underlying concept) is a key piece of this proposal. If you can find some part of WP:NOR that is missing here, it would be very helpful. Crum375 (talk) 00:32, 28 May 2010 (UTC)
Re "the term 'original research' creates vast confusion on WP, and is in many ways a misnomer, because by NOR we don't really mean 'original' " - But over at WT:NOR you opposed the effort to simply fix that at the RFC here. So if you want to fix that with your proposed policy WP:ATT, why did you oppose fixing it at WP:NOR? --Bob K31416 (talk) 01:28, 28 May 2010 (UTC)
The confusion that we currently have with NOR is that it has a misleading name, not that the underlying concept is flawed. In fact, the underlying concepts of both V and NOR are just fine, and need no modification. The RfC in question proposed to change the underlying concepts, in a way that, in my opinion, would add even more confusion and would not solve anything that I can see. This proposed draft policy does not intend to change any underlying concept, and instead focuses on presenting the existing concepts, which have served us well, in a way that is better organized and with names that are less confusing, hopefully easier to understand and use. Obviously only the community as a whole can decide whether this combined version is better than the existing pair of V and NOR. Crum375 (talk) 02:00, 28 May 2010 (UTC)
Re "The RfC in question proposed to change the underlying concepts" - That's false. The underlying concept of excluding material from unreliable sources was still present in WP:VER. The only thing the RFC would have done was fixed the definition of Original Research. --Bob K31416 (talk) 02:15, 28 May 2010 (UTC)
Changing the definition of a core policy which has been constant for years, and is linked to in countless discussions around the site, will introduce a major change in a core concept and render all those threads meaningless. I don't think that's a step forward, when the only issue is a bad name. But in any case, the RfC and specific NOR discussion belong on the WT:NOR page. Crum375 (talk) 02:29, 28 May 2010 (UTC)

--Bob K31416 (talk) 02:49, 28 May 2010 (UTC)

Re "Changing the definition of a core policy which has been constant for years" - And it is a part that you have not moved to correct for years. The only part of the definition that would change is the part that can be interpreted as meaning that material that an editor cites from an unreliable source is defined as original research. This is a very counter-intuitive part of the definition of original research, which the vast majority of editors do not even know exists, and are likely to be disbelieving and confused by it when another editor invokes it, IMO. The exclusion of material by the reason of citing an unreliable source should be done using the existing WP:VER, not WP:NOR, and that is what the RFC would correct. --Bob K31416 (talk) 04:13, 28 May 2010 (UTC)

This is related to the issue I raised earlier at Wikipedia talk:No original research/Archive 52#Distinction between original research and unverifiable material. I have concluded that we will never get people to agree on what the distinction between original research and unverifiable material is. Everyone does agree that they are related in one way or another and so it makes sense to merge the two policies. If we start using new terms such as "no original material" then hopefully we can agree on what those new terms mean and stop arguing about what "no original research" means.

Warming to my theme... Perhaps we could invent new terms which relate to the different things different people see in "no original research". Off the top of my head, I can think of two terms that I think would be useful:

  • "No original material" / "no original content" - you can't just add you own opinions, analysis, interpretation, experimental results etc. to an article. It has to be attributable to a reliable source.
  • "No tenuous attribution" - attributing a statement to a source is not valid if the statement can only be derived from the source by analysis, interpretation etc. Summarising and paraphrasing of sources is allowed/encouraged.

Yaris678 (talk) 12:37, 28 May 2010 (UTC)

The Three Main Meanings of OR in WP

  1. I'm guessing that the original meaning in WP was close to the outside-world meaning.....what most outside people world recognize as truly new research, new theories, etc., and that the policy was pointing out that Wikipedia is not the place for such.
  1. The more you analyze the meaning with respect to defining it for enforcement purposes, the more you end up with the simple operative definition for those purposes OR simply = unsourcable or unsourced. And such was inevitable in the WP:OR article, because the operative definition is mostly what happens there. And that evolves towards a duplication of WP:NOR
  1. OR has become the handiest "negative" label / noun to apply to a writing (for whatever purpose) where it appears a wp:ver or wp:nor violation may exist.North8000 (talk) 21:12, 25 June 2010 (UTC)

Please restore the leading paragraph

I remember when this policy had clear statements in the lead paragraph such as:

"Citing sources and avoiding original research are inextricably linked: to demonstrate that you are not presenting original research, you must cite reliable sources that provide information directly related to the topic of the article, and that directly support the information as it is presented".

Now it has crap in the leading paragraph: something about Paris being the capital of France. Lets call a spade a spade; unsourced content is original research. --Gavin Collins (talk|contribs) 21:21, 31 May 2010 (UTC)

Unsourced content is not necessarily OR. Unsourceable (unattributable) content is. That's the definition of OR. SlimVirgin talk contribs 21:44, 31 May 2010 (UTC)

Found a real world example

We had a long discussion when I said that the first sentence of a FA had 6 violations of WP:NOR&WP:VER, (just archived into #52) and this is a reflection on the policy rather than the article. I think I found a real world situation that mirrors this at two levels. [[8]]. At the general level it appears that a visitor has been battering the article with wiki-tools and wiki-rules without engaging in any specific debate on the content. More specifically, the main editor said that "citation needed" tags should not be hung where the statement has already been made and referenced elsewhere in the article. (the intent of wp:NOR, and what most of you have said in our debate.) The visitor essentially said the same thing that I said, that the policy says that the mere act of hanging the tag means that it is "challenged" and that the policy categorically says that it would then need in-line citations. E.G. that the policy wording categorically says that if I hung 500 tags, those 500 are "challenged" and, categorically, 500 in-line cites are then needed. (the spirit and intent of the policy not withstanding)

This would have been avoided, and more substantive discussion ensued if my proposed change were in place. That the "challenge" must include at least a brief perfunctory challenge/complaint on some basis (e.g. simply adding: "I think that the statement is questionable" would do) in addition to just implicitly or explicitly on the grounds of being uncited. North8000 (talk) 11:09, 2 June 2010 (UTC)

Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 11:09, 2 June 2010 (UTC)

Yes I fully agree. In particular I believe citations should be avoided in the leader of an article except perhaps to show notability. The points should be covered later in the article anyway. Otherwise you get people either putting just one citation in the leader giving it undue prominence or a whole list of duplicate ones from the article making the leader look ugly and hard to edit. Dmcq (talk) 14:36, 2 June 2010 (UTC)
In fact I'd like a tag for the leader to say something isn't covered in the article. In a big article the summary in the leader should be expanded further and should not really be giving things which aren't covered properly later - that makes the leader disjoint from the body. Dmcq (talk) 14:41, 2 June 2010 (UTC)
Thanks. One aspect is avoiding mandating duplication of references for already-referenced statements. This and others stem from the policy wording that says that anything receiving any challenge must get an in line citation. North8000 (talk) 20:46, 2 June 2010 (UTC)
I agree that the article under discussion has problems ... I disagree with your conclusion that your proposed change would have avoided or resolved them. Blueboar (talk) 21:08, 2 June 2010 (UTC)
I was talking more about the happenings on the article rather than the article. North8000 (talk) 22:22, 2 June 2010 (UTC)
But the happenings are directly related to the problematic condition of the article. A better written article that made it clearer as to who says what would not have had someone dropping fact tags all over it. And looking at the article, many of the tags are justified. This looks like a case where our current rules are being applied appropriately, and I don't see how your proposal would make things better. Blueboar (talk) 00:07, 3 June 2010 (UTC)
Maybe that is fine. The person who wrote that article needs a real wp:NOR/VER-wording-enabled beating so that they won't go writing no more articles. North8000 (talk) 03:34, 3 June 2010 (UTC)
Or they may actually read WP:V and WP:NOR, and learn how to write good or even featured Wikipedia articles. Crum375 (talk) 03:41, 3 June 2010 (UTC)
Crum, you keep moving off of the more specific topic that I was addressing, and that aspect of this example. Such is presumably to parry my argument for that proposed change. That's fine, such debate is part of what this talk section is for, although I think that a more direct discussion on the narrower issue presented would also be useful. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 10:36, 4 June 2010 (UTC)
North, how do you think your proposal would have improved things at the Separated brethren article? Blueboar (talk) 13:26, 4 June 2010 (UTC)
I think that it would have forced the visitor into one of the following choices:
  • If they have an interest in improving the article, to enter into to a real discussion regarding the real content of the article, vs. just hanging lots of templates and tags with no real discussion on the content.
  • If they don't have such an interest, they would just leave it alone. While, under my proposed change, the visitor could theoretically just add " I think that the tagged statement is questionable" and still do the same thing, I don't think that they would have done so without their challenge seeming at least a little credible.
And make it less likely that Wikipedia would lose a good editor in frustration that certain Wikipedia policy wording enables "battering" without any discussion or debate on the real content in the article and how to really improve it. North8000 (talk) 13:52, 4 June 2010 (UTC)
I see... do you think it fair to say that your proposal is focused primarily on correcting the behavior of the challenger (which you see as being flawed), and only secondarily on resolving the underlying reasons for the challenge (the flaws with the article)? Blueboar (talk) 14:21, 4 June 2010 (UTC)
First one thing that I forgot to add. If the statement is made and suitably tagged elsewhere in the article, once that is clarified, the visitor would not make the claim that my proposed revision would require.
Second, to address an implied premise in your question, the visitor did not even state any specific underlying reasons for the challenge, so it's not possible to discern whether or not there are article flaws which are the cause of this challenge.
That said, the answer to your question is yes. Thanks for asking Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 15:02, 4 June 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── As I am, I presume, the "visitor" on the Separated brethren to which North8000 points, I figured I would throw in my two cents. (You can see this AfD for more on what might have put this issue on North8000's radar.) As for the Separated brethren article, I first proposed that that article be merged into Catholic Church and ecumenism. Here is that discussion. The "main editor" removed the merger proposal tag and was ultimately blocked for it. Nonetheless, I changed my mind and withdrew the merge proposal. I then added a "rewrite" tag to the Separated brethren article and indicated why on the top of Talk:Separated brethren. That led to a robust response from the "main editor" who removed the tag/banner. I then reworked some of the language and tagged in more specificity to indicate specific concerns as was (sort of) requested in the main editor's response to my talk page entry. It should be pretty obvious why I added the non-"citation needed" tags. As for the citation needed flags, each tagged statement I think is substantially significant enough--and not common knowledge-- to need a citation. I have no idea whether the statements are true. Unfortunately, I cannot follow a reference to judge for myself. That is precisely the problem. I did discuss the article on the talk page and at the merger proposal; it is not like anything happened out of the blue. It was the "main editor" who was blocked once in the interchange (and who has been blocked several times since creating the account early this year). WP:VER and WP:NOR are good policies as they are and are in place for very good reason. Novaseminary (talk) 17:56, 4 June 2010 (UTC)

