Wikipedia talk:Verifiability/Archive 41

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Contents

Myspace?

Several editors have added Category:Jewish Poker Players to Barry Shulman and have cited his MySpace page as a source. What do you think? Does this pass under WP:SELFPUB?--TM 15:06, 19 September 2010 (UTC)

Can we be 100% certain that the Barry Shulman who created the Myspace page is the same Barry Shulman that is the subject of our article? If so, then it would pass WP:SELFPUB... if not, then no. Blueboar (talk) 18:19, 19 September 2010 (UTC)
How can we verify that on Myspace?--TM 17:10, 20 September 2010 (UTC)
I don't know. It may be that this is not possible. All I am saying is that it would need to be done. Blueboar (talk) 17:19, 20 September 2010 (UTC)

Access to sources addition

Should this section also address the use of online sources that become unavailable (i.e. dead webpages)? 68.146.81.123 (talk) 15:28, 30 September 2010 (UTC)

There's something about that in WP:CITE, but you're right that we should allude to it here. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 23:34, 30 September 2010 (UTC)
WP:Linkrot is the main page for that problem. WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:40, 1 October 2010 (UTC)

Lead

I noticed a couple of edits to the lead today, about whether verifiability was the threshold for adding material to an existing article, or whether it applied to creating new articles. The answer is both. But there are other criteria, some of which apply only to articles as a whole (such as notability). I think the problem could be fixed with the change "The A threshold for inclusion..." Jc3s5h (talk) 21:17, 1 October 2010 (UTC)

Awwwwwww yeeeeah! I like this idea. But I feel like verifiability only pertains to content. My reasoning on this is that there would be nothing to add if the article didn't exist due to lack of notability. Once the article exists then people can put content within the article if it is verifiable content. You can't put verifiable content in an article that isn't notable because it wouldn't (or shouldn't) exist. But that's what I'm gathering from this, but I'd like to see some more input. You can be bold and make your edit if you'd like though. Devourer09 22:16, 1 October 2010 (UTC)
The WP:Notability guideline is focused solely on the creation of new articles and describes there how information on the subject should be verifiable. Adding different text here is going to lead to conflict. patsw (talk) 17:17, 2 October 2010 (UTC)

WP:SELFPUB

I think the wording "Caution should be exercised when using such sources: if the information in question is really worth reporting, someone else is likely to have done so" should be revised to insert "against original research" after "caution should be exercised." My concern here is primarily conceptual, such that I think a wikilink to the no OR policy is desirable. I've seen the argument that if a secondary source publishes a tweet that renders the tweet reliable. In fact a secondary source publishing a self-published claim does indeed support the argument for including the claim, but primarily because it is no longer original research. If tweets are inherently unreliable, then a secondary source that routinely publishes tweets is routinely publishing inherently unreliable material, if our argument solely references reliability. In fact one doesn't have to use that problematic argument to justify a requirement for a secondary source because one can rely on the straightforward argument that absent a secondary source it is WP:OR. Bottom line is that self-published sources raise as many or more original research concerns as reliability concerns.--Bdell555 (talk) 00:56, 3 October 2010 (UTC)

WP:NOR is exclusively about bad behavior by Wikipedia editors (e.g., pretending that sources say X, when they actually say Y). Bad behavior by sources (e.g., assertions that Elvis is alive, or that everything they hear is true) is not a NOR violation, because someone (the source) actually made the the assertion. WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:15, 3 October 2010 (UTC)

Does WP:PRIMARYTOPIC trump WP:V?

Please answer this simple yes/no question:

Does WP:PRIMARYTOPIC trump WP:V?

This deals with my attempts to change the first sentence of the page Pig (disambiguation).

Thank you in advance for your kind short answer, along with any comments you might like to make. Chrisrus (talk) 01:14, 24 September 2010 (UTC)

Disambiguation pages are usually considered exempt from content policies such as WP:V (as any content should be not only verifiable, but verified at the linked articles)... Blueboar (talk) 01:23, 24 September 2010 (UTC)
Thank you for your reply. I understood "not unless the content isn't verified at the articles". Any content on disambiguation pages not verified within the listed articles may be removed. Is that correct? Chrisrus (talk) 01:39, 24 September 2010 (UTC)
The decision to declare the primary topic of that dab page to be either just "domestic pig" or "the family Suidae, including domesticated and wild pigs" is a matter for editorial judgment. WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:43, 24 September 2010 (UTC)
I would agree with WhatamIdoing. Blueboar (talk) 03:11, 24 September 2010 (UTC)
That's not correct. The decision is whether to declare the primary target of [[Pig]] to be either "domestic pig" or the disambiguation page itself. None of the various taxons with any claim to the term "pig" are under concideration. Chrisrus (talk) 13:29, 24 September 2010 (UTC)
A disambiguation page is never considered the primary target article (in fact, they are not considered "articles" at all... they are considered "Navigation pages"). I still do not understand where WP:V fits into the debate. What is the verifiability question? Blueboar (talk) 13:37, 24 September 2010 (UTC)
The debate in question is whether to direct "p-i-g" searchers to domestic pig, or to send them to pig (disambiguation). Whichever way it goes, the unverified statement "Pigs are any animal of the genus Sus" is on the top of the disambiguation page now, but will change no matter which they choose, and the rest of the taxon-based articles and the situation about their relationship to the word "pig" will be done in the first section. We are still waiting for that discussion to end, but either way it's not going to be Sus. It might even be Suidae, as you suggest, although if you read it that doesn't seem likely, and so your characterization of that discussion is not correct. Nevertheless, the statement that "pig=sus", which is at the top of the disambiguation, is being supported by no one, and has not been verified anywhere, yet stands at the top of the disambiguation page. Your point that Suidae would be truer, but it's not as common a target referent for searchers as domestic pig, so editors are debating what do change it to, and until then I'm being told that the unverified statement must stand as WP:PRIMARYTOPIC guidelines trump WP:V - it doesn't matter that the statement is wrong because it must stand there until The Heat Death of the Universe or unil they either deside what to do, whichever comes first. Chrisrus (talk) 13:59, 24 September 2010 (UTC)
none of which is really a WP:V issue. Blueboar (talk) 15:36, 24 September 2010 (UTC)
Exactly right Blueboar. Disambiguation pages are primarily navigational aides and reflect the current arrangement of article titles. Assuming that there will be some page moves resulting from the current discussions, the disambiguation page will be updated after the moves have been completed. Unless someone has access to a crystal ball, to edit the disambiguation page before the discussions and page moves have been resolved could risk biasing the discussion as a fait accompli. olderwiser 15:46, 24 September 2010 (UTC)
Sounds like a good plan of action. I think we can close this thread Blueboar (talk) 16:11, 24 September 2010 (UTC)
The statement that "Pigs" is primarily or most properly defined as the genus Sus has not been verified on the pages that the navigation page links to. No statement should be on a disambiguation page which is not verified on the pages it links to. In this way, WP:V applies to disambiguation pages. Good edits to disambiguation pages are often make on the grounds that something stated there was not supported by the article linked to. For example, just I other day, I removed the statement that "Pig" is the name of a character in Orwell's "Animal Farm". I did so on the grounds that the statement was not verified by the article. I went and read the article and saw that it was not so stated there, so I removed the statement on the disambiguation page. We do such things all the time. In this way, WP:V applies to the statements of fact made on disambiguation pages.
Changing the lead to Domestic Pig will not bias the discussion as a fait accompli because the discussion is only about whether to change the target of [[pig]] to Domestic Pig or to the disambiguation page itself. That it should continue to point to Sus (genus) is not being discussed there, as it's clear that Sus is merely one of several taxon-based articles with a claim to the word "pigs." Other ideas may also be entertained as to how best to help users choose from the several taxon-based articles we have about pigs in general, more or less narrowly defined. None of these changes in the discussion would change the fact that the primary on the disambiguation page should be Domestic pig, which I hope is self-evident to you, and you should know that everyone there is long past that point by now. Now, they are just discussing how and how much to explain the situation to the user and lay out the choices after first sending the likely majority of searchers to the domestic pig. Therefore, changing the lead of the disambiguation page from Sus to Domestic Pig will not risk biasing the discusssion as a fait accompli, and remove a statement from the disambiguation page that is not verified in the articles to which the disambiguation page links. In fact, changing the first line of the disambiguation page from Sus to Domestic Pig will help the discussion by getting that much out of the way, acknowleding their progress, and focusing them on the task at hand, which is how both to direct the rest of the traffic. Chrisrus (talk) 16:38, 24 September 2010 (UTC)
Where do you see the statement that "Pigs" is primarily or most properly defined as the genus Sus ? The disambiguation page currently states A Pig is an animal of the genus Sus, which reflects the current arrangement of pages and seems to accurately reflect the lede of pig. Is that a problem? If not, what exactly is the issue? olderwiser 16:53, 24 September 2010 (UTC)
A Pig is an animal of the genus Sus at the top of the disambiguation page easily states as much in the mind of an innocent reader. It is like saying "A person is a Frenchman". Frenchman are people, but not all people are Frenchmen. Chrisrus (talk) 17:17, 24 September 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── On a dab page, the phrase on each link, including the first one, is to be interpreted as "In one meaning of the word, "Pig" is . . ." and that meaning is the meaning that briefly and clearly distinguishes the associated article from the rest on the page. The phrase is normally a shortened version of the essentials from the lead of the article in question. So we are not claiming that a pig is ONLY that, in fact, the next phrase "it may also refer to" makes that clear. --John (User:Jwy/talk) 18:27, 24 September 2010 (UTC)

Well, then, a more careful wording perhaps, but if disambiguation page guidelines suggest a wording that is not verified in the articles it links to, it would be in violation of WP:V, which would take precedence. It's just a guideline and WP:V is quite a bit more than a guideline, so if they conflict, a solution must quickly be found. If I can get agreement on that point, I'd not object to collapsing this thread. In a nutshell, ignoring for the moment the details of this case, statements on disambiguation pages must be verified somehow. Chrisrus (talk) 19:02, 24 September 2010 (UTC)
The MOSDAB does not "suggest a wording that is not verified in the articles it links to." In general, a bit of imprecision for brevity is tolerated. --John (User:Jwy/talk) 19:22, 24 September 2010 (UTC)
Or are you suggesting that the implied "In this meaning of the word" is required by WP:V. --John (User:Jwy/talk) 19:27, 24 September 2010 (UTC)
So your answer is "theoretically yes, but there doesn't seem to be any danger of that happening, and does not seem to be happening in this case" or some such? Chrisrus (talk) 19:30, 24 September 2010 (UTC)
No. All I am saying is that I don't see a conflict between WP:MOSDAB and WP:V in this case. The text on the dab page should accurately, but concisely, describe the (presumably) verified information in the article. While I believe WP:V should generally have precedence, because the primary purpose of a dab page is navigational and not informational, there might be instances where a detailed application of the "rules", but not the "spirit", of WP:V might be limited. For example, footnoting is not encouraged on dab pages. --John (User:Jwy/talk) 19:51, 24 September 2010 (UTC)
(after ec) @Chrisrus, I'm confused. Are you saying that the statement A Pig is an animal of the genus Sus is incorrect? Why? I think your comparison with person/Frenchman is confusing. One common meaning of the word "pig" is that it is a generic term for species in the genus Sus. Another common meaning refers specifically to the species of domestic pig. I'm really not sure what your point is. Are you saying it the statement that a pig is an animal of the genus Sus is unverifiable? Really? olderwiser 19:38, 24 September 2010 (UTC)

(edit conflict)::::If it really bothers you, try instead Pig often denotes an animal of the genus Sus. It may also be... Of course, check that the linked articles supports the assertions. Given that editors tend to change article lede paras with great abandon, it is possible that they will occasionally remove support that once was present, but we shouldn't construe that as a question of V for the dab page. It's just version history. If you think wp:MOSDAB or wp:Disambiguation need to change, discuss it on those talkpages, not here, please. LeadSongDog come howl! 19:50, 24 September 2010 (UTC)

Someone please edit Pig to make the first sentence better reflect the fact that the article is about the genus Sus, not "the pig" whatever that is. 69.3.72.249 (talk) 06:12, 25 September 2010 (UTC)

Folks... unless someone is seriously contesting the statement that "a pig is an animal of the genus Sus", then this simply is not a WP:V issue. Blueboar (talk) 12:47, 25 September 2010 (UTC)
"A Scotsman is a human" is a correct statement. "A human is a Scotsman" is not. "A pig is an animal of the genus Sus" is like saying that a Human is a Scotsman. Some of them are, but not all of them. No RS that we have tells us that this statement is correct. The new ones call all Suidae "pigs" or "true pigs", although some older ones said "Suinae", but zero said you had to be Sus to be a pig. Therefore, the statement "a pig is an animal of the genus Sus" at the top of the disambiguation page as the primary, or even a primary definition, does not pass WP:V guidelines because it is not a fair summary of the articles it links to, is not supported by the RS's in those articles, and has not been verified anywhere. Although Disambiguation pages are not directly sourced, they are beholden to WP:V indirectly by having to be verified by the articles they link to. Chrisrus (talk) 17:53, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
The root of this continuing content dispute seems to be the first line of the article Pig, which is about the pig genus Sus. Someone please edit the article to fix the first line. I suggest The pig genus Sus includes domestic pigs and their wild relatives... 69.3.72.249 (talk) 20:27, 4 October 2010 (UTC)

Checkability or Verifiability?

Verify is the natural word to describe verifiability.

  • Why would check be preferred over verify?
  • For the advocates of check, is there a significant difference in meaning from verify? patsw (talk) 15:19, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
It shouldn't be check - that means pay sources or ones behind some other accessibility wall would be improper. Verify is the right word here - it doesn't imply access, just that it is possible for someone - not necessary the specific reader, to affirm the source. --MASEM (t) 15:22, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
It's used because it's a simpler word for people to understand. "Verify" would also mean you'd have to be able to see it, Masem. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 15:22, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
It would also form a circular definition. Location (talk) 15:34, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
I think if you want to avoid using verify, then confirm is closer in meaning than check. To answer my own question, I think check does not mean verify but only attempt to verify:
  • When I check X, I can discover X is true, X is false, or I can't determine if is X is true or false.
  • When I verify X, that means I have discovered X is true (i.e. what appears in Wikipedia corresponds to what appears in the cited source)patsw (talk)
WP:PAYWALL covers the issue of whether just anyone should be able to access the source for free over the internet. I don't think there is a verb in English that conveys the distinction Masem wants (which also means that we can't argue from the option for "check" or "verify" to the appropriate policy regarding paywall sources). I would go with "check" in this instance, since it presumes less familiarity with the English language. RJC TalkContribs 15:59, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
I don't think it really matters. To me the two terms mean the same thing. We are saying that someone (not necessarily you) must be able to verify (or check) that a source supports what we say in our articles. In fact, I think we would make our point clearer if we use both terms in conjunction, as I do in my previous sentence. Blueboar (talk) 16:13, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
The irony is, "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth", yet the word verify derives from verus (true), and means "to ascertain, confirm, check or test the truth or accuracy of, to assert or prove to be true. It really isn't the right word. But nor is check, since that implies the same unless qualified in some way. What it comes down to is, "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is that suitable sources say what we're stating here. To encapsulate that in one word, it would have to be sourceability or somesuch. I suspect it's a case of living with the imperfect term we have. PL290 (talk) 16:23, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
It's not ironic: The content of the Wikipedia corresponds to its sources (i.e. verification), not to an editorial board's declaration of the truth. patsw (talk) 16:47, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
PL290, perhaps you are thinking of "WP:Attributablility". Location (talk) 16:59, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
I wasn't, but that's an interesting find I wasn't aware of: a proposed merger of several policy pages, that opens, "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is whether material is attributable to a reliable published source, not whether it is true." Maybe it's time to revisit that. PL290 (talk) 17:04, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
Verifiability was always a poor choice of word, but people got used to it. That was why we started Wikipedia:Attribution, but it ended up being a huge time sink. People keep starting to revisit it then lose the will to live. :) SlimVirgin talk|contribs 17:16, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
Well, then I propose the hypothetisourcifiability-check standard. We should be able to provide a source for a statement, at least hypothetically, and what we check is whether hypothetisourcifiability has been met—not whether the statement is true. This phrasing deals with the paywall issue while simultaneously avoiding a word that has its root in veritas. It is also jargony enough that we won't run into the problem involving WP:Notability, where we employ a word in common usage as a term of art. RJC TalkContribs 18:11, 4 October 2010 (UTC)

Check and verify (CSI Wikipedia)

A doctor and a police office arrive at a crime scene. A little while later, the police officer asks the doctor:

  • Did you check if victim is dead? Answer: Yes. I checked. The victim is alive.
  • Did you verify the victim is dead? Answer: No. The victim is alive.

To check is to attempt to verify, or to use another word, to investigate. patsw (talk) 01:27, 5 October 2010 (UTC)

Patents

Should policy regarding patents as reliable sources be mentioned here? For example, if one or more patents are the only sources given for material about an invention, should mention of that invention be allowed in Wikipedia as part of an article? Thanks. --Bob K31416 (talk) 12:54, 3 October 2010 (UTC)

Bob K31416's question is a matter of notability, not verifiability, and should be discussed elsewhere. Jc3s5h (talk) 14:21, 3 October 2010 (UTC)
No, not necessarily. If it is part of a larger topic, the question is if inclusion of mention of patents is reasonable. And to that question, patents are primary sources for the invention they are about. They can be used to justify claims made about an invention, but that's it. --MASEM (t) 14:33, 3 October 2010 (UTC)
Patents are reliable for some information, but not all information. I have a problem saying that a patent "justifies" claims about an invention... all that a patent does is verify that an invention exists and that claims are made about the invention. For example... a patent for a perpetual motion machine would be a reliable source for the statement: "In his patent application, inventor Ima Crackpot claims that his perpetual motion machine works by harnessing the 'gravetic' motion of the earth." But the patent would not be a reliable source for the statement: "Ima Crackpot's perpetual motion machine actually works by harnessing the 'gravetic' motion of the earth". Blueboar (talk) 16:51, 3 October 2010 (UTC)
No, you're right, I meant that the patent can be used to justify what the inventor is claiming about the invention, not about the function of the invention itself. --MASEM (t) 16:59, 3 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Notability Internal to the patent itself, the patent, by definition is not providing an independent account of its significance. An independent assessment of its significance would be the starting point for editors to determine if the invention merited a stand-alone article.
  • Verifiability This is obvious in the case of the patents of the United States. Except for early patents for which all official records have been lost, patents are eminently verifiable if one has its number.
  • Reliable Sources This is where there is nuance: An editor summarizing a patent, absent a reliable source independent of an advocate of the invention, would have to write "the patent claims the device desalinates a liter of sea water with one joule of energy. If there were an independent evaluation of the device attesting to that, one could write "the device desalinates a liter of sea water with one joule of energy", or if that independent evaluation were dubious or disputed "According to X, the device..."
  • I think existing text in these policies already cover our current practices and do not need modification. patsw (talk) 17:20, 3 October 2010 (UTC)
There is a distinction between a patent application and a patent. Anyone willing to pay the required fees can write whatever he or she pleases in a patent application. A patent examiner will review the application; absurd patents will usually be totally refused. A typical outcome for an application with some merit is that some of the narrower claims will allowed and the broader claims will be rejected. Claim is a term-of-art in the patent field; it is an innovation which the inventor, and if the claim is allowed, the United States asserts is novel and useful; no one can practice the allowed claim unless they obtain a license from the inventor or the patent expires. Jc3s5h (talk) 18:06, 3 October 2010 (UTC)
There has been a long string of absurd patents related to computers, and the USPTO has done a very poor job of researching prior art, to say nothing of excluding things that are obvious to practitioners. Litigation in this area has been in the US Supreme Court this year. Shmuel (Seymour J.) Metz Username:Chatul (talk) 16:31, 7 October 2010 (UTC)

While not particularly relevant to WP:V, any mention of trademarks should take into account the fact that several WP:SPA editors have added trademark WP:REFSPAM to numerous articles. An example here is an archived WP:COIN report. Johnuniq (talk) 01:01, 4 October 2010 (UTC)

Generally speaking, a patent application would be covered by WP:SELFPUB. patsw (talk) 01:29, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
I agree that patents are self-published -- and not merely the "application", but the final issued form. The specification (those long pages of technical description, which the patent agencies are not permitted to change, even if they literally contain "patent nonsense") is written and published at the direction of the inventor, with zero editorial control by anyone else. Patents can be published even if they're not granted; any inventor with US $300 can have it published by the US PTO whenever they choose. This is why we see patents "proving" that colloidal silver cures AIDS. WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:43, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
From the above, it appears that patent applications may be a form of self publication, but I'm not sure that granted patents would also be a form of self publication since a patent application can be rejected. --Bob K31416 (talk) 12:55, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
Issued patents would still be self-pub from the inventors. Patent reviewers are not fact checking the work (though will throw out ones that fail sniff tests like perpetual motion machines) and are only making sure the patent doesn't overlap existing patent space. While this may require the patent inventor to rework the description, it is still not being fact-checked, and thus a self-pub. --MASEM (t) 13:05, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
Should patents be included in the first paragraph of Self-published sources (online and paper)? --Bob K31416 (talk) 13:29, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
As the list is not claiming to be fully inclusive, I don't think its necessary, unless there is a widespread problem of people using patents as key sources that SPS would disallow. --MASEM (t) 13:46, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
This edit motivated me to bring up the issue of patents. --Bob K31416 (talk) 14:30, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
A patent is definitely not a reliable source for the claim that taking an unregulated 'natural' substance cures sleep apnea. WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:20, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
Reliable for what purpose? For the fact that one was issued? Yes (primary source). For making statements about their own content? Yes (primary source).
For claims that any given statement in the patent is actually correct in any meaningful sense — for example, that silver cures AIDS? No. US patent 6016450 says you can "heal living tissue with auras". Do you believe that? How about secret mind control? See [1] for one example of such a patent. Does that patent convince you that mind control exists? This one says that shining the right color of light on your body cures diseases. Do you believe that chromotherapy works? WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:18, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
A previous discussion can be read at in the archives. WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:18, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
Thanks. What do you think should be done regarding whether or not to mention patents in WP:V? --Bob K31416 (talk) 20:51, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
I think I'd write an essay explaining the situation, and not worry about explicitly adding the word to this policy. Alternatively, if you don't mind a little WP:CREEPiness, then it could be added to the laundry list at WP:SPS. WhatamIdoing (talk) 04:38, 7 October 2010 (UTC)

Sentence on plagiarism, copyright violations

We currently say, Articles should be based on reliable, third-party (independent), published sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy; this avoids plagiarism, copyright violations, and unverifiable claims being added to articles.

This is logically flawed: it is not the fact that we base ourselves on sources that prevents plagiarism and copyright violations. In fact, basing ourselves too closely on sources, without attribution or citation, is what causes plagiarism and copyright violations. Plagiarism and copyright violations occur when we use material from unnamed others and pretend that the material was the product of our own creativity. Naming the sources in itself does not prevent plagiarism and copyright violations either, but it does make it easier to discover them.

I believe the sentence would be improved if it said something like, Articles should be based on reliable, third-party (independent), published sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy. Naming these sources in the article helps avoid plagiarism, copyright violations, and unverifiable claims being added to articles. --JN466 16:12, 6 October 2010 (UTC)

Suggest changing "Naming" to "Citing", otherwise it suggests that the source should be put in the text, rather than in a footnote. Also suggest deleting "in the article", which seems redundant.
As an aside, I think that sentences in this policy like
"Articles should be based on reliable, third-party (independent), published sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy"
would be better written and more in line with dictionary definitions of "third-party" if they were rewritten as,
"Articles should be based on reliable sources that are third-party (independent) publications with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy."
--Bob K31416 (talk) 17:19, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
Agree with changing "naming" to "citing", and dropping "in the article". That would give us, Citing these sources helps avoid plagiarism, copyright violations, and unverifiable claims being added to articles. --JN466 20:39, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
Actually, probably better like so: Citing these sources helps avoid plagiarism and copyright violations, and prevents unverifiable claims being added to articles. --JN466 22:47, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
I think the point of the citations is to help us "identify" plagiarism and copyvios. Naming the source doesn't actually "help avoid" these problems in the first place; it only helps us find (and therefore remove) them. WhatamIdoing (talk) 04:41, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
That is what I was trying to get at. Of course, if they're more easily found, this will also cut down on their occurrence in the long run, but your point is still valid. So: Citing these sources prevents unverifiable claims from being added to articles, and makes it easier to identify plagiarism and copyright violations. Agreed? --JN466 09:52, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
Well... plagiarism is coping material from a source without citing it... if we cite it, it isn't plagiarism (It may be a copy vio... but it isn't plagiarism)... So proper citation does "avoid" plagiarism. May I suggest... "identify copyvios and avoid plagiarism". Blueboar (talk) 16:14, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
Per WP:Plagiarism, too-close paraphrasing of a cited source is also plagiarism. So citing the source does not avoid plagiarism; the text has to be reformulated as well, avoiding close paraphrases. --JN466 02:22, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
AFAICT WP:Plagiarism and too-close paraphrasing don't say that close paraphrasing of a cited source is plagiarism. --Bob K31416 (talk) 12:26, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
"It can also be useful to perform a direct comparison between cited sources and text within the article, to see if text has been plagiarized, including too-close paraphrasing of the original.". --JN466 20:22, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
Thanks. Looks like you're right. Regards, --Bob K31416 (talk) 01:22, 9 October 2010 (UTC)
Policy edit made, as proposed above: [2] --JN466 01:39, 9 October 2010 (UTC)

Third-party source

The phrase "third-party source" first appears in the section Burden of evidence,

"If no reliable third-party sources can be found on a topic, Wikipedia should not have an article on it."

