Wikipedia talk:Verifiability

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Massive change proposed at WP:ORG[edit]

Please see Wikipedia talk:Notability (organizations and companies)#RfC: Adoption of the re-written NCORP guideline.

Among the source-related open questions about the proposed expansion (of the wording; it actually reduces the number of subjects covered by the guideline) are what is meant by feature story, which is not given a definition but really shouldn't be an actual Feature story, and intellectual independence, whose supporters seem to think that it means something significantly different from what that term means at the few notability guidelines that mention it. WhatamIdoing (talk) 06:27, 19 February 2018 (UTC)

I would not call the proposal a "Massive" change... most of it simply reorganizes paragraphs already in the guideline. However, there are a few significant changes that will need broad consensus (and even small changes can have unanticipated consequences)... so more eyes would be appreciated. Blueboar (talk) 13:19, 19 February 2018 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 23 February 2018[edit]

On first line please change "is an all girls private Department of Education" to "is an all girls public Department of Education" (talk) 01:24, 23 February 2018 (UTC)

Not done Say what? Shock Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 01:26, 23 February 2018 (UTC)
I suspect you are referring to the text at Melbourne Girls' College. The article is not protected from editing, so you are free to make this change yourself. However, you should add a citation to support any claims you make. Anon126 (notify me of responses! / talk / contribs) 02:39, 23 February 2018 (UTC)

Clearly support the material (2)[edit]

see /Archive 67#Clearly support the material

From the previous discussion:

This section of the policy has for many years dictated both the content of citations and the placement of inline-citations. It was the change that WhatamIdoing made on 22 July 2015 that changed its meaning, and I presume was an unintended consequence of the edit. WhatamIdoing the second sentence covers the NOR issue "The cited source must clearly support the material as presented in the article." it is the first sentence that you edit of 2015 altered the meaning from the placement to a reiteration of a point covered by the second sentence we do not need to include that twice. As I said at the start with the current wording we have a situation were there in no need to place the inline-citation anywhere near the text it supports, this is clearly a retrograde step from what was there prior to 22 July 2015. -- PBS (talk) 19:39, 17 January 2018 (UTC)
The way I count the sentences in that paragraph is like this:
  1. Attribute all quotations and any material challenged or likely to be challenged to a reliable, published source using an inline citation.
  2. The cited source must clearly support the material as presented in the article.
  3. Cite the source clearly and precisely (specifying page, section, or such divisions as may be appropriate).
  4. See Citing sources for details of how to do this.
Which of these four sentences are you actually dissatisfied with? (Your main problem, AFAICT, is that nothing explicitly says "if the citation is not in the [relevant] line, then it's not an inline citation", which does not seem to be something that we see many disputes over.) WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:15, 18 January 2018 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── @WhatamIdoing it is not instruction creep it is what was written and agreed before you changed "The citation must clearly support the material as presented in the article." to "The cited source must clearly support the material as presented in the article." For example it has long been required that all quotes should be followed by an inline citation either immediately after the citation or after the next punctuation mark. With the change you made it can be argued that any inline citation anywhere in an article that supports the quotation meets the requirement of a "cited source must clearly support the material". Here is an example where requests for citations after quotations have been removed. -- PBS (talk) 12:27, 24 February 2018 (UTC)

The point I am making here is very common in academic writing to place the incline-citation after the information it supports (and for style guides to include such advise). See for example the advise given by the University of York "In-text citation is included in the body of your text and is there to directly show the reader where an idea, piece of information, and/ or a quotation are from."[1] this is what "The citation must clearly support the material as presented in the article." was intended to explain, which since you change no longer does (instead it alters it to emphasise the content of the inline citation rather than its placement on the page.
King's College (Pennsylvania)) history department makes it even more explicit "To cite properly, at the end of the sentence where you have used the information, you should place for the note an Arabic number, slightly superscripted, a bit smaller, immediately after the punctuation mark.1" (Citations, Footnotes, Endnotes, Notes, and Bibliographies)
I propose to reinstate the original meaning of the phrase but clarified to "and is satisfied by providing an inline-citation to a reliable source, placed next to the material which it supports." The content of the reliable source is covered by the sentences in the section that state "The cited source must clearly support the material as presented in the article. Cite the source clearly and precisely (specifying page, section, or such divisions as may be appropriate)."
-- PBS (talk) 15:37, 26 February 2018 (UTC)