My debate is with some wording in wp policy and a proposed change rather than anything or anybody in the article. And the most specific core of it is that the wording of the sentence quoted by Novaseminary in the talk section supports (and can be used by someone to support) requiring duplicate in-line references for something that is already stated and referenced elsewhere in the article. All of these other things (including above ad hominem on the other editor) aside, the exchange on that particular aspect in the talk section of the article was brief and very clear. North8000 (talk) 19:47, 4 June 2010 (UTC)
I now can see clearly why I have a problem with your proposal, North... WP:NOR is a content policy, not a behavioral policy, and I don't think language that is focused on correcting behavior belongs in a content policy.
Furthermore, I don't think the behavior in question (tagging articles without an edit summary) is a behavior that requires correction. This may be because I don't view tagging as necessarily being a "challenge". I see tags more as being as constructive criticism, pointing out where an article I am working on needs improvement (the type of tag tells me what kind of improvement is needed). Sure, it is helpful to have detailed edit summaries, or messages left on the talk page to further explain why the tag was put there, but the tag itself tells me enough that I can start the process.
I get the idea that you think tagging an article is some sort of accusation, and want to make it more difficult for people to leave tags ... I see them as being a much more positive thing. Yes, sometimes a tag can be misplaced (such as when a tag is added in the lede paragraph and the information is fully cited later)... but even then, an inappropriate tag can indicate an area of the article that needs improvement (a tag in the lede, for example, could indicate that I need to re-write the lede, to make it clearer that it is a summary of the entire article).
My final reason for objecting to your proposal is that is simply is not enforceable. Are you suggesting we block editors who don't leave edit summaries? Blueboar (talk) 20:32, 4 June 2010 (UTC)
Hello Bluboar. Even though their goal is content, WP:NOR and WP:VER already have substantial material related to actions and behavior, and so that would be nothing new.
I think that tags and templates can be used to cause or help in improvement of an article, as weapons in a war (such as to POV an article, or where the article has become a mere boxing ring venue for a battle occurring in the outside world,) or to act out antisocial tendencies and behaviors. All of these occur widely in Wikipedia. To figure out which it is one must look at the other particulars of the situation.
In the noted case, the visitor invoked the "....if in line citation must be provided" rule to say that the tagging (categorically) makes in-line citations mandatory. This invoking inherently defines tagging as a challenge.
Responding to your final note, the "enforcement" of my change would be incredibly simple. Any tagging or removal of material without at least a brief perfunctory statement (like just these 7 words: "I think that that statement is questionable") would inherently be OK to revert because it violated the (revised) policy.
Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 21:39, 4 June 2010 (UTC)
Actions are discussed, yes... because adding and removing content is an action. Behavior, no.
So you would allow unsourced and potentially harmful material to remain in an article (not necessarily talking about any specific article here), simply because someone did not bother to write an edit summary? no... I can not and will not agree to that... ever. Sorry. I guess we are done here, because it does not look like either of us will convince the other. We have fundamentally different views on the usefulness and appropriateness of tagging. Blueboar (talk) 21:57, 4 June 2010 (UTC)
As to North800's most recent comments, I note that I only cited in an edit history WP:V after the "main editor" repeatedly removed tags without explanation. I also note that I did leave edits summaries for the tags I added other than some immediately obvious like template:By whom (examples: "add fact tags indicating specific sentences that need sources"; "OR tag; one ed's take on clearly non-RS source; would need TP source for this"; "rpl tag; unclear where else this is stated"). I would think that this would be enough to meet North8000's proposal anyway. So what does that proposal get us? I think Blueboar hit the nail on the head. Tags are not necessarily meant as a personal attack; or even a challenge to the factual accuracy. I might ultimately agree with ever fact in a given article. That doesn’t mean I should not insist that the article cite its sources properly. I think North8000 might take personally what is not meant that way, and it is irrelevant how they are meant anyway.
As an example, another editor tagged a for speedy deletion an article I started the other day (the article is Mark S. Scarberry). That is far more significant than inline tags, of course. I took minor issue with that designation being placed on the article 9 minutes after creation despite the article having multiple sources. Nonetheless, I figured the stub needed work. So I went to the talk page to highlight notability and then added more sources. No big deal (and tagging would have been a better route there anyway). Novaseminary (talk) 22:21, 4 June 2010 (UTC)
Now I am confused... let me see if I have this right... Novaseminary did in fact give an edit summary explaining the tags when they were added (exactly what North proposes making policy)... And yet North uses this as an example of a situation that would have occurred differently (and presumably better) had his proposal been accepted. There seems to be a disconnect here. Blueboar (talk) 00:52, 5 June 2010 (UTC)
Blueboar's confusion is understandable and shared by me. North's initial problem with my actions was related to the "main editor"'s assertion that certain facts that I tagged were cited elsewhere. Per North: "More specifically, the main editor said that "citation needed" tags should not be hung where the statement has already been made and referenced elsewhere in the article." I simply disagreed with the other editor's assertion that one (of several uncited, significant facts) was just a repeat of an earlier statement and source. Since I disagreed, I replaced the tag with the following edit summary: "rpl tag; unclear where else this is stated." The "main editor" then put the following on my talk page (and later pasted both of our comments from my talk page to the article talk page):
the fact that the Roman Catholic Church does not consider everyone who professes Christianity as "brothers in Christ" or "brethren" is stated basically RIGHT BEFORE, with the whole Mormon thing, and reference. Stop second-guessing everything I do and say and write, and go crazy with the wiki tags for every little thing that you have trouble piecing together, bro. It's getting annoying. For some reason you miss the obvious. And WP policy does NOT require a reference for EVERY SINGLE SENTENCE especially if the point was ALREADY STATED AND REFERENCED IN A PREVIOUS PART OF THE ARTICLE. The Mormon thing states the point. Case closed. If you have a big problem with this, then take it to the Talk page....
Besides the editor's source for this major theological proposition being of questionable reliability, the two statements were not the same. If they were, the repetition would be its own problem. If the statements were different and appearing in different paragraphs, even if supported by the same source, the source should be cited again (named refs make this easy). I'm ok with lead's that are entirely and only summaries of cited facts appearing below not having citations. But unique facts appearing in the body need a source.
Novaseminary (talk) 05:41, 6 June 2010 (UTC)
The core of my topic not the conduct of either editor, it was that an exchange on the talk page proved out a couple of my assertions in our debate about a month ago. My link was to the talk page, not the article. The exchange at the core was:
And WP policy does NOT require a reference for EVERY SINGLE SENTENCE especially if the point was ALREADY STATED AND REFERENCED IN A PREVIOUS PART OF THE ARTICLE. The Mormon thing states the point. Case closed. If you have a big problem with this, then take it to the Talk page..... Sweetpoet (talk) 21:27, 1 June 2010 (UTC)
Take a look at WP:V ("Any material challenged or likely to be challenged, and all quotations, must be attributed to a reliable, published source using an inline citation."). Novaseminary (talk) 21:30, 1 June 2010 (UTC)
That was THE END of the response, and considered a full response. Although he/she would not agree with the "structurally flawed" wording, this shows that Novaseminary and I are in agreement that the (structurally flawed) wording of that sentence says that tagging the statement causes a requirement for an in-line citation, irrespective of any other considerations. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 01:35, 7 June 2010 (UTC)
────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────The exchange you reference actually occurred on my talk page. The "main editor" pasted this exchange from my talk page onto the article talk page. That was the end of my response on my talk page. As noted, the substance of my response to this one tag was in the edit histories. I did not agree that the tagged fact was already stated and referenced in a previous part of the article, so I added it back and noted why in the edit history. I didn't feel compelled to go into it further on my talk page or to fully explain all of the nuance of WP:V, especially in light of the behavior "main editor" exhibited on the Separated brethren and Catholic Church and ecumenism, for which he was blocked. I had already noted my reason in the edit history, and this was in response to just one fact tag.
Of course, "main editor" removed the tag again after citing to the same marginal source he cited for the other proposition (which, if the source were good, is exactly what should happen). As Blueboar noted toward the beginning of this section, the article was and remains less than clear. And as I already noted, if the statement was indeed just a repeated fact (though I do not think it was), such repetition in such a short article would itself be a problem. So, either the fact needed a citation or it should have been deleted as duplicative.
Other than in the lead and, perhaps, paragraph topic sentences or the like, I agree that citations are generally appropriate (whether tagged or not). If a summary sentence or sentence from the lead is tagged even though it is a summary of facts already cited in the main text of the article, noting in the edit history removing the tag why the editor is removing the tag seems a way to avoid problems. If there is not reason not to, just naming the reference if not already, and adding it in would be the best course of action.
Novaseminary (talk) 02:48, 7 June 2010 (UTC)
This keeps broadening out into a review of the overall situation on the article. That's fine if y'all like, but not what I was talking about. If you would like to address the core of my point, I would like to ask if you agree or disagree with the following statement:
As written, "Any material challenged or likely to be challenged, and all quotations, must be attributed to a reliable, published source using an inline citation" says/means that any statement challenged (even if the only challenge is for being uncited, and even if only by tagging) must get an in-line citation, irrespective of any other considerations.
So the question is about what it says, (and thus how it may be used or misused) not about good practices on that general topic. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 11:36, 7 June 2010 (UTC)
Well, in light of what actually happened at Separated brethren, you still have not put forward an instance of WP:V being "misused." And your proposed fix would not avoid the problem as you present it anyway. Yes, every statement of a fact must be attributed to an inline citation (as opposed to a general list of sources with it unclear what facts came from what sources), with very, very limited exception. The quote does not say, however, that the inline citation must be immediately after the fact stated, though I would expect that to be the case with limited, stylistic exceptions (e.g., WP:LEAD). And keep in mind, per WP:V#Tagging_a_sentence.2C_section.2C_or_article, tagging is not an attack or personal affront or statement that the article is wrong, it is merely a request for a source. This policy is to avoid the sort of personal experience and general "I got the info from a book" sort of citation exhibited by you at Talk:Dorothy Molter. I think this is much ado about nothing. Novaseminary (talk) 13:57, 7 June 2010 (UTC)
Your post touched on a lot of areas each of which could be a debate, but I'm sticking to the core. Your answer supports two of my assertions, the first per my question above, the second that 90% of Wikipedia violates a strict interpretation of wp:ver+wp:nor.
Your comments on the Dorothy Molter article (which still needs a lot more work) misstated what I said most recently (which superseded my December 2009 note). I have just read the entire referenced book on her, watched the documentary, and read all of the relevant portions of the Dorothy Molter Museum Web site, and absorbed those. Everything that I have added in the last few months (and 99% of everything that I added) was learned from those sources. (the book being by far the most compete source of information) The "1%" is correcting an error from a previous editor, where my knowledge was based on absolutely certain direct observation. And yes I know that my (uncontroversial & uncontested)1% correction violates wp:VER+WP:NOR, which is a reflection on those as worded.
This would be a matter for the talk section of that article, except that this might be chance to get proven right on yet another debated statement which I made: "Nearly all summarization violates a strict reading of wp:ver+wp:nor as currently worded" A pervasive theme throughout the references was that the evolution of the area she lived into the BWCA was a pervasive influence in her life, notability, media interest and the situation that placed in the public eye, and I think that nobody that knows anything about her or her life would dispute that fact. But none of the references stated it in such summary form. And so those summary statements are not literally sourcable. I would say that such a summary violates a strict interpretation of wp:ver+wp:nor, taken literally as written. (as does 90% of what's in Wikipedia).
Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 18:32, 7 June 2010 (UTC)
North, it is clear that you simply do not understand the policy... even after several people (including myself) have attempted to explain it to you. There comes a point when further explanation is pointless. I think you will simply have to accept that your proposal will not gain consensus and move on. Further badgering on this point will end up being seen as disruptive. Blueboar (talk) 18:42, 7 June 2010 (UTC)
Blueboar is right. (And now North8000's problem really seems to be with WP:SYNTH, or the difference beteen a summary and a synthesis. As for Talk:Dorothy Molter, I thought I was just summarizing it... but anybody could click to verify, which is the point of WP:V) At least 90% of Wikipedia editors would agree with Blueboar. Although I read somewhere that 88.2% of statistics are made up on the spot. Novaseminary (talk) 19:01, 7 June 2010 (UTC)
Blueboar, just when we get to the core and specifics of it you jump to vague generalizations. Novaseminary, I did switch topics, and thought that was clear. But your last note confuses me I thought I was critiquing (through a literal wp:ver/nor lens) ) MY summarization, and don't see where you did one in that article. No biggee either way.
But either way, for anyone who cares to read it above, I finished saying what I meant to say. North8000 ::::: (talk) 19:24, 7 June 2010 (UTC)
North, the specifics that you cite to demonstrate your point simply demonstrate how deeply you don't understand the policy. I have tried to assume good faith, but the fact that you seem to be involved in disputes at each of the articles you cite as "examples" makes me question your objectivity. It is never a good idea to suggest policy changes based on disputes you are involved with... it presents the appearance of trying to game the system post facto. I am not accusing you of anything, just noting how it appears to others. I am glad that you are finished... so am I. Blueboar (talk) 19:40, 7 June 2010 (UTC)
Huh? I have absolute ZERO involvement in the main example article that I started with and the discussion was about, and there are ZERO disputes on the (Dorothy Molter) one that we segued to. North8000 (talk) 20:27, 7 June 2010 (UTC)
From Novaseminary's comments it seemed like you did have involvement... if I have misunderstood, I apologize. As I said, I was talking appearances... which do not always equate to reality. Blueboar (talk) 23:08, 7 June 2010 (UTC)
Thanks. I have the highest respect for people who are principle/mission driven and do the work to further those, even if I happen to be an "opponent" at the moment. And that's you. May the wind be at your back. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 01:12, 8 June 2010 (UTC)

Useful definition?

There was discussion a while back about attribution, and merging NOR + V. It came to nothing but it did make me think. "Original research" isn't a clear term to many (though well known to editors) and the term in everyday use doesn't cover matters such as "editors' opinions" that the policy aims to cover. So we can improve it.

I came up with the following and thought it could be useful, summing up and respecting both policies in plain and simple English. Posted more to see if it's a good explanation and what others think, than because of any proposed change:

Material from inadequate sources

Wikipedia articles are based upon material already reported in reputable (or 'reliable') sources - publications that have built a reputation for checking their facts and discrimination and care in their content. Certain content, sources and ideas are therefore not suitable for use in Wikipedia articles, even though they may be widely read or quoted. Common examples:

  1. Content sourced from non-reputable publishers - a publication that does not have a reputation of this kind cannot be relied upon to have checked its facts or thought about its content carefully enough to be relied upon in Wikipedia.
  2. Content sourced from non-reputable parts of otherwise reputable publications - many publications that are generally reputable have sections and entries that cannot be assumed to have checked their content in the manner needed.
  3. Non-verifiable content - if editors cannot verify that the material existed in a reputable publication, then there can be no consensus it is reputably sourced, nor can readers confirm it for themselves. Note that reputable sources with limited or pay-only access, or that are hard to locate (such as out of print material), are still considered verifiable.
  4. Editors' opinion - views of editors are inherently non-verifiable and not considered to be reputably published.
  5. Synthesis - a kind of creation of novel suggestion, by inappropriately combining or juxtaposing reputable sourced material. Even though the original sources may be valid, the way they are combined and grammatical structure can lead to implications that are not covered by any reputable source.

The traditional terms used for these in Wikipedia are:

  • Verifiability - that we can verify a statement to a reputable source,
  • Original research - material that is not published in a reputable source, including editorial opinion and synthesis.


  • Material so non-controversial as to not be an issue - for obvious well known statements (grass is green) it is sufficient that editors accept it is non-contentious and verifiable.
  • Self published material from other sources (within limits) - if verifiably written by the stated author and attributed to that author as their view alone. This covers (for example) a person or organization's own website, which is usually considered a reputable publisher for their own statements and claims (but cannot usually be cited as verification that the claims are neutral or accurate).
  • Sources for material on living people - the policy for content on living people requires high quality sources only, compared to material for other kinds of content. Gossip columns and tabloids especially, though at times valid, are often not suitable sources for such articles, especially if the claim is negative, contentious or may be unbalanced in some way.

FT2 (Talk | email) 08:23, 3 June 2010 (UTC)

The idea of merging NOR and V has not been abandoned... just moved to a different venue for development. You may want to get involved in the drafting of an initial proposed text. see: User:Crum375/att. Blueboar (talk) 14:26, 4 June 2010 (UTC)
I like this summary. Fences&Windows 17:07, 25 June 2010 (UTC)

FBI reports as primary sources?

There's a disagreement at 2001 anthrax attacks over the use of FBI reports on the investigation. One editor added a section to the article based on the FBI's Amerithrax Investigative Summary Report, and another editor reverted it on the basis that it was derived entirely from a primary source.

For a crime-related article, does the official police or FBI report on the investigation constitute a primary source? It's not clear to me from WP:PRIMARY that that's the case, but perhaps it is. Tim Pierce (talk) 15:03, 17 June 2010 (UTC)

The report linked above appears to me to better fit the definition in WP:PRIMARY of a secondary source than it fits the definition of a primary source. As I read it, it is a second-hand account, at least one step removed from the events, which relies on primary sources and makes analytic or evaluative claims about them. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 01:24, 18 June 2010 (UTC)
I would concur with Wtmitchell. An investigative summary (not an individual's witness statement) is indeed a secondary source, that compiles the essence of many primary sources--witness statements, suspect statements, evidence analysis etc. The conclusions made in an investigative summary are indeed worthy of encyclopedic inclusion.--Mike Cline (talk) 04:33, 18 June 2010 (UTC)
An investigative report produced by a government agency is almost always a primary source, since the agency producing the report is also involved in the investigation. But this does not mean that the source can't be used on Wikipedia, for the following reasons:
  • Being a primary source does not mean "unreliable", and in fact an official government report such as this is typically highly reliable;
  • A reliable primary source can (and should) always be included as a source, even if it is not relied upon directly, but via secondary sources which interpret it;
  • The main problem with a primary source is that it's easy to misinterpret, or selectively highlight or downplay parts, but an investigative report typically includes a brief executive summary or conclusions section, and if those are short enough, they can be quoted as a valid summary of the document with no risk of distortion.
Ideally, the best way to present a government investigative report is to use reliable secondary sources to interpret it and put it in perspective, but also include the primary document itself, with a quotation of its conclusions if they are short enough. Crum375 (talk) 05:03, 18 June 2010 (UTC)
Crum – Your statement: An investigative report produced by a government agency is almost always a primary source, since the agency producing the report is also involved in the investigation. paints this with much too wide a brush and is misleading. If you removed the adjective investigative from the sentence, would you still contend that all reports published by a government agency are primary sources. Probably not as a great many WP sources would then be primary, not secondary. Indeed many investigative reports—witness statements, incident reports, lab reports, etc. are primary sources, but an investigative summary as mentioned above has far more characteristics of a secondary source. The language in WP:RS In general, the most reliable sources are peer-reviewed journals and books published by university presses; university-level textbooks; magazines, journals, and books published by respected publishing houses; and mainstream newspapers. As a rule of thumb, the more people engaged in checking facts, analyzing legal issues, and scrutinizing the writing, the more reliable the publication. doesn’t explicitly include government agencies, but they function no differently than any respected publishing house. They just have different motives and incentives. Comparing this summary to a history book we would find the same basic components—authors and researchers (agents and lab technicians), editors (analysts) and a publisher (FBI). This summary is a well researched, well written compilation of probably 100s of primary sources. As I worked as a Federal Law Enforcement officer for 21 years I can assure you that the more people engaged in checking facts, analyzing legal issues, and scrutinizing the writing is far more prevalent in large government organizations than in private publishing. The second part of your statement: since the agency producing the report is also involved in the investigation. is very misleading and implies some bias against law enforcement. If it read since the agency producing the report is also involved in the research would you still say it? Of course they were involved. The FBI was involved in the case just like authors, researchers and editors (all in the employ of a publisher) are involved in the writing of a history book. The case was not about the FBI, the FBI just did the research (investigation) and published the book (the Investigative Summary). A government report (regardless of subject and regardless of agency) needs to be evaluated as a primary or secondary source on the merits of its content and nature, not who published it.--Mike Cline (talk) 12:15, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Mike, I think you are making the common mistake of conflating source primacy with reliability. You quote from RS about reliability, and in fact a government report is typically highly reliable, so reliability is not an issue. A primary source investigative report is where the agency producing the report is involved in the investigation. The reason we prefer a secondary source to review it, is that we as Wikipedians are not equipped, or allowed, to put investigations into perspective. We need an independent overserver, such as a mainstream newspaper, or a respected magazine or journal, to write about the investigation, establish its notability, compare it to previous ones, and pick out the most relevant parts from it. Then, armed with this top view, we can add some details from the report itself, and perhaps quote the brief bottom-line conclusions. The primary source investigative report is not being disparaged at all — in fact it is a highly reliable and desirable source. But it is that independent observer secondary source, not involved in the investigation, which gives us the proper foundation for the Wikipedia article and allows us to frame the report appropriately. Crum375 (talk) 12:36, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

I suggest that everyone should look at this specific example instead of debating the issue in general terms. When the FBI closed the Amerithrax investigation a few months ago, on February 19, 2010, the media basically responded in two ways: (1) They reported that the FBI had closed the case and they referred the reader to the FBI/DOJ's web site and the Summary Report for further details. (2) They printed the opinions of people who have other theories and who do not believe the FBI. So, we have the "primary source" and we have opinions from "secondary sources" with other theories. Also, the investigation of Dr. Ivins was done properly, i.e., he was considered innocent until proven guilty, so his name was not mentioned in public until after his suicide in July of 2008, even though FBI documents indicate he was THE prime suspect for AT LEAST THREE YEARS before his suicide. That means that there are seven years of "secondary reports" by people who have theories and beliefs but absolutely NO knowledge of any aspect of the investigation of Dr. Ivins. The entire entry about the anthrax attacks of 2001 is mostly a collection of theories and beliefs with just a few facts. Books will probably be written by investigators on the case (who may also be considered "prime sources,") but at the moment the only KNOWLEDGEABLE source for facts about the case is the FBI/DOJ's documents. So, it's a matter of relying on old, misinformed opinions and beliefs OR looking at the facts as recently released by the FBI and DOJ. EdLake (talk) 13:42, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

Crum - Reliability is not the issue here, it is whether a specific document (report, book, etc.) is primary or secondary. By your logic this: Yellowstone Science is a primary source as it is published by a government agency (NPS) and written (researched and investigated) by employees (agents) of the National Park Service. The NPS is involved in the very essence of the contents of this journal. It is the nature of the contents of a document not who publishes it that makes it primary or secondary. A comprehensive investigative summary is not a primary source. IMHO--Mike Cline (talk) 13:49, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

"A comprehensive investigative summary is not a primary document." And, even if it were considered to be a "primary document," the rules do not FORBID the use of "primary sources." The rules just say "primary sources" should be used CAREFULLY. EdLake (talk) 13:55, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

A summary of another unrelated agency's investigative report would be secondary, but if it's the same agency reporting on its own investigation, it would be primary. And a primary report may be highly reliable, esp. if it's a government report. But because it is primary, it has to be used carefully, as you say, and the article may not be based primarily on it, since establishing notability requires the perspective of a secondary source. Crum375 (talk) 14:26, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

Crum - What if there are no published "secondary sources" of any use? The only "secondary sources" I've been able to find are either wrong, biased or too brief. The Washington Post's article is WRONG, absurdly claiming the hidden message was on labels on the envelopes. Even their illustrations are WRONG, claiming only the first letters of certain sentences comprise the "hidden message." (They didn't do their own analysis, they merely MISREAD what was in the FBI's Summary.) Here are the links:

The Frederick News-Post only has the biased opinion of a friend of Dr. Ivins' who doesn't BELIEVE the FBI. The link:

And the British newspaper The Register is too vague in their analysis to provide anything useful. The link:

Until investigators write their books, only the FBI's Summary contains usable information about this critical piece of evidence.