While reading it I realized that I was unfamiliar with the term. So I googled it a bit to get an idea of what it might mean, and was only able to come up with legal terminology.[3] Perhaps someone would know of a reference that defines the term "third-party source" or "third-party" in the way that it is used in this policy? Thanks. --Bob K31416 (talk) 05:31, 1 October 2010 (UTC)

See wikt:third party, second definition, Merriam-Webster, first definition, etc. It's later defined parenthetically as "independent", but in general, if we don't supply a definition, then the ones in your favorite general-purpose dictionary apply.
(I thought that this policy once provided a link to Wiktionary for that term...) WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:39, 1 October 2010 (UTC)
Since "third-party sources" may be unclear to some like me, and it appears 4 times, perhaps a footnote for clarification might be useful? Here's one possibility,
"If no reliable third-party sources[1] can be found on a topic, Wikipedia should not have an article on it."
1. a third-party source is one that was written by authors who are not principals involved in the subject
--Bob K31416 (talk) 14:25, 1 October 2010 (UTC)
I will note that this is the core statement that connects Verifiability with concept of Notability... And our various notability guidelines seem have all settled on the phrase: "Reliable sources that are independent of the subject" with very good effect (ie people seem to understand what is meant). Perhaps we should be consistent and adopt that phrasing here? Blueboar (talk) 17:46, 1 October 2010 (UTC)
I'm just trying to clarify what is already there. The phrase you brought up is the first time I've seen it and it's not clear to me. For instance, how can a reliable source be independent of the subject if it is about the subject? Anyhow, how do you feel about adding the footnote? Thanks. --Bob K31416 (talk) 20:13, 1 October 2010 (UTC)
As is spelled out more fully in WP:IRS... The word "source" as used on Wikipedia has three related meanings: the piece of work itself (the article, paper, document, book), the creator of the work (for example, the writer), and the publisher of the work (for example, The New York Times or Cambridge University Press). So... if we were working on an article on the subject: Fraternal Order of Hedgehogs, a book written by a member of the fraternity might well be considered reliable... but it would not be "Independent of the subject". The same would be true of the fraternities website, or a press release issued by the Grand Poobah, these are caused to be published by the order itself, so they are not "independent" of it. If these are the only reliable sources on the Hedgehogs, then we should not have an article about it. We need someone outside of the fraternity to have noticed it and commented upon it. Blueboar (talk) 00:34, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
Thanks. Since there is more than one meaning of "source", I need to revise the footnote. Would this work?
"If no reliable third-party sources[1] can be found on a topic, Wikipedia should not have an article on it."
1. "third-party sources" refers to authors or publishers that are not principals involved in the subject
--Bob K31416 (talk) 03:35, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
Is there anyone here besides me that is leaning towards supporting this clarification footnote or who has an idea for a better footnote? If not, there doesn't seem to be any point in proceeding. --Bob K31416 (talk) 05:38, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
Doesn't that pretty much amount to "if you don't know what 'third party' means, then here's what the dictionary says"? And if so, why should this particular term be called out for a dictionary definition, and not any of the other terms that people might not be familiar with? We're not, e.g., defining "verifiable", even though it's defined on this talk page about once a month, or "quotation", although the difference between paraphrase and quotation eludes some editors, or "self-publishing", which has been the subject of extensive debates.
You seem to have been able to figure out the dictionary definition; don't you think that anyone else who's confused could do the same? WhatamIdoing (talk) 06:02, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
I didn't figure it out myself from dictionary definitions, especially since the term "source" had 3 different meanings: one referring to people/authors (which corresponds best with the dictionary definition but wasn't what I had in mind for "source" when I read the term in the sentence), one that is the publishing organization (e.g. journal etc.), and one that is the article, book, etc (which is what I had in mind for "source" in the context of that sentence and which doesn't fit the dictionary definition of "third-party" in my opinion). You might note that in my proposed footnote it mentions authors and publishers but not articles, books, etc. It's interesting that you didn't mention that in your criticism. Maybe you don't understand the situation as well as you think. Regards, --Bob K31416 (talk) 12:20, 2 October 2010 (UTC)

Proposed removal of the phrase "third party"

My position is that the phrase "third party" is entirely unacceptable, and I do not consider myself to be bound by this policy until that detestable phrase is removed. I find Bob K31416's footnote just makes the matter worse; it means that we can't have an article about algebra unless we can find a reliable source written by someone who does not understand algebra. Anyone who makes a living doing or teaching algebra is particularly unacceptable as the author of a source that establishes the notability of algebra. Besides, this policy is about verifiability, not notability. Jc3s5h (talk) 04:25, 2 October 2010 (UTC)

No, it means that an article on algebra that is only sourced to Diophantus or Gerolamo Cardano would only be using first-party sources. Any future scholar that is an expert on algebra but has written a work that incorporates the works of those that are credited with creating algebra would be third-party. --MASEM (t) 04:31, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
Jc3s5h, Please note that clarifying the term "third party" would help your cause if you were right. While it's unclear, it's more difficult to attack. Maybe that's how you were motivated to attack the term now, because its meaning has been clarified in this discussion. In any case, clarifying it will lead to being better able to determine whether or not it benefits Wikipedia and in the meantime, clarification with the footnote will help the reader understand the current policy. So please continue making your points about why you think "third party" should be removed. --Bob K31416 (talk) 05:31, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
And dislike of a policy or part of a policy is not an excuse to ignore it. Dougweller (talk) 05:54, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
Masem is right. A little history of the term might be illuminating: The classic "third party" in a dispute is the judge before whom a lawsuit is being presented. Wikipedia doesn't want to be written from the perspective of either the "plaintiff" or the "defendant". You just need to adapt the concept to the specific circumstances, e.g., we don't want to write "Microsoft, according Microsoft's marketing department", or "Algebra textbooks, according to textbook publishers". We want Microsoft and Textbook according to people who aren't getting paid (or some other benefit) for promoting (or denigrating) these things. WhatamIdoing (talk) 06:02, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
If a term needs a footnote to explain how we're using it, that's not ideal. Any reason we can't simply refer to "secondary sources" here? —Preceding unsigned comment added by PL290 (talkcontribs) 08:30, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
The primary/secondary/tertiary axis is different from the first/third-party axis (which itself is different from dependent and independent.)
Specifically, secondary sources are ones that are transformative of primary and other sources; that is they just don't repeat details (as with primary sources including what most third-party news sources often do) but analysis them, critique them, derive synthesis from, and so forth. Almost by necessity, all secondary sources will be third-party, but not all third-party sources will be secondary. It's important to understand that difference as secondary sources are important to NOR and Notability, but WP:V only requires that we have a third-party talking about the topic to avoid vanity and conflict of interest. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Masem (talkcontribs) -13:36, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
One article that I have on my "to do list" is a short one about the armoured train ambush in 1899 during the Boer War when Winston Churchill was captured. The most reliable account of the ambush was the one written by Churchill himself (he was a war correspondent), though there are number of sources that refer to the incident (for example, who actually catured Churchill). How should one approach such an article, especially when most of the details of the actual ambush are themselves derived from Churchill's writings, and Churchil was not one to hold back from promoting himself? (The ambush itself was a minor action in the war - the real significance was that Churchill was captured as a result of the ambush). Martinvl (talk) 14:08, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
Arguable, Churchill's account is the primary source, but as you've said other people have referred to the account, that means there's likely third-party sources to augment to Churchill's version. It doesn't matter if the bulk of the info is coming from Churchill's writings, the point on WP:V and third-party sources is to assure that we've got more than one voice (Churchill here) to assert the topic at hand. --MASEM (t) 14:31, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
What we are saying is this... if the ONLY account of this ambush was Churchill's, then we should not have a separate article on the ambush. That does not mean we can not mention the ambush in other articles and cite Churchill's account. For example, it could (and to my mind should) be used in the bio article Winston S. Churchill. Blueboar (talk) 14:41, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
The point that I'm making is: is the distinction a useful one within this policy? You have agreed that all secondary sources are, by definition, third-party. Currently the policy uses the term third-party source in ways that leave its meaning unclear (which gave rise to the present discussion). I'm suggesting we could substitute the familiar, well-defined term secondary source without changing the effect of the policy, and that by doing so, we would clarify the policy for our community of editors who need to understand and apply it practically. But if the distinction is indeed one this policy needs to make, then it needs to define its use of the term, and the applicability to the policy, in an introductory Third-party sources section. PL290 (talk) 15:58, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
PL290 wrote "You have agreed that all secondary sources are, by definition, third-party." Absolutely not. For example, the report of the 9/11 Commission is a secondary source because it is a synthesis and analysis of documents and testimony presented to the commission. But, because it s a US government commission, and because the Pentagon was attacked, the 9/11 Commission was a first party source. Jc3s5h (talk) 16:09, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
It seems you're using the term in a different way from Masem. PL290 (talk) 16:53, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
No, I agree with Jc3s5h. It is possible to have 1st party, secondary sources. That's an example that captures the difference quite well. Another is directory commentary on DVDs - first party but secondary source. --MASEM (t) 18:06, 2 October 2010 (UTC)

One big objection I have to "third party" is that it is a legal term, referring to a legal person. Arguably, the United States government is a single legal person, as is the Russian government, the Chinese government, etc. Because these governments are involved in nearly everything, a large proportion of our articles are affected. Just for instance, the United States is currently holding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in connection with the September 11 attacks, making the US government a first party to the attacks. This mean that all of the following must be regarded as first party sources: FAA air traffic voice recordings, National Weather Service forecasts and data for the areas attacked on 9/11, every federal court ruling, the 9/11 Commission, all the technical tests on wreckage by NIST, any notices to mariners the Coast Guard might have issued in the wake of the attacks, and the list goes on. In short, using the term "first person" changes the test from "are the human beings who actually wrote and published the material disinterested in the topic?" to "are the human beings who actually wrote and published the material employees or contractors for a legal person who could be regarded as a first person?"

Given this and your reply to me above, if we are to cease to use the term third-party, what is it that you think the policy should say? PL290 (talk) 16:53, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
While "Third party" is a term that has a legal meaning... it has other meanings as well. In this case we are not using it as a legal term, we are using it in one of its other meanings. Blueboar (talk) 17:57, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
I would use "independent" or "disinterested", and clarify that we want sources that have no financial, contractual, egotistical, or ideological motivation to favor a certain point of view. Jc3s5h (talk) 18:26, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
I think you have a point. This conversation shows that the term third party is open to various interpretations, some of them colloquial, by different readers. Even if the dictionary definition is used, it's not clear who the first and second party are. All of this makes the term inadequate for conveying the intended meaning of the policy. It would be helpful if you would propose amended sentences here so that others can consider the effect. PL290 (talk) 19:31, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
I would support either keeping things as they are, or changing to "independent". I don't think it really matters which we use as they mean the same thing. Blueboar (talk) 21:37, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
"Independent" is not the same as third-party. There are "Dependent" third-parties, such as the television network that broadcasts a show, or a news network reporting on a story about a sibling company of an overarching parent conglomerate. --MASEM (t) 21:42, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
It's not just a matter of substituting one word for another: neither term has meaning unless put in a specific context. Let me put it another way. Consider the general case: forget sources, forget Wikipedia; you are reading a policy. The policy is applicable to your relationship with an organization. Without going further or even considering what kind of policy it is, we have already introduced two parties: you and the organization. And, to return to WP:V, a policy applicable to your (the editor's) relationship wtih an organization (Wikipedia) and how you go about sourcing articles, both of those parties are highly relevant in discussions about where content is sourced from. Substituting a term such as independent does not help, since the independence of these two parties is relevant in exactly the same way (but still nothing to do with the point under discussion). Hence to succeed in conveying this point, the policy must make some very clear introductory statements. Those introductory statements are going to need to identify precisely what parties are referred to by any chosen term the policy then uses. That's why I think it will help if some wording is proposed here. PL290 (talk) 08:14, 3 October 2010 (UTC)
In response to PL290's request, I suggest the following change in the Burden of Evidence section:

If no independent<ref name="independent">An independent source has no significant financial, contractual, or ideological ties to the topic that would make it favor a particular point of view, or has clearly established a reputation for ignoring such ties (e.g. ''The PBS Newshour'' has a reputation for criticizing the US government despite PBS receiving some government funds).</ref> reliable sources can be found on a topic, Wikipedia should not have an article on it.

In the Reliable sources section remove "third-party" and the parentheses around "independent" and make another reference to the footnote. Elsewhere, replace "third-party" with "independent" and a reference to the footnote, with two exceptions.
In the Questionable sources section and the Self-published and questionable sources as sources on themselves replace "third-parties" with "others". Jc3s5h (talk) 14:42, 3 October 2010 (UTC)
Oppose reliance on a footnote. The policy should devote an introductory subsection to defining a term, and then use that term consistently throughout. PL290 (talk) 15:28, 3 October 2010 (UTC)

I think when you start out saying "third party-bad, independent-good", you need to stretch and stretch the definition of independent until you back into the definition of "third party" in the colloquial sense of not taking a side others have given above and I have given below. Let me make the case for "independent-bad": the word refers to the lack of relationship between a person, corporation, or organization and another person, corporation, or organization -- a dependency relationship like employment, family, funding, former employment, subsidiary, marriage, interlocking board of directors, etc. The problem is that independent doesn't refer to disputes, competing claims of fact, etc. (namely the content we edit) but to personal, corporate, or organizational identities.

Mere advocacy of the same disputed point doesn't take away ones independence from the first advocate of the disputed point - it doesn't create a dependency relationship between one and that person, corporation, or organization. What it means it is you are, on this disputed point taking a side, and no longer are a third party, which is why third party is the appropriate term for "the guy not taking a side in the dispute". patsw (talk) 18:01, 3 October 2010 (UTC)

The term third party doesn't necessily mean "the guy not taking a side in the dispute" at all. If I'm out driving and another car crashes into mine, the driver of that car is a third party, but may certainly take a side in a dispute and claim I caused the accident. Notwithstanding that, however, the phrase may well remain the best one if properly defined: would you care to propose an introductory subsection defining the policy's use of the term? PL290 (talk) 18:32, 3 October 2010 (UTC)
In fact, classically, the primary purpose of the "third party" was to (ultimately) take a side. That's what judges are supposed to do, after all. A judge shouldn't be a principal actor in a dispute, but forming an opinion and choosing a winner is perfectly acceptable for a third party. WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:46, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
I'm not sure how this affects your argument, but the guy who crashed his car into yours is the second party, not a third party; he's the other direct party to the event. —chaos5023 (talk) 18:37, 3 October 2010 (UTC)
In terms of my relationship with my insurance company, he is a third party. What you have shown is one more example of how the term is inadequate unless defined to have a meaning within a certain context. PL290 (talk) 18:54, 3 October 2010 (UTC)
The context is taking sides in a dispute. A car accident is a bizarre example having nothing to do with what we are discussing. patsw (talk) 00:39, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
Patsw, I think your argument works in favor of using "independent". If a person with no stake in a disputed issue agrees with one of the positions, that is useful for Wikipedia; it helps us decide who is probably right and which point of view should be given the most emphasis in an article. Wikipedia is not obliged to take a position that no external dispute can ever be resolved. Sometimes there is a winner, and if the vast majority of independent sources say X is the winning position, Wikipedia should say so too. Never taking a position isn't being third-party, it isn't being independent, it's being indecisive. Jc3s5h (talk) 18:58, 3 October 2010 (UTC)
Before I respond to your comment, do you agree with my definition of independent, or are you referring to another definition? patsw (talk) 00:39, 4 October 2010 (UTC)

Third parties and verifiability, an explanation

  • "Third party" is a colloquial term meaning "neutral party" or "disinterested party" or "the guy not taking a side". The example above of Algebra is a terrible starting point because there is no identifiable dispute among advocates or promoters of Algebra and it detractors. There might be a dispute over most effective means to teach it, and so in this case, a "third party" might be a firm hired by a school district or the DOE to evaluate the various methods of teaching it, or a magazine article explaining the controversy.
  • Verifiability works in marginal cases for establishing existence and significance in conjunction with determining if the subject merits a stand-alone article (Wikipedia's term of art for criteria here is notability). So here, a "third party" can be necessary to verify the existence of the subject, and, if necessary, what's significant about this subject apart from the claims the subject makes about himself (herself, itself).
  • Verifiability with attribution works in the core content of an article to identify what is claimed by whom. Perhaps other encyclopedias employ fact-checkers to personally verify information, but what Wikipedia allows is the reader is to see where its content came from. From context it should be clear if its source is advocate, detractor, or "third party".
  • The development of this guideline came about to address articles which were well-written and verifiable, and even independent of the subject (avoiding WP:COI), but were written summarizing only the content created by its advocates (or its detractors). A point that perhaps is expressed too subtly in the guideline is there are the distinctions between the subject, and advocates who are independent of the subject (in a employment or organizational sense), and third-parties without a stake in the outcome who observe and comment without taking a side (or at least not letting their personal opinion affect their objective account). patsw (talk

The Basics: X-Party and Y-source are distinct categories

Party (colloquial, not legal usage)

  • First party makes a claim
  • Second party denies the claim, or offers another claim for which both claims cannot be true
  • Third party observes, comments, etc. and doesn't assert or deny any claims, and doesn't have a stake (financial, ideological, etc.) in the outcome

Source

  • Primary, a participant or an eye-witness giving a contemporaneous account
  • Secondary, an account based on contact with persons who are primary sources, or on review of writings or recordings of primary accounts
  • Tertiary, content based upon some combination or primary, second, and tertiary accounts. patsw (talk) 18:29, 2 October 2010 (UTC)

Comments

One clarity: a secondary source can build on other secondary or tertiary works itself. But importantly is the idea of "review" (eg analysis and evolution of new conclusions, and not simple reiteration). --MASEM (t) 19:05, 2 October 2010 (UTC)

As a minor point: Outside of a legal dispute, the existence of a "second party" is not necessary. If Grandma writes on her blog that she celebrated her birthday with a party today, she's the "first party" for that information. If you happened to see her at the birthday party (say, because you were working at the restaurant where the party was held), then you're the "third party". There needn't be a "second party" contesting the facts for a "third party" to verify them. WhatamIdoing (talk) 22:00, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
Good point. The number of second parties may be zero, one, or more in the colloquial sense. In your hypothetical zero there are disputed facts. Alternatively, one person might have a dispute regarding the locale of the party, and another person might have a dispute with the date of the event. patsw (talk) 03:27, 3 October 2010 (UTC)

RfC: removing "third-party sources"

On this talk page there's a suggestion that the policy should stop using the term third-party sources. The discussion has not resolved exactly how that term's application in the policy differs from secondary sources, or what parties it identifies, depending on the topic area. Should the policy continue to use a term other than secondary sources, and if so, how should it define its use of the term? PL290 (talk) 08:41, 4 October 2010 (UTC)

Comments (third-party sources RfC)

(no threaded discussion here, please)

  • Define if used. The NPOV policy covers neutrality of sources, so I'm not convinced WP:V needs to say more than secondary sources. However, if it does need to use a different term, such as third-party sources, it should devote an introductory subsection to defining its use of the term, and use it consistently throughout, so that our editors may gain a clear understanding of its applicability within the policy. PL290 (talk) 08:41, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Leave as is. User:WhatamIdoing's essay does a very good job of defining the terms. --JN466 11:30, 7 October 2010 (UTC)

Threaded discussion (third-party sources RfC)

  • Masem's explaination is pretty clear about first parties, third parties, and secondary sources. However, since the colloquial use of nth parties is derived from the legal usage, there is considerable freedom to adopt different meanings, particularly with the second party. Fortunately the second party is not important to this discussion.
I would especially emphasize that there is no implication of neutrality in the term "secondary source". Any source that was not an actor or eyewitness to the matter in question can be called a secondary source, because, of necessity, such a source is analyzing documents and testimony of actors and eyewitnesses, or of other secondary sources. For example, the prosecutor in a court case is almost always a secondary source, because the prosecutor is almost never an eyewitness or actor in the alleged crime, but the prosecutor would not normally be thought of as a neutral or independent party. Jc3s5h (talk) 19:55, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
Correct... we need to maintain a neutral POV... but our sources do not. The ideal sources are reliable secondary sources that are written by neutral third-parties... but this does not mean that a biased secondary source should be ignored or forbidden. Blueboar (talk) 23:13, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
  • If "third-party" is to be removed, it might help if one could give a concrete example of how that might be done. How would that be done for the following sentence from Burden of evidence?
"If no reliable third-party sources can be found on a topic, Wikipedia should not have an article on it."
--Bob K31416 (talk) 21:39, 4 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Similarly, if there is to be an introductory section for defining "third-party", it might help if a possible version of it could be shown. Please note that I offered a footnote for defining it and that small addition was not supported. I wonder if those who support the use of "third-party" without explanation, and who were against the footnote, could even make a definition of "third-party" that would be acceptable to a consensus here. --Bob K31416 (talk) 22:20, 4 October 2010 (UTC)

New essay

I've just move WP:Party and person into the WP namespace, complete with examples that I hope will be starkly illustrative. People who don't understand how a "third party" is different from a "secondary source" are encouraged to read it, and to ask questions there. (People who do understand the difference are encouraged to answer questions and improve the explanation.  ;-) WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:16, 7 October 2010 (UTC)

Excellent job! --JN466 11:31, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
This is a good solution IMO. Even if someone doesn't like something about the present form of the explanation, it can be modified and improved like any guidance in Wikipedia and will always be there to help the reader. How about putting a wikilink to it in WP:V?
"If no reliable third-party sources can be found on a topic, Wikipedia should not have an article on it."
--Bob K31416 (talk) 17:58, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
I didn't see this note before linking to Wiktionary, but as it's a brand-new essay, written by me, I don't think I'd be comfortable linking to it myself outside of the "See also" section. If someone else wants to, then I have no objection, of course, but I'll let others make that choice. WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:17, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
[4] [5] --Bob K31416 (talk) 19:44, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
Yes, very nice job, 'doing, although I found the section on "Combinatorics" a little opaque. Gatoclass (talk) 01:31, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
I'd be happy to have you improve it so that it is clearer. Specifically, it would be nice to have an real example that has produced multiple sources of each of the four most relevant types (i.e., a first-part primary source, a first-party secondary source, a third-party primary source, and a third-party secondary source). WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:14, 10 October 2010 (UTC)

Defining documents as sources

This discussion has been moved to Wikipedia talk:No original research#Defining documents as sources. Sorry for any problems caused by having the discussion in two places. -- JTSchreiber (talk) 05:03, 11 October 2010 (UTC)

Relevance tag?

Do we have a tag that can be used when some bit of information is verifiable, but not really relevant to the topic of an article? Or to question the relevance of information to the topic? Blueboar (talk) 16:10, 9 October 2010 (UTC)

Template:Relevance note is what you want. Roger (talk) 16:31, 9 October 2010 (UTC)
thanks... that is what I want. Blueboar (talk) 16:35, 9 October 2010 (UTC)

Reasonability in WP:burden

Wikipedia:BURDEN#Burden_of_evidence works very well in cases dealing with small amounts of material. Editors can chalenge it, and other editors can back it up.

However, I'm dealing with this issue on Science in medieval Islam. A large amount of material was deleted that was originally written by a user who has a reputation of synthesis, bias, and misrepresenting what the source was actually saying. Nevertheless, I found many of his edits were completely in accordance with WP, so not all of his edits are bad.

The dilemma here is that article after article is being blanked (Islamic ethics, Islamic metaphysics, Islamic economics in the world) or almost blanked (Physics in medieval Islam, Science in medieval Islam), and the deleting editors have acknowleged that they are not necessarily investigating each of the hundreds of sentences they are deleting. In 4/5 of these articles the deleting editors made no attempt to rewrite the article.

So, if I think that the articles on the above mentioned subjects should stand, and that attempts to deleting the entire history of Muslim scholarship are a violating of NPOV, what sort of obligations does WP:UNDUE WP:BURDEN put upon myself? How much time would I reasonably be expected to have? Is there any obligation, at all, for the deleting editors to actually consider every sentence before deleting it?Bless sins (talk) 14:24, 6 October 2010 (UTC)

In those cases with which I am familiar, the material is being removed in order to provide a clean slate on which the article can be rewritten using appropriately documented material. Since allowing such undocumented claims to remain in these articles clearly damages the reputation of Wikipedia as an encyclopedia, there is good reason for removing them. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 20:10, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
Then you must not be familiar with Islamic ethics, Islamic metaphysics, Islamic economics in the world, where the articles were deleted and simply redirected (no attempt was made to "rewrite"). Physics in medieval Islam has also remained "a clean slate" since 18 July, when the material was removed, with no attempt to rewrite.
Also, I would appreciate your response to the three questions I asked above.Bless sins (talk) 20:47, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
UNDUE deals with balance between sourced material. UNDUE is not incompatible with the deletion of unsourced statements. I would strongly encourage you to find citations and add material back in as you are able to cite statements. Jclemens (talk) 21:00, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
Almost every sentence of the material removed was sourced. And it appears it was sourced to reliable sources. No problems with specific material had been specificied (that hadn't already been removed). However, the editor had a history of misrepresenting reliable sources and synthesizing material, and on that basis the article was removed.
You seem to have responded to two of my questions (i.e my obligation is to find sources, and the material remains out until I find sources) - thank you for that. Can you respond to the third question: what obligation do deleting editors have? Are they required to, at the very least, read what they delete?Bless sins (talk) 22:35, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
My view is that material contributed by banned editors, where the banning was related to contributing unreliable material to articles, may be removed without considering the merit of the material; the WP:Assume good faith guideline states "This guideline does not require that editors continue to assume good faith in the presence of contrary evidence." Jc3s5h (talk) 23:17, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
That's interesting (though lets note that the editor in question was not banned). I'm not sure how much the AGF applies - edits made in bad faith can still be acceptable under wikipolicy. In fact, on disputed articles most edits seem to be made in bad faith. So the question I guess would be, if an edit is made by a user who has previously edited in bad faith, but still meets wiki policies, then can it be deleted on the basis of previous bad faith alone? If you think yes, we can post this at WP:AGF for further clarification.Bless sins (talk) 00:37, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
Correction
  • In my original question, when I said WP:UNDUE, I meant WP:BURDEN, that is the policy I'm referring to. I apologize for any confusion.Bless sins (talk) 00:51, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
Hold on... are we discussing this at the right venue? Looking at the talk page, the reasons given for the removal of the content had nothing to do with WP:BURDEN... the complaint was misuse of sources... essentially that the material was based upon cherry picking quotations and taking the sources out of context. That relates more to WP:NOR (with elements of WP:NPOV thrown in) than WP:V. Blueboar (talk) 03:21, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
Honestly, this case is so peculiar to me, I'm not sure where the discussion goes. This is about removing material based on who wrote it, not based on whether the material in question violates NPOV, NOR, Verifiability, etc. I've never seen such a rationale used on wikipedia before.
There are editors arguing that if an editor has a history of violating wiki policies, then each and every one of his edits (including "edits that are actually fine") can be deleted, with the implication that one can delete content on wikipedia without even bothering to read it. I don't think such actions are within policy. Another editor believes such actions may not be appropriate, so long as the history of violations doesn't deal with copyvio and BLP vio.[6]
Where can I clarify this?Bless sins (talk) 21:27, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
At Talk:Science in medieval Islam#Misuse of sources I gave a short overview of the problem, with two stunning examples of undue material that had been introduced by a problem editor (the editor is not blocked because they desisted after an RfC). The examples involve the problem editor adding sourced text to the effect that someone from 800 years ago is considered the "father of robotics" and "father of modern day engineering", and that another person from 1200 years ago described an early concept of relativity, which some see as a precursor to the later theory of relativity developed by Albert Einstein. There are lots more examples like this, although these two are among the worst. The question is, should a removing editor justify (per WP:BURDEN) the removal of each claim added by the problem editor, or, should a restoring editor be required to justify (per WP:BURDEN) the restoration of any removed claim. It's tricky because most claims have hard-to-access sources: for example, I have not examined the sources for the robotics and relativity claims just mentioned since I view them as nonsense. The problem occurs with other material that is not so clear cut. Johnuniq (talk) 03:54, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
1. Instead of deletion, would the tag {{Disputed}} work?
2. Re "It's tricky because most claims have hard-to-access sources" - Suggest adding {{dubious}} to the disputed item, and on the talk page requesting the excerpt from the source that supports the disputed item. --Bob K31416 (talk) 11:03, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
Regarding WP:BURDEN, the first sentence is
"The burden of evidence lies with the editor who adds or restores material."
Perhaps this may need to be rewritten since it suggests that anything from any article can be removed without cause and the burden of evidence lies with the editor who restores it. --Bob K31416 (talk) 11:23, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
I think you've captured the message I was trying to convey here. I do (sort of) agree with Johnuniq that going through every reference (given they're hard to access) is not reasonable. But I would expect the deleting editor to, at the very least, read everything he deletes. I would also like the editor to exercise some discretion and use common sense when deleting. In other words, there should be some burden on the deleting party to not go around questioning everything (in this case everything an editor wrote), but base questioning after carefully reading the material (though not necessarily verifying the source).Bless sins (talk) 23:14, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
@Bob K31416: The problem is that in this case there are many articles where hundreds of factoids have been added, and it would not be helpful to add {{dubious}} to a significant number of them. For some examples, see WP:Jagged 85 cleanup.
@Bless sins: I fully agree with your comment, and I would oppose any edits which suggested a cavalier delete attitude. There is no good solution to this problem: on the one hand, many examples of extraordinarily undue POV pushing have been documented (suggesting heavy deletions are appropriate), yet on the other hand, it is totally correct that many major advances were made by people from the Islamic world. I write "Islamic world" because I am most unhappy with attempts to label scientists according to their religion since such labels are rarely helpful and reliably assigned (knowing, for example, that a scientist was raised as a Catholic in no way indicates that their science was "Catholic" or influenced by Catholicism). Johnuniq (talk) 00:23, 9 October 2010 (UTC)
As such, we need to describe what constitutes "cavalier delete attitude", and how much burden the deleting editor has:
  • is he required to read each sentence he deletes?
  • is he required to, after reading the sentences, use common sense (or good judgement) as to whether the sentences violate wiki policy?
  • is he required to evaluate the material for WP violations (and not just use good judgement)?
I think that in all cases the above two should apply, while the third one should apply in most cases with some exceptions.Bless sins (talk) 23:59, 14 October 2010 (UTC)

Is it now "everything needs to be attributed"?

Is the policy now

All material in Wikipedia articles must be attributable to a reliable published source to show that it is not original research. In practice everything needs to be attributed.