I'm not sure if you are looking for feedback, but the above is not very clear on its own.North8000 (talk) 23:27, 26 February 2018 (UTC)

I am looking for a consensus. What is it that is not clear to you. -- PBS (talk) 11:20, 27 February 2018 (UTC)
I'm talking in general, not just "to me". I spent 5 minutes hopping around the various places that are referred to and read the post twice and it's still not clear what your exact proposed change is and you main argument for it is. Probably another 10 minutes I'd be able to derive derive whatever is and isn't there out of it. That equals (and has equaled) very limited participation. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 13:56, 28 February 2018 (UTC)
I think the root of the argument here is With the change you made it can be argued that any inline citation anywhere in an article that supports the quotation meets the requirement . This would matter, except the policy states in three other occasions that the footnote has to be adjacent to the material it supports: "Any material lacking a reliable source directly supporting it may be removed and should not be restored without an inline citation to a reliable source", key word "with"; when you restore the material, restore it with a citation to a reliable source (presumably not scattered randomly in the article, but adjacent to the material). Anyone reading the entire policy, or even just the entire WP:BURDEN section, should be able to understand that the footnote has to be adjacent to the material it supports. If not, you can point them to WP:CITEFOOT. If it bothers you that much, I bet the following part of WP:CITEFOOT can be made part of WP:V: The citation should be added close to the material it supports, offering text–source integrity. If a word or phrase is particularly contentious, an inline citation may be added next to that word or phrase within the sentence, but it is usually sufficient to add the citation to the end of the clause, sentence, or paragraph, so long as it's clear which source supports which part of the text. Bright☀ 09:51, 10 March 2018 (UTC)

Does WP:BURDEN assume a specific challenge?[edit]

I think it's been a while since I've read the text at WP:BURDEN as it's slightly different from how I remember it. Maybe I am thinking about discussions about its interpretation, but I thought I'd check here.

WP:BURDEN says "Any material lacking a reliable source directly supporting it may be removed and should not be restored without an inline citation to a reliable source."

I don't see clear guidance that prevents this from being used to blank every page with no citations and remove every paragraph without a citation. My understanding has been that WP:BURDEN implies a challenge to the verifiability of the material, and not a challenge simply to the absence of an inline citation. This sentence doesn't actually say that, though. If my understanding is correct, that a challenge is assumed, how does one respond to a blanket challenge to a whole page pointing to the quoted sentence above?

I'm sure this has been addressed before, but my search terms in the archive returned many hits, the first several of which weren't clear. — Rhododendrites talk \\ 14:19, 10 March 2018 (UTC)