And "establishing notability" pertains to the Amerithrax investigation, probably the largest criminal investigation in America's history. It shouldn't pertain to information about a specific item of evidence. EdLake (talk) 14:46, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

"Bias" is not an issue for WP:V or WP:NOR, only for WP:NPOV. And the way you judge neutrality is by examining all the secondary sources and deciding how they they should be weighted, based on the relative prevalence of their views. Your own opinion as Wikipedian of what is "biased" or not is not relevant. And yes, it is very common for a government report to be highly reliable and factual, and often the news media will try to twist it in different ways. But that's life, and we are supposed to merely summarize what other, primarily secondary, reliable sources are saying, not push our own views as editors. And if we decide to emphasize a primary source over other sources, that would violate WP:NOR, and possibly WP:NPOV. The point is that only the secondary sources, "biased" or not, are allowed to give us perspective and context, not the primary sources, and not Wikipedia editors. Crum375 (talk) 15:04, 18 June 2010 (UTC)
Crum - You say "the way you judge neutrality is by examining all the secondary sources and deciding how they they should be weighted, based on the relative prevalence of their views." In other words, if most people are wrong, then wrong information is what should be on Wikipedia.
I would think that the way you judge neutrality is by examining the FACTS and deciding how they should be weighted, based upon the relevance of the facts to the issue and how well the facts are supported by other facts. Facts are neutral. Personal viewpoints are NEVER neutral. EdLake (talk) 15:14, 18 June 2010 (UTC)
There are no such things as "facts" on Wikipedia, only reliable sources, and our job is to neutrally summarize what they say. The way we judge neutrality is by the prevalence of a view among the reliable secondary sources. Therefore, we may not say "this source is wrong" and exclude it, if it's a reliable source. We don't judge "factuality", we judge reliability of sources and the prevalence of their views. Then we summarize what they say, with appropriate weighting. Crum375 (talk) 15:24, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

Oh, but EdLake, you did not notice that you have gone down the rabbit hole, left behind the world of the Wikipedia mission statement, have have entered the granular level-of policies world, where facts, accuracy and truth don't directly matter, only sourcing does. North8000 (talk) 15:23, 18 June 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I am a researcher and an analyst. Primary sources ARE most important to me. They provide the facts. Secondary sources are generally opinions, and I can usually find opinions arguing almost any point of view imaginable. But, obviously, Wikipedia doesn't have the same view as I do regarding primary sources. EdLake (talk) 15:58, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

Since the source is a good one (whether it be primary or secondary) and wp does not prohibit primary sources, the question may be a moot point in that either way it should not be excluded from the article.
But trying to classify the source based on the group that the hundreds of investigators, observers, analysts and report authors belong to (e.g. the FBI, the government, the human race) is, to put it mildly, an oversimplification. For example, if group A observes and records, and group B analyzes their work and authors a document from it, is group B's work a primary source because they are in the same larger group (e.g. the FBI, the human race) as group A? North8000 (talk) 15:16, 18 June 2010 (UTC)
Crum - You write, "we judge reliability of sources and the prevalence of their views." But that is being interpreted as the FBI/DOJ being ONE view and anyone who disagrees with the FBI being another view. Thus, if two people disagree with the FBI, those two people are the "prevalent" point of view even if those two don't agree with each other and only agree that the FBI is wrong. Isn't the FBI/DOJ's point of view really the point of view of THOUSANDS of people? EdLake (talk) 15:33, 18 June 2010 (UTC)
The FBI investigative report is primary since they were involved in the investigation, so it shouldn't be used as a "view". We need secondary sources, like newspapers, magazines and books, to interpret that report, and tell us what the FBI's point of view is, assuming there is such a thing. Normally, since the FBI works for the people, it doesn't really have a "view" — it simply presents information as it sees it, and it's the job of the various news media and other organizations to interpret the FBI's results and put them in perspective. It's the summary of those secondary sources which should form the basis for the article, with the primary FBI report itself adding details. Crum375 (talk) 15:44, 18 June 2010 (UTC)
Crum - What if all the newspapers and magazines do is state that the FBI closed the case, concluding that Dr. Ivins was the culprit, and if anyone wants more details they should go to the DOJ/FBI's web site to read the summary report and the 2,720 pages of supplementary data? Aren't these "secondary sources" implying that they have read and agree (or do not disagree) with the FBI's findings? But they provide nothing to use on Wikipedia if we cannot go to the FBI/DOJ's files for details. EdLake (talk) 15:51, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────If all the seoncdary sources say is that the case is closed, and there are no other secondary sources with more information, it means the case is not notable and should not have a Wikipedia article. We use secondary sources, among other reasons, to help us gauge notability. If the case is so unimportant that the media don't bother summarizing it, then it's not notable, and we shouldn't delve into it either. This is exactly why we may not use primary sources as the foundation of the article or to establish notability, as they lack perspective. Crum375 (talk) 16:10, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

Crum - You wrote, "it means the case is not notable and should not have a Wikipedia article." But it was the most investigated case in American history, AND there are countless articles about it in the media. Therefore, it IS "notable" by any measure. It is just the CLOSING of the case which received little analysis by the media. Are we to leave the Wikipedia article with just the speculation from the early years of the case and IGNORE the recently released information that the FBI had accumulated over eight years? EdLake (talk) 16:19, 18 June 2010 (UTC)
Again, we as Wikipedia editors don't count. The media and other communities who observe the FBI do. If the media don't think this is important, and write nothing about it, we shouldn't either. If they do, biased or not, we should describe their various views. It is not for us to delve into primary sources and dig up stuff: that's called WP:OR, and can violate WP:SYN and WP:NPOV. Conversely, if the media do think the case is important, then they'll report it and we can describe what they write. Crum375 (talk) 16:52, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

I can see that arguing further is pointless. There is no possibility of agreement between Crum and I. Therefore, since I have to leave the office for several hours anyway, I'm just going to leave it to the Wikipedia editors to determine if the main and most reliable source of information about the anthrax attacks of 2001 can or cannot be used as a source for information in Wikipedia's article about the attacks. EdLake (talk) 16:54, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

Ed, if you read what I said, I did not say you can't use the FBI report as a reliable source. In fact, I would consider it a highly reliable and valuable source. But the article has to be written, and its notability established, based on secondary sources, and the FBI primary source should be used to add additional details. If the article is a building, consider the secondary sources as your foundation and main structure, while the primary sources would be the inner walls and other internal components. You can use the FBI source a lot, and often, to fill in the gaps left by the secondary sources, but it cannot advance new theories or directions, not covered by the secondaries. Crum375 (talk) 19:09, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

Whether a source is primary or secondary can be a guide in avoiding original research and undue weight, but if you can't work out or agree which it is then don't worry. Just think about what original research and undue weight are in Wikipedia and work out if the source is being used in that way. Yaris678 (talk) 16:58, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

EdLake, unless I missed something, it appears that no discussion or debate regarding this matter has yet occurred in the article's talk page. That is always a good place to start. It also appears that an editor deleted a large amount of material without discussion on this "FBI is primary" basis. IMHO you have a strong case, but it appears that a discussion has not yet occurred? North8000 (talk) 17:56, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

The discussion began on my talk page when I asked for HELP on getting the deleted information restored. N419BH responded and told me that the discussion would take place here. Now your saying it has to take place on the article's talk page? Okay. If that's what I need to do. I looked at the discussion page, but the first thing I saw was "This is not a forum for general discussion of the article's subject." But now I see it also says, "This is the talk page for discussing improvements to the 2001 anthrax attacks article." I guess the debate is more about "improvements" than "a general discussion." I'll start a discussion there to see what happens. Thanks. EdLake (talk) 20:17, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

I've restarted the discussion here: EdLake (talk) 21:39, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

For the record, I was the one who started the discussion here. I opened the conversation here rather than on Talk:2001 anthrax attacks because it seemed like a question of general interest that wasn't clearly answered by WP:NOR. Tim Pierce (talk) 12:30, 22 June 2010 (UTC)

It's probably good in both places. What I noted is that the overall issue was insertion vs. removal of some material from the article, and there had been no discussion regarding that on the article's talk page, and so really nowhere to start on the overall issue. North8000 (talk) 13:29, 22 June 2010 (UTC)

Draft new ATT proposal

For those who are not aware of it, I have created a draft for a new ATT proposal in my user space. It includes a rationale page which describes what it is, and the motivation for it, in a Q&A format. Please read the rationale page before commenting on the draft's talk page. I prefer that the draft remain in user space until and unless there appears to be wide-spread support for it, and all major concerns have been addressed. Thanks, Crum375 (talk) 15:20, 22 June 2010 (UTC)

Original Image

At Talk:Futanari there are claims that a user created image uploaded and complying with Common's licensing is WP:OR and thus not allowed because WP:OI falls under this. I think it may be better if OI were moved somewhere that NOR does not make it seem like images uploaded because of WP:NFCC are automatically OR because there are claims that it cannot possibly be considered legit and consitutes original research even though there are easily copyrighted images out there with basically the same depictions.

Either editors are being confused because of OI's placement here or are attempting to game the system by creating a catch-22.Jinnai 00:44, 27 June 2010 (UTC)

Questionable interpretations of SYNTH

Some editors are using the "no synth" policy to make what I consider to be questionable deletions. Here is one: Here is what they seem to consider SYNTH. Remember, each line is reliably sourced:

Paraphrased: Sato and Suzuki are suspects in Japan. They claim they were harshly interrogated by the Japanese authorities. Amnesty International has urged Japan to stop using harsh techniques to interrogate suspects. (SYNTH because AI didn't mention Sato and Suzuki by name.)

Another supposedly unacceptable example:

Lucky Strikes are an American brand of cigarette. According to the Surgeon General, smoking cigarettes has been found to be hazardous to your health and to cause cancer. (SYNTH because the Surgeon General did not mention Lucky Strikes by name.)

Here's another that would be unacceptable because Leader X was not mentioned by name at the Nuremberg Tribunals or in the Geneva Conventions:

Leader X has been accused of genocide. According to the Nuremberg Tribunals and the Geneva Conventions, genocide is a war crime.

I think these interpretations are ridiculous, so I think you need to clarify this policy. Ghostofnemo (talk) 06:55, 16 June 2010 (UTC)

I'm the one who argues that wp:NOR needs changes to prevent it from being mis-used. That may also be the case here (e.g. this could be a neutrality topic), but, IMHO, in each of these cases, the juxtaposition of the second statement with the first is itself making a statement (including casting a dispersion on the subject of the first sentence.) which should be subject to rules about statements. Or, looking at it from another (non-wp:nor) angle, in each case, one would need to ask, what is that paragraph about, and, does the second sentence serve that topic? North8000 (talk) 10:33, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
(edit conflict)Re the Sato and Suziki article, the part about Amnesty International (AI) adds to the impression that Sato and Suziki were harshly interrogated, which was not the intent of the AI source. So you have given an example of how WP:NOR works well. FYI, in addition to synth, it's also a matter of the AI material not being "directly related" to Sato and Suziki, which is a requirement mentioned in the lead of WP:NOR.
Similarly with the Leader X example.
Re Lucky Strikes, I would have to see the rest of the article to decide whether or not WP:NOR is working well in this case. Also, note that WP:NOR doesn't have to be enforced in a particular case, according to WP:IAR, if no one objects to the edit or if consensus is against enforcement.
Regards, --Bob K31416 (talk) 10:49, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
I'm afraid I would also consider these SYNTH unless a stronger link could be shown between the pairs of sentences. Were AI in some way specially referring to those cases or are they noted in some way as being part of the group harshly treated? genocide can have a wikilink, there is no need to spell out it is a crime and the same with cigarettes. These extra bits strike me as soapboxing. Dmcq (talk) 10:55, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
It's just bad writing in the first two examples. Like North8000 says, we have to figure out what the paragraph is supposed to be about. In the third example, the issue is that "genocide" can be used with a lot of meanings, so we need to make sure everyone is talking about the same thing. — Carl (CBM · talk) 10:59, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
I would support those deletions; they are precisely the kinds of cases WP:SYN is meant to address. The thing to do is to research sources that are about Sato and Suzuki/Lucky Strike/Leader X, and reflect what sources are writing about them. Sorry. --JN466 21:52, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
These are not "questionable interpretations of SYN" — they are textbook examples of SYN, and exactly the kind of novel "position advancing" by Wikipedians that SYN is designed to prevent. We are not allowed to combine sources to make a point, unless there is a reliably published source which makes that point for us. So in an article about Mr. X, if one source tells us that X smokes, and another source tells us that smoking is bad, we are not allowed to bring in the second source unless it mentions Mr. X. Otherwise we'd be advancing a position by juxtaposing or combining sources. Similarly for the other examples: if you combine sources to make a point, the sources must be all related to the article topic and there must be a source which makes the same point, stated or implied, or else you are introducing or creating a novel position, which is a WP:SYN violation. Crum375 (talk) 22:08, 16 June 2010 (UTC)

If a respected human rights group has condemned a certain group for a certain type of activity, in general and not in regards to a specific prisoner, that seems relevant in an article about a subject who claims he is being subjected to that same treatment by that same group. It also supports the notion that his mistreatment is notable if AI has previously complained about it regarding other prisoners. And it's clear from the BBC article that AI is making a general condemnation, not a condemnation in one particular case. Another hypothetical example (and the Lucky Strikes and Leader X were also hypothetical): if a biography of a death row inmate notes that Amnesty International has condemned the U.S. for using the death penalty, AI doesn't have to mention that inmate by name for the citation to be relevant, IMHO. If Leader X commits genocide, the fact that genocide has been condemned by international bodies is relevant to that situation, even if the accused was not mentioned by name at the Nuremberg Trials or in the Geneva Conventions. I think what is going on here is that some editors are assuming a "however" or a cause/effect relationship where one is not being stated. Ghostofnemo (talk) 23:42, 16 June 2010 (UTC) And this results in the exclusion of relevant information. Ghostofnemo (talk) 23:44, 16 June 2010 (UTC)

Your examples all sound like synthesis to me. They are trying to advance a position, WIkipedia is not in the business of pushing that isn't in the original sources. If the link between AI and those prisoners was relevant some newspaper would have made a link, if they haven't then neither should Wikipedia. Wikipedia is not a soapbox. Dmcq (talk) 23:53, 16 June 2010 (UTC)

It's not advocating a position. It's providing information relevant to the situation from reliable sources. Since AI and the BBC have pointed out a general concern about how suspects are interrogated in Japan, it's a very different situation than one in which these suspects are making these allegations for the first time. Here's another example from a hypothetical article about Car X: Car X uses the 123 suspension system. The Association of Automobile Engineers has noted serious problems with the 123 suspension system, and have called for its discontinuation because of safety concerns. (The hypothetical AAE article does not mention any car models by name) Ghostofnemo (talk) 23:59, 16 June 2010 (UTC)

Likewise, if the Surgeon General has cautioned against smoking IN GENERAL, that means he is cautioning against the smoking of ALL cigarettes, and he doesn't have to list them by name. Ghostofnemo (talk) 00:09, 17 June 2010 (UTC)

My interpretation of SYNTH would be: Mr. X smokes.(sourced) The government has stated that smoking cigarettes is hazardous to your health.(sourced) Mr. X is stupid.(unsourced) Ghostofnemo (talk) 00:19, 17 June 2010 (UTC)