I pose this question seriously because some in AfD discussions imply this is now the case, and I am speaking beyond the biography of living persons but to all classes of articles. patsw (talk) 01:47, 12 October 2010 (UTC)

The answer is "no", and AfD !voters who express such a sentiment should have their !votes weighed appropriately. Deletion is for when things cannot be improved, cleanup is for when things can. Jclemens (talk) 01:55, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
In an ideal world, the answer is "yes". Since we don't live in an ideal world, the answer is "yes" if 'need' is replaced with 'should' for non-negative information. NW (Talk) 02:00, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
The second sentence is just wrong. In practice, "The human hand normally has four fingers and one thumb" does not need to be attributed anywhere, much less inline, even in an FA-quality article.
Furthermore, outside of FAC, editors commonly use general references (because "verifiable" is not the same as "provided with an inline citation") or don't choose to name the same inline citations at the end of every sentence, but instead prefer to focus the citations on statistics, counterintuitive, or controversial material. WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:30, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
That's certainly fair. And I understand your comment about the human hand and all, however the vast majority of statements are in practice not like that. General references are nice, but I feel are inferior to inline citations, which should be used whenever possible. As the harm is comparatively low for overciting vs. a comparatively higher harm for underciting, I feel that overciting should be the end goal. But, that's just my opinion on ideals, in practice our positions are probably much the same. NW (Talk) 03:48, 12 October 2010 (UTC)

The second sentence is generally correct. Not everything should be sourced, but most should. According to Jimmy Wales, during a discussion I had on his talk page,

"It is desirable to source everything, but some things are simply common knowledge to the point that demanding a source (or else removing it) is just WP:POINT. (Christmas Day is December 25th. France is a country in Europe."

NuclearWarfare's example about human fingers is another good one. Nightscream (talk) 07:06, 12 October 2010 (UTC)

Regarding the original question at the top of this section, the answer is no, according to the following phrase in the second paragraph of the lead.
"...but in practice not everything need actually be attributed."
--Bob K31416 (talk) 11:10, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
Editors may wish to read Wikipedia:You don't need to cite that the sky is blue (and its twin, which encourages editors to carefully consider whether "simple" statements really are as simple as "Christmas Day is December 25th", since the Orthodox Christmas is set on a different calendar). The associated legal concept is Judicial notice, which may interest some readers. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:56, 12 October 2010 (UTC)

Sources with user-generated content

Can the policy page include material on sources with user generated content? The sections on Questionable sources and Self-published sources already mention sources with poor editorial control, and sources whose content is indeed user-generated, like open wikis, blogs, forums, etc. Can those two sections be combined into one? If not, can the user-generated nature of some sites' content be added to those sections or their headings? I tried to edit one of those headings, but I then realized it would screw up redirects. Nightscream (talk) 07:06, 12 October 2010 (UTC)

This isn't supposed to be a complete guide to reliable sourcing. WP:RS would be the place for guidance like you are describing. Gigs (talk) 13:42, 14 October 2010 (UTC)

Clarify policy for another editor

On a recent AFD User:Colonel Warden has claimed that the wording of WP:V to claim that articles do not need sourcing, and that the only sourcing required is for contentious material (from the page: but in practice not everything need actually be attributed). He went on to state It is important to resist demands for sources in uncontroversial cases for several reasons. Firstly, it is a chore which few editors will bother with and the few that are willing to do it are thus overloaded and should save their efforts for the more important cases. Secondly, if editors are pressed to follow sources closely then it tends to encourage plagiarism and copyright violation.. I think he is misreading WP:V as "we do not need sources in articles". Could a couple of editors please clarify that this is incorrect and help explain the Colonel that he is wrong. --Errant [tmorton166] (chat!) 12:29, 11 October 2010 (UTC)

I rarely agree with Colonel Warden, but in this case I do. Insisting on sources for articles such as egg slicer is simply fundamentalism. Our verifiability and original research rules exist for making it easier to write a correct and complete encyclopedia, not to turn writing about simple facts that everybody knows into a complicated game. Such stubs are where we invite readers with special knowledge to join us, and add little known special information and pointers to sources that we would otherwise never find. Hans Adler 13:06, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
  • My view of this matter was informed by the recent discussion here in which it was confirmed that our consensus is that material just needs to be attributable; it does not need to be attributed in every case. The editor who propounded a more extreme view was subsequently found to have been editing articles by pasting sentences verbatim from sources without any paraphrase or rewording. He did this not out of laziness but apparently because he had been terrified about making any expression of supposed OR. Clearly, we must strike a reasonable balance between the Scylla of unsourced rambling and the Charybdis of plagiarism and copyright infringement. This balance must surely have an element of need. We do not provide sources just because we can - Wikipedia is not a search engine. We provide sources where they seem appropriate and helpful and this should be determined on a case-by-case basis. Colonel Warden (talk) 13:10, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
    • Yes, but at worst, for a stand-alone topic, we need to have some type of third-party source (per WP:V), so that's at least one source per article. Of course, notability tends to require significant coverage from secondary sources, but that's a guideline and can be overriden per consensus - but usually there's good reason to do so. The problem is that neither WP, Wikitionary, or any other sister project is readily designed to handle such mundane topics (as pointed in the AFD) at standalone. On the other hand, this is exactly the type of function that glossaries can handle, eg "Glossary of furniture terminology" or "Glossary of kitchen utensils" for "egg slicer"; if the term has a fully article devoted to it, great, we can still include in a glossary with seealso/main links, but if not, we've still got it covered with redirect links to anchors so its still searchable. --MASEM (t) 13:25, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
(edit conflict)It is important to note that that talks about attributed, but you should be able to cite everything. The stuff about the other editor you mention is misdirection because that is unrelated to the idea of citing material, indeed direct citation such as that helps to avoid such scenarios (because we can check the source for copyvios). TO pick a random comment from DGG Inline citations are not required except for specific disputed facts. Requiring them is way beyond the standard of any normal academic tertiary source, of even the highest standards. Things must be referenced, certainly, but to in a sufficiently exact manner to permit verification,and nothing more is generally necessary. The only sorts of writing I know which actually use inline references for everything are legal opinions and medical textbooks, two very specialized genres, notyorious for their lack of general readability. - which is exactly right. The consensus of that discussion seems clear and in line with current policy; all content should be reasonably sourced, all contentious material should be directly attributed :) I do not see it clearly giving leave to have unsourced articles. I dispute the interpretation that the article topic is a "simple fact" - the common example is to say "there is no need to cite that Paris is in France", which is true... except in the Paris article where it should be sourced. :) see the distinction? --Errant [tmorton166] (chat!) 13:31, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Colonel Warden is absolutely correct as far as WP:Verifiability goes (when it comes to mundane, non-contested information, as long as we are able to verify the information, we are not required to actually do so) but he is not correct as far as WP:Notability goes (which states that we must establish that the topic is notable, through citation to reliable sources). To put this another way... While writing an article without citing any sources does not necessarily violate WP:V... writing an article without citing any sources will not pass WP:N. Blueboar (talk) 13:44, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
Hmm, that is concerning terminology, I can see it being abused... but fair enough. Although I argue that it is reasonable to ask for a source for any content (within reason) and if not provided to cut it. And if provided to add it to the article becomes beneficial. --Errant [tmorton166] (chat!) 13:49, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
Absolutely... WP:BURDEN makes that clear. Blueboar (talk) 14:09, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
  • You are mistaken about WP:N which states that "Notability does not directly affect the content of articles, but only their existence.". In other words, notability does not require there to be sources within the article; they are merely a convenience to protect the article from editors who will prod and deface articles which have no sources. Colonel Warden (talk) 14:14, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
  • But, why, when in possession of a source would you not add it to an article? What advantage is there in not providing citations for verifiability? Indeed surely it should be encouraged to add source material to an article to ensure that content is verifiable, to check for plagarism and to establish notability. You are essentially advocating, here, a policy of not providing sources in articles, which strikes me as counter-productive and leading to a hell of a lot more work - as well as increased danger of unreliability --Errant [tmorton166] (chat!) 14:23, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
CW... That's my point... specific content does not need to be sourced... but at least one source is needed to establish that the topic is notable. Blueboar (talk) 14:40, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
  • I just clicked random article a few times to find an article with no sources. In about four clicks, I found Storstrømmen. This has no references but nobody cares because, being a geographical place, it is at little risk of deletion. Colonel Warden (talk) 16:28, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
Notice what appears to be an inconsistency or error in the second sentence of that article. It looks like "Grønsund" is mistakenly there instead of "Storstrømmen" but who knows what it should be without a reference. You somehow concluded that nobody cares about not having references there. One could also conclude that no one cares about having incorrect information in that article. --Bob K31416 (talk) 23:42, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
You are correct about Grønsund, according to the corresponding Danish article. Fixed. --Hordaland (talk) 09:57, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
Thanks, but I notice that the corresponding Danish article also doesn't give a source so I'm not sure how reliable the information is, regarding 36 m depth, etc. --Bob K31416 (talk) 15:50, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Col. Warden is correct. Notability does not demand that sources be referenced in the article, but that they exist. The flip side of BURDEN is BEFORE, which demands a good faith effort to ascertain sources do not exist before nominating an article for deletion. Obviously, best practice is to include sufficient sources such that notability is obvious, but a breach of that best practice is not, itself, evidence of non-notability. Jclemens (talk) 22:55, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Yes, Col Warden is entirely correct. The relevant line is at WP:FAILN: "Remember that all Wikipedia articles are not a final draft, and an article can be notable if such sources exist even if they have not been added at present." Notability only cares whether suitable sources exist. A completely unref'd article may deal with an obviously notable subject. Cancer was clearly a notable subject in 2001, even though the first drafts of the article contained zero references. The same can be said about many thousands of subjects whose notability none of you would question. WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:40, 12 October 2010 (UTC)

Ok, I think this interpretation of policy is wrong because it was pointed out to me that it is in direct violation of the 5 pillars, the second pillar reads: All articles must strive for verifiable accuracy: unreferenced material may be removed, so please provide references. Editors' personal experiences, interpretations, or opinions do not belong here. That means citing verifiable, authoritative sources, especially on controversial topics and when the subject is a living person. - which seems very clear. --Errant [tmorton166] (chat!) 18:17, 12 October 2010 (UTC)

  • 5P is just an essay that tries to provide basic information to new editors, rather than a policy. The actual policies require information to be verifiable (that means "possible to verify", not "already cited").
  • WP:Verifiability is not WP:Notability. As an example, Cancer is a notable subject for an article, and it would remain a notable subject, even if the article named zero sources of any kind (as it once did). The absence of citations does not prove that a subject is not notable; similarly, the presence of citations does not prove that a subject is notable (e.g., if the citations are irrelevant WP:REFSPAM). WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:37, 12 October 2010 (UTC)

Sources and the reader

  • Please keep in mind that a reader will come to Wikipedia to find information that the reader didn't know. Without that newly found information being sourced, how is the reader to know how reliable it is? Sourcing is important for credibility. --Bob K31416 (talk) 13:54, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
    • I don't think our lists of sources add much credibility for most subjects. Most readers seem to ignore them. (I wish they paid more attention; we'd spot NOR violations and subtle vandalism much faster if they did.) WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:40, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
I'm a bit surprised by your response, so let me ask about your own experience as a reader of Wikipedia, not an editor. When you personally use Wikipedia for information on some subject, i.e. not for your activity of editing but just for information for your own use, does it matter to you whether an article or item of information is sourced, with regard to how credible the information is? --Bob K31416 (talk) 10:47, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
If I may answer first: For me as a reader it is of little importance whether the information in an article is sourced or not. What does matter is how much attention the article got, how contentious it is, and how what it says fits into the things I already know or can find elsewhere on the web, including in such dubious places a web discussions or product review sites. (As a reader I usually come in via Google.) The real advantage of citations is that they sometimes point to excellent resources that Google didn't find for me. Whether sourced or not, the average quality of a Wikipedia article is at least as high as that of any random publication that we would accept as a reliable source. Hans Adler 12:14, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
Your behavior is likely different from the average user that come to WP first (as it often is the first hit on Google for a topic), and expect to find sources listed out there. This is not to say your way is wrong, but I even remember that my grade school suggested that when you do research on an unfamiliar topic, the first place to hit is an encyclopedia to get an overview and to find sources, and the way we are structured, we are there to suit that purpose quite well. By happenstance, we also met those that aren't looking for sources but a re-review of what they've come to learn to get a big picture. But we only aimed to meet that goal, we would fail on the approach of being a summary with numerous pointers for more details. --MASEM (t) 13:29, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
And so would every general-interest, printed-on-paper encyclopedia I've ever seen, particularly if it was aimed at grade-school children. Until very recently, only highly specialized encyclopedias listed sources (and those few were almost always general references, e.g., a couple of key papers listed at the end of the article). WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:51, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
My behaviour is different from the average person in almost every thing I do, but not looking at the sources of a Wikipedia is quite certainly not one of them. I would be very surprised if even 5% of our readers regularly looked at sources. Hans Adler 18:23, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
Hans' response is very similar to my own. If I'm reading something that I have no interest in editing (e.g., pop culture, history, physics, botany), I basically never look at the sources. So long as the content seems plausible, for all I know, those articles are uniformly "sourced" to refspam and personal blogs. (And if it doesn't sound plausible, then my first stop is the article history, to check for recent vandalism, not the cited refs.)
Like Hans, I very occasionally use refs as a "further reading" source, but those tend to be articles I'm willing to edit, so I'm looking at them more from the perspective of the editor than the reader. This is a bi-directional process: Whenever I find a great source, I wonder whether the relevant Wikipedia article includes it. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:51, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
Personally, when I'm looking for information in Wikipedia, I don't give much weight to information that isn't sourced because it's open editing where any anonymous editor or editors, with or without competence in the subject, can contribute. You can't count on editors checking each other in the open editing process without sources. It can be the blind leading the blind, or there may not be editors interested in the article who are sufficiently knowledgeable to contest an incorrect item. I recall in at least one article (which I unfortunately don't remember its title) where on the talk page editors were congratulating each other on the good job they had done on an unsourced part of the article. They were wrong and that part was replaced with the correct sourced information that they silently accepted. --Bob K31416 (talk) 11:14, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
As a former GA review I check at least a sample of those citations I can read (web pages; articles that are not behind pay walls). So, like K31416, I don't give much weight to information that isn't sourced. --Philcha (talk) 13:32, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
I don't give much weight to information even if it is (appears to be) sourced. The presence of a footnote is not reassuring, because I know how much can go wrong between the day when a properly sourced statement was added to an article, and the day I'm reading it. Consider, e.g., how often a change like this one happens. WhatamIdoing (talk) 06:02, 14 October 2010 (UTC)
In this case it was corrected in 35 minutes.[7] But even with such a short time, considering the page view statistics for that article, over 100 people may have read only the incorrect version. This brings to mind the question of whether Wikipedia should give the reader a warning regarding the reliability of information in Wikipedia. Most people who read Wikipedia may not know about open editing. Such a warning might include mention of the relative reliability and verifiability of material that is sourced compared to material that isn't.
BTW, the articles Criticism of Wikipedia and Reliability of Wikipedia may be of interest. Regards, --Bob K31416 (talk) 12:22, 14 October 2010 (UTC)
P.S. If you don't give much weight to sourced material, then the weight you give to unsourced material may be quite miniscule? --Bob K31416 (talk) 18:35, 14 October 2010 (UTC)
Pages with the highest googlerank tend to be both popular and good, hence they are more robust against vandalism because they are also on more editors' watchlists. Still, some readers will get incorrect content. See also wp:DISCLAIMER. I citegnome a lot. Sources are very frequently cited incorrectly or incompletely, but at least it provides some place to start looking. If the citation is missing, inaccurate, or incorrectly formed then my trust for the content in the article instantly drops, but I'll still try to follow up to see if the source backs up the statement. Well cited articles are a key enabler for the article review process. Once reviewed, antivandalism patrolling generally preserves citations fairly well, though it may not always preserve the cited assertions to the same extent. Checking the edit history is a key part of weighing the content. If it has been stable over a long time, it is usually trustworthy.LeadSongDog come howl! 16:34, 14 October 2010 (UTC)
The absence of an inline citation doesn't really reduce my faith in the contents. To pick a subject that I know nothing about, I do not find the sentence at Lindsay Lohan "Lohan began showcasing her singing through her acting roles, singing several tracks for the soundtracks of Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen and Freaky Friday." to be any less reliable because it doesn't (currently) sport an inline citation. I have no reason to disbelieve this assertion, and the article appears to be well-written and well-maintained. Putting [1] at the end of the sentence would not change my willingness to believe the statement. For things that I really know nothing about, I suspect that the overall halo effect is far more influential than the presence or absence of an inline citation at the end of a given paragraph. (And with all good cognitive biases, most people think they're magically immune to it.)
If you'd like another example, the presence of "citations" didn't stop me from disbelieving the content that I found at Involuntary commitment a while ago. The "source" was nothing more than personal experiences. If I'd been gullible enough to think that [1] meant the information was accurate, or even sourced to something other than "personal experience", I'd have a very strange view of the Australian mental health care system. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:27, 15 October 2010 (UTC)
Re your comment about the Lindsay Lohan article, "I have no reason to disbelieve this assertion, and the article appears to be well-written and well-maintained." - From your comment, it appears that your perception of "well-written and well-maintained" wasn't influenced by the extensive inline citing in the rest of the article. You might consider how all that citing came to be and what it may indicate.
BTW I can understand how we each can have a different honest perception regarding the connection between sourcing and credibility. Along the lines of something you mentioned earlier IIRC, it may be that most readers don't consider a connection between sourcing and credibility. I recall when I first began getting information from articles in Wikipedia, I didn't know about open editing and I assumed all of Wikipedia to be as accurate as any encyclopedia. Regards, --Bob K31416 (talk) 13:12, 15 October 2010 (UTC)

As a contributor to WP most sourcing I provide arises from the adversarial environment in which much editing takes place. Avoidance of pointless debate leads me to source anything of substance, however obvious.

As a reader, however, I have found many erroneous technical articles, especially those that are seldom edited. Often sourcing supports minor aspects, not the main gist, so sourcing doesn't add to credibility. I do find sourcing useful for finding credible published discussion that goes beyond the article.

WP itself is mainly valuable for expanding my conception of the breadth and depth of a topic, and for providing a reading list. For that reason, I'd advocate sourcing more for expanded discussion than for credibility per se. As such, sources that are available on line (e.g. Google book links) are far more useful than those that require password or account access, or can be found only in specialized libraries or by purchase. Many articles do not adequately link sources, even when such links are readily available. Brews ohare (talk) 17:23, 17 October 2010 (UTC)

You are discussing the difference between "sourcing the article" and "sourcing the statement". I agree that there are a lot of articles that do well at sourcing specific statements, but don't do well as sourcing the article as a whole. Blueboar (talk) 17:32, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
Yes, that's so. There also are many that don't do well at any kind of sourcing. I wonder though if WP:V has a role in encouraging available sources that can be read on line through Google books or other links? I don't find it very helpful to be told that a point is to be found in some out-of-print text that an editor happens to have on their own bookshelf, or even a authoritative text that can be found only in a specialized university library or must be purchased. In the case of an source not readily available, I'd suggest WP:V request a verbatim quotation of the relevant sentences. Brews ohare (talk) 15:38, 18 October 2010 (UTC)
While you may not find such sources helpful... in some cases those are the most reliable sources available. Remember, the point isn't to ensure that every single reader can verify information right this minute, on line, without any effort. The point is simply that the information is able to be verified by someone. Blueboar (talk) 17:13, 18 October 2010 (UTC)
That's a point, but not mine. Brews ohare (talk) 23:26, 18 October 2010 (UTC)
It's a perennial proposal, and never accepted.
As a side note, I noticed a while ago that one dispute-ridden article on my watchlist has a curious pattern: A remarkable proportion of "pro" sources (dominant view) don't list the URLs (even though they are known by the editors in question to be freely available online), and basically all "anti" (both minority and fringe) sources do. So if you're encountering "apparently unavailable" sources, you might want to ask your favorite web search engine whether they're actually unavailable. WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:41, 19 October 2010 (UTC)

WP:SELFPUB and WP:SELFPUBLISH

I don't think it makes much sense that WP:SELFPUB and WP:SELFPUBLISH are links to two different sections -- it seems random which one goes to which section. I think the usability of those tags would be improved if those two sections were merged into one larger section (or one section with a subsection about self-published sources talking about themselves), and both WP:SELFPUB and WP:SELFPUBLISH linked to the merged section. Any objection? Subverdor (talk) 16:31, 17 October 2010 (UTC)

Well... the two sections are discussing different things... the first saying don't use self-published sources for claims about other people and topics, and the second saying that you can use self-published sources for claims about themselves. I do think it is helpful to distinguish these two ideas in separate sub-sections. but perhaps they could be seen as sub-sub-sections of a more general self-published sources section. Blueboar (talk) 17:19, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I understand that they're talking about different things. The main problem I see is in the naming of the WP:SELFPUB and WP:SELFPUBLISH links. If it were "WP:SELFPUBTALKINGABOUTOTHERS" and "WP:SELFPUBTALKINGABOUTSELF" then the naming would make sense, but (a) I didn't see a short way to rename the tags to make that distinction, and (b) merging the sections but making both WP:SELFPUB and WP:SELFPUBLISH link to the same (merged) section avoids the need to update any existing places on WP that link to WP:SELFPUB or WP:SELFPUBLISH. Whether the two aspects of self-published sources (talking about others vs. talking about self) get discussed in the same section, or two subsections of one section, or whatever, seems like more of a detail. Subverdor (talk) 17:56, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
Ah... the only hesitation is that many people have gotten used to using the current links in discussions, and it would cause disruption to remove them. However, there is no reason why a section can not have more than one short cut link. So, my suggestion would be to keep the current links (allowing those who are used to them to continue using them)... but also to create a second, new shortcut link that could be used for WP:V#Self-published and questionable sources as sources on themselves in addition to SELFPUB... say, WP:ABOUTSELF. Blueboar (talk) 20:37, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
I'm specifically in favor of merging the sections because that doesn't have to involve changing the current links in anybody's discussions (both WP:SELFPUB and WP:SELFPUBLISH can simply both point to the merged section). Adding WP:ABOUTSELF or WP:SPSAS to point to the separate "talking about self" section sounds okay as well... actually, WP:ABOUTSELF (which is much better than what I was able to come up with) sounds like a decent way to go.
How about WP:ABOUTSELF as a subsection of the "self-published sources" section? That's currently my favorite option. Subverdor (talk) 21:07, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
OK... I have created the shortcut... and played around with the headers to "group" the concepts. does this resolve the issue? Or should we move SELFPUB up a sub-section... Blueboar (talk) 17:23, 18 October 2010 (UTC)

WP:V and disputes

In my experience, WP:V often is used as a hammer to drive out ideas that aren't popular with some editors. Revision of WP:V should word matters to limit its use as armament in these petty disputes, particularly the tactic of insistence upon an exact verbatim statement of a position before it can be accepted. How can that impasse be avoided? How is WP:V related to WP:OR and WP:SYN? Brews ohare (talk) 16:03, 15 October 2010 (UTC)

SYN is a subsection of OR. OR requires the existence of a source that (directly) says whatever the editor is saying. A subsection of V requires that the editor name that source on request.
There's more on these pages, but I'm guessing that those are the parts that are relevant to your concern. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:45, 15 October 2010 (UTC)
My view is that WP:V should be used to insist upon sources in a dispute, but that it is misused when it requires a verbatim statement of a WP position. There should be allowance for a summary statement, the accuracy of which, if need be, can be supported on Talk pages or by further elaboration on the main page. Refusal to engage in Talk page discussion and its avoidance by simply reiterating that a verbatim source cannot be found is unacceptable. Refusal to consider a summary statement on the main page based upon lack of a verbatim source also is not acceptable.
Insistence on a verbatim statement as a tactic to suppress unpopular views should be discouraged explicitly in WP:V. Brews ohare (talk) 17:15, 15 October 2010 (UTC)
I imagine this would all be much more interesting with illustrative examples. —chaos5023 (talk) 17:16, 15 October 2010 (UTC)
Examples are always illuminating. However, even without them, it is clear that insistence upon verbatim wording is inadvisable as a general practice, and simply enables nitpicking. Brews ohare (talk) 18:48, 15 October 2010 (UTC)
Without examples, we are generating "solutions" without reference to actual extant problems, which, among many dangers, puts us in a position of being vulnerable to manipulation through the "spinning" of reasonable principles to support an unreasonable outcome. While I have no particular reason to think this is what you're doing, it's something that has to be constantly guarded against in policy discussion, and an attempt at performing such manipulation is one of the major reasons someone might display a tremendous reluctance to provide examples. —chaos5023 (talk) 18:55, 15 October 2010 (UTC)

This stupid dispute is a good example. This shows that editors do sometimes impose an unreasonably strict reading of OR/Synth to oppose edits that they don't like, even in articles that are already written in a style where such edits would fit in like fish in water. Note that Brews was topic banned from physics because the types of physics articles he likes to edit are also edited by people who oppose him in exactly the way this example shows, leading to frequent disputes. So, Brews isn't allowed to discuss this specific example here.

Of course, editors can simply not like some example edited in an article and objections on such grounds as e.g. "article bloating" or the "article becoming too textbook-like", have to be taken serious too. I'm glad that when I rewrote this article, I wasn't opposed in the same way; that would have led to heated arguments about citations for every single step in every mathematical derivation in this article (which cannot be given, despite the derivation not being OR in the normal academic meaning). Of course, facing such opposition, I would likely have stopped editing. If not, I would likely have been topic banned like Brews. So, opposition based on an unreasonable appeal to WP:V does exist, even to the point of driving expert editors away from the topic area of their expertise. Count Iblis (talk) 00:09, 16 October 2010 (UTC)

As a side note, requiring wikt:verbatim statements often runs afoul of copyright and plagiarism rules. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:28, 16 October 2010 (UTC)
Reply to chaos5023: As Count Iblis has noted, I have personally been subjected by certain editors numerous times to the abusive use of WP:V to require verbatim statements by sources. Not only has such a request been made, but discussion has been preempted altogether on the basis that if there is no verbatim source, there is no point in discussion. It isn't my imagination.
Raising this issue in the abstract is not an attempt to screw up the system for my personal advantage, but is phrased in the abstract because it can be dealt with outside of any personal issues I might have. It may be that there is difficulty presenting such a discussion within WP:V, of course, but I don't think that is a reason not to make the attempt. For example it could be said this way:

“This policy is not to be used to insist upon a source that is a verbatim statement of a position in a WP article. A WP discussion can be stated in the editor's own words, and referred to sources that may not be directly quotable in the WP discussion because they state the position in an unduly complex manner, or explain the position at greater length than seems appropriate, or skip background that is needed for a general article. Naturally, dispute may arise over whether such a WP discussion is a "true" statement of the material paraphrased or summarized. Such dispute always should be examined on the article Talk page, and if necessary, remaining differences of opinion may be summarized on the article main page with appropriate additional sourcing.”