Simple... One responds by returning the material with a few citations to reliable sources that support it. Don’t worry about whether the “other guy” had a specific challenge (or not). Supplying reliable sources always resolves the issue, and is usually far quicker and much less stressful than arguing about the “validity” of the challenge. Blueboar (talk) 14:36, 10 March 2018 (UTC)
"WP:BURDEN says..." And the problem is you quoted one line without any of what preceded it, and that's often the problem people have with this section (or reading any policy or guideline, for that matter). We can't carve out sentences in isolation and then interpret them as if they were the Ten Commandments. The whole section matters (which includes "Attribute all quotations and any material whose verifiability is challenged or likely to be challenged to a reliable, published source using an inline citation.") and of course must also be read in conjunction with other policies, such as WP:PRESERVE. postdlf (talk) 14:53, 10 March 2018 (UTC)
These are two quite different areas. @Blueboar: putting aside a specific instance -- hypothetical or not -- are you saying that you understand the literal interpretation of the line I quoted to have standing? (I.e. that removal is justified without citations?). @Postdif: by this logic it can be interpreted either way, but I could've sworn I had seen it rejected rather explicitly that WP:BURDEN actually means that all unsourced material can be removed without the material being challenged... — Rhododendrites talk \\ 15:01, 10 March 2018 (UTC)
To clarify my view: I think asking the question "How do we know if a removal is a legitimate challenge or not?" is pointless... since it is always easier (and less stressful) to act AS IF there is a legitimate challenge behind any removal, and act accordingly. Arguing about the legitimacy of a removal (or the need to provide a source) almost always takes a lot more time and effort (and causes more angst) than simply providing a source does. So I see no harm in taking a "strict interpretation" stance. Blueboar (talk) 17:20, 10 March 2018 (UTC)
Removal is in and of itself a legitimate form of challenge; it just may not be the "best practice" form of challenge. But then, if I insert "Doniago is a god and all bow before him", editors should have the liberty to remove it on sight rather than tagging it and waiting who-knows-how-long for me to (fail to) provide a reference. DonIago (talk) 15:34, 10 March 2018 (UTC)
Removal is removal. And BURDEN is not a license to remove content for no other reason than there are not currently formatted citations in an article. Let's assume that BLP, POV, obvious vandalism, etc., are not concerns for the sake of simplicity... If content is removed because the editor has sound reason to believe it's not verifiable, then it's a good faith challenge. If it's done without regard to whether the material is actually verifiable, or while fully knowing that the material is verifiable, that removal is contrary to explicit policy and is not a good faith challenge, it's just disruptive blanking. postdlf (talk) 17:07, 10 March 2018 (UTC)
Remember that (assuming a source can be provided) any removal for "lack of citation" is only TEMPORARY. As for disruptive behavior... I find arguing about a removal to be far more disruptive than simply accepting the removal, and returning the material with a source. Blueboar (talk) 17:38, 10 March 2018 (UTC)

There is perhaps a relatively easily formatted RfC that could be (but might not be) productive: "Which of these best explains WP:BURDEN: (a) Content which lacks citations can be removed with no additional justification beyond that it lacks citations. (b) Content which lacks citations can be removed if an editor challenges the verifiability of the content."

These presume that other policies that relate to removing content (like BLP) still apply, of course, and that the content is not being removed based on other policies (i.e. it's not being removed for a violation of NPOV/NOT/OR, but specifically because of lack of citations). Is there a (c)? — Rhododendrites talk \\ 18:22, 10 March 2018 (UTC)

You can see a typical case of insistence on a "specific challenge" here. User:Howcheng made good-faith challenges to uncited material, User:Beyond My Ken insisted that the challenges are not specific enough, and removed the {{cn}} tags. I went through the first four tags, and showed that in at least two instances, the {{cn}} tags were adjacent to inaccurate information, and adding citations to uncited information would have fixed this. Instead of being improved, the article's uncited information remains untagged, uncited, and uncorrected.
If a source exists, it should be provided. If a source can't be provided, the information shouldn't be on Wikipedia. Tagging and removing uncited information is good for Wikipedia, except in cases of disruptive editing, but there are plenty of policies that deal with that. Bright☀ 19:02, 10 March 2018 (UTC)
@BrightR: I'm not sure I understand the relevance of your first paragraph. This thread is specifically about those cases when the material itself is not challenged -- that the only objection is not to the verifiability/accuracy of the statement, but to the fact that there is no citation. If there's an actual good faith challenge to verifiability, accuracy, or any other aspect other than the mere existence of a citation, it's not really what I'm talking about (i.e. that's the way I've understood WP:BURDEN to work, and would like clarification about it being used without an actual challenge). — Rhododendrites talk \\ 19:45, 10 March 2018 (UTC)
It's OK, BrightR just likes to use any opportunity available to denigrate me, whether it's apropos or not I'm used to it. Beyond My Ken (talk) 19:53, 10 March 2018 (UTC)
I'm not sure I understand the relevance of your first paragraph. This thread is specifically about those cases when the material itself is not challenged -- that the only objection is not to the verifiability/accuracy of the statement, but to the fact that there is no citation. That was exactly the case here and the pig-headed insistence on "specific challenge" made the article worse, or, alternatively, made it stay in its uncorrected state. Bright☀ 13:34, 11 March 2018 (UTC)