Key points related to SYN: a) If you are advancing a position, all sources used for that must refer specifically to the article subject, not to a related subject; and b) The point which is being made, either explicitly or implicitly (e.g. by juxtaposition), must be directly made by one of the sources. Bottom line: you cannot take individually sourced bits of material to create or imply new ideas or new points for which there is no direct source, and all the sources used to make a point must refer to the specific article topic. Crum375 (talk) 00:43, 17 June 2010 (UTC)
Crum and I don't agree that often but I think that this is one of those times. If you stripped those first three examples to their absolute literal logical bones that might not yield a literal new construction there. But in speaking and writing practice, the juxtaposition certainly matters and is certainly advancing a position. Possibly wp:synth/wp:nor (the policy or the "noun") was just the easiest way to knock it out vs. a more complex and drawn out NPOV or Undue Weight (based on the subject of the paragraph) argument, but IMHO whichever of the three is used, those statements needed to be removed. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 01:46, 17 June 2010 (UTC)
The claim that "all sources used for that must refer specifically to the article subject" is not policy and only creates confusion. Jc3s5h (talk) 01:57, 17 June 2010 (UTC)
Here is what the policy says (bold added):
  • WP:NOR: "To demonstrate that you are not adding original research, you must be able to cite reliable published sources that are directly related to the topic of the article, and that directly support the material as presented."
  • WP:SYN: "'A and B, therefore C' is acceptable only if a reliable source has published the same argument in relation to the topic of the article."
So what exactly is "not policy" in your view? Crum375 (talk) 02:16, 17 June 2010 (UTC)
Sorry, I could have sworn that crap had been removed. As I see it, if I'm writing an article about, say, the tropical year, and I use a source about Albert Einstein to decide where to place his contributions in the history section, there is nothing wrong with that. If it were a contentious article, though, some zealot could come along and delete the information about Einstein on the grounds that the source was not titled 'Albert Einstein and the Tropical Year'. Jc3s5h (talk) 03:47, 17 June 2010 (UTC)
If you have a source saying that Einstein contributed to the concept of the tropical year, that would conform to the policy, assuming the source mentions Einstein in relation to the TY. For issues that are not controversial and are not "advancing a point", e.g. historical background about a scientist involved with the article topic, there is no harm in bringing in sources which are not directly focused on the article topic. But as soon as there is controversy and a "point" is being made, either explicitly or implicitly, we need a source making that point for us in relation to the article topic. Crum375 (talk) 04:00, 17 June 2010 (UTC)
The problem is that the crap about the source being related to the subject of the article is not qualified by any phrase along the lines of "when advancing a position" or "in controversial cases" and so ought to be removed. Once it is removed, Crum375 would have to rephrase his/her arguments. Of course it is always wrong to use information outside of the original context, that is, the original context may have restricted the meaning of words or created one set of implication, where no such restrictions or a different set of implications apply in the new context, so the passage takes on a new meaning. An example would be to mention that an American was observed smoking marijuana while failing to mention the smoking occurred in a country where there is no law against marijuana.
The rule about sources being about the same topic as the article is really a crude attempt to control the meaning of words and the implications surrounding statements, but really any material from any reliable source ought to be allowed so long as the meaning of words and the context of implications surrounding them are the same in the source and the Wikipedia article, or any discrepancies are explained in the Wikipedia article. An example would be any use of an old source in Galaxy; one written before the modern understanding in galaxies. In such old sources, the word "universe" was often used the way we use "galaxy" today, so this older usage would have to be explained whenever such an old source is used. Jc3s5h (talk) 10:29, 17 June 2010 (UTC)
ugh. ok, look, this is a very subtle issue. this passage:
  • Sato and Suzuki are suspects in Japan. They claim they were harshly interrogated by the Japanese authorities. Amnesty International has urged Japan to stop using harsh techniques to interrogate suspects.
is SYN because it makes it sound like Amnesty International was responding specifically to Sato and Suzuki's case. however, this passage:
  • Sato and Suzuki are suspects in Japan. They claim they were harshly interrogated by the Japanese authorities, techniques which Amnesty International has previously urged Japan to avoid using.
is probably not SYN, since there is no implicit suggestion that AI is talking about this particular case. A few moments of thought and consideration can save a whole peck of annoying troubles. Remember, wikipedia is for building an encyclopedia, not for perfecting one's obsessive-compulsive disorders. --Ludwigs2 04:53, 17 June 2010 (UTC)--Ludwigs2 04:53, 17 June 2010 (UTC)

I agree with that these are classic SYN violations, precisely the kind of editing the policy warns against.

  • Consider one of the examples: "Leader X has been accused of genocide. According to the Nuremberg Tribunals and the Geneva Conventions, genocide is a war crime." (The source for the second sentence doesn't mention Leader X.)
  • Now consider this made-up example with the same structure: "Smith was fond of animals as a child, often preferring them to his human friends. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, preferring animals to humans can be a sign of anti-social personality disorder." (The source for the second sentence doesn't mention Smith.)

Ghostofnemo, do you see now why we warn against it? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 07:08, 17 June 2010 (UTC)

I don't believe a reader of average intelligence would jump to the conclusion that AI has commented on Sato and Suzuki's case using EITHER version cited by Ludwig2. Is this "Wikipedia for Dummies"? Regarding SlimVirgin's example, what if you had reliable sources that said Smith did W, X, Y and Z during his entire childhood, and the Diagnostic Manual was quoted as saying, "People who exhibit all of behaviors W,X,Y and Z during childhood have an extremely high likelihood of having anti-social personality disorder." ? Ghostofnemo (talk) 07:18, 17 June 2010 (UTC)
Let's say Smith constantly got in trouble for starting fires at school, torturing animals, vandalism and bullying? Ghostofnemo (talk) 07:22, 17 June 2010 (UTC)
You'd need a reliable source that makes the connection, no matter how obvious it seems to you. There could be other explanations. Smith could have a brain tumour, or he may have been falsely accused. We want to know what reliable sources say about it. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 07:41, 17 June 2010 (UTC)
I think that Slim Virgin's example more clearly pointed out the problem with your example statements. Even though I think that your argument would say that it was OK, i.e that it doesn't explicitly say so, the writer is clearly (without basis or sources) associating Smith with anti-social personality disorder in the readers' minds. Whether it gets knocked out by wp:nor, wp:npov or for just being bad writing, I think that such things should be removed. North8000 (talk) 11:50, 17 June 2010 (UTC)
I appreciate Qwyrxian's mention on the Tokyo Two talk page to let everyone discussing this with Ghostofnemo know he's brought it here. His view was brought up and rejected on multiple articles and for each article, brought to one or more noticeboards. I'm hoping that this will help him finally "get it" and accept what the concensus definition of a SYNTH arguement. Ravensfire (talk) 14:25, 17 June 2010 (UTC)
I agree that the personality disorder example would be questionable, but I think it's clearly ok to mention general comments about a subject that are clearly relevant to the subject but which don't refer to the subject by name. Lucky Strikes are cigarettes and the Surgeon General has warned people about the dangers of smoking cigarettes, no matter which brand they smoke. Leader X has been accused of genocide, and genocide is a war crime no matter who commits it. The safety of the 123 suspension system has been question by engineers, no matter which model of car it is installed in, and so on. These are not SYNTH, and AI's general criticism of the way Japan treats suspects is not SYNTH in the way I've used it, and I think that needs to be clarified on this policy page since so many people are interpreting it incorrectly. Ghostofnemo (talk) 00:46, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── These are all classical examples of WP:OR and WP:SYN. I'll take just one, because they are all similar. "Lucky Strikes are cigarettes and the Surgeon General has warned people about the dangers of smoking cigarettes, no matter which brand they smoke.": If the article is about Lucky Strikes (LS), you can describe any source which discusses smoking safety and LS. But if you choose a source which does not discuss LS, you may not use it to make any point or "advance a position". So you may not bring in a general study about smoking safety and use it as source for the LS article. The reason is simple: if you do use a source which does not mention LS, you are implying that the source applies to LS, despite the fact that no reliable source has done so. So either that connection is wrong, or it's not notable, but either way, if no reliable published source has made that connection, we as a "summarizer of published reliable sources" shouldn't do so either, to avoid violating WP:NOR and synthesis. Crum375 (talk) 01:03, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

This is precisely where we differ. The Surgeon General's comments DO OBVIOUSLY apply to Lucky Strikes, whether or not he mentions them by name. It is notable if a product is a health hazard and an authority says it causes cancer. Ghostofnemo (talk) 01:09, 18 June 2010 (UTC)
No, there is no "obvious" on WP, because what's obvious to you is not obvious to someone else, and vice versa. This is why we rely on reliable sources, and our goal is to summarize what they have written about a given topic. So if the topic is LS, we can't go to some generic study and apply it to LS, unless a published reliable source has already done so. That's the key to what we do here: we summarize published material about a topic, and not make up new connections or observations about it. If the point or connection you are trying to make is so important, some reliable source will have made it. If no such source has done so, we shouldn't either. Crum375 (talk) 01:22, 18 June 2010 (UTC)
Wikipedia does not require us to prove things that are obvious facts. Lucky Strikes are obviously cigarettes. This is from the WP:NOR page: ""Paris is the capital of France" needs no source because no one is likely to object to it, but we know that sources for that sentence exist." It is also obvious that if the S.G. says "smoking cigarettes is dangerous" that applies to all cigarettes. Ghostofnemo (talk) 01:30, 18 June 2010 (UTC)
That Paris is the capital of France is an example of something not "likely to be challenged". This means that when we write "Paris, the capital of France", we need no immediate source for it in the article. But if someone comes by and challenges it, we have a thousand sources that will tell us that Paris is the capital of France, and we can quickly slap on that reference if needed. This is what we mean when we say "Everything on WP must be attributable, but not necessarily attributed. But if something is challenged, likely to be challenged, or quoted, it must be attributed." In the case of Lucky Strikes, the point you are making is that some safety study applies to a specific brand. If you are personally sure it's as clear as Paris is the capital of France, and is not likely to be challenged, leave out the source. But as soon as someone challenges that connection, you must supply a source which makes that specific connection, or else you are violating WP:V, WP:NOR and WP:SYN. Crum375 (talk) 01:42, 18 June 2010 (UTC)
Crum condenses my understanding of the intent of the policy perfectly. Blueboar (talk) 02:23, 18 June 2010 (UTC)
There has to be some 'absurdity' criteria here. One does not expect anyone in the world (legal profession exempted) to spell out every single detail of every single statement. When the Surgeon General (or a scientific researcher) says that smoking cigarettes is dangerous, that statement involves a scientific inference to all cigarettes which everyone in the scientific world would recognize and respect. claiming that lucky strikes are dangerous to smoke is therefore a perfectly valid deduction, unless there is some reason presented in reliable sources which exempts lusky strikes from the established consensus about cigarettes in general. SYN is an invalid generalization or extension; pure deduction can't be synthetic reasoning.
  • deduction: SG says cigarettes are bad; LS are a brand of cigarettes; SG would say that LS are bad - there's no synthesis here, because LS are included in the SG's original pronouncement as a class of objects
  • synthesis: SG says cigarettes are bad; cigarettes are made of tobacco, and so are cigars; SG would say that cigars are bad - there is synthesis here: the SG probably would say that cigars are bad, but they were not covered in the class of objects he originally dealt with, so we cannot make that inference for him. --Ludwigs2 03:15, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────There is no absurdity, only clear and simple rules. We summarize what reliable sources have published about a topic; we don't create new information, inferences, deductions or conclusions about it. This is the essence of Wikipedia, as clearly described in WP:V, WP:NOR and specifically WP:SYN. If you examine your argument above you'll note that you rely on deductions and inferences, exactly the kinds of things we are not allowed to do. Again, we summarize what reliable sources have written. We don't combine what they say to create or imply new conclusions or inferences which are not direclty supported by a reliable source in relation to the article topic. Crum375 (talk) 03:58, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

Deductions are WP:Original research as far as Wikipedia is concerned and are forbidden. Just don't stick in stuff you deduced instead of read. Dmcq (talk) 08:38, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

This seems to be a hot topic, but I would like to contribute my 2-cents worth. I think that the present policy should be clarified and that editors should be allowed to report two well verified facts, even if there is no single source that itself reports those facts. For example, if a film contains inaccuracies, then it should be permissible to state what is in the film and to state what reliable sources say about the historical reality. It should not be necessary to have to find a film review that talks about inaccuracies. Based on the comments above, I realize that my view is probably a minority view, but I thought that I would throw it in anyway. My justification for this view is that, in my opinion, Wikipedia should strive to be a compendium of all reliable information, and that that information should be grouped together in such a way that people who seek information can find it easily. So related reliable information should be presented together, even if there is no single external source that presents it together. In my view, what I propose is not original research and does not constitute deduction: the reader would be free to deduce or not from the information.--Gautier lebon (talk) 15:02, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

I agree. Stating facts reported by reliable sources is objective and NPOV. Let the readers draw their own conclusions. We don't have to protect them from jumping to erroneous conclusions that are not stated. What NO SYNTH should mean is that we shouldn't draw our own, original conclusions based on facts reported by our reliable sources. Ghostofnemo (talk) 05:52, 19 June 2010 (UTC)
I don't know if it should be ruled out by wp:nor or not, but one should recognize that in all of the examples, selecting the second statement and juxtoposing it with the first was very POV pushing and bad writing. North8000 (talk) 10:14, 19 June 2010 (UTC)
The present policy is quite clear. It doesn't need such clarification where clarification means you disagree with it. If you wish to propose a change to the policy say so, don't mealy mouth it as 'clarification'. Dmcq (talk) 11:02, 19 June 2010 (UTC)
And to clarify, no I don't think you should be pointing out inaccuracies in films if reviewers haven't already done so. Dmcq (talk) 11:05, 19 June 2010 (UTC)
I think that we're talking about 3-4 different topics at once hereNorth8000 (talk) 13:04, 19 June 2010 (UTC)
I would be happy with some lines in the policy that said something like this:
Statement of facts and simple deduction are not synthesis.
  • Statement of facts: One of the United Nations' stated purposes is to promote world peace. (reliable source) Since the United Nations was established, there have been 160 armed conflicts.(reliable source) Citizens Against Wars has criticized the U.N. for not doing enough to prevent wars.(reliable source)
  • Simple deduction: Pufferoos are a brand of cigarette made in the U.S. (reliable source) The Surgeon General has warned that smoking cigarettes is hazardous to your health. (reliable source) Note that the Surgeon General does not have to mention Pufferoos by name, since they are obviously members of the same category of objects that the Surgeon General is warning us about." Ghostofnemo (talk) 01:40, 20 June 2010 (UTC)
You might have a good idea with respect to wp:nor. And I agree that a logically sound and rigorous deduction is not OR or synthesis. But IMHO the juxtaposition is still soapboxing with POV problems. Also, a purely logic analysis as you are implying would not be applicable / come to the conclusion that you imply, because we are talking about the ramifications, implied meanings and swaying of readers of JUSTAPOSITION those statements, not actual statements. Such is is not in the universe of pure logic. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 02:39, 20 June 2010 (UTC)
I disagree with one point there. A logiclly sound and rigorous deduction can be original research. Writing a new idea up in Wikipedia without a reliable source is a definite no no - it doesn't matter how true and wonderful it is nor how mathematically rigorous its deductions are. And by the way I'm glad of that as I keep on having to remove peoples ideas which they say are TRUE and can be put in because they are deduced logically and so are just simple calculations - but in fact they are wrong wrong wrong. Dmcq (talk) 09:53, 20 June 2010 (UTC)
(inserted later) You are right, I misspoke. I should have said that SOMETIMES a logically sound and rigorous deduction is not OR or synthesis.North8000 (talk) 12:10, 20 June 2010 (UTC)
Ghost, there are no "facts" on Wikipedia, only material which summarizes what reliable sources have written. And a summary does not include a deduction, inference, or any point which is not explicitly made by a reliable source. We may not combine material from two sources to create, by inference, deduction, or juxtaposition, a new point which is not directly made by a reliable source. That's the essence of WP:NOR and WP:SYN. Crum375 (talk) 02:45, 20 June 2010 (UTC)
My bad then, but note that I put after each "fact" (reliably sourced), so we are on the same page, just calling it different things. Ghostofnemo (talk) 13:10, 20 June 2010 (UTC)
In some cases what is considered valid summarization IS deduction. North8000 (talk) 03:07, 20 June 2010 (UTC)
Example, please? Crum375 (talk) 03:35, 20 June 2010 (UTC)
The hypothetical article is about Organization A, the paragraph is about it's demise in the mid 1950's. Research for the article found the following: Organization A was on the Ohio Secretary of State's non profit corporation list in 1955. (sourced) Organization A was not on the Ohio Secretary of State's non profit corporation list in 1956. (sourced) Summary/deduction in the article: In 1955 or 1956 Organization A was dropped from the Ohio Secretary of State's list of non-profit corporations. North8000 (talk) 12:03, 20 June 2010 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Those Secretary of State listings are a primary source, and may not be used to make a point unless backed up by a secondary source. In any case, it's not a good example for SYN, since it conflates two separate concepts: primary sources may not be used to make a point, while a combination of secondary sources may not be used to make a point either. Crum375 (talk) 13:32, 20 June 2010 (UTC)

If you are saying that overall, my (hypothetical) example statement (having only those sources) should be excluded from Wikipedia, then we simply disagree. The sources are absolutely reliable for that statement, and unarguably support it 100%. And it would be poor writing in this context not to summarize it. IMHO any rule that would exclude that needs to be changed. North8000 (talk) 14:47, 20 June 2010 (UTC)
If the only sources you have are primary, then yes, Wikipedia may not have an article on the subject, because notability requires third party secondary sources. Reliability is only one issue in such cases; you also need notability and relevance, as judged by independent reliable secondary sources. Crum375 (talk) 15:48, 20 June 2010 (UTC)

Outddent. Crum has stated above

We may not combine material from two sources to create, by inference, deduction, or juxtaposition, a new point which is not directly made by a reliable source.