Brews ohare (talk) 20:50, 16 October 2010 (UTC)

Am I missing something? I don't see anything on this page that says you must quote "verbatim" the source. Discussions about whether reference to a source or sources is appropriate or has gone past the line into original research/synthesis seems to be a discussion more centered on WP:OR and/or WP:SYNTH than WP:V. --John (User:Jwy/talk) 21:00, 16 October 2010 (UTC)

(ec)Digging into the references above, I see that the discussions elsewhere ARE about WP:OR and WP:SYNTH. Not sure this is the best place to discuss this. Text like that proposed above probably more rightly belongs with one of the other policy pages and needs to be carefully worded to avoid opening the door to the problems that those policies are trying to prevent. I think we are willing to give up some elegance and newer, perhaps "better", ways of presenting things in order to prevent "bad" information being presented. --John (User:Jwy/talk) 21:35, 16 October 2010 (UTC)

The point here, User:Jwy is that WP:V often is interpreted to require a verbatim source, especially as a convenient quash by editors who are opposed to a viewpoint themselves, and that abuse can be avoided by a simple explicit denial that will avoid unpleasantness, unfortunate admin actions, and improve the quality of WP articles. Brews ohare (talk) 21:31, 16 October 2010 (UTC)
The example given above, like I said, references the other two, not the WP:V. I still think any changes to text as you suggest belong in one of the other two where it can be carefully worded to be properly balanced with the restrictions required. --John (User:Jwy/talk) 21:39, 16 October 2010 (UTC)
Is this excerpt from WP:NOR what you need? "The best practice is to write articles by researching the most reliable sources on the topic and summarizing what they say in your own words..."[8] --Bob K31416 (talk) 21:48, 16 October 2010 (UTC)
Hey Bob, thanks for that, which covers the right ground. Jwy appears to doubt my veracity in saying that WP:V is used to discourage this practice and to insist upon verbatim sources. However, that does happen, and has happened, and arguments that it is a misuse of WP:V get nowhere. I ma inclined to think that referral to this portion of WP:NOR will not prove conclusive, and you are left with three choices: go to AN/I (always a favorite of mine, as no matter what brings me there it ends up being a sanction for being tendentious), look for days on the web to find a source with a verbatim quote, or forget about it. At this point, my choice is forget about it. Brews ohare (talk) 01:41, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
I might add that if everybody is OK with WP:V not requiring verbatim sources, what is the harm in actually saying so in so many words? IMO that would solve many problems, causes no real change in the policy as it is stated, but eliminates a common abuse of that policy. Brews ohare (talk) 01:46, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
An answer to the abuse of this policy as you describe is to point to the phrase Bob cites. The abuse of the type you are trying to avoid is less insidious than the kind that NOR/SYNTH try to avoid, thus I would suggest we should keep any support for getting away from verbatim right with the text that explains how far you can go. --John (User:Jwy/talk) 04:16, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
Pointing at the phrase Bob cites won't work because the editor insisting upon verbatim sources will say that this matter is not governed by WP:SYN but is governed by WP:V, and although WP:V doesn't specifically state that a verbatim quote is necessary, in this particular case that is the best solution to editor conflict. And inasmuch as no verbatim quote is to be found, it doesn't matter whatever else might be said on the matter, so let's not discuss it.
Now, you can say that this is an unreasonable position, and I'd agree, but that is what happens and the only recourse is to go to AN/I or forget about it. That choice will simply lead nowhere. Such events can be avoided by the simple inclusion in WP:V of the wording above, and I see no reason not to do that. Brews ohare (talk) 04:54, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
If such clarification in WP:V were desired, the simpler and more concise way would be to incorporate the phrase from WP:NOR into WP:V. That would be fine with me. --Bob K31416 (talk) 11:27, 17 October 2010 (UTC)

Bob: That would be better than nothing. However the full quote from WP:OR is “The best practice is to write articles by researching the most reliable sources on the topic and summarizing what they say in your own words, with each statement in the article attributable to a source that makes that statement explicitly.” The full quote is somewhat confusing in having both "your own words" and "explicit" statements by a source of each item in the explanation. What does "explicit" mean anyway? Maybe "verbatim"? But then what does "in your own words" mean? Brews ohare (talk) 12:43, 17 October 2010 (UTC)

WP:OR goes on to say “Source material should be carefully summarized or rephrased without changing its meaning or implication.” That seems to define "explicitly" in the earlier sentence, and agrees with the definition: Fully and clearly expressed; leaving nothing implied. In any event, I'd agree to having the entire paragraph on this topic from WP:OR repeated in WP:V. Brews ohare (talk) 12:49, 17 October 2010 (UTC)

If I came across someone who says WP:V requires verbatim sources, my reply would be to ask them to quote the passage in WP:V that requires verbatim sources. Since no such passage exists in WP:V, they will not be able to give one. I can then point out that their argument is flawed. In any event, I agree with Bob... Since this is already covered in WP:NOR, I don't think we need to cover it in WP:V. Blueboar (talk) 13:18, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
Blueboar: Bob has agreed to inclusion of this paragraph from WP:OR in WP:V. You may appreciate that having this item in both WP:OR and WP:V has the merit of avoiding a jurisdictional dispute about which applies. Although one can construct arguments such as yours that "no such passage exists in WP:V", such arguments then have to be won and have an uncertain outcome. (For example, what happens when sides are unequal?) So it seems such conflict can be avoided simply by repeating this paragraph so that it is perfectly clear that both WP:OR and WP:V say the same thing. Brews ohare (talk) 13:36, 17 October 2010 (UTC)

Would anyone care for a cup of tea? --Bob K31416 (talk) 13:44, 17 October 2010 (UTC)

I'll take mine with lemon and sugar please.  :>) I have found that it is usually a mistake to repeat things in multiple policies. Over time they can get edited to the point that they actually contradict each other. I don't mind including some sort of pointer to the statement at NOR... but I think the statement should remain at NOR. Blueboar (talk) 13:51, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
Great: I've implemented that suggestion. Brews ohare (talk) 14:04, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
That works for me... except that, placed where you put it, I think it interrupted and changed the focus of the paragraph slightly. So, I have moved your addition to the end of the paragraph... and tweaked it a bit. Blueboar 14:25, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
Blueboar: Thanks. Your revision works, and your insertion satisfies my concerns very well. Brews ohare (talk) 14:28, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
Always nice to have a concern that can be resolved easily. Blueboar (talk) 15:03, 17 October 2010 (UTC)

Framing things explicitly

I removed this from the lead, as I couldn't see what it was getting at: "See the discussion on sources in WP:NOR that describes framing things explicitly, but in your own words." SlimVirgin talk|contribs 05:59, 19 October 2010 (UTC)

This addition was made after extensive discussion with Blueboar and others. It is a direct link to WP:NOR where an entire paragraph explains exactly what it means. Please read this material. If it remains unclear, please explain the confusion so that can be fixed. Brews ohare (talk) 14:15, 20 October 2010 (UTC)
Sorry, I didn't see this and started a new section below. I don't know what it means, and the section of NOR that it links to doesn't explain. What does it mean to (a) frame something, and then (b) frame it explicitly? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 09:37, 22 October 2010 (UTC)

NOR reference

BB, I can't see the point of adding this to the lead (I think it was you, apologies if it was someone else): "See the discussion on sources in WP:NOR that describes framing things explicitly, that is, fully and clearly in your own words, leaving nothing implied that goes beyond the sources."

The link to NOR#Sources doesn't say anything about that. We would need to link to SYN, but I'm not sure if that's what you were thinking of because that's not really about framing things explicitly (not sure what that means). SlimVirgin talk|contribs 09:33, 22 October 2010 (UTC)

NOR issue

I have restored a link to WP:NOR regarding using your own words to provide an explicit summary of sources. This link was inserted by Blueboar after considerable discussion, and modified by myself to make it clear to SlimVirgin. SlimVirgin now says that WP:NOR doesn't say what it says in so many words, and has removed it again. Its peremptory removal is annoying. Brews ohare (talk) 21:17, 22 October 2010 (UTC)

WP:NOR says: “The best practice is to write articles by researching the most reliable sources on the topic and summarizing what they say in your own words, with each statement in the article attributable to a source that makes that statement explicitly. Source material should be carefully summarized or rephrased without changing its meaning or implication.” Brews ohare (talk) 21:22, 22 October 2010 (UTC)

I asked above what you meant by that, Brews. I have no objection to it if it can be made clearer. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 21:23, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
What is said, that you find unclear, is the following: “See the discussion on sources in WP:NOR that describes framing things explicitly, that is, fully and clearly in your own words, leaving nothing implied that goes beyond the sources. ”
The link is to the section with the above verbatim quote from WP:NOR – Sources.
Now, if you find the statements in WP:NOR unclear, perhaps that should be discussed there. If you find the above sentence in WP:V to be somehow a mischaracterization of the discussion in WP:NOR, perhaps that can be discussed. Which is it? Brews ohare (talk) 21:34, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
NOR doesn't mention framing things. That's what I don't understand -- what is meant by framing things explicitly, and what the purpose of the edit is. What is the point you want to make with it? Is it SYN you want to draw attention to? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 21:40, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
The edit said: "See the discussion on sources in WP:NOR that describes framing things explicitly, that is, fully and clearly in your own words, leaving nothing implied that goes beyond the sources." But we already discuss NOR in the policy and the importance of SYN. With this edit, you introduce a new idea, that of "framing things explicitly," which may or may not mean the same as "full and clearly in your own words." But again, what does that have to do with NOR? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 21:43, 22 October 2010 (UTC)

SlimVirgin: Thank you for making clear what your confusion is about. I have no particular attachment to the phrase "framing things", by which I meant the same thing as "summarizing what they say in your own words". In my mind "framing" is providing an outline or perspective that hits the main points, which is pretty much what summarizing means.

I am not at all interested in SYN. What I am interested in is drawing attention here in WP:V to the prescription in your own words. The reason I am interested in emphasizing this point is that I have experienced editing disputes that insist upon verbatim language, not "in your own words". This insistence is supposedly supported by reference to WP:V, and I wish to point out within WP:V that it is meant to be entirely consistent with the prescription for "summarizing what they say in your own words".

Now, one could say that "of course, all WP policies are intended to be consistent". However, that argument results in tedious debate about whether WP:NOR is the applicable policy and whether WP:V actually does say the same thing, and if it doesn't say exactly the same thing, then which policy takes precedence. These are the debates that I wish to avoid in their entirety by enabling an editor to say to obstructionists requesting verbatim sources: "Look, WP:V explicitly acknowledges the in your own words policy of WP:NOR and cannot be used to insist upon verbatim sourcing."

So here is an alternative you might find acceptable and clear: “See the discussion on sources in WP:NOR that describes stating matters fully and clearly in your own words, leaving nothing implied that goes beyond the sources. ” Brews ohare (talk) 22:00, 22 October 2010 (UTC)

Okay, I see what you're saying. I'll have a look at how it could be worded so we avoid the "framing" thing. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 22:03, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
I inserted this version: “See the discussion on sources in WP:NOR that describes summarizing matters fully and clearly in your own words, leaving nothing implied that goes beyond the sources. ” Brews ohare (talk) 22:06, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
That's a lot better, thank you. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 22:08, 22 October 2010 (UTC)

attribution wording

just for consistency with discussions over at wp:NPOV, would anyone mind if I went through and changed some of the more casual uses of the phrase 'attributed to' to 'supported by'? People make a big deal over there about the difference between attribution (in the narrow sense of mentioning the author or source inline in the text) and citation (meaning footnote references), but here the term seems to be used more loosely to include both inline reference and footnote citation. This might require a bit of rewording - an example would be the second paragraph of the intro:

All material in Wikipedia articles must be supported by a reliable published source to show that it is not original research, but in practice not everything so supported needs direct attribution. Any material that a reader may wish to verify should have citation footnote to the original source; direct quotations or material that is challenged or likely to be challenged in other sources should have an inline attribution to the author or source in question. See the discussion on framing sources accurately at WP:NOR.

--Ludwigs2 19:00, 17 October 2010 (UTC)

For consistency with NPOV, I think you need to first explain your deletion of ASF and major rewrite to NPOV against Wikipedia's consensus. You consistently edit against consensus and delete long established parts of policy.[9][10][11] Do you understand it is a big deal that editors are concerned you are forcing changes to policy, while not adhering to WP:PG#Substantive changes.[12][13][14] QuackGuru (talk) 19:35, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
If you have problems with changes to NPOV, I would suggest that the place to discuss them is at WT:NPOV... this page is for discussing changes to WP:V.
As to the proposal... I think I would support the concept... but any change needs to be discussed on a case by case basis. I would want to see what is being discussed in each paragraph that might change, because there is a difference between saying something must be supported by a source and saying it must be attributed to a source. For example... A statement of fact should be supported by a source, while a statement of opinion should be attributed to a source. Blueboar (talk) 20:41, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
argh. I was really trying to avoid exporting conflicts from one page to the next (such as the fact/opinion distinction, which I disapprove of). I was only aiming for consistent usage. It may be best to table this discussion for a couple of weeks until the discussion over at NPOV have settled out. --Ludwigs2 21:28, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
The bit about "Any material that a reader may wish to verify should have citation footnote to the original source" is really a substantial expansion. A reader may wish to verify every single noun and verb in an entire article. Editors should not have to provide an inline citation to "The human hand normally has four fingers and a thumb" just because someone "may wish" to verify this.
IMO WP:Likely to be challenged means likely, as in ≥50% chance, not "conceivably possible" -- and "anything the reader may wish to verify" goes well beyond that standard. WhatamIdoing (talk) 22:49, 20 October 2010 (UTC)

Help Required With Source

Hello. I am a new editor and I'm not all that familiar with practices yet. I've previously posted a request here but if you read it you can see that I'm not happy with the logic which is being displayed.

The issue is this: the article [Ulster Defence Regiment] contains a substantial number of references to Major John Potter, the author of "A Testament To Courage (The Regimental History of the Ulster Defence Regiment)". Although these references are attributed there is nothing in the article to suggest to a reader why this author has the authority to comment or state facts about the regiment. I wish to change this by reducing the number of comments attributed as opinion to the man and placing an informative paragraph to tell readers of the article why he (Potter) is qualified to make factual statements on the grounds that:

1. He compiled the official history of the regiment which is now held at the British Ministry of Defence under a time dependent release policy. 2. His book was vetted by and approved (although not endorsed - as is common) by the British Ministry of Defence. 3. His invitation by the Colonels Commandant to compile the official history entitles him to be referred to as "Official Historian". 4. His own extensive experience with the British Army and the Ulster Defence Regiment (22 years with the latter) and his rank of Major make him a qualified person to comment on aspects of the regiment's history as an informed and reliable source.

I am aware that in his own preface he informs readers that some of his opinions are his own and are unsupported elsewhere, although his text does contain many third party references. I believe I am sensible enough to avoid using his personal opinion as more than just that and properly attributing the opinion to him.

I need to advise anyone who wishes to assist that there is a long, detailed and at times very daunting, archive of previous discussion where the same names keep occuring over several years. This appears to have resulted in some people being banned from Wikipedia and others leaving. The article has been the result of at least one arbitration and is currently on editing restriction. I personally do not want to get drawn into the horrible and counterproductive bickering which seems to be associated with this (and other) articles on the Irish Troubles but I do think that sensible editing could improve the (already excellent) article.

I am also posting this request at Wikipedia:Neutral_point_of_view/Noticeboard#Help_Required_With_Source to try and get as many neutral opinions as possible and avoid doing anything which is going to look as if I am trying to ram a point home and cause upset. All sensible comments appreciated. SonofSetanta (talk) 15:39, 19 October 2010 (UTC)

I am not sure how all of this relates to WP:Verifiability. The source seems reliable. Is there a specific statement that you question? Blueboar (talk) 16:05, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
Were you able to find any help from the section Reliable sources of this policy WP:Verifiability? --Bob K31416 (talk) 16:14, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
He did not get the answer he wanted, so is forum shopping. O Fenian (talk) 16:58, 19 October 2010 (UTC)

I've had some comment but to me it doesn't address the issue. NPOV was pushed at me which is why I've come here and the Verafiability noticeboard. I'm taking as many opinions as I can because there seems to be an objection to the reliability of the author and what I see as the obvious official nature of the history he compiled. SonofSetanta (talk) 14:33, 21 October 2010 (UTC)

Please note ...

the #Status update above, summarising status in the discussion of proposed changes to be implemented in the WP:V policy section on reliable sources. --JN466 01:10, 20 October 2010 (UTC)

The consensus is that editors want to change the text because it would be a fundamental improvement. I think everyone recognises the current text is not as clear as the WP:MEDRS guideline. QuackGuru (talk) 04:18, 20 October 2010 (UTC)

WP:SELFPUB on internetsites and -debates

See the latest discussion on Talk:Faith Freedom International. This article is about a website with, among others, debates of the site owner with several persons concerning the islamic belief.
I am discussing the following:
1) According to User:Oore, you need secondary reliable sources supporting the material to describe the character of a site (hence his deletion of the part:The website's challenge)
2) The site-owner published his discussions with notable people online on his website. According to me, we can link to a site to describe this site. However, according to User:Oore, the problem is that these debates "dealt with claims made of third parties. Self-references may not be used in such cases per WP:SELFPUB." Furthermore, it should be a violation of WP:BLP.
I do not agree with this reasoning, because:
a) The article is about the website, and not about the claims made in the debates;
b) Nobody contested elsewhere the statements made in the debates on FFI-site;
c) If the guidelines are interpreted the way User:Oore does, a lot of articles concerning websites (and books) all need a major clean-up.
Please give some advice, and please also look at the discussions here and here for more information concerning this article.Jeff5102 (talk) 08:33, 20 October 2010 (UTC)

Regarding this: [15], the removed material seems fine to me, and can be restored, but it might need a tone adjustment to make it clear that this version of events is according to FFI. SELFPUB is not applicable here, since the events reports are events that FFI is a primary source on, as a participant in them, and merely documents the endeavors of FFI. Secondary sourcing would be preferable to give the events more context, but primary sourcing is fine for basic facts. Since the article merely summarizes and does not analyze the primary source, it seems to be sufficient for now. Considering using WP:3O for cases like this in the future rather than policy talk pages. Gigs (talk) 18:01, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
I disagree. Considering the extreme rhetoric used on the website (e.g. Obama being similar to Hitler, etc.) there's no reason to give any credence to the claims presented on it regarding third parties (e.g. "this person responded in so-and-so manner" and "this person refused to respond"), unless it's presented in a reliable source. Also, Jeff, your point on the articles of books doesn't follow. Most of the book articles on Wikipedia are not self-published. Oore (talk) 19:02, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
Primary sourcing is heavily used in articles about works of fiction; I think that's what he's referring to. I don't see any problem in a primary source reporting on its interactions with third parties (and us using that factual information in articles). If this source was making claims about the third parties on matters outside of its own interactions with them, and we were reproducing them in the article, that would be a different matter. As always, we must be careful not to add our own analysis to such primary sourced material, but I don't see that happening here. Gigs (talk) 19:15, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
Well I am more inclined to agree with the material's inclusion as long as it is qualified, but the other problem I have with doing that when we do that, we're making our own assessments of what is and what is not significant about the website when we choose what to include in the article. Furthermore, after reading past sections of the talk page, several editors have contested the inclusion of the material on the same grounds as I have (as can be seen here, here, and here). You should take that into consideration Jeff. Oore (talk) 20:14, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
We have to make those assessments about what to include every day. We've never been able to come up with a community standard on what constitutes relevant information, however. As long as the picking and choosing isn't designed to paint a false picture, I don't see a problem there either. As for the old conversations, if you look at the ANI thread that resulted, there were several neutral editors who were saying things very similar to what I am saying here, which is why the material has remained for over 3 years since the last discussions. Gigs (talk) 21:06, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
Actually I believe that the material has been largely absent for these past years, until those editors went inactive or ceased editing this article and Jeff later reinserted it last year. What ANI thread are you referring to? Thanks. Oore (talk) 00:14, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
Gigs is referring to discussion no. 48 in this archive. In it you see the contributions of the three involved editors. One involved editor was defendinding the inclusion, while the other two were the same "several editors who contested the inclusion of the material" Oore is refering to. However, you will also see that the neutral editors have no problems with the inclusion of the debates-section.Jeff5102 (talk) 08:43, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
I've just read over that. Let's proceed with the inclusion then, but I think the text needs to be more qualified to make it more clear that the information is being presented as provided by the primary source, as those editors suggested. Oore (talk) 16:22, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
I remember dealing with that website a long time ago as an admin, and it did include a lot of personal attacks on third parties. It's the kind of website we should avoid using as a source—even as a source about itself—as far as possible, in my view. These sites can be used as a source for basic details on themselves, but they shouldn't be used to turn Wikipedia into a platform for information that no independent source has been fit to report. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 04:44, 23 October 2010 (UTC)
That has been my point precisely - the website is very extreme in its use of language and can hardly be used as a reliable source particularly for any statements on third parties. Oore (talk) 15:16, 23 October 2010 (UTC)
SlimVirgin, I guess we can agree to most of what you are saying. I only wonder if you see the disputed text concerning the debates at FFI as "basic details on themselves," or as "information that no independent source has been fit to report." Regards,Jeff5102 (talk) 21:38, 23 October 2010 (UTC)
Sorry, Jeff, I just noticed this. I didn't look at the disputed text. I would say be wary of using this as a source for anything except the most basic details about itself that you can't obtain from anywhere else, and which are harmless. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 17:11, 25 October 2010 (UTC)

Repeated list

Please note that the following list appears twice in this policy in the section Sources that are usually not reliable.

  1. the material is not unduly self-serving;
  2. it does not involve claims about third parties;
  3. it does not involve claims about events not directly related to the source;
  4. there is no reasonable doubt as to its authenticity;
  5. the article is not based primarily on such sources.

--Bob K31416 (talk) 13:04, 22 October 2010 (UTC)

It was intentional originally, but I agree it's unnecessary. Slimvirgin's latest set of edits has fixed it. Gigs (talk) 14:21, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
I was the one that doubled up on the list... and yes, it was intentional. The restrictions list used to be part of a section on "Questionable and self-published sources as sources about themselves". This made it seem as if questionable sources and self-published sources were the same thing. They are not (some questionable sources are not self-published and some self-published sources are not questionable). However, we deal with them in the same way, with the same restrictions. So I figured it was best to clarify that by duplicating the list of restrictions. I have no problem if consensus is to go back to the older (combined) version. Blueboar (talk) 15:34, 22 October 2010 (UTC)

A lot of changes very recently by a single editor

[16] --Bob K31416 (talk) 14:01, 22 October 2010 (UTC)

These changes (so far) look OK to me. I didn't notice anything in them that would significantly change the meaning or intention. Gigs (talk) 14:26, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
I've tried not to change the meaning of anything. It's a bit of reorganization, mainly to highlight the relationship between this and other policies, and to remove some repetition. Before and after. Diff. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 14:29, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
Could you explain your diff item by item? --Bob K31416 (talk) 16:50, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
Not in this lifetime, no. :-/ SlimVirgin talk|contribs 16:54, 22 October 2010 (UTC)

If you cannot even explain your changes, then you cannot possibly be thinking you have widespread support for them. Please gain consensus before, not after, major changes to a core policy. This is disruptive behavior, Slim, I'm surprised at you. KillerChihuahua?!?Advice 16:58, 22 October 2010 (UTC)

and now you are edit warring[17] to keep your rewrite, still without having even tried to discuss. Did you forget the D part of bold, revert, discuss? KillerChihuahua?!?Advice 17:01, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
In looking over the page, it seems you're contradicting your statement of two days ago[18] wherin you opposed any changes to the policy; yet you somehow see no problem with rewriting the whole thing without discussion; refusing to explain your edits when asked; edit warring to keep those edits in place; and still failing to discuss or explain your desired edits. I am deeply concerned about this approach. KillerChihuahua?!?Advice 17:21, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
If you and QuackGuru try to do here what you did at the NPOV policy, it will go to ArbCom, make no mistake. My edit was a very simple reorganization with no content change. His edit is a significant content change, but that you don't object to? It is not me being disruptive here. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 17:23, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
You are unable to explain your changes to the entire policy page. You even removed the link to MEDRS. There was collaboration on prop 8 and no serios objection to the specific content. QuackGuru (talk) 17:27, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
SlimVirgin, Please reconsider what you are doing. It may help if you constructively responded to my previous request, "Could you explain your diff item by item?" Thanks. --Bob K31416 (talk) 17:31, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
QG, you can read the two versions side by side. There's little to explain. More subheads, highlighting what the other policies say, no content change. The MEDRS link is still in See also, where it was before.
There is no way your pro-scientism edits can go through without wiki-wide consensus, because it would be a very significant policy change. You've badly affected one core policy, but only because people couldn't be bothered to stand up to it. I don't think people will watch it happen to this one too. The purpose of this policy was always to safeguard variety, neutrality, and minority views, and I think that principle has strong consensus across Wikipedia. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 17:35, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
I think the old version contains some spots where the policy is stated incorrectly, although I hope that if one takes the policy as a whole, the correct meaning will come through. So anyone who only looked at small parts of the policy as the basis of their editing decisions would see a policy change.
For example, the old "This policy requires that anything challenged or likely to be challenged, including all quotations..." is incorrect because the class of statements likely to be challenged does not include every quotation. Instead, quotations are always cited because it is plagiarism to not cite.
Another example from the old policy is "Articles should be based on reliable, third-party, published sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy. Citing these sources prevents unverifiable claims from being added to articles...." The reason articles should be based on such articles is so they will be more likely to reflect a neutral point of view and be about a noteworthy topic. Biased and careless sources are often quite verifiable. Jc3s5h (talk) 17:45, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
SlimVirgin, Doesn't look like any progress is being made towards a meeting of the minds. Perhaps it would help if you considered what you were thinking when you wrote the edit summary "lots of little changes being made without clear benefit" and whether it applies to your recent edits. All that is being asked is that you justify your diff in the same way that you expect other editors to justify their changes. --Bob K31416 (talk) 17:54, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
Bob, copyedits that don't change the meaning don't actually require individual justification. If you think the meaning of the policy was changed in any way, then point out where; I certainly can't see it, the prose is just a bit less awkward. Let's not be reactionary, ok? Jayjg (talk) 20:57, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
Sorry Jayjg, You'll have to respond directly to my previous message if you want a meaningful discussion. When you reread it, please note that a different set of rules for different people doesn't foster a productive editing environment. --Bob K31416 (talk) 21:13, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
Bob, I have responded directly to your post, but you don't seem to have responded directly to mine. Also, please ensure that your responses are about specific edits to the policy, not about "different people", or expressions of "what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander". Jayjg (talk) 21:47, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
BTW, did you like everything about the edits that you restored? --Bob K31416 (talk) 00:27, 23 October 2010 (UTC)
I saw nothing I objected to; did you see any specific changes you objected to? Jayjg (talk) 00:43, 24 October 2010 (UTC)

I support Bob K in his suggestion that edits be made one by one and presented one at a time on this Talk page, rather than making numerous changes in wording that are seen as synonymous by their editor SlimVirgin but are read differently by others. Naturally, wording requires careful crafting to result in the same interpretation by all concerned. Without discussion, rewording may introduce a particular agenda, whether deliberate or accidental. Brews ohare (talk) 17:57, 22 October 2010 (UTC)