The issue of whether material may be removed merely because it is unsourced has been debated again and again on this talk page, along with various attempts to modify the language of the policy to say that it cannot be so removed and the answer has always been "yes it can be removed" and the proposals have failed. That's not the best practice, but it is an acceptable practice. There is some justified concern about whether it is acceptable to either (a) make a habit, hobby, or routine practice of going from article to article removing unsourced material without any apparent attempt to provide sources or (b) (as this discussion began) remove large sections of material from an article merely because it is unsourced, but there is nothing in this policy (or in PRESERVE, which merely refers back to this policy without setting any standard of its own regarding unsourced material) which expressly prohibits it. And I would note these two facts which would at least suggest that they are not prohibited. First, when folks have been taken to ANI for going from article to article removing material simply because it is unsourced, they have often been widely criticized but I am unaware of a single instance where one has actually been blocked or banned only for that practice. Second, it is not an unusual practice for an largely-unsourced article to go to AFD and barely survive, but to then have all but the unsourced material cut out. Finally, I'd be opposed to an RFC to settle a question which has been settled here time after time. Regards, TransporterMan (TALK) 22:48, 10 March 2018 (UTC)

IMO the middle of the road solution is that the person needs to express a concern that it is unverifiable, but does not need to defend/ argue that concern.North8000 (talk) 23:45, 10 March 2018 (UTC)
You are all overthinking it... Don’t worry about the remover’s motivation. Just ASSUME that the material was removed because the remover has a legitimate concern that the material is unverifiable, and act accordingly (ie provide a source to demonstrate that it is, in fact verifiable). You will never do wrong in making that assumption, and providing a source is never a bad thing. Don’t focus on the actions of “the other guy”... focus on “your” reaction to them. Blueboar (talk) 01:10, 11 March 2018 (UTC)
Yep, AGF. Regards, TransporterMan (TALK) 02:37, 11 March 2018 (UTC)
The problems that my suggestion would solve are seldom a "no sources" situation. They involve using this in conjunction with other rules (e.g. details on the sourcing) to knock out material that IS sourced. North8000 (talk) 12:11, 11 March 2018 (UTC)

To contextualize, this thread wasn't intended to settle any particular dispute, but the thing that made me think of it had to do with a list of bands in a particular music genre. This seems like an interesting case for this discussion. If we should assume good faith that removal of content is an implicit challenge to verifiability, then what do we make of removing a list of wikilinks that each point to an article with relevant citations? I.e. if all someone has to do is click the link to verify the claim, it's clearly only about having an inline citation at that location and not about verifiability in general. Different? — Rhododendrites talk \\ 03:47, 11 March 2018 (UTC)

If I were an editor who wanted to retain the list of links, I'd resolve the matter by reinserting them with the appropriate references from the underlying articles rather than initiating a debate which will take up time that could be spent on more productive pursuits. That said, if the removing editor is doing such a thing as a pattern, then reaching out to them about it may be warranted. DonIago (talk) 05:32, 11 March 2018 (UTC)
There is no excuse for adding unsourced material. It's a blockable offence. Hawkeye7 (discuss) 05:59, 11 March 2018 (UTC)
@Hawkeye7... No, adding unsourced material is NOT a blockable offense. Editors have been blocked for edit warring about unsourced material. Editors have been blocked for disruptively arguing about whether the material needs a source (or not). Editors have been blocked for a host of reasons related to the addition of unsourced material... But no editor has ever been blocked merely for adding material without also adding a source. We only require a source when the material is a) likely to be challenged, or b) actually is challenged. This discussion is about requirement "b"... the question being asked is "Does an unexplained removal constitute a legitimate "challenge" or not"? The simplest answer to that question is "It does not matter... treat it as such and you won't go wrong". Blueboar (talk) 15:18, 11 March 2018 (UTC)
There is no excuse for adding unsourced material. It's a blockable offence. Pretty much every time I edit Wikipedia I see someone adding unsourced material, whether they're new editors or editors with years of experience. The admins hardly ever enforce WP:V in its strictest sense, and the fact that Wikipedia is filled with unsourced and poorly-sourced statements is a testament to that. Bright☀ 13:37, 11 March 2018 (UTC)
Folks, that's not what the policy says. North8000 (talk) 15:03, 11 March 2018 (UTC)
I didn't mean that the policy says editors should be blocked for adding unsourced material, I meant that administrators are lenient when people add unsourced material, and more than that: they are incredibly forgiving of editors who edit-war to remove {{cn}} tags and similar tags because "they're not specific enough"... Bright☀ 15:32, 11 March 2018 (UTC)