This seems sensible to me. But many articles contain (and must contain) information derived from more than one source. The key point seems to me that the Wikipedia editor should not create a new point which is not made by a reliable source. That seems OK to me. But what escapes me is why an editor cannot put in an article relevant material from reliable sources, if the editor does not create a new point. It seems that one objection is that doing so may implicitly create a new point, because the editor is choosing which material to include. But the whole essence of Wikipedia is choosing what material to summarize and include. It seems to me that there is no harm in presenting reliable information, even if the reader might, on her or his own, draw some inferences from that information.--Gautier lebon (talk) 07:52, 21 June 2010 (UTC)

Crum, wp:notability is a criteria for (existence of) articles, not a criteria for existence of material within articles. North8000 (talk) 10:34, 22 June 2010 (UTC)


So here's a recent example from a very popular article Yellowstone of a statement that although completely factual, absent any context, can be seen as SYNTH for POV reasons or just bad writing. (its been removed, reverts, removed many times)

The statement: Yellowstone is widely considered to be the finest megafauna wildlife habitat in the lower 48 states. There are almost 60 species of mammals in the park, including the endangered gray wolf, the threatened lynx, and grizzly bears. (This is statement is sourced to an NPS fact sheet)
The facts: Yellowstone has Gray Wolves, Gray Wolves are listed as an Endangered Species, Gray Wolves are not listed as Endangered in the Yellowstone region. (all of these facts are supportable by reliable sources uequivocally)
The implied SNYTH and thus POV pushing - Gray Wolves are endangered in YNP (There are a lot of associated controversies with that idea)
Question: Is this just bad writing or is it SYNTH by our policy wording? My quick interpretation is that it is SYNTH by stealth in a way because the article is about Yellowstone, not about wolves or endangered species. Wolves as a topic are once removed from Yellowstone, while Endangered Specie are twice removed. Because the context of the article is Yellowstone, not wolves or endangered species, the facts, although accurate, synthesize an implication that is not true and extensive explanation of that in the article won't fly because that's not what the article is about. Any thoughts on the policy re this type of situation?--Mike Cline (talk) 12:46, 20 June 2010 (UTC)
It seems to me all you need is a reliable source that says wolves in Yellowstone are not considered to be an endangered species. You would deleted the edit that said they were endangered because it was unsourced or not reliably sourced, not because it was synth. Ghostofnemo (talk) 13:10, 20 June 2010 (UTC)
Adding "endangered" to a species not so listed in the YNP source would be SYN. You need a source discussing YNP and the endangered status of that species. If none of the reliable source has found it necessary or pertinent to mention that status, we shouldn't mention it either. This is exactly what SYN is about. Crum375 (talk) 13:25, 20 June 2010 (UTC)
I think the lesson here is that the claim of SYNTH can be based on very subtle wording issues. The Yellowstone statement as written is completely factual and supported by reliable sources. What it lacks is the detailed explanation that points to the non-endangered status of the wolf in Yellowstone. No one contests these facts. However, adding that explanation to the article is not appropriate and resisted because the article is not about Wolves or even less about endangered species. This leaves us with an implied conclusion that Wolves are endangered YNP which they are not. Any editor could argue successfully that the endangered Gray Wolf is an accurate statement and supported by reliable sources. Equally I believe, that any editor, knowing the underlying details of the status of the wolf in Yellowstone (all supportable by reliable sources) could argue that there is SYNTH in the statement (as written) because of the implication that Wolves in YNP are endangered. Guys, this was just a subtle example to keep the discussion going. Doesn't need any resolution. Thanks for commenting.--Mike Cline (talk) 13:54, 20 June 2010 (UTC)
IMHO it is not even factual. Much communication is implicit. As a starting point, it's implicit that "endangered" means US government classification. The mild falsity is that saying a species is endangered without a geographic qualifier is implicitly saying that it is endangered everywhere in the USA. The more severe falsity is implicitly saying that it is endangered in YNP. North8000 (talk) 14:41, 20 June 2010 (UTC)
Factual and reliable and good deductions still don't stop things being synthesis. For instance if A.B is in the government and there is a scandal about members of the government taking backhanders, and a survey shows that a majority of the public answered yes when asked 'do you believe the members of the government are all on the make?". We would still not be okay in writing "A.B is believed to be on the make". And it is certainly not right to ask that someone produce something saying he is not on the make before removing it. Dmcq (talk) 16:01, 20 June 2010 (UTC)
We're not disagreeing. I was just pointing out that those statements (and even the one in your new example) have other problems unrelated to synthesis. North8000 (talk) 17:40, 20 June 2010 (UTC)
I get what North8000 is saying since things being sourced is good. However, attempting to lead the reader to draw a conclusion (as is the case with the not hypothetical edits) opens the door for POV, scandal mongering, and editorials on Wikipedia. We are fortunately currently prevented from doing that. An easy way to include any correlation between information is making sure that the relevance is well sourced.Cptnono (talk) 22:21, 20 June 2010 (UTC)
My take on the example re wolves in YNP boils down to a question: The assertion re endangered gray wolves being present in YNP (see this edit removing it) looks like an example of OR and a problem with V. No supporting cite is present, so the info asserted cannot be quickly confirmed and may be challenged or removed. Page 15 of this source (see also this) may refute the assertion (as the editor who removed the assertion suggests without support -- also seemingly OR, and this source seems to suggest that he may be incorrect or at least was so as of August 13, 2008). SYN-like "deduction" from separate assertions within one source may or may not have been behind the insertion of the removed assertion. If the assertion was based on a source which asserted in a straightforward manner that endangered gray wolves are present in YNP, and if that source were cited, the insertion would be proper and the removal of the assertion would be improper. If the Page 15 source I mentioned does say that gray wolves are not endangered in YNP (not easy to tell, and it looks like a primary source -- not usable to refute a secondary source), the assertion (if supported) should stand. Now (finally getting to the point), the question as I understand it is if the assertion had been supported by a secondary source saying at separate points that (1) gray wolves are endangered and (2) there are gray wolves in YNP (e.g., perhaps this or this) then would it be proper to assert that endangered gray wolves are present in YNP (making a SYN-like "deduction" from separate assertions within the source)? Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 00:44, 21 June 2010 (UTC)
I am only replying to the final part. If the same source mentions gray wolves, that they are endangered, and their presence in YNP, then we can say there are gray wolves in YNP and they are endangered. But if one source tells us there are gray wolves in YNP, and another source tells us that gray wolves are endangered without mentioning YNP, then it would be SYN for us to say the YNP gray wolves are endangered. If the contention that YNP gray wolves are endangered is supported by scientific evidence, and it is important and notable, a reliable source will make that point for us. If no reliable source bothers to do so, we may not be the first to present it. Crum375 (talk) 01:18, 21 June 2010 (UTC)
I mostly agree with Crum, but maybe not 100%. If one source tells us that there are gray wolves in YNP, and another source tells us that gray wolves are endangered without mentioning YNP, then I think that it should be acceptable to write:--Gautier lebon (talk) 07:59, 21 June 2010 (UTC)

Gray wolves are found in Yellostone National Part (source). That species is an endangered species (source).

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── The above assessment is correct with the exception that the second sentence is not relevant to the article and even by separating them, leaves the impression that Wolves in Yellowstone are Endangered. This is the definitive source [9] for the facts. No interpretation of those facts is necessary and they are supported by a boatload of more technical public documents. Older sources may differ, but as of June 2010, this source gives us the defintive status of the Gray Wolf. The addition of the endangered status of the wolf, absent a lengthy explanation (inappropriate for the article), in the context of the Yellowstone article is simply SYNTH by stealth leaving the false impression that Wolves are endangered in Yellowstone. They are not.--Mike Cline (talk) 10:42, 21 June 2010 (UTC)

I agree that the statement should be removed, for 3-4 reasons. WP:nor is probably the weakest of them, but the easiest to use as it's wording has unwittingly made it a magic bullet to selectively knock out anyone's choice from about 90% of Wikipedia for whatever motivation. The other reasons are that the "endangered" statement is deceptive at best, and IMO, in the context of precise writing, false. And then the net result is a NPOV violation. North8000 (talk) 11:27, 21 June 2010 (UTC)
In the box above I believe sticking in the statement about grey wolves being endangered is a clear example of synthesis. It should simply not be stuck in there. As others have said if it was relevant to Yellowstone some reliable source would have made the connection. Such a juxtaposition might give something that is true but that is not the business of Wikipedia. And I've too often seen these 'reasonable' juxtapositions used by POV pushers, conspiracy theorists and the like to defend their silly insertions. The policy is no synthesis, it hasn't been changed, there is no real movement to change any part of it, it is part of what editors should do on Wikipedia if they are to conform with the WP:Five pillars. This is an encyclopaedia not a place for original thought. Dmcq (talk) 12:05, 21 June 2010 (UTC)
Dmcq is correct. The boxed example above is a textbook case of "SYN by juxtaposition", which is warned against in the policy. Unless there is a reliable source which has mentioned the two items in the same context, we may not do so either, to advance a position. The prohibition against SYN is not only for explicit new points, but for implicit ones as well. By juxtaposing the two items, we are making an implicit point (actually two, if you include "that it's relevant"), and therefore need a reliable source which directly makes that point for us. Crum375 (talk) 13:43, 21 June 2010 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I have not been following this, but for something related see this. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 13:42, 21 June 2010 (UTC)

The wolves in YNP situation could also be fixed by adding a line that says, "Although gray wolves are categorized as an endangered species in the U.S., the gray wolf population in YNP is so robust that gray wolves there are not categorized as endangered." (reliable source) Ghostofnemo (talk) 00:12, 22 June 2010 (UTC)
You'd need a source making exactly this point. Otherwise, it would be SYN by advancing a position without a direct supporting source. This is the essence of SYN. Crum375 (talk) 00:17, 22 June 2010 (UTC)
Simply replace "endangered" with "elsewhere endangered". Then it would become a statement that wiki-lawyering might dispute, (until laboriously referenced) but common-sense consensus would let stand as it would have credibility as being accurate and truthful, a Wikipedia mission level concept foreign to the myopic detailed level of Wikipedia policy wording. North8000 (talk) 02:02, 22 June 2010 (UTC)
You'd then need something saying it wasn't endangered in Yellowstone. Some things which are not contentious and obviously help can get in by consensus but it isn't a reason to drive a horse and cart through the policy. Dmcq (talk) 11:30, 22 June 2010 (UTC)
If by "policy" you mean the the specific paragraphs involved, don't look now but millions of carts and horses have already driven through it. 90% of Wikipedia violates a strict interpretation of its policies as written at that level. At the granular level, Wikipedia policies are not written carefully enough for it to be any other way. It's the higher levels (qualifiers at higher level wording within the policies that say that they are not categorical, plus things like wp:iar, plus most importantly, that most enforcement actions are selective and by consensus) that make otherwise unrealistic policies usable. North8000 (talk) 11:27, 30 June 2010 (UTC)

Proposed addition to NOR policy

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

I'm closing this discussion per WP:SNOW; nobody has supported the proposal other than the proposer and I doubt anyone will. This would not supplement WP:SYNTH, it would revoke it. You can continue to discuss WP:SYNTH in the section below, but this proposal has failed. Fences&Windows 14:23, 23 June 2010 (UTC)

I object. It's only been open for discussion for a few days. What's the hurry? Ghostofnemo (talk) 05:24, 24 June 2010 (UTC)

Statement of facts and simple deduction are not synthesis when the information is reliably sourced and the deductions made are logically sound and do not reach original or misleading conclusions.

  • Statement of facts: One of the United Nations' stated purposes is to promote world peace. (reliable source) Since the United Nations was established, there have been 160 armed conflicts.(reliable source) Citizens Against Wars has criticized the U.N. for not doing enough to prevent wars.(reliable source)
  • Simple deduction: Pufferoos are a brand of cigarette made in the U.S. (reliable source) The Surgeon General has warned that smoking cigarettes is hazardous to your health. (reliable source) (Note that the Surgeon General does not have to mention Pufferoos by name, since they are obviously members of the same category of objects that the Surgeon General is warning us about.)
Ghostofnemo (talk) 00:30, 22 June 2010 (UTC)

I further propose that it appear in the WP:SYN section of the article. Ghostofnemo (talk) 00:39, 22 June 2010 (UTC)

  • Oppose This goes against the very core of WP:SYN and WP:NOR, as well as WP:V. It will encourage editors to use Wikipedia as a forum for their favorite agendas. According to WP:SYN, we may not advance a new position, explicitly or implicitly, even if based on a combination of existing sources, unless there is a reliable source directly supporting that position in relation to the article topic. This is the key to SYN. Crum375 (talk) 00:36, 22 June 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose I don't believe WP:SYN needs rewriting. It merely needs more consistent interpretation and we all need to resist resorting to claims of SYN when it doesn't exist.--Mike Cline (talk) 00:43, 22 June 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose For the reasons already explained up above. This change would facilitate POV and editorializing by editors attempting to lead the reader to draw certain conclusions.Cptnono (talk) 01:12, 22 June
  • Oppose, but don't go away, wp:ver/nor needs changes, and people like you to make them happen While your opening statement, with more careful and operative rewording might be a good change, your 2 examples (which are a part of your proposed changes) illustrate material which should not be in Wikipedia. North8000 (talk) 01:46, 22 June 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose. The proposed addition stands out as a candidate for "poster child" why WP:NOR is one of WP's three core-content policies. ... Kenosis (talk) 05:39, 22 June 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose For reasons stated above. Logical conclusion for one person is not the same for another. Ghostofnemo continues to search for ways to get his views in articles, despite obvious issues with core policies. Ravensfire (talk) 05:43, 22 June 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Example: "John Smith is a British chef known in the UK for his peppered steak sandwiches. According to People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, meat eaters are at higher risk than vegetarians of dying from colon cancer." And in case anyone argues that PETA is not a reliable-enough source, I'm sure I could find excellent sources for the same point. The whole point of SYN is to prevent editing like this. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 07:38, 22 June 2010 (UTC)
In an article about "beef" however, it would be notable, if true and reliably sourced. Ghostofnemo (talk) 01:44, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
And, more to the point, in an article about any meat product. The research that points to this would not have to name "McDouglas half-kilo burgers" by name if my proposal was adopted. This research would be unmentionable and censored out of the article if the SYN policy is not amended, however.Ghostofnemo (talk) 01:57, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose. It is not the business of Wikipedia to make things up. If the connection is important enough then someoneone else will note it. As it is, practically any instances I've seen are people being silly or POV pushing and the implied conclusion is very often just plain wrong. I've enough arguments trying to get them to remove the stuff without them being able to quote a policy back at me to justify what they do. Dmcq (talk) 08:09, 22 June 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Right now, SYN is clear because it flatly overrules putting two sources together and implying a connection. Your proposal requires us to make a determination each time between what is “fact” and what is “opinion” or POV. I'm uncomfortable with the idea of adding another point of contention that can drag out POV fights. Qwyrxian (talk) 04:13, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose. The proposal goes against the spirit of the policy. Only things like routine calculation should be permitted.--Boson (talk) 06:09, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose. "Simple deductions" according to who? This just opens the door to POV pushing and in essence is providing the situations under which synthesis is fine. And that is the wrong direction to be heading in. Agree with others that this clearly violates the spirit of the existing policy and the general spirit of WP:V. You can't verify someone's novel interpretation of facts.--Terrillja talk 06:59, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
If you'll read the examples above carefully, you'll see that there is no interpretation whatsoever. Ghostofnemo (talk) 07:02, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
"Statement of facts and simple deduction" You wrote it, I quoted it above. Simple deduction means many things to many people, thus this would be interpreted many different ways.--Terrillja talk 07:04, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose. While individual statments by themselves can be factual and sourced, putting contrary statements back-to-back does imply a connection that may or may not exist, and at the very least is intended to trigger a connection in the mind of the reader. WP:SYN is just fine as it is.DCmacnut<> 13:27, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose Crum375, Terrillja, and Dcmacnut already covered my reasoning well. -- AnmaFinotera (talk · contribs) 13:37, 23 June 2010 (UTC)