It is a reasonable request on the face of it.The problem is that Bob and Killer Chihuahua are opposing it because it's me, and QuackGuru supports them because it's KC. This is the problem with special-interest groups arriving to take control of a policy. Rationality and clarity are the first victims.
It's a copy edit. It improves the clarity of the policy. If you can see anything that doesn't do that, please let me know and I can address the specifics. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 18:04, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
I take strong exception to your extremely rude assertion that I'm "opposing it because its [SV]" - this is an extraordinary assumption of bad faith. Your attacks on other editors are also not likely to promote a collegiate editing atmosphere. Please moderate your tone and avoid accusing others of bad faith. KillerChihuahua?!?Advice 18:43, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
You can take as much exception as you like, KC, the fact remains that you want to do here what you did at NPOV. Anyone wanting to see what happened should compare your version of that policy at nearly 4,000 words, much of it incoherent (though I'm glad to see others cutting it back since then), with this one at 1,431 words. I can only repeat: I don't believe people want to see this policy undermined in that way. Your interest is in supporting a narrow POV on a narrow set of articles. You have otherwise no interest in policy. And that's a very bad basis for policy change. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 19:05, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
What precisely are you accusing me of doing at NPOV, SV? Be specific, please - don't simply make a vague unspecified insinuation of some kind of wrongdoing. And kindly refrain from telling me what my interest is, or is not. I assure you your skills at mindreading are imaginary at best. You will find you are able to work with others much more productively if you refrain from telling them what they think, especially if your concept of what they think is a violation of AGF. KillerChihuahua?!?Advice 19:21, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
BTW, the link you have as "my version", as anyone who bothers to check history can see, was merely the result of my reverting someone removing an entire section without consensus. I wasn't "editing" so much as un-doing section blanking. My edit summary(s) (typo'd the first one, go back two edits) make that very clear. As does looking at the dif itself. Your example of "what I do" is very flattering to me, as it shows me supporting consensus and undoing what is very arguably vandalism, and advising, as I did here, that the editor discuss their desired changes on the talk page. I stand by that advice there as well as here. KillerChihuahua?!?Advice 19:38, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
You have just opposed a copy edit by me and supported a substantive content change by Quackguru, so please stop the games. Your friends edited NPOV to support your and their POV at Intelligent design and related articles, and turned it into an almost single-issue policy. The aim here, as there, is to give sources you approve of the upper hand in articles you have an interest in. But it leads to very bad policy writing. When you write policy you have to anticipate how one policy tweak can lead to a butterfly effect elsewhere, and I guarantee you that adding a pro-scholarly source clause here will have effects you won't like at articles you've not thought to include in the mix. That is why it has been resisted it for years, and I believe the wider community will continue to resist it. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 19:44, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
SV, I suggest you cease these baseless allegations. I made one edit here, to undo a huge rewrite by you. I made a total of 13 edits to NPOV in the entire year, and the most recent was undoing a rewrite against consensus, same as here; the "example" you gave was of me undoing section blanking. You can natter on all you want about my "friends" (WP:TINC) and make up whatever goals you want to ascribe to me, but you're only making yourself look foolish by such attacks and transparent hostility. I will not reply again to any further baseless attacks you make on me here; please confine your discussion to your desired edits and cease attacking your fellow editors. Comment on content, not contributor, as I'm certain you've heard before. And do discuss your edits and gain consensus; if you cannot be bothered to explain your edits when asked, you should not be making them. KillerChihuahua?!?Advice 19:55, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
Mass edits done at one time can be difficult to check and thus tend to discourage other editors from participating and helping. I think we need to draw on each other's help, not suppress it. In any case, I'm going to try to do what I can under the circumstances to develop this policy page, at least for the moment. I've started a section below on the topic of Burden of evidence and I hope others will participate and help. --Bob K31416 (talk) 01:15, 23 October 2010 (UTC)
Bob, it's rather obvious, based on this edit and edit summary, that you'll accept major changes to policy suggested by one editor, and, indeed, any other edits to the policy made other editors, but will not accept even simple copyedits made by SlimVirgin, simply because she made them. It's not even that she didn't follow the process you claim to require (above), since you clearly don't demand that process of everyone, just of SlimVirgin. Please heed your own words ("a different set of rules for different people doesn't foster a productive editing environment"), and make future edits based on content, not who made them. Jayjg (talk) 00:43, 24 October 2010 (UTC)

Page protected

Figure it out here instead. *stern look*. Let me know if you come to consensus before it expires. --slakrtalk / 02:19, 23 October 2010 (UTC)

There is something strange happening to various policy pages. Mass changes to V and even NPOV is now routine. QuackGuru is baffled. Changes like this make understanding policy confusing. QuackGuru (talk) 03:14, 23 October 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps you could explain a bit more about the relationship between your interest in changing the core content policies, and your work with pseudoscience. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 04:31, 23 October 2010 (UTC)
I find it even stranger when an editor complains about "mass changes to V" that consist of copyedits, then inserts a significant change to the policy, and edit-wars in support of it, based on the fact the he and one other editor support it. Jayjg (talk) 00:52, 24 October 2010 (UTC)
Please try to collaborate. Is it consensus when you and SlimVirgin are unable to make any specific objection to the wording of the proposal. QuackGuru (talk) 01:44, 24 October 2010 (UTC)
Please take your own advice. Edit-warring in major policy changes on the basis of the support of you and one other editor, and an argument from silence, is neither "consensus" nor "collaborating", it's policy by stealth. And very specific objections have, in fact, been made to your latest stealth proposal; ignoring them doesn't mean they don't exist. Please get significant support for significant policy changes such as these. Jayjg (talk) 02:32, 24 October 2010 (UTC)
  • I agree that implementing the more recent proposal 8 was premature, as there is no significant support for it at this time. Proposal 5 has been discussed for weeks and does have significant support. But there is no hurry.
  • As for SV's copyedit, I am not sure yet whether or not it was an improvement. Quite possibly it was, but it will take me the best part of an hour to find out, and I would have preferred being given sight of the proposal beforehand. --JN466 02:43, 24 October 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── QG, would you mind replying to the question about your intentions? You seem to be a single-purpose account with an interest in identifying and opposing pseudoscience. And you seem to want to rewrite NPOV and V to further you in those efforts. Is that correct or have I misunderstood? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 05:21, 24 October 2010 (UTC)

Re "it will take me the best part of an hour to find out" - That would be a lot better than me. I started to try to try to figure it out, even to the point of printing out each version, and I gave up because it was quite complicated. I suppose I could make a research project out of it, but that would seem to be squandering my time on something that could have been made much more easier if SlimVirgin could explain what was done item by item. SlimVirgin, how about making some attempt to explain what you did with perhaps an outline of the steps you took in making the edits? Actually would anyone who felt they have been able to check what was done, could they explain and clarify what was done for the rest of us? --Bob K31416 (talk) 13:51, 24 October 2010 (UTC)

New Shortcut

I've added WP:NOENG alongside WP:NONENG as a shortcut for Wikipedia:Verifiability#Non-English sources. It's largely non-controversial, but since this is a policy page I know I should notify the discussion. --hkr Laozi speak 12:08, 26 October 2010 (UTC)

Thanks, looks fine. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 12:10, 26 October 2010 (UTC)

Academic and media sources

We currently say, Academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources where available, such as in history, medicine, and science, but they are not the only reliable sources in such areas. Material from reliable non-academic sources may also be used, particularly if it appears in respected mainstream publications. Other reliable sources include university-level textbooks, books published by respected publishing houses, magazines, journals, and mainstream newspapers.

This has been a long-standing consensus version, and I approach what I am going to say with some trepidation. The thing is, academic and peer-reviewed publications are generally held to be more reliable than media sources. This view is reflected in WP:MEDRS, which explicitly disqualifies media sources as preferred sources, but it surely applies to other topic areas (art, literature, religion, politics, media studies, business, information technology, industry, engineering etc.) as much as it does to medicine. (For one, I can think of a few press reports on Wikipedia that contained fundamental errors – some of them documented in Signpost articles – that an academic researcher would have been unlikely to make.)

The present wording, "Academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources where available" appears to say as much. But it first restricts it to topic areas like "history, medicine, and science" and then seems to level the playing field altogether: "but they are not the only reliable sources in such areas" -- making editors think there are no differences in reliability between scholarly works and press or online articles, and no reason to make an effort to seek out the former in preference over the latter. This is reflected in the sourcing of many of our articles.

I would like this policy to direct editors to make a bit more of an effort to consult books and scientific journals in areas where they are available. Media and online articles are valuable, but they cannot replace books and scholarly works; and if we ignore the scholarly literature in topic areas where it is available, we are not representing the sum of all human knowledge. Thoughts? --JN466 15:00, 12 September 2010 (UTC)

The fact that one online source (academic or other) makes a mistake should not, in my opinion, lead us to conclude that all online sources are inherently unreliable. So I question your two mentions of the word "online". But I agree that the wording in question is inadequate. The idea that one category of source is more or less reliable than another (as opposed to a statement about what is and is not a reliable source) is raised, but without producing a conclusion. By the time we reach the end of the long list of qualifiers, usually ... the most reliable ... where available ... but they are not the only ... may also be used ... particularly if, there's something there for everyone, and it seems just about anything goes. This is, after all, a policy document: the passage should make plain statements. Firstly, what is and is not a reliable source, and secondly, what preferences apply should sources in more than one category exist. PL290 (talk) 10:05, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
Thanks, you summarised my concern well. I agree that I did not express myself clearly when I referred to online sources -- I meant material that is only published online, by websites that have enough basic editorial oversight to qualify as low-end RS, but are not the work of major media or academic institutions. --JN466 12:47, 13 September 2010 (UTC)

Proposal

Here is a proposal:

Academic publications, such as peer-reviewed journals and books published by well-regarded academic presses, are usually the most reliable and most valuable sources in the topic areas where they are available. However, they are not the only reliable sources in such areas. Non-academic sources may also be used, particularly if they are respected mainstream publications. This includes books published by reputable publishing houses as well as mainstream newspapers, magazines, and journals. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria.

This would replace the following policy paragraph:

Academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources where available, such as in history, medicine, and science, but they are not the only reliable sources in such areas. Material from reliable non-academic sources may also be used, particularly if it appears in respected mainstream publications. Other reliable sources include university-level textbooks, books published by respected publishing houses, magazines, journals, and mainstream newspapers. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria.

Also see Wikipedia:IRS#Some_types_of_sources. I do not think the proposed policy wording would require any change in the WP:IRS guideline. Views? --JN466 13:16, 13 September 2010 (UTC)

Agree in principle with the proposal. One aspect that could usefully be tightened up is making explicit in this paragraph the requirement in the first paragraph that we consider "the creator of the work (for example, the writer)". Suggest "This includes books by reputable authors published by recognised publishing houses...". Even the most reputable publishing houses sometimes publish questionable fringe views, if only as a talking-point. For example, The Design Inference. . . dave souza, talk 13:31, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
I would oppose any wording that downgrades non-academic sources. Things are bad enough at the moment, with some editors trying to impose scientific point of view. I wouldn't want to see the policy encourage it, because it risks giving the green light to leaving out POVs that for various reasons might not be found in scholarly texts, but which are nevertheless regarded as important by reliable sources. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 13:40, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
OK, Slim (per medical articles), but consider the counterexample occurring at Hugo Chavez. The academic press so far is lagging, and reflects largely left-leaning publications (in fact, far left), yet the editors who own the article reject all other mainstream pubications-- even though dozens, scores and hundreds contribute to due weight of mainstream reliable views-- with the claim that only academic press should be used. (And curiously, some of the same editors who frequently decry "US or "corporate" bias in the mainstream news media are more than happy to cite text to the partisan website, Venezuelanalysis.com.) SandyGeorgia (Talk) 14:03, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
Hmmmm ... on re-reviewing the two sets of wording side-by-side, I do see that JN's proposal is downgrading the wording, and agree with Slim. Medicine and science have some differences in this sense from other areas, wrt RECENTISM, sample size, replication of primary studies, etc. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 14:10, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
Generally speaking, underrepresentation of academic sources is a more widespread systemic problem in Wikipedia than overreliance on such sources, but it depends on the topic area. Broadly speaking, bearing in mind the entire range of scholarly research, there is widespread consensus in society that scholarship – generally speaking – produces better informed, more detailed and more reliable work than journalism, and the policy should reflect this. Academic writers are subject matter experts who have invested years of training in the fields they cover; the same cannot be said of journalists covering the same field. Having said that, I would strongly oppose any editor arguing that only academic sources should be used, and that the entire public discourse that happens in the media, and the findings of the media's investigative research, should have no place in Wikipedia – especially in a field like politics. I don't think the proposed wording would support any editor in making that argument. It states clearly that non-academic sources may also be used. --JN466 14:23, 13 September 2010 (UTC)

As always, we need to find the right balance. I have seen abuses in both directions. There are attempts to give a lot of weight to scientific claims that contradict the findings of actual scientists, merely because their supporters are making a big splash in the general media. And there are attempts to exclude mention of highly notable disputes because they are related to science and there are no scientific publications on them. Neither is OK. When Anne Elk's theory of brontosauruses becomes the latest craze and all major newspapers write that this "theory" revolutionises palaeontology, then the following obviously will apply:

  • Any factual, scientific claims about actual dinosaurs must be sourced with a bias for academic sources.
  • Academic sources are fine though unlikely to exist for the dispute between Anne Elk and the palaeontological establishment. So we use general media for that, taking care not to automatically accept what they say about the science. Hans Adler 14:11, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
My point is that we shouldn't report what the laypress says about primary studies-- that haven't been subjected to secondary review or replication subject to larger sample sizes-- in the fields of medicine and science, except under very special circumstances, while we have literally hundreds of mainstream reliable sources presenting human rights abuses, consolidation of power, rampant crime and corruption, and decline in democracy in a current politician, which hasn't yet made it into the academic press. We must accord due weight to mainstream, published, reliable points of view. And, we must also weigh biases in academic presses. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 14:18, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
That is a sensible point, Hans. I would argue that the dispute between Anne Elk and the palaeontological establishment is a topic area that has not (yet) been covered by scholarly sources, and that this is taken care of by "in the topic areas where they are available". I would not mind adding a subclause that makes that clearer. --JN466 14:23, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
And your proposal allows the Chavez article to continue its bias against hundreds of mainstream reliable sources over what has been published so far by the left-leaning academic press, hence I oppose. Specific guidelines for medicine and science articles address sources in those types of articles, and contemporary politicians are more likely to be covered by mainstream reliable sources such as the news media. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 14:27, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
We cannot let the problems of the Chavez article drive the wording of a global policy. On the other hand, I don't mind adding a sentence to the effect that journalistic sources are indispensable to cover current affairs and notable controversies in any field, be it science or politics. Might that be a way to address your and Slim's concerns? --JN466 14:31, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
I edit mostly medical articles, and only one politician, while Slim edits many more controversial contemporary topics; I'd like to see what she has to say about how representative the Chavez situation is of other similar contemporary articles. I suspect it's pretty common, and the "academic press" argument here is being used to suppress mainstream points of view. I suspect we have similar at the Catholic Church, where recent sexual abuse issues haven't yet been covered by scholarly sources. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 14:34, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
(ec) The thing we have to be wary of is writing policy with only some examples in mind, because this would be a sweeping change across many different kinds of articles (and therefore many different kinds of POVs), and no matter how carefully you tweak the writing, you risk it being used to exclude legitimate POVs. Two examples I can think of:
(a) Editors who were followers of a cult leader tried to argue that only academic sources should be used about that figure, and that the Los Angeles Times was therefore not a reliable source. The reason, as I recall, was that the LA Times had published a photograph of the leader's enormous house.
(b) The Jesus articles: editors regularly argue there that only academic sources should be used. This sounds reasonable until you realize that the specialist academic sources are mostly biblical scholars, and the biblical scholars are mostly religious people, including high-ranking church figures.
The danger, as Sandy points out, is that reliable and important POVs are excluded when you focus on scholarly sources, because the academic press is slow to publish, or because it's the academic views themselves that are being criticized. We have to make sure this policy safeguards all reliable points of view, not just academic ones. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 14:36, 13 September 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Jayen, can you say exactly what benefit you would see in changing the wording? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 14:38, 13 September 2010 (UTC)

I would like to see editors make it a matter of course to research the available scholarly literature on a topic they are writing about in Wikipedia, to look for sources in google books and google scholar, as well as newspapers and websites. We are losing much valuable content when editors don't do this, and it takes a little more effort. --JN466 14:53, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
The presence of intellectual-methodological-theoretical-ideological nexuses in the social sciences and humanities is relatively non-controversial institutionally. Universities tend to be loathe to fire controversial opinion leaders of the left or right, as long as they make their required publication outputs. I find controversy over recent events to be slightly humorous (give it fifty years, we'll find out what really happened). It sounds like there is a discipline specific problem in non-historical social sciences which excite controversy in the general public. Losing the emphasis on HQRS for fields like labour history, industrial relations, human resources, economic history, history and philosophy of science, psychology would be catastrophic, and invite the newspapers into a domain where they should not be present. But at the same time we have a problem with "contested" fields of politics. Drop the barrier, and watch the non-academic "think-tanks" and stable reputable (but yet non-RS for WP purposes) partisan sources line up for a bite at the cake. A problem. Fifelfoo (talk) 14:38, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
The think tanks already have a large bite of the cake, even when they are clearly partisan and to the exclusion of other reputable sources published in sources like Foreign Policy and Foreign Affairs; hence, we need to give more beef to other mainstream reliable sources, not less. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 14:55, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
Scholarly publications are certainly important sources, but they aren't perfect by any means. To repeat some points already made here, they can be years or even decades behind other sources, they tend to be focused on disproportionately on academic issues, and they have biases of their own. Even within a single article, scholarly papers may be the best available sources for a point of theory while newspapers may be the best sources for events or quotations. I also notice that the proposed wording drops the qualifier, "published by well-regarded academic presses". There are peer-reviewed journals with poor reputations, so we should avoid implying that they are all of the same high quality.   Will Beback  talk  21:19, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
Will, you have that the wrong way round. The proposed wording introduced the qualifier "published by well-regarded academic presses" (red is the current policy wording). Otherwise I agree with your point; scholarly and press sources are often complementary. I would also be interested in your views on the discussion of Proposal 4, below. --JN466 22:06, 17 September 2010 (UTC)

Proposal 2

Academic publications, such as peer-reviewed journals and books published by well-regarded academic presses, are usually the most reliable and most valuable sources in the topic areas where they are available. However, they are not the only reliable sources in such areas. Non-academic sources may also be used, particularly if they are respected mainstream publications. This includes books published by reputable publishing houses as well as mainstream newspapers, magazines, and journals; mainstream media sources in particular are indispensable to adequately reflect public opinion and current affairs in Wikipedia. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria.

Does that address your concerns? --JN466 14:49, 13 September 2010 (UTC)

Can you please use Wikimarkup to highlight the changes? SandyGeorgia (Talk) 14:58, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
I've now highlighted the added passage in bold font. --JN466 15:02, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
But wasn't something dropped? If so, could you show it as struck? SandyGeorgia (Talk) 15:06, 13 September 2010 (UTC)

The bolding only highlighted the change compared to Proposal 1 above. Compared to the present policy wording, these are the changes:

Academic and peer-reviewed publications, such as peer-reviewed journals and books published by well-regarded academic presses, are usually the most reliable and most valuable sources in the topic areas where they are available, such as in history, medicine, and science, but. However, they are not the only reliable sources in such areas. Material from reliable Non-academic sources may also be used, particularly if it appears inthey are respected mainstream publications. Other reliable sources include university-level textbooks, books published by respected publishing houses, magazines, journals, and mainstream newspapers.This includes books published by reputable publishing houses as well as mainstream newspapers, magazines, and journals; mainstream media sources in particular are indispensable to adequately reflect public opinion and current affairs in Wikipedia. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria. --JN466 15:21, 13 September 2010 (UTC)

Policy Jayen's proposal
Academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources where available, such as in history, medicine, and science, but they are not the only reliable sources in such areas. Material from reliable non-academic sources may also be used, particularly if it appears in respected mainstream publications. Other reliable sources include university-level textbooks, books published by respected publishing houses, magazines, journals, and mainstream newspapers. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria. Academic publications, such as peer-reviewed journals and books published by well-regarded academic presses, are usually the most reliable and most valuable sources in the topic areas where they are available. However, they are not the only reliable sources in such areas. Non-academic sources may also be used, particularly if they are respected mainstream publications. This includes books published by reputable publishing houses as well as mainstream newspapers, magazines, and journals; mainstream media sources in particular are indispensable to adequately reflect public opinion and current affairs in Wikipedia. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria.


J, could you say which parts would imply what kind of change? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 15:47, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
  • Some changes are just streamlining the wording; e.g. "university level textbooks" are subsumed under academic sources and don't need explicit mention. The listing of "other reliable sources" flows better and is more compact.
  • Adding "most valuable" and removing the limitation "such as in history, medicine, and science" makes clear that if I write about Doris Lessing, Deep Purple, Monty Python, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Harry Potter, New Age or the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, it is just as good an idea to look for books and scholarly sources as it is when writing about physics, or medicine.
  • The explicit mention of mainstream media as an indispensable source for public opinion and current affairs addresses the fact that academic publishing generally lags five or ten years behind the times, and provides a stronger basis for covering notable controversies. At the same time, it weakens the case of those who would like to use the press as a source for science proper, by indicating what the main strength of press sources is. --JN466 16:08, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
Some thoughts:
  • A university-level textbook needn't be an academic source.
  • I would say adding "most valuable" risks over-valuing them compared to other sources.
  • I have no objection to adding the mainstream media sentence, but I would want to see it worded a bit differently, more along the lines of your earlier suggestion, e.g. "mainstream media sources in particular are indispensable for the coverage of controversies, whether in science, politics, or elsewhere." But I would worry about anything that implies they're not good for other things, because we can't foresee all circumstances.
  • I wouldn't object to removing "such as in history" etc.
As for your concern about encouraging editors to look for better sources, perhaps we could just add some words to the existing policy to remind them to do that? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 16:22, 13 September 2010 (UTC)
  • I don't mind dropping "most valuable"; "most reliable" can stand on its own.
  • A sentence on looking for book and scholarly sources would be very useful.
  • Do you think we ought to explicitly mention university-level textbooks? I thought between "academic sources" and "books published by respected publishing houses" we have it covered.
  • For the media sentence, I offer this wording: ... respected mainstream media sources in particular are indispensable to adequately cover public opinion, current affairs and controversies, whether in science, politics, or elsewhere. --JN466 19:31, 13 September 2010 (UTC)

I am opposed to dropping the reference to medical and science articles; they have their own carefully developed guideline pages, which reflect and complement WP:V, and dropping them will encourage overreliance on primary sources. And I would strongly oppose any wording like "mainstream media sources in particular are indispensable for the coverage of controversies, whether in science, politics, or elsewhere", considering some of the laypress misreporting of medical controversies. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 02:39, 14 September 2010 (UTC)

The three examples that policy currently mentions are history, medicine, and science. There is nothing special about these fields compared to other fields that are the subject of academic study. As for these areas having their own guideline pages, that is not true:
  • There is no separate RS guideline for history articles; attempts to start one at Wikipedia:Reliable_sources_(history-related_articles) never got off the ground.
  • Wikipedia:Identifying_reliable_sources_(natural_sciences) was a proposed guideline that has so far failed to win community support.
  • WP:MEDRS is an actual guideline that will stand regardless of what we do here. Commenting on press sources, it says, "the high-quality popular press can be a good source for social, biographical, current-affairs and historical information in a medical article. For example, popular science magazines such as New Scientist and Scientific American are not peer reviewed but sometimes feature articles that explain medical subjects in plain English. As the quality of press coverage of medicine ranges from excellent to irresponsible, use common sense, and see how well the source fits the verifiability policy, and the general reliable sources guideline." That is compatible with the wording proposed here.
More generally speaking, we shouldn't write a policy that allows editors to define areas where the press should be ignored as uninformed, versus areas where the press must be used as a vital counterbalance to systemic bias in scholarly sources, according to their personal preferences, while all the while claiming that policy backs them up. Making the wording here so elastic that anyone can use it to justify anything does not help the project; it just creates endless strife. We have to strive for some measure of consistency, at least in a global policy. So, use science sources for science proper, and use the press to cover notable controversies, social aspects and current affairs. Even if the quality press is wrong, according to an editor's view (cf. the endless debates about global warming skepticism), if it is a notable controversy, it should still be covered -- as should the criticism of press coverage from sources that claim to be better informed.
And this does not mean that if a tabloid announces yet another new miracle cure for cancer, that it must be covered in Wikipedia. At the same time, it does mean that if Hugo Chávez has an exceedingly poor reputation among large sections of the high-quality mainstream press, then it should be covered in his biography, even if the published academics all love the man. --JN466 03:24, 14 September 2010 (UTC)
I did not comment on history (not my area); here is Science. While I appreciate that some of these changes may address the ongoing POV and disruption at Chavez, I doubt that they will have any effect, as editors there routinely cleanse any text unsupportive of Chavez, even if from scholarly sources, and I oppose any wording that reduces the importance of MEDRS, as a carefully developed guideline that complements this policy page. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 10:47, 14 September 2010 (UTC)
I wonder what has changed since July, when we last discussed this section at great length and came to the current wording. This is especially as what people were trying to accomplish then (as now) is really more a matter of WP:NPOV and its associated guidelines (WP:UNDUE, WP:FRINGE, etc.) than of verifiability. Why hasn't this been settled already? Or are we simply hoping that a different cast of editors will reach a different conclusion? RJC TalkContribs 04:18, 14 September 2010 (UTC)
Do you mean this discussion in July? The present wording essentially dates back at least to April. --JN466 05:07, 14 September 2010 (UTC)
The fact that it's been discussed at great length in the past confirms to me what I said in my response to the original post in this master thread: it's trying to achieve too much, and ends up full of qualifiers and ultimately lacking a clear policy statement. Perhaps it's trying to act as both policy and guideline. In my view, we should reduce it to some plain statements about what is and is not a reliable source, supplemented by further plain statements identifying a hierarchy of source categories (academic, media, etc). If, when a given source exists ("reliably") in more than one of those categories, editors are indeed required to choose one rather than another, the hierarchy should make that plain. Language such as "usually ... the most reliable ... where available ... but they are not the only ... may also be used ... particularly if" is not the stuff of policy and should be relegated to the related guideline, WP:RS (discussed below). PL290 (talk) 08:17, 14 September 2010 (UTC)
A hierarchy would allow editors to exclude sources lower down for that reason alone, and that will not always be done for good reasons. There's a constant attempt on Wikipedia to elevate scholarly sources over non-scholarly ones, and while out of context that seems supremely sensible, in context you too often see it done to remove criticism of the way the scholarly sources are approaching things. Or to highlight issues the scholarly sources don't want to highlight, or are too slow to deal with.
Practically speaking, it would be impossible to create a hierarchy that would make sense. What would count as academic? Someone with a job in a top university, any university, any college or seminar? Someone who used to have such a job, someone who's never had one but is read by academics? Peer-reviewed well, peer-reviewed badly, non-peer-reviewed? Someone working in a university but published by a non-academic publisher? Someone not working in a university but published by a top academic publisher? There's no magic line between good and bad sources along academic lines, because there are good and bad academics.
Source choice boils down to common sense, not wanting to push a POV, and above all intellectual honesty, none of which we can legislate for. All this policy can do is present what we mean by reliable, meaning "good enough," and hope that intellectual honesty wins the day. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 08:45, 14 September 2010 (UTC)
I knew the word hierarchy would not be popular (I don't advocate it myself) but that is precisely what the current wording (imprecisely) achieves: Academic publications, such as peer-reviewed journals and books published by well-regarded academic presses, are usually the most reliable and most valuable sources in the topic areas where they are available. However, they are not the only reliable sources in such areas. Non-academic sources may also be used, That wording has established that non-academic sources are second-rate: A is usually best, but B may also be used, therefore B is lower in the hierarchy. PL290 (talk) 09:06, 14 September 2010 (UTC)
Yes, it's unfortunate that it's worded that way, but at least we do make clear that non-academic sources are reliable too in the same areas. I'm arguing that we must not write anything else that entrenches a hierarchical view. Otherwise we end up with the kind of situation we saw in the climate change articles: relatively junior academics being regarded as acceptable, with writers for the New York Times and BBC being rejected. And I mention that only as an example, not to make a political point. The same thing is happening in lots of areas. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 09:15, 14 September 2010 (UTC)
I agree: see new proposal 3 below. PL290 (talk) 10:22, 14 September 2010 (UTC)
I don't understand what you mean by "relatively junior academics". NYT and BBC have the better science writers, but even they get things wrong. I think that especially in global warming related science, we need to stick to peer-reviewed sources to make sure that exaggerated claims and misunderstandings stay out of the articles. Awickert (talk) 15:53, 16 September 2010 (UTC)

(outdent) I actually like the idea of a hierarchy, because of how it can work in a logical flow-chart-like manner. Consider the following scenarios:

  • Someone sees a news article on science or medicine and writes what they read in an article. Someone else looks at those changes and gets the original paper. If the paper and the news article agree, they can use the paper to further expand the article. If they disagree, then the news article is removed (per game of telephone), and the information in the scientific article replaces it. I think that this kind of valuing of articles will help keep up the factual integrity of WP. In other words, non-scientific sources are reliable for scientific topics until they are found to contradict the original sources that they supposedly represent.
  • How about a story about people's feelings about the science? Here, now, the news sources are primary pieces of information, as the scientific articles have no bearing on this.
  • How about non-scientific sources criticizing scientists? I would disagree with SlimVirgin here and say that these are not acceptable. Especially in climate change, a lot of criticisms have are based in nothing but a misunderstanding of the basic mechanisms that control climate. Scientific journals have the comment-and-response process in which others can write in with their concerns about a particular article, providing a peer-reviewed high-quality document that refutes a paper. Until this happens, there is no good reason to believe that (especially in a political hot-button area), criticisms of the science are reasonable. Awickert (talk) 16:11, 16 September 2010 (UTC)

Hope I haven't just added too much onto a stale thread, but I was just told about this page, and wanted to add my 2 cents. Awickert (talk) 16:11, 16 September 2010 (UTC)

Consistency with related guideline

The "equivalent" paragraph at WP:RS currently says:

Many Wikipedia articles rely on scholarly material. Academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources when available. However, some scholarly material may be outdated, superseded by more recent research, in competition with alternate theories, or controversial within the relevant field. Try to cite scholarly consensus when available. Reliable non-academic sources may also be used in articles about scholarly issues, particularly material from high-quality mainstream publications. Deciding which sources are appropriate depends on context. Material should be attributed in-text where sources disagree.