There is a general tension between several issues. Each of these is clear from general practice on Wikipedia:

  1. Material should be verifiable in reliable sources, and this is a key foundational principle
  2. But we do not require that sources have to always be actually included. Thousands of people every day add uncited material to articles, and this is part of the ordinary editing culture
  3. But if someone raises an issue with particular material, then material that cannot be sourced can be removed. Indeed, an editor can pre-emptively remove material that is uncited.
  4. The standards are higher for certain types of articles, such as biographies

So the issue is just balancing this tension. Removing an uncited sentence from a single article is no problem. But removing all uncited material from 100 articles for no clear reason (apart from it being uncited) would be a problem, and probably viewed as a violation of WP:POINT. Similarly, adding a {{fact}} tag to one article is no problem, but adding 100 tags to one article or adding 1000 tags in a bot-like way might also violate WP:POINT Editors have to work with balance: we allow an amount of uncited material to be added, but editors should try to pre-emptively cite material that is likely to be challenged. Uncited material can be removed, but editors should use discretion in deciding when to remove it. — Carl (CBM · talk) 15:14, 11 March 2018 (UTC)

  • To quote myself "Editors are entrusted with the responsibility of upholding the integrity of Wikipedia while adhering to intellectual property rights, such as avoiding plagiarism, respecting copyright laws, and presenting appropriate citations for article content." If people can't do this then this project is not for them. We developed these rules because as Wikipedia got older more and non academic editors started to contribute junk.. thus we ask all to source material added.--Moxy (talk) 15:25, 11 March 2018 (UTC)


This is something of a side observation, so I am starting a sub-thread for it. For as long as I can remember, the BURDEN section has stated...

  • "Any material lacking a reliable source directly supporting it may be removed and should not be restored without an inline citation to a reliable source."

I have highlighted the word "may" in that sentence, because it is somewhat ambiguous. It can be read in two ways:

  1. as giving editors permission to remove unsourced material,
  2. as a warning to editors that unsourced material might be removed.

Looking back at the discussions that took place when we first created the BURDEN section, it is clear that the focus of those discussions was on explaining what to do AFTER material had been challenged/removed (and the burden that was on those who wanted to return the information). We really didn't discuss how to challenge or when it was appropriate to remove. The idea that unsourced material could (and should) be removed was essentially taken for granted back then. So... that got me thinking that the original intent of the word "may" was probably more along the lines of a warning, and that what we meant all those years ago was "might". I am not proposing any change at this time... I merely wanted to raise this observation as "food for thought", and discussion. I think it a good idea to periodically go back and look at original intent of any policy statement, and examine whether our interpretations have changed over time. Blueboar (talk) 16:35, 11 March 2018 (UTC)

Very true. I already read the "may" to be a combination of "might" and "is allowed to be". Of course, intent can change, as with WP:NOR. It was originally intended to make it easier to deal with people writng about pseudoscience or about their latest pet theory in physics (see this old version [2]). It later turned into a general guideline against synthesis, but originally it was only about synthesis that disagrees with the mainstream consensus in a field. Now even descriptions of mainstream consensus are considered "original research" if they stray too far from what literally appears in print. — Carl (CBM · talk) 16:53, 11 March 2018 (UTC)
It's not "may" as in "possibly" or "might", it's "may" as in "have permission" or "be allowed". The context should make that clear: "may be removed and should not be restored". "May" as opposed to "should not", "have permission" as opposed to "don't have permission". This intent exists in the original discussion about removing uncited material and the subsequent discussion that phrased it as it exists today. The original discussion talks about how unsourced statements can be "freely removed", but "may be removed" is a little less carefree... Bright☀ 17:21, 11 March 2018 (UTC)