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

Threaded discussion

Such as "Smoking Pufferoos is hazardous to your health"? We can't have that, can we? Ghostofnemo (talk) 01:17, 22 June 2010 (UTC)

We've already had that discussion above, and replied to your points there. It seems we are going around in circles. Crum375 (talk) 01:26, 22 June 2010 (UTC)
IMHO highlighting that aspect in a Puferoos article is soapboxing. a POV violation, probably irrelevant for its paragraph, and bad writing. IMHO that makes it too poor of an example for a WP:NOR discussion, to the point that such occludes such a discussion. North8000 (talk) 01:53, 22 June 2010 (UTC)
If the subject of an article belongs to a class of products which has been scientifically proven to be carcinogenic, and an authority warns people against using them, that seems highly relevant to an article on that subject! Ghostofnemo (talk) 04:44, 22 June 2010 (UTC)
Currently policy FORBIDS noting this unless the brand is mentioned by name. Ghostofnemo (talk) 04:45, 22 June 2010 (UTC)
But regardless, it's irrelevant. Seriously, go to any article on a sufficiently notable and broad group or class of things, and there will be significant amounts of criticism against it. It's completely inappopropriate to duplicate the general criticisms on the articles of every single member of the group. That's what links are for; anyone who wants to learn more about cigarettes can follow the handy link back to the article on the broader subject. Someguy1221 (talk) 05:45, 22 June 2010 (UTC)

We simply do not need to have a Pufferoos article crammed with warnings like if you are looking after children or animals please make certain they do not eat Pufferoos stubs as it may make them sick. Dmcq (talk) 08:17, 22 June 2010 (UTC)

It's not petty criticism to point out that a product has been proven to be carcinogenic! Ghostofnemo (talk) 01:48, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
If you'd like to "point" it out, you need to find a reliable source which makes that exact point in relation to the article subject. You may not synthesize that point by inference or deduction from a combination of sources which don't say it directly. If no reliable source has bothered to make this exact point, we shouldn't either, as our mission is to summarize what others have written, without editorializing, embellishing, or synthesizing. Crum375 (talk) 02:20, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
Egads, researchers do not specify brand names when they research cigarette smoking. Have you ever seen a news story entitled "Camels found to be health hazard"? No, but there are many about cigarettes in general. Ghostofnemo (talk) 06:56, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
Actually, I have. And articles on how they were marketed to kids. Next argument, or have you just decided to follow the rules and quit wasting people's time?--Terrillja talk 07:01, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
Got an example you'd like to share with us? And let's keep this good faith, ok? Ghostofnemo (talk) 07:04, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
Oh, I have good faith, but your forum shopping after getting consistently shot down by multiple different editors on different articles as well as ANI and VPT has become tiresome. I mean everyone can't be wrong, can they? There is a difference between good faith and tiring of forum shopping when someone doesn't get the result they want. Over. And over. And over. And over.--Terrillja talk 07:11, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
I would argue that this goes beyond forum shopping--GoN is actually trying to change the forum rules themselves. He began by saying that his content was include-able. Then he said (on the article pages) that we were misinterpreting policy. After hearing in several different forums that s/he is the one misinterpreting policy, s/he is now trying to change that policy. Now, that's I suppose that any editor is within their rights to try to make such changes, but now that we have what appears to be a pretty strong consensus not to change the rules, along with the prior consensuses (my that's an ugly looking word) about how to interpret that policy, is it possible that we're finally done with this issue? Qwyrxian (talk) 07:16, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
I may be in the minority, but I'm clearly right on this. Stuff is being deleted as SYNTH which is not synthesis at all, except in Wikipedia World. The current policy is clearly flawed because it results in censorship of relevant, reliably sourced, NPOV material that involves no synthesis whatsoever. Ghostofnemo (talk) 07:22, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
(added later) I might be inclined to agree with your synthesis/exclusion argument, and editors leaving argument, but you picked a terrible example. The stuff that you want to include has a pile of other problems..POV, soapboxing, irrelevancy to the paragraph, flawed logic and bad writing. North8000 (talk) 11:26, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
The thing is, no one else thinks so. Again, everyone can't be wrong, can they?--Terrillja talk 07:24, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
I understand Wikipedia has lost a lot of editors in the last few years: 49,000 in three months? Must be just me though... Wikipedia couldn't be the problem! 07:35, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
Good point. Probably has a lot to do with editors who refuse to move on and edit constructively.--Terrillja talk 07:38, 23 June 2010 (UTC)

I did a quick google and straight away found for instance an AMA study which speifically names Camels in relation to advertising to children [10]. So instead of going doing your own synthesis how about looking around to see what people are actually doing? If you cnnot stop your synthesis then may I ask you respectfully to cease from contributing to Wikipedia. Your synthesis is harmful to Wikipedia and takes up other editors time finding an correcting. You posted a very recent question and the consensus is very strongly against you and it is a policy which everyone should normally follow. Your examples are nothing that justifies invoking 'ignore all rules' Dmcq (talk) 07:31, 23 June 2010 (UTC)

THAT'S synthesis! We're talking about Camels causing cancer, singled out as a brand, not advertising cigarettes to children. Ghostofnemo (talk) 07:37, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
Camels are a cigarette. Cigarettes cause cancer. Camels have been advertised to children. Camels cause cancer? Ghostofnemo (talk)
I notice this bit in that article about editors leaving. "Many people are getting burnt out when they have to debate about the contents of certain articles again and again," Ortega told the Journal. I think I can do a bit of personal synthesis as regards this discussion. Dmcq (talk) 07:55, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
An example that seems to be related to this discussion. At [11] an editor claims to be able to provide citations statimng that several different things are the oldest instituition in the world. On a strict interpretation of policy, the articles on each of those things would state unequivocally that it is the oldest, & only the article on institutions would note the disagreement. (Assuming of course there are no other relevant sources.) Peter jackson (talk) 10:20, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
That's a rather different question, what to do about relevant reliable sources that state something that may not be true. The discussion Wikipedia talk:Identifying reliable sources#Identifying Unreliable Sources Against The Law is closer to what you're thinking of. Dmcq (talk) 10:37, 23 June 2010 (UTC)

Synthesis is an extremely difficult thing to do; logical reasoning without any subjectivity is an illusion in all but the most trivial cases. I find synthesis very hard myself and would be unwilling to put my syntheses as anything else but original research - and I have published several scientific papers (in journal with decent ISI impact factors - and BTW the fact that syntheses are published already shows that the scientific community considers those as original ideas - which is good thing there!!!) that depend to a large extent on synthesis. Student assignments (MSc level) show that our students have serious problems getting a high level of synthesis together without introducing personal POV etc. Therefore I would strongly oppose any suggestion to allow synthesis. Arnoutf (talk) 20:53, 23 June 2010 (UTC)

I am not suggesting, and have never suggested, that synthesis be allowed. The point of the proposed change was to point out that simple deduction and statement of facts ARE NOT NECESSARILY SYNTHESIS. But currently many things are being deleted because they have been falsely accused of being synthesis, when in fact they are not. And who gave one person the God-like power to kill my proposal on his or her own initiative? Want to kill this in hurry, before the broader community sees it? Ghostofnemo (talk) 05:19, 24 June 2010 (UTC)
Well, it met the criteria of WP:SNOW. Consensus was overwhelming and there wasn't a snowball's chance it hell that it would get approved. Leaving it open for longer would only have more people say the same things.--Terrillja talk 05:31, 24 June 2010 (UTC)
So be it. I'm willing to take that chance. I think we need more eyes on this. Ghostofnemo (talk) 05:42, 24 June 2010 (UTC)
And I think that you are wasting everyone's time. Apparently the admin that closed the one sided discussion thought so as well. There was no reason to continue to offer you a venue for your soapboxing. WP:DEADHORSE for the thousandth time.--Terrillja talk 05:44, 24 June 2010 (UTC)
If an editor other than Ghostofnemo requests reopening that proposal, I will happily do so. Fences&Windows 16:36, 25 June 2010 (UTC)
Ghostofnemo, I assume that you made the proposal for good of Wikipedia. Thank you for doing that. With 13 of 13 respondents opposing it, why not gracefully accept that as written it isn't going to fly? North8000 (talk) 16:49, 25 June 2010 (UTC)
I noticed that the two editors who seemed to catch my drift in the discussion above didn't vote in the poll. I'm not allowed to remind them to vote, am I? Ghostofnemo (talk) 16:53, 25 June 2010 (UTC)
They wouldn't change the consensus even if they agreed with you, and they already made their points here and people didn't suddenly swap to supporting you, so what's the point? Why do you want to stick these things into Wikipedia when they obviously aren't wanted? There's other wikis that welcome such creativity with connections. Your points sound like they would be welcome on Conservapedia for instance, I think they probably are against encouraging children to smoke despite being against most big government intervention and liberal thought. Dmcq (talk) 19:11, 25 June 2010 (UTC)
Or we could use common sense and make it clear that synthesis, stating facts and simple deduction are three different things. It's possible that stating facts and simple deduction COULD be synthesis, but it is not necessarily so, and I think the wording I've suggested makes it clear that synthesis and faulty deduction are bad. If someone can suggest better wording (or explain why my wording is not clear enough), that seems like a better solution than suggesting that I quit editing Wikipedia and you continue to let people delete relevant, well-sourced and NPOV material by incorrectly labeling it synthesis. Ghostofnemo (talk) 19:22, 25 June 2010 (UTC)
As I stated above "simple" deduction is rather rare. In my view most truly simple deduction is not deleted as synthesis. Simple deduction can carry you away easily though. Follow e.g. this: "Most people do not like health foods (REFS)", "Fruits are very effective health foods (REFS)" HENCE (simple deduction) "Most people do not like fruits". Such a "simple" deduction leads to clearly false conclusions and should therefore be reverted as synthesis. Besides mathematical derivations (which I am sure will not be reverted as synthesis) I can hardly think of a "simpler" deduction than the one I sketched. The case in point, only trivial deduction are simple, and trivial points are unlikely to be reverted anyway. So strong oppose to changing the policy. Arnoutf (talk) 19:31, 25 June 2010 (UTC)
I beg to differ. I've seen perfectly logical stuff deleted by aggressive editors who use SYNTH as maybe the third or fourth reason for deletion because they apparently just didn't like something and wanted it out of the article. And I've seen very few actual cases of synthesis. But maybe we hang out at different types of articles. Check out 9/11 conspiracy theories or MY Ady Gil or Peter James Bethune or Tokyo Two. Ghostofnemo (talk) 19:37, 25 June 2010 (UTC)
"Most people don't like healthy foods. Fruit is a healthy food. Most people don't like fruit." If the first two statements are reliably sourced, but the third isn't, the third line could be excluded as synthesis for that reason. If all three lines are reliably sourced, and no "therefore" is stated, it's just three facts and not synthesis. If a "therefore" is stated, but no reliable source makes that connection, even if each statement is reliably sourced, it's synthesis. Ghostofnemo (talk) 19:46, 25 June 2010 (UTC)
Aha I get your point. That is why in your example you put in as you do
Pufferoos are a brand of cigarette made in the U.S. (reliable source) The Surgeon General has warned that smoking cigarettes is hazardous to your health. (reliable source) (Note that the Surgeon General does not have to mention Pufferoos by name, since they are obviously members of the same category of objects that the Surgeon General is warning us about.)
You carefully avoid making any claims about the actual health of Pufferoos cigarettes.
Well what you are doing here is not an explicit deduction. It is an implied deduction, which by putting arguments together is leading the reader to come to conclusions. While not formally in violation of the Synthesis policy, it is that much leading the reader to make the conclusion him/herself, I can see why the synthesis argument is made. At least if you use a "therefore" sentence, you make it very clear that you are presenting synthesis. My own take would be to revert such haphazard combination of facts that suggest an almost unavoidable deduction/conclusion to the readers. But I would do this based on policies like WP:NPOV, WP:UNDUE, WP:FRINGE etc. rather than using the WP:SYNTHESIS trump. But to be honest, if an editor were to be stubborn in combining artificially related facts I might indeed call upon synthesis.
Let's be straight here. If you make a deduction you should make it adamantly clear in your phrasing (i.e. use a term like "therefore") or keep to integrated facts. Trivial deduction using "therefore" are unlikely to be reverted, while the synthesis policy is tailored to weed out the problematic ones. Trying to change a policy to allow implicit synthesis opens the door to manipulation of a much worse kind in my view, and this only strengtens my strong oppose above.
(PS: The article you quote are particularly sensitive to undue combination of so-called facts so I would even doubt deduction at a mathematical level at some of these pages). Arnoutf (talk) 20:05, 25 June 2010 (UTC)
There are two examples given in the policy proposal. The first is statement of facts. The second is simple deduction. When stating facts, you shouldn't use a "therefore" unless it is called for based on your reliable sources. Readers are intelligent. If there is not a "therefore", why should they assume a logical connection? "Mr. Bean is from England. He drives a Volvo. He is a comedian." Three facts, no connection implied or stated. The simple deduction involves smoking. It's clear that Pufferoos are hazardous to your health. This is not synthesis. No "therefore" is needed because it's obvious that Pufferoos are cigarettes. I agree that it's tricky to know when a "therefore" is needed, but native speakers seem to manage. Ghostofnemo (talk) 21:01, 25 June 2010 (UTC)
You (obviously a native speaker) carefully avoided the statement "Pufferoos are hazardous to your health" in your example. You left that as an implicit deduction to be made by the reader (see my point above). However, Pufferoos may actually be the only non-hazardous brand of cigarettes in the world. This would not make the warning of Surgeon General untrue, or irrelevant (as it would still refer to 99.99% of the cigarettes) but it would make the inference untrue; therefore the word "therefore" is an essential addition to arrive at the conclusion that Pufferoos are unhealthy. Scientists, and other educated people, seem to manage to pick up the tricky issue of when it is important to use words like "therefore" even in other languages than their own native tongue. Arnoutf (talk) 21:28, 25 June 2010 (UTC)

As a sidebar, there is also faulty logic at work in the described deductions. If it is sourced that "Jane Smith Says that all guys are jerks", and it is sourced that John Jones is a guy, it is NOT a logical deduction to say that "Jane Smith said that John Jones is a jerk. The logical argument above is founded on the (faulty) premise that the final statement was merely one of what Jane's classification of John is, IF she had perfectly understood and meant the scope of her original statement. In reality, the final statement is that Jane specifically applied this classification to John, which is a different statement with a different meaning, and which is false. North8000 (talk) 03:49, 26 June 2010 (UTC)

I fully agree, and that is why we should not allow deductions in, they may too easily revert to false logic. Arnoutf (talk) 08:50, 26 June 2010 (UTC)
I think editors can separate the wheat from the chaff. Are you really saying, "Ban all deduction, because some people use faulty logic?" That seems like a rather odd solution. Why not ban faulty logic and allow valid deductions? The proposed policy addition makes it clear that faulty deduction is not allowed. Ghostofnemo (talk) 12:05, 26 June 2010 (UTC)
I think that one of the things we're saying is that one sentence can say many things at once...explicitly, implicitly, and implicitly via it's juxtaposition with others. This makes true deduction rules hopelessly complex to apply rigorously, and easily misused. WP rules are usually interpreted and enforced by consensus. My guess is that if you put in a statement (via juxtaposition or whatever) that was absolutely, simply, perfectly and solidly deductive, and not representing pursuit of another agenda, and not in the middle of a wiki-war about something else, it would probably stay in. Wikipedia is full of this. If it's soapboxing, POV pushing or rife with other issues such as your examples, consensus would be to enforce the rules thoroughly and it will go. North8000 (talk) 12:45, 26 June 2010 (UTC)
But with the current policy, a hostile editor can delete a perfectly sound and logical edit and claim that, technically, it violated WP:SYNTH because the subject of the article is not mentioned by name in a source, or because, in that editor's subjective opinion, the edit is leading the reader to a conclusion that is not stated. Ghostofnemo (talk) 12:49, 26 June 2010 (UTC)
My proposal raises the bar on deletions. They have to make the case that synthesis or faulty logic is actually present. Ghostofnemo (talk) 12:51, 26 June 2010 (UTC)
What part of Oppose do you not understand? I already have enough problems with editors persistently trying to stick in their 'straightforward calculations allowed by the policy' into maths articles where they are totally wrong and unfounded and provably so. Dmcq (talk) 13:27, 26 June 2010 (UTC)
Do you think it's a better practice to delete someone's contribution and just label it "SYNTH", or to explain to them the error in their logic? What if they are able to prove they're right? Ghostofnemo (talk) 15:25, 26 June 2010 (UTC)