Quite a difference. Food for thought as we consider what the right wording is, and also about the wisdom of duplicating the same level of detail in more than one place. PL290 (talk) 16:54, 13 September 2010 (UTC) PL290 (talk) 16:54, 13 September 2010 (UTC)

(edit conflict) Let's add the second half of WP:RS, for reference:

Mainstream news sources are generally considered to be reliable. However, it is understood that even the most reputable news outlets occasionally contain errors. Whether a specific news story is reliable for a specific fact or statement in a Wikipedia article is something that must be assessed on a case by case basis. When using news sources, care should be taken to distinguish opinion columns from news reporting.

* For information about academic topics, it is better to rely on scholarly sources and high-quality non-scholarly sources. News reports may be acceptable depending on the information in question; as always, consider the context.

* While the reporting of rumors has a news value, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia and should only include information verified by reliable sources. Wikipedia is not the place for passing along gossip and rumors.

* Some news organizations have used Wikipedia articles as a source for their work. Editors should therefore beware of circular sourcing.[2]

Let's also bear in mind that this present page is policy, while WP:RS is a guideline that is supposed to follow WP:V policy; where the two differ, it is WP:RS that should be made consistent with WP:V. Even so, the current version of WP:RS is more to the point than what we have here in WP:V. --JN466 19:26, 13 September 2010 (UTC)

Since V governs RS, I'd say we should decide changes here and bring the latter into compliance if necessary. RJC TalkContribs 19:20, 13 September 2010 (UTC)

Proposal 3

The paragraph we are discussing needs to be considered in the context of points already made by the section in which it appears. This proposal reproduces the whole section, giving markup to show the change to this paragraph. I suggest that the main points are already made by the preceding paragraphs.

Reliable sources

The word "source" as used in Wikipedia has three meanings: the piece of work itself (a document, article, paper, or book), the creator of the work (for example, the writer), and the publisher of the work (for example, The New York Times). All three can affect reliability.

Articles should be based on reliable, third-party (independent), published sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy; this avoids plagiarism, copyright violations, and unverifiable claims being added to articles. Sources should directly support the material as it is presented in an article, and should be appropriate to the claims made.

The appropriateness of any source depends on the context. In general, the best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing facts, legal issues, evidence, and arguments; as a rule of thumb, the greater the degree of scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria.

Academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources where available, such as in history, medicine, and science, but they are not the only reliable sources in such areas. Material from reliable non-academic sources may also be used, particularly if it appears in respected mainstream publications. Other reliable sources include university-level textbooks, books published by respected publishing houses, magazines, journals, and mainstream newspapers. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria.

When identifying a reliable source for a topic area such as history, medicine, and science, do not assume that scholarly material is necessarily suitable, since it may be outdated, superseded by more recent research, in competition with alternate theories, or controversial within the relevant field.

Self-published expert sources are regarded as reliable in limited circumstances [...]

PL290 (talk) 10:22, 14 September 2010 (UTC)

  • No, this does not work. Whether a publication is electronic or not is of no concern to this policy; the key is whether the source is published, in the sense that it is not self-published. If a source is superseded by more recent research, then that does not mean it is not irrelevant, or cannot be used. This proposal is entirely misleading. --Gavin Collins (talk|contribs) 10:24, 14 September 2010 (UTC)
  • Nope. Some fields have a long tail (history). Some fields have a short tail (medicine). Current or Proposal 2 have better policy level content. Fifelfoo (talk) 10:29, 14 September 2010 (UTC)
  • I must be misreading, because this proposal doesn't work at all. Please clarify-- it appears to completely downgrade MEDRS and encourage lay media for bio/med articles. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 10:50, 14 September 2010 (UTC)
  • Absolutely not. It's in complete contradiction with the spirit of the proposed change. Fvasconcellos (t·c) 12:15, 14 September 2010 (UTC)
  • Non-starter. Electronic vs paper only matters in the sense that they need different types of archives. Even the first line is factually incorrect: The New York Times is not a publisher but a newspaper, from the similarly named publisher The New York Times Company. The nub of value in this line however is that we need to distinguish the article from the publication and the author for purposes of V and RS. I would contend that it is the article which must be available for verification and which must be reliable for the support of the assertion against which it is cited. LeadSongDog come howl! 18:16, 15 September 2010 (UTC)

Proposal 4

Maybe we are trying to do too much here. Here is an alternative proposal, keeping it simple:

Policy Proposal
Academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources where available, such as in history, medicine, and science, but they are not the only reliable sources in such areas. Material from reliable non-academic sources may also be used, particularly if it appears in respected mainstream publications. Other reliable sources include university-level textbooks, books published by respected publishing houses, magazines, journals, and mainstream newspapers. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria. Academic publications, such as peer-reviewed journals and books published by well-regarded academic presses, are usually the most reliable sources in the topic areas where they are available. Non-academic sources may be used as well, particularly if they are respected mainstream publications. This includes books published by reputable publishing houses as well as mainstream newspapers, magazines, and journals. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria.

This is comparatively bland, but keeps it general. It allows guidelines like WP:MEDRS latitude to address the finer points, and also works well for those topic areas that do not have an academic literature devoted to it. --JN466 13:31, 14 September 2010 (UTC)

Getting better, but I still don't like the fact that specific reference to well-developed guideline pages (medicine and science) is dropped. This wording gives us no idea when we might use non-academic sources, as spelled out in MEDRS, or when we might use media sources for contemporary politicians. Waiting for additional feedback ... SandyGeorgia (Talk) 13:38, 14 September 2010 (UTC)
Good. :) Where do you see a specific reference to WP:MEDRS in the present policy? The mere mention of "medicine" as an example of a topic that has academic coverage does not indicate to the reader that there is a content guideline for that topic area. The only guideline linked to in the present policy is WP:IRS, and that then has a link to WP:MEDRS. In terms of the hierarchical structure of our policy–guideline system, that makes sense to me. --JN466 14:01, 14 September 2010 (UTC)
More detailed guidance of the kind you have in mind for Chávez-type situations and medical articles is probably better housed in WP:IRS. This can better differentiate between situations where press articles are not so good as sources (medicine) vs. situations where press articles are vital sources for covering current affairs (Chávez, climate change). To some extent, WP:IRS does this already, but we might want to do some fine-tuning in WP:NEWSORG. --JN466 14:22, 14 September 2010 (UTC)
Too little improvement. This still carries an implicit bias against e-form journals and books that is hard to justify. It also still unjustifiably implies that all categories of articles (systematic review, literature review, original research, reader comments, author responses, letters, obituaries) are of equal reliability, and it still attaches more significance to the publishing house than the imprint or editorial board. Considering the broad spectrum of imprint quality within individual publishers this makes no sense at all. LeadSongDog come howl! 17:57, 15 September 2010 (UTC)
I don't follow. In which part of the wording do you see a bias against books and e-form journals, either in the proposal, or in the present policy text? --JN466 18:16, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
"...may also be used..." implies (at least to me) that it is a lesser option. "...Academic works, published in either paper or electronic form, ..." would avoid that.LeadSongDog come howl! 18:29, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for clarifying, now I see. I've always assumed that sentence about electronic media refers to websites like http://www.music-news.com and such. If a peer-reviewed journal is only available in electronic format (I can think of at least one example, which is highly regarded in its field), then it is still a peer-reviewed journal in my book. However, if an academic wrote something on his blog, or put up an unpublished paper on his website, then I'm not so sure Wikipedia would want it used as a source (it would be a WP:SPS). What examples did you have in mind? --JN466 19:25, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
Well, I tend to come at these things from a hard-science perspective, but musicology too has a formal academic side. The point is that whether I pick up a printed paper journal article or download a scan of it from a trusted archive doesn't change the reliability of that article. Publishers know that their readers know this and derive more and more of their revenue from providing that trusted archive themselves, but libraries and others do it too. I can get the Journal of Musicology or The Journal of the American Musicological Society either in e-form from JSTOR or on paper by walking into a university library. I don't need to rely on Rolling Stone or Billboard for formal semiotic analysis. LeadSongDog come howl! 18:46, 20 September 2010 (UTC)

We need to stress that, in principle, only reputable peer reviewed scientific journals are acceptable as sources. When such sources are not available (e.g. in case of breaking news; despite Wikipedia usually not bringing the latest news per WP:NOTNEWS, sometimes we still want to write about a news story), then we can use other sources, but the information must not be fundamentally in conflict with what can be distilled from peer reviewed sources.

E.g. when the CRU hacking incident story broke, one obviously had to write something about climate science using newspapers as sources. It is then important to filter out statements from those sources that are in conflict with established science that could not in any way have been affected by that incident (i.e. assuming that the scientists had falsified data, which later turned out not to be the case). Then after a while, scientific journals will retract articles once it is clear that the results are bogus. If that doesn't happen while some newspapers still suggest that the results may be bogus, we cannot consider the newspaper stories to be reliable, unless there is evidence that the editorial standards of the journals may have also been compromized (e.g. if many scientists accused of fraud also happen to be the editors in chief of the leading journals). Count Iblis (talk) 03:00, 16 September 2010 (UTC)

What is to be taken as a "respected mainstream publication". I'm sure many would take the New York Times as an example, but it is only respected as a newspaper (respected for reporting on events as they are understood at the moment, for example, Sadam's weapons of mass destruction), not as a source of (for example) scientific opinion or fact. These vague descriptions are going to lead to unending debate over what they really mean on Talk pages. Brews ohare (talk) 15:38, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
Agree. We must distinguish science and medicine from other areas, even with the NYT, which is often dramtically wrong in the field of medicine, and at odds with peer-reviewed secondary medical sources but reliable on more contemporary issues like Chavez. Perhaps this means we need to specifically link to the medicine and science guideline pages, which were developed based on broad consensus across Wiki, and posted to every forum we could think of (in the case of medicine) as they were being developed. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 16:04, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
Count Iblis, what about a topic like Transcendental Meditation? TM practitioners have produced literally thousands of peer-reviewed journal articles investigating the benefits of TM. They far eclipse in number the studies of TM that have been published by outsiders, some of whom, I believe, have criticized the integrity of this body of research. Are you saying that the pool of peer-reviewed literature should suffice to produce NPOV coverage of TM? This would exclude books written by religious scholars, published by university presses, and it would exclude the viewpoints of the entire press. What about notable figures in art and literature, and their works? I agree that too little use is made of peer-reviewed studies in this field in Wikipedia, but is it reasonable to exclude newspaper content like book reviews, author interviews etc. as sources, just because there is a wealth of peer-reviewed studies on a prominent author or artist? --JN466 17:46, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
"Peer reviewed" isn't the only factor in a field like TM: almost anyone can get anything published. The question is whether results of primary studies are reviewed by secondary sources, which may reveal problems with primary studies, even if published in peer-reviewed journals. If a controversy is significantly broad to have been covered in the laypress, we can use media sources responsibly, but primary studies unreviewed by secondary sources in a field of TM is precisely what we should avoid, and the laypress frequently gets it wrong when analyzing and reporting the science. Google scholar is somewhat useless for locating quality sources (it even includes Wikipedia), but PubMed lists 283 secondary reviews of TM, so it seems unlikely we need to rely on the laypress. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 18:16, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
In our present article on TM, the fees for TM training for example are all sourced to newspapers. --JN466 18:28, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
That's not "medical" info-- it is the kind of info that can be sourced to other reliable sources (unless peer-reviewed sources are also available, in which case, they should be used). SandyGeorgia (Talk) 18:32, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
Indeed. I still think that Hans Adler's comment above, 14:11, 13 September 2010, outlines a very sensible basic approach. I'd welcome suggestions on how we can translate that into a policy wording. --JN466 19:05, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
Sandy, Wikipedia:Scientific citation guidelines, which you linked to earlier as an example of a content-specific sourcing guideline along with WP:MEDRS, does not really help editors identify the most reliable sources in science, the way WP:MEDRS does for medicine. WP:SCG is concerned with citation formatting, not with identifying reliable sources. --JN466 19:16, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
OK, thanks (I was part of developing MEDRS, but not SCG); I added MEDRS to See also, but removed SCG. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 19:19, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
Ok. By the way, good job on MEDRS. --JN466 19:29, 16 September 2010 (UTC)

I agree that fringe/pseudo science subjects are exceptional cases, especially when we are not dealing with the "hard sciences". Secondary reviews as SandyGeorgia points out can be used, but I would say that this has to be done with care. One has to demand that those secondary reviews are not inconsistent with established science, which in turn is what one can distill from peer reviewed sources. So, the secondary source may invoke basic physcis to point out that a peer reviewed study on TM is bogus. Then I should be able to trace back those physics arguments to the peer reviewed physics literature and verify that the debunking done in the secondary non-scientific source is correct. Of course, we don't have to demand that one actually do this literature reseach. What matters is that we trust the secondary source enough that we can skip this step. But the moment we've doubts about this, we should not use that secondary source. Count Iblis (talk) 20:13, 16 September 2010 (UTC)

Another factor worth keeping in mind is that other topic areas – in the humanities for example – may not have secondary reviews and meta-studies of the kind common in medicine. In medicine, many peer-reviewed journal articles report the result of statistically designed studies testing a hypothesis (e.g. does the treatment have a statistically significant effect, or not). Peer-reviewed journal articles on music, art or literature, for example, do not have that kind of structure, and do not lend themselves to meta-analyses in this way. Whatever wording we have in this policy has to work for all our topic areas. --JN466 21:23, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
It appears likely that borderline cases like Scientology are going to be adjudicated by Admins. Because such review is fraught with non-objectivity, shooting from the hip, and "me too" crowd behavior, some new rules need to be set up for such review that will insure a careful reading of the sources and arguments, more rigid than leaving matters to the whims of those that happen to assemble. Brews ohare (talk) 16:17, 30 September 2010 (UTC)

Another go?

Shall we have another go at this? The ongoing climate change disaster currently in arbcom's lap is at least partly caused by the equivocation in this policy about press and scholarly sources. We should be clear that scholarly sources are preferred for science proper, and that respected mainstream media are excellent for current affairs and BLP coverage. Science and reporting aren't the same. --JN466 23:28, 5 October 2010 (UTC)

I fear the outcome of reviving this discussion for that purpose would be to make this policy page into a proxy war for the arbcom case. RJC TalkContribs 00:21, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps, but if we could say something sensible like: "Scientific sources should be used for science. News sources can be used for popular opinion about science, information about scientists, the history of issues, etc.", then I think that this repeated ad nauseum controversy could be settled. Awickert (talk) 00:59, 6 October 2010 (UTC)

(edit conflict)

I was hoping that even editors from across the spectrum of opinion in that case might agree that the division of labour proposed above is a sensible and workable solution. --JN466 01:09, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
Awickert's solution sounds sensible and is close to my views.--Literaturegeek | T@1k? 01:29, 6 October 2010 (UTC)

Proposal 5

Here is another proposal. It reverses the sequence of two paragraphs in the present policy. At present, we have "The appropriateness of any source depends on the context." before the listing of sources. The proposal reverses this sequence, listing the various types of sources first, and then explains how context affects which type of source may be most suitable in any given situation.

Current policy Proposal
The appropriateness of any source depends on the context. In general, the best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing facts, legal issues, evidence, and arguments; as a rule of thumb, the greater the degree of scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source.

Academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources where available, such as in history, medicine, and science, but they are not the only reliable sources in such areas. Material from reliable non-academic sources may also be used, particularly if it appears in respected mainstream publications. Other reliable sources include university-level textbooks, books published by respected publishing houses, magazines, journals, and mainstream newspapers. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria.

Academic publications, such as peer-reviewed journals and books published by well-regarded academic presses, are usually the most reliable sources in the topic areas where they are available. Non-academic sources may be used as well, particularly if they are respected mainstream publications. This includes books published by reputable publishing houses as well as mainstream newspapers, magazines, and journals. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria.

The appropriateness of any source depends on the context. In topics which are the subject of scholarly research, the most authoritative sources are academic works that have undergone scrutiny by a community of experts in that field. High-quality mainstream media are equally valuable sources for topics such as current affairs – including the public aspects of science – or biographies of living persons. In general, the best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing scientific findings, evidence, facts, legal issues, and arguments. As a rule of thumb, the greater the degree of scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source.

Does this come close to what we need to say? --JN466 01:42, 6 October 2010 (UTC)

"Academic standard works and review articles are the most authoritive…" not in the humanities and some social sciences where the expectation is that original scholarly articles and original scholarly monographs are the most authoritive. Humanities has a tradition of non-peer reviewed field reviews, the silly buggers. "Standard works" are often selected for teaching canonicity and for the availability of mass market paperbacks. Fifelfoo (talk) 01:54, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
That is true, and I considered adding a phrase to address publishing habits in the humanities and social sciences, but couldn't find a neat and succinct way of expressing it. If you can think of one, please add it. --JN466 01:57, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
Support now, I like it. It is general and covers the requirements of wikipedia. It can be instantiated in guides to specific areas of scholarly activity if there's a need to. It is nice clear language. Fifelfoo (talk) 15:35, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
Oppose. Agree based on discussion below. I would add that newspapers are good sources for reflecting the shape of a debate within a certain professional field, or a scientific community, or any other such groupings where people may have discussions which are reflected and reported in the public sphere. --Steve, Sm8900 (talk) 18:26, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
We could add, "or the popular reception of science". Would this address your concern? --JN466 02:08, 10 October 2010 (UTC)
Hmmm. well, I'm not totally sure, but I do appreciate your very open and helpful reply. I'm open to various ideas and proposals on this. we can adopt your suggestion, but I suppose i might want to comment further at some point later, depending on how this is actually used and implemented. thanks. --Steve, Sm8900 (talk) 14:41, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
Hmmm, I still see a problem here. How about stating "the public aspects of science and science-related issues..."? "Popular" sounds just a bit dismissive of the idea and of the concept.--Steve, Sm8900 (talk) 17:01, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
Can we make it the "public reception of science"? I think that is actually what I meant to say; I suggested "public reception" previously (below). --JN466 20:48, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
Thanks, but what i really meant was those discussions which occur among scientists and professionals in public, ie, within the public sphere. so i meant "public" as a descriptive adjective for discussions among scientists, not the general public itself, if you see what i mean. --Steve, Sm8900 (talk) 21:38, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
Okay. The I would propose "... current affairs – including the public aspects of science – or biographies of living persons ..." I've added that to the proposal above. --JN466 21:57, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
"In public" sounds good to me, and the news media are appropriate IMO for covering the public aspects of what scientists say and do. But I think that this should be clear, because the news media sometimes poorly characterize actual debates among scientists. Awickert (talk) 00:47, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
hmm, this sounds good to me. I like and agree with the points which both of you have made. thanks. --Steve, Sm8900 (talk) 13:37, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
Support with reservation per above: from a "hard" science viewpoint, this is good. Fifelfoo brings up something I didn't realize for humanities, but I think that it can be taken care of by restructuring the proposal under the good, general wording of "In general, the best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing facts, legal issues, evidence, and arguments; as a rule of thumb, the greater the degree of scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source." Awickert (talk) 01:57, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
OK, between the humanities issue and the worry of things like practically-unreviewed conference papers in some science fields, how about we change "Academic standard works and review articles" to "Academic works that have undergone scrutiny by a community of experts in that field" or something that is similar and less wordy. Awickert (talk) 02:00, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
Updated with your wording. --JN466 02:03, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
Thanks, struck my concern. Awickert (talk) 02:10, 6 October 2010 (UTC)

I think it might take some time to get this right, if we want to do it. It arose from a concern (which I think is trivial) that some editors might try to argue that some nonsense in a newspaper article is reliable against an established scientific view in a hard science. I think you can always bulldoze such attempts by simply trundling out the scientific literature, but it might be better to provide a uniform way of handling it if that is possible. --TS 02:05, 6 October 2010 (UTC)

I think something in stone here will be good, because I have often run into issues with (a) newspapers, (b) crackpot unreviewed conference abstracts, and (c) people telling me that my scientific sources are primary sources and so per WP:PSTS shouldn't count. If a solid guideline will reduce these issues, then it will help free up time spent rehashing old arguments, and allow for more time to be spent writing articles. (That is, I agree with TS in principle, but think that we need to be more obvious.) Awickert (talk) 02:08, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
I hate to mention this, but the proposed version is longer than the current version. Is there any way to trim this so it is at worst the same length? KillerChihuahua?!?Advice 17:12, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
On an initial scan, I can't think of a way to cut it down while preserving the meaning. Someone cleverer than me might. Awickert (talk) 19:53, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
A little earlier in the relevant section, we speak of sources "with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy". This more or less duplicates "In general, the best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing facts, legal issues, evidence, and arguments; as a rule of thumb, the greater the degree of scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source." If the difference in length is considered an issue, we could look at dropping "with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy" from the earlier sentence, which would reduce the increase in length. On the other hand, some editors may be attached to that wording.
We could drop "as a rule of thumb" in the proposal; it would be no great loss.
We could shorten "biographies of living persons" to just "biographies".
We could shorten "books published by reputable publishing houses" to "books by reputable publishers". --JN466 21:29, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
I support the proposed new version.--Literaturegeek | T@1k? 17:39, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
Support as rightly characterizing the preferrability of academic sources. RJC TalkContribs 18:46, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
Too wordy - Sorry folks, I agree with KillerChihuahua. Taken in the context of the section in which it appears, much of this belongs not in the policy but in its supporting guideline. This is what I emphasized earlier with proposal 3 above. That actual wording was universally rejected, and I accept that it was off the mark, but the main principle still applies: we need clear policy statements here. It's the guideline's job to elaborate on how to comply with the policy. PL290 (talk) 08:05, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Further to KillerChihuahua's comment about the length, here is a shorter version of the proposal. This keeps the essential points, but strips out some redundancies. It is still marginally longer than the present policy wording (by 21 words), but I don't think the matter can be compressed any further:
Current policy Proposal
The appropriateness of any source depends on the context. In general, the best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing facts, legal issues, evidence, and arguments; as a rule of thumb, the greater the degree of scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source.

Academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources where available, such as in history, medicine, and science, but they are not the only reliable sources in such areas. Material from reliable non-academic sources may also be used, particularly if it appears in respected mainstream publications. Other reliable sources include university-level textbooks, books published by respected publishing houses, magazines, journals, and mainstream newspapers. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria.

Academic publications, such as peer-reviewed journals and books published by well-regarded academic presses, are usually the most reliable sources in topic areas where they are available. Non-academic sources may be used as well, particularly if they are respected mainstream publications. This includes books by reputable publishers as well as newspapers, magazines, journals and electronic media.

The appropriateness of any source depends on the context. In topics which are the subject of scholarly research, the most authoritative sources are academic works that have undergone scrutiny by a community of experts in that field. Quality mainstream media are equally valuable sources for areas such as current affairs – including the public aspects of science – or biographies of living persons. In general, the best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing scientific findings, evidence, facts, and legal aspects; the greater the scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source.

Could you live with this, KillerChihuahua? --JN466 10:54, 7 October 2010 (UTC)

Still supportFifelfoo (talk) 11:17, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
  • I was asked to comment here, but I'm not seeing any clear benefit. What is wrong with the current wording that the proposal is intended to fix? Proposal five would make non-peer-reviewed literature, including material by academics, in some way second-class, and that's most of the sourcing that's used on Wikipedia. That may not have been the intention, but it's how I'm reading it. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 11:39, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Have also been mulling this over, the change in order doesn't seem to me to give a clear benefit. The part describing "academic works that have undergone scrutiny by a community of experts in that field" might seem to imply peer review, but it would perhaps more appropriately apply to reputation in the field. Possible phrasing would be "academic works or authors with a good reputation in a community of experts in that field." I'm also concerned about "High-quality mainstream media are equally valuable sources for topics such as current affairs, or biographies of living persons", as the mass media are frequently agenda driven and will give wide coverage to dramatic allegations then ignore eventual refutation of the allegations as no longer exciting and news-worthy. Perhaps "High-quality mainstream media can also be valuable sources for various topics including current affairs, and biographies of living persons." . . dave souza, talk 12:05, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
    • Dave, either of these rewordings is fine by me. The intent certainly was not to denigrate academic works; the first sentence names "peer-reviewed journals and books published by well-regarded academic presses" as examples of "academic publications", and thus highly reliable sources. As for the problem we are trying to fix, see e.g. the comments by Tony Sidaway, dave souza, and Awickert above. Briefly, media reports on science are not as reliable as the scientific literature itself. To give some examples, interesting studies may prematurely be reported as scientific breakthroughs; claims may be aired in the media that do not have support in the scientific community, or presented as major controversies even when 98% of scholars are in agreement; issues that depend on an understanding of statistical significance may be unduly simplified, or misrepresented. When it comes to matters of science, media sources are less reliable. Many unproductive arguments occur in various topic areas because editors insist that a press article that departs from the scientific consensus should be given equal weight to that consensus. --JN466 12:23, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
  • I'm again reminded of the Prem Rawat situation. There was an effort there to reject non-academic sources, and a corresponding effort to change this policy and RS to degrade newspapers as sources, because editors there wanted to use high-quality newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, to describe his expensive lifestyle, something that his supporters wanted to avoid. Academic sources, of course, would not dwell on these details until years after the newspapers had exposed them, if ever. This is why it's important to make sure the mainstream media aren't limited in their use, because they act as whistle blowers, and you never know where the next whistle is going to need to be blown. Secondly, a great deal of high-quality academic material is published without being peer-reviewed. Thirdly, there are serious problems with the peer-review system, and it most certainly pays no attention to neutrality, so there should never be a focus on it for WP's purposes. Peer-reviewed sources are one form of source among many that we have to consider. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 12:25, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
    • The proposal explicitly says that high-quality mainstream media sources are equally valuable for topics such as current affairs and biographies. Both of these categories apply directly to an article like Prem Rawat, a figure which is the subject of a biography here, and has been a subject of current-affairs reporting in the press. In my view, the proposed wording precisely rules out the kind of argument you are describing, i.e. that scholarly sources should be used to the exclusion of media reports in a case like Rawat (and intentionally so). --JN466 12:34, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
    • It also isn't the intent of the proposal to unduly privilege peer-reviewed academic sources over non-peer-reviewed academic sources. As you say, a peer review process is no absolute guarantee for high reliability; the quality of peer review varies in different fields. --JN466 12:46, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Any issue the media discusses comes under current affairs, so it's hard to see what the difference would be. I'd like to avoid any language that will give editors carte-blanche to dismiss sources they don't like. As for the peer-review issue, these words "the most authoritative sources are academic works that have undergone scrutiny by a community of experts in that field" privilege peer-reviewed sources. Some of the best sources are books by academics working alone. Peer-review depends entirely on who the reviewers were, and we rarely know that. Some are great, some are terrible, so it's no guarantee of anything—quite the reverse, because there are problems with material being rejected because off-message in some way. Plus, Wikipedia isn't an academic journal. What we do here is try to find the highest quality, most-informative, most-appropriate sources, and try to make sure we cover all POVs. You can't legislate for that in policy except in general terms. Remember that most editors read policy in order to stop other editors from doing something, so whatever words you add, you have to look at them from all angles, including the bad-faith ones. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 12:55, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
    • Science is science, and current affairs are current affairs. For the current-affairs aspects of science, including biographies, media are a good source, but they are not a good source for the science itself. Many topics in society, such as politics and religion, straddle both domains, and the proposal makes clear that both types of sources are valued for them.
    • As for "the most authoritative sources are academic works that have undergone scrutiny by a community of experts in that field", dave souza suggested an alternative wording above: "academic works or authors with a good reputation in a community of experts in that field." Would this address your concern? --JN466 13:25, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
  • What is a good source for the science itself? Example: a drug, FDA-approved, peer-reviewed this, peer-reviewed that. Who decides which scientists are worth listening to? Who decides which off-message voices may be included? I want to be guided by The New York Times telling us "Scientist X is saying there are problems with this drug, but the FDA and the peer-reviewed journals won't listen." Your proposal would inadvertently silence him. You would argue that it comes under current affairs by definition once the NYT reports it, but other editors might argue no, it's the science that's being discussed here, and that's not allowed unless it's in some peer-reviewed paper—which in effect leaves the drug company that developed the drug in charge of the flow of information.