I think that the policy works pretty well regarding unsourced material. There may be short term issues but I think that they get sorted out. IMO common problems come in when someone couples the big hammer of wp:burden with creative use of of some of the imperfections and unrealistic areas of the rules regarding the type of sources to knock out material.North8000 (talk) 18:11, 11 March 2018 (UTC)

RfC: References for key or complex plot points in plot sections[edit]

Opinions are needed on the following: Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Writing about fiction#RfC: Is it encouraged to have references for key or complex plot points in plot sections?. A permalink for it is here.--Moxy (talk) 08:40, 11 March 2018 (UTC)

I thought a policy requires consensus[edit]

To Hawkeye7 and Izno: What gives? Maybe you should ask first before changing the text of a policy? Chris Troutman (talk) 14:30, 11 March 2018 (UTC)

@Chris troutman: Policies and guidelines may still be boldly changed.
I reverted Hawkeye's edit not because there's no talk page discussion (obviously?) but because I don't see that change as an improvement.
I then removed an ancient quote from Jimmy. We are long past the point in time where a quote from our non-leader is worth making people read, especially as it's tangential to this policy (which includes a pointed reference to the discussion on which the quote is made). (Hence why it is footnoted.) I additionally removed the weak "you should" language. Do you have a substantive issue with my specific edits beyond "there's no talk discussion!"? --Izno (talk) 14:35, 11 March 2018 (UTC)
I do. I'm fine with your reversion of Hawkeye7, who was also needlessly bold. My issue is that the quote from Jimmy is already part of the consensus version. I think it speaks to the importance of verifiability, especially for the editors that are inclusionist and tend to keep unsourced content in the hope that the content could be verified, even though it hasn't been. Since it's footnoted, it's not taking up text space in the paragraph. Removing it seems petty. PGBOLD emphasizes that discussion happens first because of situations like this. Chris Troutman (talk) 14:41, 11 March 2018 (UTC)
As PGBOLD indicates, "being the consensus version" is insufficient to stop someone from changing a policy or guideline. (It does stress a 0RR or 1RR attitude about it.) As for the importance of verifiability, in this context, we have a very bright bolded statement at WP:BLPSOURCE requiring sourcing on BLPs. A quotation that is tangential to the purpose of this page couldn't ever do the same thing. Petty? No. We should avoid in policies and guidelines content which does not have substantive value--and as this quotation is not a !rule, nor even clarifying a complex !rule (it's hard to be clearer than WP:BLPSOURCES is, much less the statement currently there already), I'd say it has no substantive value. --Izno (talk) 14:51, 11 March 2018 (UTC)
I suppose it also negatively reinforces the "the not-leader said it [X person said it!], so it must be true!" idea, which is not how we operate. (It is not entirely coincidence that the board of trustees, on which Jimmy sat at the time, delivered us a requirement to implement a policy regarding living people, but that's neither here nor there. ;) --Izno (talk) 15:02, 11 March 2018 (UTC)
I also support the status quo before Izno and Hawkeye7's additions. I concur with Izno that Hawkeye's addition was, while well-intentioned and objectively correct, a bit too much instruction manual-ly and off-topic for this policy. On the other hand Jimbo's quote is a useful illustration of the strength with which the BLP aspect of this is held. Do I think that it's absolutely necessary? No, but on the balance it's useful and, as Chris Troutman points out, this policy has been carefully tuned through consensus to balance conflicting interests. Best regards, TransporterMan (TALK) 18:55, 11 March 2018 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 20 March 2018[edit] (talk) 04:04, 20 March 2018 (UTC)
 Not done: it's not clear what changes you want to be made. Please mention the specific changes in a "change X to Y" format and provide a reliable source if appropriate. — IVORK Discuss 04:07, 20 March 2018 (UTC)