All that has been said here, including comments by Ghostofnemo, and the last editor who notes that even straightforward mathematical deduction causes problems, has strengthened my opinion that this should be opposed. I think all has been said (repeatedly even), so this is it for me. Arnoutf (talk) 14:42, 26 June 2010 (UTC)

I actually do go to some trouble to try and explain my reversions properly if a person isn't an obvious vandal. In some cases though where multiple tries by me and others aren't enough it does feel as though they're just trying to get some sort of vampiric half life by draining the life out of others. Dmcq (talk) 16:00, 26 June 2010 (UTC)
I kno the feeling it sometimes feels like the trolls, pov pushers, and just mis-informed editors think they can win by attrition warfare. Arnoutf (talk) 16:15, 26 June 2010 (UTC)
I know the feeling. When folks are pushy about putting and keeping crap in, then I think that it should remain easy to take crap out. And then when I see really destructive people using wiki-lawyering to take out, delete or over-tag stuff for bad purposes (POV pushing, general anti-social behavior) then I think that they should make it a bit harder for them to take stuff out or over-tag it. North8000 (talk) 21:13, 26 June 2010 (UTC)
I think that is the key - is it really crap? If so it should be deleted. But if it is relevant to the article, reliably sourced and NPOV, I think deleting it as SYNTH (or COATRACK) should require pointing out exactly how they are STATING an ORIGINAL CONCLUSION (or how it is IRRELEVANT to the article). Ghostofnemo (talk) 09:23, 27 June 2010 (UTC)
A theme of several of the ideas that I have been promoting is that the process would be that the person knocking it out would have to make at least a brief/cursory challenge or complaint about what they are taking out in addition to just citing the (granular level) rule. This is changing a matter of process rather than changing the underlying rule, and is sort of a "middle ground" on this issue.North8000 (talk) 13:00, 27 June 2010 (UTC)
WP:EDIT and WP:BRD do encourage that sort of thing but there isn't a requirement to go into any great detail for a first level action which a person considers uncontroversial. Like removing synthesis and pointing to the policy. Dmcq (talk) 13:31, 27 June 2010 (UTC)
I think that the difference is that my ideas would require the deleter to also JUST mention an issue/complaint in addition to just that it in sourced. North8000 (talk) 14:52, 27 June 2010 (UTC)
I would be very much against any such requirement. The main onus is on people who make changes to defend them if other people don't like them. Also any content addition may require justification. It just would not be reasonable to require people to jump though hoops to revert new edits. And I'm someone who tries to justify my reverts instead of just doing the minimum by WP:BRD. The consensus would be strongly against any such change I believe. Dmcq (talk) 15:31, 27 June 2010 (UTC)
Just to be clear, I had emphasized that my idea would require only a brief cursory challenge / complaint when making the deletion, I would certainly not call that "jumping through hoops". I am not actively pursuing or proposing this this idea now. North8000 (talk) 15:43, 27 June 2010 (UTC)
OK, so let's take the examples given in the proposal above. Exactly how am I STATING and ORIGINAL OPINION with these edits?
  • "One of the United Nations' stated purposes is to promote world peace. (reliable source) Since the United Nations was established, there have been 160 armed conflicts.(reliable source) Citizens Against Wars has criticized the U.N. for not doing enough to prevent wars."(reliable source)
  • "Pufferoos are a brand of cigarette made in the U.S. (reliable source) The Surgeon General has warned that smoking cigarettes is hazardous to your health." (reliable source)
And I'll even concede that in the second example, I am clearly implying "Therefore, Pufferoos are hazardous to your health." However, that is not an original opinion - that is the Surgeon General's opinion, since he feels ALL cigarettes are hazardous to one's health.Ghostofnemo (talk) 04:50, 28 June 2010 (UTC)
I'm not going to investigate what twisting you've applied to the first. We've been through the Pufferoos example, it is clear synthesis. If you are unable to figure that out by now let alone be aware of it in normal editing you really do need to stop causing disruption in Wikipedia by going and doing something else instead. Dmcq (talk) 08:09, 28 June 2010 (UTC)
Ghostofnemo, time to move on. IMHO maybe you have a valid argument to make, but you have sunk it from the start by choosing examples which should clearly should get taken out on other grounds (POV pushing, soapboxing, relevance to the paragraph) even if the wp:nor rules did not exist.
So, once again, labeled as violating various policies, but no arguments to back those accusations up. Ghostofnemo (talk) 13:23, 28 June 2010 (UTC)
Actually, I think it's that we've already explained, and are too bored to explain again. By the way, you're totally proving the Family Guy principle of comedy--working on OR/SYNTH with you started out annoying, then got funny, then it kept going, and become unfunny...but yesterday when I read you re-raising the same analogies, it got funny again.Qwyrxian (talk) 21:52, 28 June 2010 (UTC)
Yellowstone again

I've read carefully the disucssion above, and thought about it some more. I'd like to go back to the Yellowstone/Wolves situation. Surely we all agree that Wikipedia policies are fully respected if the article on Yellowstone contains the following:--Gautier lebon (talk) 09:29, 30 June 2010 (UTC)

article on Yellowstone
blah blah
Gray wolves are found in Yellowstone National Park (reliable citation 1).

And surely we all agree that Wikipedia policies are fully respected if the article on Gray Wolves contains the following:--Gautier lebon (talk) 09:29, 30 June 2010 (UTC)

article on Gray Wolves
blah blah
Gray wolves are an endangered species (reliable citation 2).

Now it seems to me very legitimate to include in the article on Gray Wolves additional information, for example the fact that they are found in Yellowstone. Since Reliable Citation 1 says that Gray Wolves are found in Yellowstone, it seems to me that Wikipedia policies would be fully respected if the article on Gray wolves contains the following:--Gautier lebon (talk) 09:29, 30 June 2010 (UTC)

article on Gray wolves
blah blah
Gray wolves are an endangered species (reliable citation 2). Gray wolves are found in Yellowstone National Park (reliable citation 1).

If it is correct that the above respects Wikipedia policies, then I find it difficult to understand why the symmetric situation does not respect Wikipedia policies, that is, why the following is not acceptable:--Gautier lebon (talk) 09:29, 30 June 2010 (UTC)

article on Yellowstone
blah blah
Gray wolves are found in Yellowstone National Park (reliable citation 1). Gray wolves are an endangered species (reliable citation 2).

Please note that I fully understand the objection: the above is "synthesis" because no source about Yellowstone mentions that Gray wolves are endangered, and the article is about Yellowstone so including information from Reliable Citation 2 constitutes impermissble syntheses.--Gautier lebon (talk) 09:29, 30 June 2010 (UTC)

But it seems to me that the universe of discourse of the article on Yellowsone is in fact "Yellowstone and its wildlife". So it should be permissible to include in the article information that comes from sources that discuss either Yellowstone or the wildlife that is found in Yellowstone.--Gautier lebon (talk) 09:29, 30 June 2010 (UTC)

More fundamentally, all Wikipedia editors are selecting, summarizing, and paraphrasing information found in sources. They do that in order to present a complete and coherent summary of information about some topic. Surely they should be allowed to use information from all sources that discuss the topic. So it seems to me that it comes down to defining what the topic is. If the topic is "Yellowstone and its wildlife", then it seems to me that the information on wolves from Reliable Citation 2 should be allowed in the article on Yellowstone, even though Reliable Citation 2 does not explicitly mention Yellowstone.--Gautier lebon (talk) 09:29, 30 June 2010 (UTC)

Even if the topic was Animals in Yellowstone it would be inappropriate to start listing things about animals which don't reference Yellowstone as well. The links are there so the reader can click on Grey wolf if they want to know about it in general rather than in relation to Yellowstone. That title is not equivalent to Animals or Yellowstone. Dmcq (talk) 09:52, 30 June 2010 (UTC)
Gautier lebon - Although your reasoning is sound it ignores the real context here. It is that context that makes combining Endangered and Wolves and Yellowstone in the same set of thoughts in the Yellowstone article problematic. Yellowstone has essentially become a Summary Style article (And a very long one to boot). As such, great care is taken not to overload the article with extensive detail for any one aspect. In the fauna section, you'll note the links to: Wolf reintroduction and History of wolves in Yellowstone, both articles that adequately and in detail discuss wolves, yellowstone and endangered in the proper context. Because that context is historically complex, it is inappropriate to the high level (summary style) Yellowstone article. Therefore, although the ideas Wolves, Yellowstone, and Endangered can all be supported by reliable sources, the concise inclusion of those ideas in the Yellowstone article, without the proper explaination of the real facts creats an implication that is simply factually incorrect. As they say on AMC--Story Matters, well in OR and SYN, Context matters.--Mike Cline (talk) 10:31, 30 June 2010 (UTC)
This particular policy aside, "endangered" is ambiguous and in this particular use that ambiguity is important to the extent that the statement is misleading, and the implied statement (that wolves are endangered in that location) is false. North8000 (talk) 11:13, 30 June 2010 (UTC)

Outdent. Thank you for the comments above. Both Dmcq and Mike provide various valid reasons for not changing the real Yellowstone article. I apologize for not having been clear enough in my original comment above. I was not proposing any changes to the real Yellowstone article. I was only using that as an example to discuss the finer points of the policy on no Synthesis.--Gautier lebon (talk) 09:13, 2 July 2010 (UTC)

Both Mike and North state that the juxtaposition of valid information may, in and of itself, be misleading. In particular, North states that the juxtaposition imples that "wolves are endangered in Yellowstone" which is false. It seems to me that the conclusion "it is false that wolves are endangered in Yellowstone" would be inappropriate synthesis. Recall that synthesis is defined as:--Gautier lebon (talk) 09:13, 2 July 2010 (UTC)

Do not combine material from multiple sources to reach or imply a conclusion not explicitly stated by any of the sources. If one reliable source says A, and another reliable source says B, do not join A and B together to imply a conclusion C that is not mentioned by either of the sources.

Source A says that there are wolves in Yellowstone. Source B says that wolves are endangered. It is not necessarily the case (1) that wolves are not endangered in Yellowstone or (2) that there are no wolves anywhere else. The sources are not inconsistent with various hypotheses, including for example that wolves are endangered precisely because they are found only in Yellowstone, or that they are endangered even though they are still found in Yellowstone.--Gautier lebon (talk) 09:13, 2 July 2010 (UTC)

It seems to me that the policy on synthesis applieds to editors, not to readers. We the editors should provide reliable information, and we the editors should not engage in synthesis as defined in the policy. That is, we the editors should not combine fact A with fact B to deduce fact C. But I don't see why we the editors should try to prevent the reader from deducing whatever she or he wants. Back to the example, it is undisputed that (A) there are wolves in Yellowstone and (B) wolves are endangered. From the cited sources, we don't know what "endangered" means. I agree with Mike, context is critical. But (in this hypothetical example) we don't know in what context wolves are "endangered". So all we can do is to report the fact. By NOT reporting the fact, we are engaging in a form of negative synthesis: we make it difficult for the reader to realize that there is more to the story than the fact that there are wolves in Yellowstone. Of course the reader can always go somewhere else to get the information. But, in my view, our objective should be that Wikipedia contains as much relevant information as possible, so that the reader does not need to go elsehwere.--Gautier lebon (talk) 09:13, 2 July 2010 (UTC)

To summarize, I have no problems with arguments against including "wolves are endangered" on the grounds that it is not relevant, or whatever. But I simply do not think that this is an example of prohibited synthesis, because the editor has not make any synthesis, and the policy only applies to editors.--Gautier lebon (talk) 09:13, 2 July 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia is not in the busines of making up the news. Your synthesis may be true and very important to know, but unless reliable sources make the connection we should not make the connection. Making the connection is original research. Exactly what would be your ground for including the fact that wolves are endangered except that you felt it was important to include? If editors just included anything they felt was important irrespective of whether anybody had noted it in a reliable source this would very rapidly become a blog of people's latest thoughts on things. Dmcq (talk) 09:31, 2 July 2010 (UTC)
My point is that all Wikipedia editors make choices regarding what to include or not to include in an article. They select material from one or more sources. Editors decide which material to include, based on whether or not they think it is relevant, appropriate, interesting, important etc. If a single source included both the statements "wolves are found in Yellowstone" and "wolves are endangered", the editors whould have to decide whether or not to include both statements. I don't see how the situation is different merely because the two statements appear in different sources. I agree that material should not be included merely because editors think it is important. Material should be included only if it is found in a reliable source. But that is the case in this hypothetical example. The only issue is that the two statements are not found in a single source, but I still don't see why that should prevent the material from being included. Most Wikipedia articles include citations from multiple sources.--Gautier lebon (talk) 23:25, 5 July 2010 (UTC)
Good points, but, in many cases (including the example) juxtaposition of two statements is creation of statement which is subject to the guidelines North8000 (talk) 23:48, 5 July 2010 (UTC)
It would still be synthesis if the statements aren't logically related to each other in the source, for instance if they were in different chapters in a book on wildlife then it would very probably be a synthesis. If one is in a chapter about the other then it probably wouldn't. There is judgement involved but editors should try to err on the strict side of caution about synthesis if they think they may have any strong feelings about the subject or it controversial in any way. Have you the idea of what synthesis is yet? It isn't just a prohibition on a particular logical juxtaposition of different sources, lets see how else the statements can be arranged. It is a prohibition against implying anything more than the original authors meant. One's own thoughts are original research as far as Wikipedia is concerned. Dmcq (talk) 07:07, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
I fully understand that one's own thoughts are original research and I fully understand that implying more than the original authors meant would constitute prohibited synthesis. That is not my point. My point is that it may well be the case (and indeed it is often the case) that combing information from two or more sources is neither original research nor "synthesis" is the sense of implying more than the original authors meant. Think about the Yellowstone wolves example again (and, once more, I'm not proposing to modify the actual Yellowstone article, I'm only using this as an example to discuss the policy). How does saying "Wolves are found in Yellowstone. Wolves are endangered." imply more than the original authors meant? The statements in question are exactly what the original authors meant. So I still don't understand why that particular example should be considered prohibited synthesis.--Gautier lebon (talk) 19:24, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
By juxtaposition, you are making the (implied) statement that wolves are endangered in Yellowstone, which is not supported by either source. North8000 (talk) 19:54, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
No, I the Editor am not making any such implied statement. It is you the Reader who is drawing an inference. But surely that is the point of an encylopedia: to provide information to readers so that they can draw their own conclusions. If Wikipedia does not provide, in a logical and easily accessible place, the information that wolves are endangered, then the readers will not be able easily to consult the sources and draw their own conclusions. The key point here is that, in my view, juxtaposition is not equivalent to inference, and I believe that the Synthesis policy should be clarified in that respect.--Gautier lebon (talk) 15:01, 7 July 2010 (UTC)
A policy in wikipedia describes the consensus of editors, it isn't a written rule to try and game. It is ingenuous to say you are not making a connection when you want to draw readers attention to it. Anyway we are not in the business of drawing readers attention to things which pother people have not thought worth drawing the readers attention to. Dmcq (talk) 18:00, 7 July 2010 (UTC)
Of course policies are not meant to be gamed. My point is that, in my view, the policy is not clear and results in good-faith editors being confused. I think that I now understand what the problem is, please see below the new section on Syllogism vs Juxtaposition ([12]). Regarding what business we are in, I agree that relevance is a key criterion for deciding what to include or not. I have no issue with an argument to the effect that "wolves are endangered" is not relevant in an article on Yellowstone: that point can and should be discussed. What I have a problem with is the argument that the statement "wolves are endangered" constitutes prohibited synthesis. Again, please see the new section below.--Gautier lebon (talk) 10:17, 8 July 2010 (UTC)
Without revisiting every topic on this, synthesis rules do not apply to writing in talk pages. And the critique of my TALK PAGE page sidebar statement about Wolves not being endangered in Yellowstone violating wp:synthesis is not correct. North8000 (talk) 12:05, 2 July 2010 (UTC)
I came across a similar phenomenon a while back when Viriditas spent a lot of time attacking a citation on my user page. Peter jackson (talk) 15:34, 2 July 2010 (UTC)


I distinctly remember reading — and I'm pretty sure that it was at WP:SYNTH — something about mathematical calculations being exempted as long as the editors of a page could agree that the calculations were done properly. Was that removed from this page, or did I read it somewhere else? Nyttend (talk) 15:50, 4 July 2010 (UTC)

See Wikipedia:No original research#Routine calculations. If you do some really complicated maths that isn’t referenced to a source then that is original research, but routine calculations are OK, so long as editors agree they are done right. Yaris678 (talk) 16:12, 4 July 2010 (UTC)
I cut out the really and just leave complicated, and if the editors can't agree then only the most simple basic stuff is allowed. For instance there are problems saying what age a person is just given the year of birth so one shouldn't make that calculation. Simple means things like for instance converting between kilometers and miules though even here there can be problems with getting the implied accuracy of the figures right. For instance converting 500 kilometers to about 310 miles and 1207 yards just doesn't look right normally Dmcq (talk) 16:44, 4 July 2010 (UTC)
Year of birth is not complicated. E.g. if you know someone was born 1 Jan 2000, that person is now 10 yrs old. If the person is born 1 december 2000, the person is 9 yrs of age. If a person is born in 2000 (no further details) the person is 9 or 10 yrs old. The last version requires some discipline, but the calculation is not particulary tough.
That not withstanding, I fully support a strict SYNTH policy, even for mathematics. We need to be strict as many colleague editors are not very sure how evidence from sources is different from original research. Synthesis is a particularly frequently violated policy as many editors truly do not see why that is OR. Arnoutf (talk) 17:41, 4 July 2010 (UTC)

What does the adverb explicitly really mean?