    I think this is a problem in general with the attitude toward science sources on Wikipedia. There's never enough focus on who is financing the research. We seem to regard drug company X, which pays for all or most of the research you find about its products in peer-reviewed journals, as being a necessarily better source than unpaid Scientist X who tries to warn people in The New York Times that there might be an issue. To my mind it's fundamentally wrong-headed to favour the people with the money, simply because they're the ones who can afford to finance the trials, but it's what we almost always end up doing, and I'd hate to see our policy follow suit. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 14:08, 7 October 2010 (UTC)

  • Your approach would lead to Jenny McCarthy being favored over every medical study ever done re vaccinations. We're not the National Enquirer, here. Your concern about "people with money" translates to "people who actually know enough about what they're talking about to have a respected position within the scientific community"; those without are often crackpots who don't hold such a position for good reason. KillerChihuahua?!?Advice 14:39, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
  • The specific example you give would fall under Wikipedia:Identifying_reliable_sources_(medicine)#Popular_press today, which takes the same approach as the one proposed here: "the high-quality popular press can be a good source for social, biographical, current-affairs and historical information in a medical article." A notable controversy in a paper like the NYT ought to be fine by that standard; an article in the National Enquirer or the Daily Mail would fail it. And rightly so. --JN466 15:00, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
  • But certain editors already won't allow the NYT or the BBC as sources in these articles. The last thing we want to do is enshrine that in policy. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 15:41, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Jayen, there is a danger here of policy being made by what is essentially a lobby group on Wikipedia who push in favour of scientific sources of their choice over others that offer a critique. We can't allow any particular lobby group to make policy, just as in the real world lobby groups don't get to write their own legislation. The policies have to apply to all articles, all angles, all POVs. Scientific or scholarly point of view has been widely rejected on Wikipedia, and we saw what happened when it was tried on Citizendium. Any shift in an emphasis toward favouring peer-reviewed sources (or sources that the academic community has decided are on-message) over other academic and non-academic sources will need wiki-wide consensus, and will almost certainly not achieve it.

    Wikipedia policy has to make sure the off-message, contrarian, whistle-blowing sources get a look in too, within reason. I'm not including you in any lobby group, by the way. I can see that you're just trying to clarify things. But it's important to predict how your words would be misused. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 15:53, 7 October 2010 (UTC)

    • Thank you; and I'm with you in spirit on getting this right. One possibility is that we could add "notable [science] controversies" to "current affairs and bibliographies of living persons", to expand the scope within which we say that high-quality mainstream media are "equally valuable". I would hope editors might agree that if something hits the NYT, it is "notable" (taking global warming as an example, I find the NYT is cited both in the global warming FA, and in global warming controversy). Like Awickert, I'll think further about this. --JN466 17:47, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
    • We could also incorporate some of the points suggested by Awickert, below (i.e. that media sources have a much faster response time, and are vital sources for the public reception of science) in the WP:NEWSORG section of WP:IRS. --JN466 18:30, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
  • If the media is reporting on something written about in peer-reviewed sources, the latter are to be preferred in the same way that secondary sources trump tertiary sources. If the problem is that media sources contain information absent from academic sources (e.g., a person's lavish spending habits), I don't see how a preference for academic sources would prevent utilizing the media sources. The academic sources do not deny the person's prodigality, so there isn't a conflict. The issue seems to arise solely when the media repeats claims that the scientific community contests, as with global warming. The accusation seems to be that the supposedly academic sources are not operating according to strict standards, one side saying they are unfairly excluded from publications, the other that their opponents' research simply isn't up to par. A dispute over whether the standards of peer review are being met does not seem to invalidate a general preference for peer-reviewed sources. People are not excluded for being "off-message" as often as is sometimes reported. Almost every particular case I have seen where someone has claimed that the scientific establishment is suppressing their work has turned out to be a crank peddling snake oil. Exceptions are rare and identifiable and mainstream media coverage of those claims is noteworthy when it comes to article content. But none of this speaks against a general preference for academic sources. RJC TalkContribs 13:22, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
  • "Some of the best sources are books by academics working alone." Yes, yes they are, and scholarly monographs are sent out by academic presses to readers by scholarly editors. The number of times I hear colleagues moaning about reading a monograph for Press X and not getting that workload recognised... The commercial presses also have readers and editors, but tend to be read for commercial success or not getting sued. The first process constitutes peer review. "Academic works or authors with a good reputation in a community of experts in that field" worries me, I can see "Kevin doesn't have a good reputation," coming up almost immediately. In fact I can see myself using it on an article very rapidly to amplify an existing argument about an expert being considered FRINGE by the majority of the field. Fifelfoo (talk) 13:59, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
    • Good point; I can see that that wording might be prone to misuse. --JN466 15:31, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
  • But there are academics who write outside that process too, Fifelfoo, and we want to be able to use them as sources. Wikipedia is not an academic journal. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 15:39, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
  • If wikipedia were an academic journal then I'd heartily support us using material published by academics outside of the academic and commercial publishing mechanisms. We would be claiming expertise and a peer review process to authorise authors to draw disciplinary conclusions from such original research. Sadly, instead of being authors with authority to turn bad sources into good through disciplinary analysis, we're an editors. Fifelfoo (talk) 16:17, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
  • An idea for non-reviewed academic sources: if they end up being cited a lot (and therefore probably important for WP), the fact that others in the field read and cited that work can be construed as a "review lite" in the current framework. Might take a little rewording, but it seems like something like this might solve that conundrum. [In spite of the e/c, I think this lines up well with what Fifelfoo is saying above ("being authors with authority to turn bad sources into good through disciplinary analysis")], Awickert (talk) 16:22, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Responses to the above: First, mainstream newspapers often screw up in reporting the science, (yes, even NYT and BBC, though they have a better track record). In this case, the "2ndary source" is decidedly worse. I can produce examples. Second, I don't like the tone of this debate being about "scientists try to push a POV, so we shouldn't let scientific sources be regarded of more highly than other ones when discussing science." SV, while peer-review sometimes "breaks", I think that your view of it is incorrect (it seems that you think it is a bunch of yes-men pushing a status quo, when it is quite the opposite in my experience). And when it does break, the comment-and-reply process kicks in. Scientists have no scruples about going after each other if something seems wrong. The bottom line is that we need to start with sources that are highly-scrutinized, and move on from there. I have spent so much time pulling pseudoscience and quackery out of articles because someone wrote a book about it that it makes me want to puke, but other books are extremely good sources as noted above. However, the books that are good sources are consistent with the peer-reviewed literature, so there should be some way to make this mesh. Bottom line: if something like this doesn't get implemented, I'll end up spending all my time removing blatantly incorrect arguments and getting yelled at for being part of some kind of "science cabal/conspiracy/etc.," and my current semi-wikibreak will continue indefinitely (I am basically only watching this discussion) because the status quo sucks for me. Please, just give me something so I can write science without having Randy in Boise come in and tell me that the BBC news overturns years of work when the reality is that they don't know the physics and screwed up the terminology. Awickert (talk) 16:22, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
  • You make a very good point. So tell me: if we find the words that help with Randy in Boise, can you help to find the words for the following kind of example? A series of drug companies finance multi-million-dollar trials into drug-type X. Everything's peer-reviewed, research all paid for by the drug companies, all seems well, the companies are raking in billions, all the stats say lives are being saved. But some patients are feeling unwell on this drug, perhaps irrationally so, and a series of articles start to appear in high-quality media, some written by physicians who themselves took the drug, saying "Hey, I feel really sick on this stuff." Currently those sources are allowed by this policy. But in fact they are being kept out of articles because not scientific, not peer-reviewed. There are some trials that indicate problems, but they're dismissed as maverick primary sources that no one serious followed up on. So, tell me—and I mean this as a serious question—how can we satisfy your concern, whereby we mostly keep Randy in Boise out of articles, but satisfy mine, whereby we want to hear from Randy in Boise when he's not feeling well but multi-billion-dollar sources are telling him he's just being silly? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 16:55, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
  • That's a hard one. I agree that in your case, the news media can act as effective whistle-blowers, and on something like that, waiting for the slow-as-molasses scientific literature would be bad. OTOH, we need to write it in a way such that some random scientist can't say something crazy in an interview like "the Earth's mantle is liquid" and get it inserted with equal standing. I am working from home today, and going to go think about this for a while while working, because the conundrum seems important but the solution doesn't seem obvious. Awickert (talk) 17:26, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
Actually, it maybe isn't as hard as I thought. While science can be defined as, well, "science", if there are concerns about a drug or something, that can also fall under "current issues". This would allow an article to be like "scientific studies say that this is good, but people are getting sick and worried" in the drugs case. In fact, I think that this is how User:Ceranthor, myself, and others worked it out in the volcano FA's that I helped him write: we used scientific sources for the geological background, but felt that there was no problem in saying (based on the news coverage of the event) that the monitoring system was inadequate or that scientists did not expect something to happen and it actually did.
With that in mind, how does this sound?:
  • (1a) News are good for current events, and can cover scientific issues. (1b) News reports and interviews should be considered with appropriate WP:WEIGHT, but also with respect to the fact that they produce media much faster than the scientific community, and can therefore be important in events that are developing or ongoing. (2) Use of news articles for science/medicine should be restricted as much as possible to (a) basic facts, and (b) statements of opinion or concern with the state of science (e.g., medical expert example by SV); they should not be used on their own to provide new and/or independent scientific analyses.
Awickert (talk) 17:41, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
Yes, the "should not be used alone" part would work for me, though I wouldn't want to see "should be restricted as much as possible," though I do appreciate the point you're making there. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 17:57, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
If I could just repeat one point and ask everyone to take this fully into account: the line between science and industry is nowadays very blurred, and the result is often that when we use science sources we are in fact using industry sources. As we try to come up with new words for policy, it would help if everyone could substitute the word "industry" wherever they see the word "science," just to check that the wording would still be acceptable. I'm not suggesting that all science equates to industry, but such a large slice of it does that we have to make sure we're comfortable prioritizing sources who are often financed by very powerful multi-billion-dollar interests.

I'm not suggesting that any source be excluded because it has powerful interests behind it (people can be right or wrong regardless of who's paying), but prioritizing such sources means we would be allowing WP to be used as a platform for those interests, which I hope is something no Wikipedian wants. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 18:07, 7 October 2010 (UTC)

We could say, "Quality mainstream media are equally valuable sources for areas such as current affairs, biographies of living persons, and the public reception of people, products, and ideas." This should give the whistleblower in the NYT a voice. We could expand further in the WP:NEWSORG section of WP:IRS. --JN466 18:42, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Support. Don't care about paragraph order. Would prefer "media are also valuable sources" rather than the current "media are equally valuable sources", but not enough to make an issue of it. The careful distinction between scientific and current or biographical subjects should prevent any isses of the type which seem to be worrying SV. KillerChihuahua?!?Advice 13:56, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Support. Exactly what Killer Chihuahua says. Awickert (talk) 16:22, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Support Essentially the same logic as KC. Although my preference for "media are also valuable sources" rather than "media are equally valuable sources" might be stronger than the violent puppy's opinion. This is not a subtle distinction. JoshuaZ (talk) 04:32, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose. This would allow editors who disagree with certain media reports to remove them citing this policy. The policy is supposed to protect against precisely that scenario. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 22:16, 11 October 2010 (UTC)

Slim to address some of your concerns, allegations of drug companies biasing results would be in my mind an ethical, social type of thing and would be listed in a "controversy" section rather than in a "science" section of a pharmaceutical article. Prem Rawat advocates not wanting newspapers used to document his extravagant lifestyle and other morality issues again is not an academic issue, it is an ethical and societal issue and again could go in a non-academic section such as a "criticisms" or "controversy" section. What we don't want is newspapers being used for summarising scientific results and conclusions rather than going directly to the research itself. It is about newspapers being used to express scientific opinion on facts and conclusions of research. I actually do agree with your concerns, but can you not see the concerns that I and others are raising? I suppose we need language in the policy which is going to lead to improved sourcing standards without the policy being misused or abused to suppress notable controversy and dissenting views which occur outside of the academic peer reviewed process. Idealy a complimentary guideline, such as this one, WP:SCIRS could resolve these issues.--Literaturegeek | T@1k? 19:10, 11 October 2010 (UTC)

LG, I agree with you. The problem is in finding the right wording. There is also a conceptual problem, in that it's not always the case (if ever) that there is a "pure" set of scientific facts that we can refer to. For example, let's go back to my drug analogy. We have newspapers reporting that patients feel unwell on drug X, so let's say we put that in the controversy section. Following your argument, the rest of the article would be based directly on the scientific research. But that was paid for by the drug company, which is making billions from this drug. So how do we evaluate it, how do we find a neutral source who can tell us what the research means, whether it was adequate, whether other research is showing they are problems, if we exclude the mainstream media? They may sometimes get things wrong, but at least they are not being paid by the people who sell the drugs. Their mistakes are accidental, not institutionalized.
Do you see where I'm coming from with this? Excluding the mainstream media is dangerous, for all their faults. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 19:28, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
Yes we need to find the right wording. Scholarly books will often have academics who outside of the constraints of scientific peer review process problems such as bias and criticisms are discussed more freely; there is no need to go to newspapers. Scientific literature by its nature does not like to make allegations and speculations. Anyhow newspapers rarely report examples you give if they have not been documented in other better reliable sources. Newspapers just summarise peer reviewed researcg, reports from bureaucracies and so forth and are just as biased if not moreso than academia. So when you read "block buster antidepressant causes severe withdrawal symptoms"; this is not a journalist who has discovered this, it is because published research has discovered this. When you read Vioxx causes heart problems, that is not a journalist who discovered this it is because researchers have found this and published it. Almost always, there is no need to go to newspapers for such info. Now if you want to use a newspaper to say, such and such an doctor failed to disclose a COI and received 500 thousand dollars for promoting such and such a powerful drug to children and produced biased research, that is not a "scientific fact" rather it is a "current affairs" or whatever and is outside of say WP:MEDRS, and can be documented in a controversy section or such like and if notable, briefly mentioned in the lead of an article.--Literaturegeek | T@1k? 19:55, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
You're right, but unfortunately what you recommend is not being allowed either. I tried to add a BBC report about a drug to the article about it. It was based on a study at a university in the United States, which pointed out problems with the drug. I added the study too. Both were removed as not notable enough. That's just one example among many. The point is that certain editors develop fixed ideas about the science, and will only allow material that confirms their own biases. We saw that most clearly in the CC debate but it's happening all over WP. How do we counter that, if not by allowing a wide range of high-quality sources? WP was based on the idea that that's how you counter bias, by being inclusive not exclusive. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 20:05, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
If you don't mind me asking, what was the drug and what was the controversy? Fixated ideas, about the WP:TRUTH I think are going be problematic regardless of what guidelines and policies say. There are scholarly books and academic papers which discuss controversies in climate change and could be used following WP:WEIGHT and WP:NPOV. Allowing newspapers does not help at all that problem, infact as explained newspapers worsen the situation. The problems on the CC page are largely behavioural and hence why ArbCom was needed. I don't think the CC problems are representative of what happens on most other science related articles.--Literaturegeek | T@1k? 20:32, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
I am not sure how much of a difference the wording proposed here makes to your case, Slim. From what you say, you had a scholarly source, but editors at the article you were working on neither wanted the academic source nor the news source. --JN466 22:47, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
Yes, they were ignoring this policy, so in that sense it makes no difference what we say here, but I would hate for that behavior to be encouraged by it. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 22:52, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
Another thing is that your theory works against you in a lot of ways, drug companies often use the media via press releases which journalists summarise, and many doctors who give interviews for newspapers are connected to drug companies, the scrutiny is much less so than peer reviewed journals. Additionally the media will rarely criticise a drug unless there is data and experts to back up the criticism as they fear being sued for libel; so when you hear of drug X being terribly addictive or having terrible side effects and a doctor does an interview, there is already research to back this viewpoint up or controversy over biased research will be discussed in academic books or will be part of a class action lawsuit etc etc. In the climate change debate, which I know you expressed an interest in the case, we have the problem where only left wing newspapers are allowed to be used (which are more alarmist than the scientific literature) and right wing papers are reverted out for being "right wing anti-science", so as you can see for that example newspapers are "not helping" bring balance in this area. If people stuck to the academic literature and scholarly books including some sceptical viewpoints and attributing due weight to the prominance of a viewpoint that battlefield would be less. No disrespect intended Slim, but I feel you have undue faith in newspapers.--Literaturegeek | T@1k? 19:29, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
I think having too much faith in journalists or scientists or anyone else is a bad thing. Science never takes place in a vacuum, and nor does journalism. Someone is paying, and the people who control the money tend to control the direction. That's why my argument is usually that we include all high-quality sources when the issue is very contentious. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 19:35, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
I understand that it is possible to give too much faith to peer reviewed research but there are differences of opinions in the peer reviewed literature. Ok, but using newspapers is self-defeating for your objective of balance and NPOV, they don't criticise uncontrolled research (drug companies trying to get around the placebo effect) and other methodological problems, scholarly sources do this though; newspapers just repeat "the latest interesting study". The other problem is being lax with sourcing standards gives rise to quack cures and remedies, which are promoted by people and companies who make a living out of deceiving people. All, I am saying is that we should have a general preference for academic sources for academic facts. If allegations against research say for example stemming from a class action lawsuit or a university expells a prominant researcher for failing to declare money he is paid by drug companies for promoting a drug to kids or something like that then newspapers are fine.--Literaturegeek | T@1k? 20:14, 11 October 2010 (UTC)

Suggestion 6

Not a concrete proposal. Just some ideas for a direction that all sides might be able to work with. The third paragraph is the new one:

Current policy Proposal
The appropriateness of any source depends on the context. In general, the best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing facts, legal issues, evidence, and arguments; as a rule of thumb, the greater the degree of scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source.

Academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources where available, such as in history, medicine, and science, but they are not the only reliable sources in such areas. Material from reliable non-academic sources may also be used, particularly if it appears in respected mainstream publications. Other reliable sources include university-level textbooks, books published by respected publishing houses, magazines, journals, and mainstream newspapers. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria.

The appropriateness of any source depends on the context. In general, the best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing facts, legal issues, evidence, and arguments; as a rule of thumb, the greater the degree of scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source.

Academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources where available, but they are not the only reliable sources in such areas. Material from reliable non-academic sources may also be used, particularly if it appears in respected mainstream publications. Other reliable sources include university-level textbooks, books published by respected publishing houses, magazines, journals, and mainstream newspapers. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria.

The best sources for data in science, history, medicine, and other academic disciplines are usually scholarly sources, particularly peer-reviewed ones. Non-academic sources who write about this data may misreport or misinterpret it, and should therefore not be relied upon exclusively as sources of that data where academic secondary sources are available. Non-academic sources, including high-quality mainstream media sources, may be used to report and interpret the socio-economic, political, and human impact of research in science, history, medicine, and other disciplines.

SlimVirgin talk|contribs 19:49, 7 October 2010 (UTC)

You added para 3, and no other changes, is that correct? thanks! - KillerChihuahua?!?Advice 19:52, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
Slim also dropped "such as in history, medicine, and science," from the 2nd paragraph, and then names those three subjects in para 3.
Thoughts:
  • It's longer than proposal 5.
  • After "checking or analyzing" I miss the mention of "scientific findings" that proposal 5 introduced.
  • I've never liked the phrase "Academic and peer-reviewed publications". Peer-reviewed publications are one type of academic publications, along with academic books, and others. It's like saying, "fruit and oranges". I prefer "Academic publications, such as peer-reviewed journals and books published by well-regarded academic presses, ..." Moreover, university-level textbooks are later on listed among "other reliable sources", when clearly university-level textbooks are another type of academic source.
  • "Academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources where available, but they are not the only reliable sources in such areas. Material from reliable non-academic sources may also be used, particularly if it appears in respected mainstream publications." invites the problem we are trying to fix (e.g., citing the media on science).
  • Paragraph 3 tries to counteract that problem, but restricts its deliberations to "data" that the media may misreport. It is not just "data" that the media may misreport; it is commonly also their significance, the arguments derived from them, and even the questions the data were supposed to answer ("X causes cancer!"; "X cures cancer!").
  • The last sentence I like. :) --JN466 21:11, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
Rather puzzled about "data", which at least in science is the raw information where this seems to be talking about the interpretation of data. This seems to be largely restating the second paragraph, and I'm not sure that going into detail about use of good quality media is needed. More significantly, sources does mean the author and the work itself, and it would be useful to be explicit that the reputation of both among experts in the field should be taken into consideration when assessing the reliability of the source for purpose. . . dave souza, talk 19:08, 8 October 2010 (UTC)

Suggestion 7

Taking into account your points:

Current policy Proposal
The appropriateness of any source depends on the context. In general, the best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing facts, legal issues, evidence, and arguments; as a rule of thumb, the greater the degree of scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source.

Academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources where available, such as in history, medicine, and science, but they are not the only reliable sources in such areas. Material from reliable non-academic sources may also be used, particularly if it appears in respected mainstream publications. Other reliable sources include university-level textbooks, books published by respected publishing houses, magazines, journals, and mainstream newspapers. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria.

The appropriateness of any source depends on the context. In general, the best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing scientific findings, evidence, facts, legal issues, and arguments; as a rule of thumb, the greater the degree of scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source.

Academic publications, such as peer-reviewed journals and books published by academic presses, are usually the most reliable sources where available. Other reliable sources include books published by respected publishing houses, magazines, journals, and mainstream newspapers. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria.

The best sources for data in science, history, medicine, and other academic disciplines are usually scholarly sources, particularly peer-reviewed ones. Non-academic sources may misreport or misinterpret the data and its significance, and should therefore not be relied upon exclusively as sources of that kind of material where academic secondary sources are available. Non-academic sources, including high-quality mainstream media sources, may be used to report and interpret the socio-economic, political, and human impact of research in science, history, medicine, and other disciplines.

SlimVirgin talk|contribs 21:57, 7 October 2010 (UTC)

  • I still think "university-level textbooks" belong with academic publications (and in fact needn't be mentioned separately), but that isn't a big deal. Apart from that one quibble, I think it is well-written, and hits the mark. --JN466 22:35, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Although, Slim, thinking back on the LA Times example with the $400,000 house, and your warning that we have to anticipate ways in which policy wordings might be abused, you are opening a door there with "Non-academic sources may misreport or misinterpret the data and its significance, and should therefore not be relied upon exclusively as sources of that kind of material where academic secondary sources are available." Someone could argue that you need a scholarly source to get the house price right, and to interpret what it means. :) (Unfortunately, I am not joking here. I have seen arguments precisely like that being made.) --JN466 22:41, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
  • I thought I'd removed that. Error. It's gone now. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 22:37, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
    • No prob. --JN466 00:32, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Looks good to me! Awickert (talk) 08:48, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Looks good. I remember the concern being raised that media sources are good for biographies, current events, etc. The current wording should imply that by omission, but someone may want that added. RJC TalkContribs 14:33, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
    • I agree; the reference to press sources being valuable for current affairs and biographies is something I am missing here. We could tack ", and are generally valuable for current-affairs and biographical coverage" on at the end. --JN466 20:26, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
  • A thought: where academic secondary sources are available: I have often heard the argument that scientific papers and the like are primary sources, and so are unfavorable. To avoid opening that can of worms, could we remove the word "secondary"? Awickert (talk) 22:43, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
  • That would be something we'd want to avoid, the use of primary sources. Otherwise you could have any old scientific study, no matter how unknown, used in preference to a report about its subject matter in The New York Times. The point is that where journalists and scientific secondary sources are available for the basic subject matter, the latter would be preferable—not counting where there's interpretation of results going on in terms of a socio-economic-political perspective as described, where the journalistic source would be fine.

    One thing I wanted to ask, which is always worth checking before changing policy: could we have a few examples of the high-quality mainstream media being used as sources for scientific issues where they got the reports wrong? That is, some examples of the problem we're trying to solve here. I ask because the media tends to report these issues in response to requests from scientists: usually in response to press releases or interviews, including off-the-record interviews. So it would be interesting to see some examples of where they'd misinterpreted something. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 22:51, 8 October 2010 (UTC)

  • I am just about out the door. So a question for now: is an original research paper a primary or secondary source? If it is a primary source, then most of the scientific literature is unacceptable. If it isn't, but people who don't like it will argue via WP:PSTS that it shouldn't be used, then this guideline won't be doing its drama-reducing job. I will give examples when I get back - may be very late (or tomorrow morning) though. Awickert (talk) 23:01, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
Yes an original research study is a primary source. They can be used cautiously on wikipedia. A review paper or meta-analysis of primary research study on a given area are preferable. The more recent the better.--Literaturegeek | T@1k? 23:08, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
Several issues with this. (1) We are contradicting ourselves by saying that academic sources are preferred, but are primary sources so are bad. (2) "Review" articles are often ambiguously-not-review-articles. Many put new ideas into play as well, and non-review articles often also include literature reviews. The journal Quaternary Science Reviews is full of non-reviews! (3) In many parts of the geosciences at least, few true "review" articles are written, and these cover only a small portion of the topic. In regional geological studies, there are almost never review articles. (4) As mentioned above, review articles in the humanities are often not peer-reviewed! (5) Because journal articles are peer-reviewed, they have already been through scrutiny, and therefore do not give only the author's opinion.
I think that modern scientific articles therefore have to be considered in a slightly different way than, for example, historical texts, in which it would be easy to breach WP:OR by selectively quoting The Venerable Bede, for example: historians spend much of their lives studying the language and history so they can take primary sources in context, which is IMO a great reason to use their articles rather than the historical primary sources. Historians consider works written about history to be secondary sources, which is how I think that we should see scientific studies: we at WP do not perform our own experiments, but we take as sources the reports of those who do.
I'm trying to think of a good criterion: number of times cited, perhaps? I often wait 6+ months after an article is published to make sure that there isn't a comment made on it (these are published by the journal and are typically along the lines of "you are wrong"). Awickert (talk) 01:03, 9 October 2010 (UTC)
:Awickert the newspaper article is a non-academic secondary source. In a scientific article it would be best to cite directly the original paper or preferably a review which discusses his findings. It would be an ok source in a non-scientific article or section for discussing controversy or in a biography or such like.--Literaturegeek | T@1k? 23:25, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
I put that newspaper article in the wrong place (didn't see you replied so quickly); I was referring to SV's question. Sorry about that; if you could strike your comment and my response, would be appreciated, because they are the result of my fumble. Awickert (talk) 01:03, 9 October 2010 (UTC)
Ah ok, if you can post me the dates for the comment(s) that you would like me to strike and then I will strike them, here or to my talk page. I made a couple of posts.--Literaturegeek | T@1k? 23:48, 9 October 2010 (UTC)
Right here; just struck it since you sound OK with it. Sorry for the ambiguity in what I wrote. Un-strike if you are unhappy with my striking. Awickert (talk) 17:17, 10 October 2010 (UTC)
  1. Support proposal 7.--Literaturegeek | T@1k? 23:27, 8 October 2010 (UTC)

Proposal 8

The current wording up for discussion is this one (proposal 8):

Current policy Proposal
The appropriateness of any source depends on the context. In general, the best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing facts, legal issues, evidence, and arguments; as a rule of thumb, the greater the degree of scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source.

Academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources where available, such as in history, medicine, and science, but they are not the only reliable sources in such areas. Material from reliable non-academic sources may also be used, particularly if it appears in respected mainstream publications. Other reliable sources include university-level textbooks, books published by respected publishing houses, magazines, journals, and mainstream newspapers. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria.