The policy on Original Research, in particular the section on Synthesis WP:SYN contains the phrase: Do not combine material from multiple sources to reach or imply a conclusion not explicitly stated by any of the sources. The adverb (explicitly) and adjective (explicit) is routinely used by many editors in discussions about sources, synthesis, notability, etc.

The dictionary definition of explicit is: fully and clearly expressed or demonstrated; leaving nothing merely implied; unequivocal

But given that definition, its interpretation could range from the literal, word for word, character for character replication of a conclusion to Yes, the material presented in the source generally makes the same conclusion as it stated.

So what does it really mean and are we interpreting it in consistent way? Given the context of the SYN policy above, which, if any, of the following examples could claim that the conclusion is not stated explicitly in Source C.

  1. Source A says New York City is a city, the largest in its state (state is unspecified in source A), Source B says: New York City is in New York State. Editor concludes and writes: New York City is the largest city in New York State. Source C says New York State has many large cities, the largest of which is New York City. Is the editor’s conclusion, explicitly supported by source C?
  2. Source A says New York City is a city, the largest in its state (state is unspecified in source A), Source B says: New York City is in New York State. Editor concludes and writes: New York City is the largest city in New York State. Source C, the largest city in New York State is New York City. Is the editor’s conclusion, explicitly supported by source C?
  3. Source A says New York City is a city, the largest in its state (state is unspecified in source A), Source B says: New York City is in New York State. Editor concludes and writes: New York City is the largest city in New York State. Source C, New York City, the largest in New York State is not the state capital. Is the editor’s conclusion, explicitly supported by source C?

I know what synthesis is, but I wonder if we interpret explicitly consistently when evaluating content for synthesis? How far away from the literal should we or can we stray when looking for explicit statements?--Mike Cline (talk) 02:01, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

In each of your examples, drawing a conclusion from A and B would be a synthetic conclusion... however since the statement "New York City is the largest city in New York State" is explicitly supported by source C, there is no need to cite A or B or draw a conclusion from them. Just state the facts and cite source C. (or have I missed something in your examples). Blueboar (talk) 02:22, 8 July 2010 (UTC)
Blueboar, you have not missed anything from the examples, but misinterpreted my question. It was not how to cite this type of situation, the question: is the conclusion made by the editor from source A and B explicitly stated in source C. If this was real situation and an editor failed to cite source C and was challenged, and then brought source C forward to support his conclusion, would that conclusion be supported as stated explicitly in source C. The question was about the interpretation of the word explicity not how to actually deal with content in an article.--Mike Cline (talk) 02:41, 8 July 2010 (UTC)
I understand "explicit" (and the dictionary definition you give) to mean 'the opposite of "implicit"', i.e. the fact, opinion, or whatever must actually be stated; that does not mean that the information may not expressed using different words, provided that the paraphrase does not distort the meaning. --Boson (talk) 06:33, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

Syllogism vs Juxtaposition

I think that an issue might be a conflation of (and perhaps even a confusion between) syllogism and juxtaposition. A syllogism is a logical argument. It can take many forms, of which the simplest is: "All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore Socrates is mortal." There are formal rules establishing when syllogisms are or are not valid, but in complex cases it is not always obvious how to apply the rules.--Gautier lebon (talk) 10:37, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

The statment "Wolves are found in Yellowstone. Wolves are endangered." is not a syllogism, because the second sentence is not a subset of the first. There is no relation (in the sense of formal logic) between the two parts of the statement, so no inferences can be drawn. The statement is a simply juxtaposition of facts, not a syllogism.--Gautier lebon (talk) 10:37, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

From the comments made above, it seems to me that some editors are concerned that readers will fall into the false syllogism trap and draw conclusions when none were intended and none should have been drawn. One example of a false syllogism is a statement of the form "some A are B, some B are C, therefore some A are C". The conclusion is incorrect. For instance, while some cats (A) are black (B), and some black things (B) are televisions (C), it does not follow from the parameters that some cats (A) are televisions (C).--Gautier lebon (talk) 10:37, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

In the Yellowstone example, some people have stated that the juxtaposition of "Wolves are found in Yellowstone" with "Wolves are endangered" might lead readers to draw inferences about wolves being endagered in Yellowstone. Any such inference would be a syllogistic mistake. The juxtaposition of the statements does not justify using them as a syllogism.--Gautier lebon (talk) 10:37, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

So the real question is "to what extent do we have to protect people from their own mistakes". I submit that we should assume that Wikipedia readers are neither stupid nor ignorant. That is, we should NOT assume that thye will systematically make syllogistic mistakes.--Gautier lebon (talk) 10:37, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

Consequently, I would submit that mere juxtaposition of verifiable statements does NOT constitute prohibited synthesis.--Gautier lebon (talk) 10:37, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

But I do agree that some (or maybe most) syllogisms do constitute original research and should not be allowed (unless of course the syllogism is found as a whole in the citation). I say this because many syllogisms are complicated and it is not easy to tell whether they are correct or not. So I would say that, in general, syllogisms constitute prohibited synthesis.--Gautier lebon (talk) 10:37, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

However, I would propose that an exception be allowed for simple syllogisms that anybody can verify. This is akin to the exception for routine calculations. For example, if there were reliable citations for the statements "All men are mortal" and "Socrates is a man", then the following conclusion would be permitted "Therefore Socrates is mortal". That is, this trivial syllogism would be permitted, as an exception to the general policy prohibiting syllogisms.--Gautier lebon (talk) 10:37, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

GL, interesting take. Although the Yellowstone example is not (nor will it be a contentious issue), is does provide interesting fodder for this policy discussion. The genesis of the example comes from this specific paragraph:
When the source was first used (2006), the wolf population that occupied Yellowstone was indeed listed as endangered and the previous statement was both factual and conveyed an accurate conclusion. However, when the endangered status of the wolves changed in 2009 for the population in Yellowstone, the NPS did not chose to change the source verbage, which is still factually correct. As we are not concerned here if sources imply a false conclusion, the NPS source is still valid. However, since other more recent and accurate sources are available re the endangered status of the wolf in Yellowstone, the removal of word endangered from the statement is appropriate to forego the reader drawing an incorrect conclusion (a synthesized conclusion). A detailed explanation of that would be appropriate for the talk page, but not within the content context of the article. I think it is always important to discuss synthesis issues in the context they are in and sources in the context of time and relevance, as well as realize that something may be synthesis in one context, is not in another.--Mike Cline (talk) 13:47, 8 July 2010 (UTC)
In an article about Socrates it would be original research to deduce from "All men are mortal" and "Socrates is a man", that "Therefore Socrates is mortal". Firstly why is "All men are mortal" in there in the first place since it doesn't mention Socrates? Is Socrates mentioned in relation to that statement in the citation? Secondly why are we pointing out that "Socrates is mortal" if nobody else has thought it worthy of note? If it was worth pointing out someone else would have done so and we would have a citation. Dmcq (talk) 14:53, 8 July 2010 (UTC)
If it wasn't that we actually have reliable sources advancing the above argument about Socrates I would tag the above as synthesis which would output
This article may contain previously unpublished synthesis of published material that conveys ideas not attributable to the original sources.
As it is I would probably want an attribution. Who actually said it? All I can find is
All men are mortal. Socrates was mortal. Therefore, all men are Socrates.
by Woody Allen. Dmcq (talk) 16:51, 8 July 2010 (UTC)
The statement "All men are mortal. Socrates was mortal. Therefore all men are Socrates." is a good example of a false syllogism.--Gautier lebon (talk) 11:32, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
Most likely Aristotle. Peter jackson (talk) 17:35, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

Outdent. Regarding the comment above

Firstly why is "All men are mortal" in there in the first place since it doesn't mention Socrates? Is Socrates mentioned in relation to that statement in the citation? Secondly why are we pointing out that "Socrates is mortal" if nobody else has thought it worthy of note? If it was worth pointing out someone else would have done so and we would have a citation.

I have no problems with this argument, which is based on relevance. As I've said before, many juxtapositions may indeed be unacceptable because they introduce irrelevant material. But then they should be criticized for that reason, and not because they constitute synthesis as currently defined. I'm thinking that the section on synthesis should be rewritten to state that there are two different types of synthesis: (1) juxtaposition of information from different sources and (2) syllogisms. (1) may lead to the addition of irrelevant material, which is not permitted. (2) is generally not permitted, with some exceptions. Is there any support for this proposal?--Gautier lebon (talk) 11:32, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

The juxtaposition "All men are mortal" and "Socrates is a man" without the third statement is synthesis since it obviously implies "Socrates is mortal" where no such implication was meant in the original sources. Explicitly saying it is also synthesis and more obviouusly original research. Dmcq (talk) 11:47, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

Comments please

A group or state has been accused of a crime by many prominent individuals and organizations. I wish to add the fact that the state or group has never been charged in a court with that crime. I am told I must provide a RS that says "State has never been charged with that crime in any court of law" or else to state it is a matter of synthesis. I would appreciate your views. Stellarkid (talk) 12:46, 11 July 2010 (UTC)

Without more information I think I'd have to side with the ones saying you shouldn't put in the bit about courts. Are there no people defending the state or group? say what they say. If they didn't think that worth pointing out why do you think it is worth pointing out? And exactly how do you know it? By the way the WP:ORN is the best place if you decide to say in particular what you are talking about. Dmcq (talk) 15:48, 11 July 2010 (UTC)

Is this synthesis as alledged?

Here is an interesting allegation of synthesis: Talk:History_of_wolves_in_Yellowstone#Original_research_in_the_lead_paragraph. What do others think.--Mike Cline (talk) 02:36, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

Mike, I definitely agree with your analysis, which supports my point that the Synthesis policy should be clarified. I've seen too many cases of editors who, in good faith, use the current synthesis policy to challenge material that should be perfectly acceptable.--Gautier lebon (talk) 11:36, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
I think that it is good writing (good organization of the material). And that if there is no REAL WORLD objection to that organization of material, it should stay. But, at the granular level WP:Synthesis is so broadly (=badly) written that 90% of Wikipedia violates it, including this. The 3 regulars here will not let the policy get fixed, and the people who want to fix it always get worn down and leave. (sometimes shooting themselves in the foot with a weak spot in their argument-of-the-moment as in Gautier's previous debate here - Gautier, even though I opposed you, I say don't leave!). Until it gets fixed, one end run around the issue is to organize the article with sections along those lines without making the "categorization" statement. I'm using that method at the Dorothy Molter article. North8000 (talk) 11:50, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
I don't think the synthesis policy has problems. The problem at the moment is that WIkipedia is too individual sentence focused as far as citations is concerned. I'd been meaning to set up a proposal for special recognition of the status of summary statements that summarize material in an article and are based on statements in the article rather than external citations. The criterion there would be whether it is a reasonable summary and fits with the citations rather than being based directly on them. Dmcq (talk) 12:19, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
I agree that it would be good to have a policy regarding the status of summary statements. That would solve some problems.--Gautier lebon (talk) 10:20, 10 July 2010 (UTC)
Policies describe how things are done and the synthesis policy is not interpreted as strictly as that. It is to stop people advancing a position which is not in the sources. Summarizing the article to say there were three phases isn't synthesis at that level. Start up an RfC or take Gavin Collins to Wikipedia:No original research/Noticeboard. There you can decide how things are normally done. His quoting the policy there is not the end of the matter as a decision on a noticeboard or RfC is in effect common law for particular cases and if a general pattern emerges should be fed into the policy. Same as if someone says a policy dictates an article should be deleted and it passes AfD then the rule from AfD is contributing to the general consensus on how things are actually done. And if the RfC or noticeboard goes against him and he raises it again report him for disruption to ANI. Dmcq (talk) 12:08, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
What you are describing is the "big picture", with rules being applied by consensus in the various forums and methods outside of simple article talk page use. For the other 90% of the time (when people don't have the wiki-expertise or time to do all of that) with an air of moral superiority, somebody quotes a sentence or two from the policy and deletes the content. Unsourced Statement = OR = deleted/gone. End of story. North8000 (talk) 13:10, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
I'm sorry people are put off by the wikilawyers going around, and especially ones who go endlessly arguing as if their point of view is policy whilst at the same time arguing with everyone else on the talk page of policies despite being told again and again that wahat they say is not consensus. I'm afraid Wikipedia is open to all sorts and just trying to tighten up policies is not going to stop these types but it would make it more difficult for ordinary editors to see these wikilawyers are talking nonsense. The synthesis rule is pretty straightforward, don't stick things together to infer or imply a result that other people haven't noticed. Dmcq (talk) 13:36, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
Dmcq - thanks for the advice and I have elevated the issue to the noticeboard. I do tend to agree with you that the policy is actually OK as written. What seems to be lacking are some really well thought out essays and tutorials that would help editors learn how to apply the policy consistency. Sounds like something I might tackle. --Mike Cline (talk) 14:26, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

Outdent. It appears to me from the above discussion that (1) experienced Wikipedia editors are able to interpret the policies correctly, but (2) newcomers may, at times, read the existing Synthesis policy too literally and use it to challenge material that is in fact acceptable. Since the purpose of the policy is to help newcomers to understand how to contribute to Wikipedia, it sems to me that it is necessary to rewrite the policy so that even newcomers understand it correcty. Hence I repeat my proposal to clarify that Synthesis is actually referring to two different types of things: (1) juxtaposition of material from separate sources, some of which may not be relevant and therefore should not be included and (2) juxtaposition of material in order to create an implicit or explicit inference (syllogism). That is, we should make it clear that challenges on the basis of lack of relevance are not the same as challenges on the basis of a logicial inference (a syllogism).--Gautier lebon (talk) 10:20, 10 July 2010 (UTC)

I've only come across one editor who consistently interprets it too strictly like that and they are unfortunately long standing and active. Many new editors need to be reined in just a little about making unfounded inferences. The main problem is the ones who have deduced the TRUTH and feel the need to promulgate it via Wikipedia or other ones with a strong point of view saying things like somebody is a bigot according to some dictionary definition and say that must be added to their article. Dmcq (talk) 12:34, 10 July 2010 (UTC)
I will agree with Dmcq on this one. The policy is fine. Its application is the problem. As you say, experienced, rational editors know synthesis when they see it and deal with it effectively. Inexperienced editors are just that, inexperienced and when it comes to synthesis they need some mentoring. Changing policy will not make them more experienced. You failed to mention a third category of editor, editors that choses to use Synthesis as a weapon to attack topics and articles they don't like. These editors are ambivalent to the spirit and letter of the policy. In their mind because synthesis is not allowed, alledging it is bad for the articles and topics they don't like, whether it is true or not.--Mike Cline (talk) 13:29, 10 July 2010 (UTC)
I agree with both Dmcq and Mike's analysis, but draw a different conclusion. As Dmcq says, it is important to rein in those who think they have deduced something. That is why I think that the Synthesis policy should explicitly discuss sillogisms. And, as Mike says, some editors use the Synthesis policy to attack things they don't like. That is why I believe that the Synthesis policy should be rewritten to make it clear that relevance is also a criterion: I'm OK with challenges based on lack of relevance, but they should not be couched as attacks against inferences that are not in fact being suggested. It seems to me that making the policy more explicit would improve its application. Isn't worth trying to draft something along the lines I outlined above?--Gautier lebon (talk) 12:51, 11 July 2010 (UTC)
I haven't seen any example from you where I felt any change was in the least desirable. Perhaps we could see an actual example of what we're talking about which might tweak at least a slight feeling of perhaps there's a problem? Dmcq (talk) 15:38, 11 July 2010 (UTC)
I guess that we are not interpreting the data in the same way. It seems to me that the whole discussion above is full of examples which militate in favor of a clarification of the policy. Clearly you do not draw the same conclusion. What are the reactions of others?--Gautier lebon (talk) 10:36, 12 July 2010 (UTC)