The appropriateness of any source depends on the context. In general, the best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing scientific findings, evidence, facts, and legal aspects; as a rule of thumb, the greater the degree of scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source. Where a topic is subject to a significant amount of academic research – whether it be hard science, social science or the humanities – Wikipedia articles should accurately reflect the current status of research.[1]

Academic publications, such as peer-reviewed journals and books published by well-regarded academic presses, are usually the most reliable sources where available. Non-academic sources can be used, particularly if they are respected mainstream publications. This includes books by reputable publishers as well as newspapers, magazines, journals and electronic media.

In topics which are the subject of scholarly research, the most authoritative sources are usually academic works that have undergone scrutiny by a community of experts in a field, particularly peer-reviewed systematic reviews. Quality mainstream media sources can be used for areas such as current affairs – including the socio-economic, political, and human impact of science – or biographies of living persons. Non-academic sources may misreport or misinterpret data and its significance, and should therefore not be relied upon exclusively as sources of that kind of material where academic secondary sources are available.

  1. ^ Laurent, MR; Vickers, TJ (2009). "Seeking health information online: does Wikipedia matter?". J Am Med Inform Assoc 16 (4): 471–9. doi:10.1197/jamia.M3059. PMID 19390105. 

Comments on proposal 8

There are problems with all the previous proposals. Proposal 5 downgrades academics sources by claiming non-academics sources "may be used as well" or are "equal valuable". Proposal 5 claims "Non-academic sources may be used as well..." but this conflicts with MEDRS. Proposal 5 claims "Quality mainstream media are equally valuable sources..." but this conflicts with MEDRS. Proposal 5 does not distinguish between the quality of sources and proposal 7 is confusing to understand the quality of sources. The order of the text for proposal 5 is a bit confusing and hard to follow. Proposal 7 it a bit too long and difficult to comprehend. Proposal 8 is a significant improvement when compared to the watered-down, incoherent proposal 5 version and the complicated, long proposal 7 version. I think everyone can live with 8 because it is concise and contains the best parts of both 5 and 7. See Wikipedia talk:Verifiability#Academic and media sources and see Wikipedia talk:Verifiability#Current status for previous proposed versions. QuackGuru (talk) 18:32, 15 October 2010 (UTC)

Paragraph

Academic publications, such as peer-reviewed journals and books published by well-regarded academic presses, are usually the most reliable sources where available. Non-academic sources can be used, particularly if they are respected mainstream publications. This includes books by reputable publishers as well as newspapers, magazines, journals and electronic media.

This paragraph is too open. Perhaps the following is preferable:

Academic publications, such as peer-reviewed journals and books published by well-regarded academic presses, are usually the most reliable sources where available. Non-academic sources can be used, particularly if they are respected mainstream publications. This includes books by reputable publishers as well as newspapers, magazines, journals and electronic media. It must be recognized that mainstream reports derive their authority from that of their sources and contributors, and these must be scrutinized. Such reports also may reflect the opinion of a particular time, and may be subject to revision as events evolve and opinion further develops.

Brews ohare (talk) 18:59, 15 October 2010 (UTC)

I don't agree about elevating newspapers and magazines to become "reliable sources" when they themselves quote "reliable sources" to shore up their claims. Their reliability is derivative, depending upon the reliability of those they quote and those who wrote the articles. Brews ohare (talk) 19:26, 15 October 2010 (UTC)

In the third paragraph, I would repeat the "usually" in the sentence about academic sources. I could imagine exceptions -- an anthropologist or sociologist writing about World of Warcraft, for example, may indeed not be the most authoritative source for, say, plot details or release dates of the game. I think that is my only quibble; otherwise I am happy to support this version, too. --JN466 13:25, 20 October 2010 (UTC)
Done. QuackGuru (talk) 18:42, 20 October 2010 (UTC)
Support. --JN466 00:05, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
I'm concerned that this version treats all articles in a given journal as having equal reliability, when one may find conference proceedings listing unrefereed poster presentations in the same journal as systematic reviews. It should be made clear that the article is the source, not the journal, and that particular types of publication are the most reliable. MEDRS has done this to very good effect.LeadSongDog come howl! 21:33, 20 October 2010 (UTC)
Done. QuackGuru (talk) 22:26, 20 October 2010 (UTC)
I think there should be something stating that if a highly reliable academic source is in conflict with a "mainstream media" type source, the academic source would prevail. It's unfortunate to even have to say that, but I've actually seen arguments that peer reviewed journal articles were "invalid" or "disputable" because they conflicted with a newspaper. Seraphimblade Talk to me 00:14, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
Extra details is for the MEDRS page. I want to keep this proposal concise. I did add information to another page along those lines. To help with this issue for this page I added a wikilink to MEDRS. QuackGuru (talk) 03:27, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
I disagree with the idea that when two reliable sources conflict, one must "prevail". WP:NPOV says to present both viewpoints. I would agree that the academic source should be given more weight... but I disagree that it makes the media source "invalid" (or vise-versa). Blueboar (talk) 12:03, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
If, for example, a medical study comes out that says "Vitamin Q, in some selected patients, may in the future prove useful for treating Rare Disease X based on these preliminary studies" and Local Paper reporter reports "Vitamin Q cures Rare Disease X!", clearly the study is more reliable and the newspaper article should be ignored for the purposes of the wikipedia article on Vitamin Q, right? You wouldn't write "study says Y, but local paper says Z" (I would hope). If one source is more reliable than another, then it should take preference.Yobol (talk) 12:37, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
Blueboar's disagreement is with MEDRS. We don't use old studies or references that don't meet MEDRS to argue against systematic reviews. QuackGuru (talk) 16:42, 21 October 2010 (UTC)

I restored the link to MEDRS. There is no reason to remove the link MEDRS unless you are against MEDRS. QuackGuru (talk) 16:42, 21 October 2010 (UTC)

I don't mind a link to MEDRS... I just disagree with the location of that link. Blueboar (talk) 16:48, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
Is the current version acceptable? Blueboar (talk) 17:14, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
I previously explained on your talk page where the appropriate place is for the link. Did you restore the link to MEDRS to an odd place in hopes someone else will delete it. Justing having a link to MEDRS provokes needless discussion. So what is going to happen when an approved proposal to clarify V policy is placed directly in V policy. Based on your disagreement with MEDRS, I assume you are against the recent proposals to improve V policy for sourcing such as proposal 8. QuackGuru (talk) 17:50, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
Whoa, guys, let's try and maintain a civil tone here! I'm sure you both intend the improvement of the encyclopedia, this is just a discussion of how, not whether, to do that!LeadSongDog come howl! 18:52, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
Are you sure that every editor and all IPs intend to improve the encyclopedia. Is it uncivil or civil to ignore when a person is being unhelpful or is unintentially being unproductive. QuackGuru (talk) 19:06, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
Clearly that degree of AGF would be folly in the presence of rampant evidence to the contrary, but I see no such evidence in this discussion. All I see here is a disagreement over where to place a link being treated as a major dispute. Is there something I've missed? LeadSongDog come howl! 20:35, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
I knew ahead of time which two editors were probably going to delete the link before I ever added the link. QuackGuru (talk) 16:31, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
I restored the MEDRS link to the appropriate place. QuackGuru (talk) 17:20, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
LeadSongDog, is there something you've missed? Blueboar claims the MEDRS link can be given context but SlimVirgin deleted the link becuase she thinks a link to MEDRS has no clear benefit. Then Blueboar agrees with the changes that were not a copyedit. There is disagreement over including a link to MEDRS which should of never escalated into a major dispute. I don't see any valid point to deleted it when other similar links like WP:IRS have been given context in V policy. QuackGuru (talk) 19:04, 24 October 2010 (UTC)

I made this change to add the version which was a merge of 5 and 7. There was no serious objection to this version. QuackGuru (talk) 17:14, 22 October 2010 (UTC)

I restored the merge of 5 and 7 because there was no specific objection to the text. QuackGuru (talk) 17:20, 22 October 2010 (UTC)

Wait a minute, there's absolutely no consensus for this change, and significant opposition to it, above. Promoting one whole class of sources as extra-reliable while demoting a whole other class of sources to second-class status will take a whole lotta consensus, which you clearly don't have. Please make sure you get significant support for significant policy changes like this. Jayjg (talk) 20:54, 22 October 2010 (UTC)
There is no significant opposition to proposal 8 above or serious objection to the specific text of this proposal. Please comment on the text of the proposal rather than making vague objections. Clarifying which sources as most authoritative such as peer-reviewed systematic reviews is consistent with MEDRS which has the support of the community. Cherry picking references will not help improve Wikipedia pages. Are you against MEDRS. QuackGuru (talk) 02:53, 23 October 2010 (UTC)
The other proposals each had at least a dozen people comment "support" or "oppose". This one had exactly two "supports", you and one other editor, and no other comments. Claiming "there is no significant opposition" to this major change in policy is disingenuous, as there is also "no significant support". So too is claiming that your changes are "consistent with MEDRS which has the support of the community", and then implying I therefore oppose both WP:MEDRS and "the community"; please review loaded question, begging the question, and ignoratio elenchi. Trying to expand a guideline for medical sources into a policy for all sources is a bad idea, because different areas of knowledge have vastly different kinds of sources supporting them, and because guidelines are less authoritative than policies. Jayjg (talk) 00:34, 24 October 2010 (UTC)
The other proposals were made earlier than proposal 8, and since then editors have worked together in this thread to improve the merge of 5 and 7, with the concise proposal 8 version. And there is still no significant opposition to clarify the reliability of sourcing in this policy. Trying to explain medical, media and other sources in a policy for sourcing is clearly a good idea. Different areas of knowledge have vastly different kinds of sources supporting them as explained in the proposal 8. You are unable to make a specific objection to the proposal. I suggest you could at least try to collaborate with improving the proposals; please review collaboration. Vague objections not specific to the text are not helpful. Although all sources are not equally reliable each type of source has its place for a specific area of knowledge is what can be clarified in policy. The current wording in policy is vague and can easily be improved when editors are concerned that current policy treats all sources as equally reliable. QuackGuru (talk) 01:36, 24 October 2010 (UTC)
QG, I've made a specific objection to the proposal, and your proposal hasn't addressed issues specifically objected to in previous proposals. The addition of "scientific findings" in the first paragraph, and the entire third paragraph is m:Instruction creep, designed as part of a long-term, on-going campaign against pseudo-science. While I fully support Wikipedia's policy of avoiding promoting fringe views on Wikipedia, the current policies already take care of that. Downgrading reliable media and other sources to "areas such as current affairs", even with the explanation provided, doesn't actually help Wikipedia. "Academic works" are, in general, fairly reliable, but, like other sources, they come in all flavors; some are highly reliable, some are questionable, some are downright nutty. Special pleading on their behalf, just so you can slam chiropractry even harder, isn't the answer. Jayjg (talk) 02:24, 24 October 2010 (UTC)
What was your previous specific objection to the wording of this proposal. The addition of "scientific findings" in the first paragraph, and the entire third paragraph does not create problems for editing various articles. You do realise other editors are concerned about the current wording and want to change the wording becuase I assume they preceive it as a problem with editing on Wikipedia. The current policy does not take care of the problems that all sources are equal according to policy. The proposal does not downgrade reliable media and other sources to "areas such as current affairs", because of the explanation provided. If you disagree then you could suggest improving the wording rather then being against the whole proposal. If you believe this proposal downgrades reliable media and other sources then do you believe MEDRS downgrades reliable media and other sources.
The current wording such as Where available, academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources, such as in history, medicine, and science. But they are not the only reliable sources in such areas. Material from reliable non-academic sources may also be used, particularly if it appears in respected mainstream publications doesn't actually help Wikipedia because it gives the wrong instruction that all sources are equally reliable. It isn't the answer to claim all sources are equal. You suggested the current policies already take care of dealing with the issues of proposal 8. Where in policies is proposal 8 repeated in regard to verifying the reliability of different sources. If another policy does take care of this proposal then V policy conflicts with another policy. Do you want policy to say any source "may also be used" as long as it is reliable. Quality mainstream media are not equally valuable sources in all circumstances. Do you think it is appropriate that policy treats any reliable source as equal to another reliable source. It's unfortunate that different sources are treated as if they were the same flavor in V policy. QuackGuru (talk) 04:34, 24 October 2010 (UTC)
I can't follow what is going on here, and I suspect very few others can either. QuackGuru could you please address the issue I asked below of what your interest is in adding new content to V and NPOV? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 07:39, 24 October 2010 (UTC)
To be fair, Slim, every editor has an interest in this policy, and these interests are legitimate. You have stated your interest in including media criticism of pharmaceutical products in our articles; I don't doubt that QuackGuru has similar legitimate interests. Let us rather concentrate on finding a wording that best serves the encyclopedia's interests overall. --JN466 16:05, 24 October 2010 (UTC)
At least Slim is honest enough to say she can't follow the discussion for proposal 8. Slim, can you at least try to address the proposal and help improve it. QuackGuru (talk) 19:04, 24 October 2010 (UTC)
Problems with proposal 8. Two problems:
1. It says: "In topics which are the subject of scholarly research, the most authoritative sources are usually academic works that have undergone scrutiny by a community of experts in a field, particularly peer-reviewed systematic reviews."
That's a huge assumption, unless you're simply defining "authoritative" that way, in which case it's a tautology. You are saying you personally would trust a 25-year-old historian who has just completed his PhD over a 60-year-old journalist for the New York Times who has been writing about the same issue for 40 years. I wouldn't. And I don't think the policy should take a side on that difference of opinion, because deciding which is the better source will depend on the context.
2. It says: "Quality mainstream media sources can be used for areas such as current affairs – including the socio-economic, political, and human impact of science – or biographies of living persons."
This will lead to arguments about not using a media source if it reports any of the science, which of course they all will when discussing the socio-economic aspects. And why single out science? The first part talks about scholarly research, then suddenly the second part jumps to science.
I think the proposal is a violation of NPOV. It's an attempt to introduce scientific or scholarly point of view via a back door, even though it has been rejected many times by the wider community. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 19:15, 24 October 2010 (UTC)
Do you think this proposal is a violation of MEDRS or is it consistent with how experienced editors are currently editing many different articles.
There is no problem with proposal 8. Here are two parts of proposal 8:
Part 1. It says: "In topics which are the subject of scholarly research, the most authoritative sources are usually academic works that have undergone scrutiny by a community of experts in a field, particularly peer-reviewed systematic reviews."
The qualifier is "In topics which are the subject of scholarly research,...". It is understand which sources are usually the most authoritative such as peer-reviewed sources for scholarly research. Then part 2 explains that other sources can be used.
Part 2. It says: "Quality mainstream media sources can be used for areas such as current affairs – including the socio-economic, political, and human impact of science – or biographies of living persons."
"Quality mainstream media sources can be used for areas...". It does use the word "can". This will lead to arguments that quality mainstream media sources can be used for areas such as current affairs – including the socio-economic, political, and human impact of science – or biographies of living persons. The proposal does not single out science. You seriously think introducing science or a scholarly view is a problem when quality mainstream media sources can be used. Proposal 8 clearly explains which sources can be used depending on the context. If you have a better way of wording it I am all ears. Do you have a specific proposal in mind to remedy the concern with the ambiguous wording of the current policy. QuackGuru (talk) 20:12, 24 October 2010 (UTC)
Jayjg, I hope next time you will help with improving the proposals rather than criticising the effort many editors have worked together to improve. A little guidance in policy is much better than confusing editors into thinking all sources are the same color. QuackGuru (talk) 19:04, 24 October 2010 (UTC)
The current wording on this subject doesn't appear to need improving. Solutions in search of a problem don't "improve" things. Jayjg (talk) 03:56, 28 October 2010 (UTC)

Proposal 1:

"It is vital that significant academic research in a field -- whether it be hard science or the humanities -- must accurately reflect the current status of research. Laurent, MR; Vickers, TJ (2009). "Seeking health information online: does Wikipedia matter?". J Am Med Inform Assoc 16 (4): 471–9. doi:10.1197/jamia.M3059. PMID 19390105. "

I propose this change to proposal 8 at the end of the first paragraph. QuackGuru (talk) 02:14, 25 October 2010 (UTC)

Perhaps this might work better: Where a topic area is subject to a significant amount of academic research – whether it be hard science, social science or the humanities – our articles should accurately reflect the current status of that research.[1]
Good source. --JN466 07:18, 25 October 2010 (UTC)
  1. ^ Laurent, MR; Vickers, TJ (2009). "Seeking health information online: does Wikipedia matter?". J Am Med Inform Assoc 16 (4): 471–9. doi:10.1197/jamia.M3059. PMID 19390105. 
Done with tweaks for brevity and flow. QuackGuru (talk) 17:16, 25 October 2010 (UTC)
Thanks. --JN466 19:02, 25 October 2010 (UTC)
Too specific for a general policy; instruction creep intended only to assist you in getting your way on the very small set of articles you edit, such as chiropractry. You need to write policies so they benefit all articles; please stop trying to crack nuts with sledgehammers. Jayjg (talk) 03:56, 28 October 2010 (UTC)

Proposal 2:

"Although medical news articles are generally not the most reliable sources for science and medicine information, a meticulously researched and fact-checked news article can be a good source.[1][2][3]"

Here is something to consider including. QuackGuru (talk) 04:44, 25 October 2010 (UTC)

  1. ^ Schwitzer G (2008). "How do US journalists cover treatments, tests, products, and procedures? an evaluation of 500 stories". PLoS Med 5 (5): e95. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050095. PMID 18507496. Lay summaryGuardian (2008-06-21). 
  2. ^ Dentzer S (2009). "Communicating medical news—pitfalls of health care journalism". N Engl J Med 360 (1): 1–3. doi:10.1056/NEJMp0805753. PMID 19118299. 
  3. ^ Woloshin S, Schwartz LM, Casella SL, Kennedy AT, Larson RJ (2009). "Press releases by academic medical centers: not so academic?". Ann Intern Med 150 (9): 613–8. PMID 19414840. 
Too specific for a general policy; instruction creep intended only to assist you in getting your way on the very small set of articles you edit, such as chiropractry. You need to write policies so they benefit all articles; please stop trying to crack nuts with sledgehammers. Jayjg (talk) 03:56, 28 October 2010 (UTC)

Examples of the problem we're trying to address

Examples here, please, of the high-quality mainstream media being used as a source for scientific material on Wikipedia, where the story had misreported or misinterpreted the material:

Let's start here: [19]. Awickert (talk) 23:04, 8 October 2010 (UTC) [Missed part about being used as well; we've been fairly successful in making sure that this doesn't happen. The problem IMO is not that newspapers end up trumping science, but rather that the consistency with which the news/science source discussion resurfaces is such a massive waste of time. Awickert (talk) 01:05, 9 October 2010 (UTC)]
Not the Daily Mail, please, because that isn't a good media source, except in limited circumstances. I'm looking for an example from the high-quality mainstream media. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 00:20, 9 October 2010 (UTC)
A beautiful BBC example from Language Log, with links to many, many more. [20] An astronomical UPI blunder. [21] Hans Adler 23:14, 8 October 2010 (UTC) Sorry, poor reading comprehension at this time of the night. I was responding to SV's earlier question for bad science reporting being used here, and missed the part about it being used. Hans Adler 23:32, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
  • You don't necessarily need to have the media misreport or misinterpret something (although unquestionably, they sometimes do) to have a Wikipedia dispute about sourcing science content to media articles. To be honest, many disputes around the use of press sources in this project will likely look more like this one: [22][23]. --JN466 00:22, 9 October 2010 (UTC)
I've seen editors say they're often having to correct material cited to the press, so it'd be good to see some examples of where good newspapers are getting things wrong. I don't mean publishing things editors don't like (e.g. the climate-change dispute), but actually getting it wrong. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 00:26, 9 October 2010 (UTC)
I hope our science editors will be able to come with some convincing examples. If not, we should drop back to proposal 5. The example I offered above [24][25] is really about editors using media anecdotes to synthesise a point about science, rather than reflecting coverage in authoritative sources dealing with the question. That happens a lot around here -- editors haven't read any of the scholarly literature, but want to contribute, based on something they have just read in a paper. --JN466 00:47, 9 October 2010 (UTC)
I can't come up with an example because the request was for current issues. We're pretty effective at removing those, but it would be much easier (and less painful) if there were a more straightforward guideline. Awickert (talk) 06:53, 9 October 2010 (UTC)
This diff, citing this NY Times article, see this blog post for description of misinterpretation. Yobol (talk) 08:02, 9 October 2010 (UTC)
This diff, citing this Guardian article which cites a "review" which alleges conflict of interest by industry studies. This "review" is nothing more than a self-published lit search on a personal website (and a god-awful one at that) that would never pass peer-review but is cited as fact by the press. Note the NY Times also cites this "review" and is cited in one of our articles for that purpose as well. Yobol (talk) 15:22, 9 October 2010 (UTC)

Current status

Proposal 5, above, attracted significant support; I think the jury is still out on whether Suggestion 7, which goes further in actively criticising press sources, is justified. I propose we implement Proposal 5 for now, and see if discussion of Suggestion 7 progresses further. --JN466 12:28, 11 October 2010 (UTC)

This motion sounds good to me. I am very happy with Proposal 5. Awickert (talk) 16:06, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
We can't implement any suggestion with such a small number of people responding. This would be a fairly major shift in emphasis for the policy. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 21:49, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
What would you propose? Shall we start an RfC? --JN466 21:53, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
Editors please note that I made an update to proposal 5, adding the words "including the public aspects of science" to the sentence about media sources. This was in response to concerns voiced by User:Sm8900 above. --JN466 22:05, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
I think that we should be WP:BOLD and update according to proposal 7 and if any controversy emerges, it can be addressed in a further conversation and consensus building etc.--Literaturegeek | T@1k? 22:12, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
First we need to know which wording we're recommending, and that depends on what kind of problem we're trying to solve. I asked for examples but very few were offered. Then we would need to come up with very neutral wording for an RfC. This would be a fairly fundamental change in the way WP handles sources, so speed is not a good thing. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 22:14, 11 October 2010 (UTC)

The current wording up for discussion is this one (proposal 5, amended):

Current policy Proposal
The appropriateness of any source depends on the context. In general, the best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing facts, legal issues, evidence, and arguments; as a rule of thumb, the greater the degree of scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source.

Academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources where available, such as in history, medicine, and science, but they are not the only reliable sources in such areas. Material from reliable non-academic sources may also be used, particularly if it appears in respected mainstream publications. Other reliable sources include university-level textbooks, books published by respected publishing houses, magazines, journals, and mainstream newspapers. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria.

Academic publications, such as peer-reviewed journals and books published by well-regarded academic presses, are usually the most reliable sources in topic areas where they are available. Non-academic sources may be used as well, particularly if they are respected mainstream publications. This includes books by reputable publishers as well as newspapers, magazines, journals and electronic media.

The appropriateness of any source depends on the context. In topics which are the subject of scholarly research, the most authoritative sources are academic works that have undergone scrutiny by a community of experts in that field. Quality mainstream media are equally valuable sources for areas such as current affairs – including the socio-economic, political, and human impact of science – or biographies of living persons. In general, the best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing scientific findings, evidence, facts, and legal aspects; the greater the scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source.

This was the proposal that has attracted most wide-spread support to date (I have since added the words "including the public aspects of science", as mentioned above). I have notified the editors that commented on the proposal of this present discussion. --JN466 22:24, 11 October 2010 (UTC)

  • Pro Delayed RfC. I would agree that we shouldn't be bold regarding policies. To me this represents a clarification of what I understand WP:V to have been saying, but if it looks like a major change to some then we should treat it as one. I will say, however, that every RfC I've seen for the last couple of months has gotten nowhere: everyone feels the need to respond to everything, the discussions go on too long for anyone to read, people decide to introduce compromise proposals, etc. I am thinking of the "list article" imbroglio over at WT:N and its RfC. I would suggest laying down groundrules for the RfC (e.g., no new proposals) and not putting it up for a week, with no further discussion during that week, so we don't just carry this conversation over to there, which then gets carried back over to here, all to no avail. RJC TalkContribs 22:41, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose. It is handing over certain topic areas entirely to specialist sources, so that the lowliest academic might be favoured over the most senior of journalists. That makes no sense, and has the potential to lead to NPOV violations and poorly sourced articles. In addition the second part of the proposal contradicts the first part, so we could not implement it as it is. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 22:42, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
    • We have to strike a balance. The current policy also has problems, in that the lowliest Daily Telegraph blog has more chance of making it into our articles than the writings of the world's most qualified experts! --JN466 22:51, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
  • I agree that finding good words to avoid both problems is a good idea, but I think it will be hard and will take time, because whatever words we write will be abused, so we have to be like good legislators and look at every possible angle, so that we write good law. That can't happen in this rushed atmosphere, with people voting for various proposals because it would let them do what they want to do. (Not referring to you when I say that, btw, but it's an obvious danger.) SlimVirgin talk|contribs 22:55, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
    • Well, the best principle I can come up with is that science sources are best for science, and media sources are indispensable for BLPs and current affairs, including, as you put it, the socio-economic, political, and human impact of science. That is what the proposal is about; it recognises the importance of both. --JN466 22:59, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
  • But the proposal you put forward doesn't say that. People will act on the precise words, not what we intended. And to say that science sources are best for science is to miss the point that others have been making. Is a science source funded by a drug company the best source of information about that company's drugs? That's an open question. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 23:02, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
    • I am happy to use the phrase "including the socio-economic, political, and human impact of science" instead of "including the public aspects of science"; if you prefer that wording, please feel free to swap it out above. As for the wider question, you are basically saying that the most reputable, mainstream sources out there may be biased. But we have that problem everywhere, in all types of sources. People will say that all American sources are biased when it comes to Iran, or Israel, or oil, or any other interest that has a lobby group. Systemic bias is not a problem we can solve in Wikipedia -- we are reliant on our sources, and NPOV orders us to reproduce the views expressed in our sources, including any systemic bias inherent in their systems of production. Let's take a break. :) As you say, there is no desperate hurry. --JN466 23:11, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
All sources are biased, which is why we don't hand over anything entirely to one set of sources. That's the whole point of NPOV. You are suggesting this: that if I set up a company to make artificial sweetener, and I hire the scientists to make that sweetener for me, and they produce research that shows the sweetener is wonderful and safe and life-enhancing, and we should probably all be using it -- my company's sources must be prioritized (because I have employed the scientists) over the New York Times, which reports, "Hang on, but people using this sweetener have been growing two heads." Not scientific! we say, ignore it! SlimVirgin talk|contribs 23:20, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
I've inserted your wording ("including the socio-economic, political, and human impact of science") above; it is better formulated, and to my mind, adequately covers the scenario you mention here, on a policy level. --JN466 23:39, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Support Prefer Proposal #7 over #5, but both are improvements over present wording. In my view, the problem of the over-use of "high quality" media sources that do a poor job of getting the nuances of scientific facts and views correct greatly outweigh the concern for a need to establish a theoretical outlet to whistleblow on pharmaceutical conspiracies. Scientists know science better than journalists; the highest quality sources on science comes from scientists. Yobol (talk) 00:27, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Support Proposal 7 and proposal 5, with a preference for proposal 7, per user Yobol and my other comments I have made.--Literaturegeek | T@1k? 01:21, 12 October 2010 (UTC) I have changed the wording of my vote to make clear that I support both proposal 5 and 7.--Literaturegeek | T@1k? 23:06, 16 October 2010 (UTC)
  • For the moment, I prefer proposal 5, in the version included above in this-here section, to proposal 7. I feel we have not yet seen enough concrete examples showing that actual misreporting or misinterpreting of science in high-quality media sources is a major problem here in this project. In my experience, the more common problem with using media sources for science content is that they are anecdotal, recentist, and have a narrower focus. This causes WP:Undue problems that are difficult to negotiate on talk pages, because editors will insist that "A reliable source has said this" – especially editors who lack a good overview of the science. A media source need not be flat-out wrong, it may just lack perspective. This is where scholarly sources are stronger, and thus "more authoritative". Science articles should primarily reflect the edifice of scientific knowledge, not the ephemeral and ever-changing preoccupations of the media. Having said that, I would support proposal 7 over the present policy wording, and might come to support it fully if more evidence were added to the examples section above. I am also interested in other ideas and perspectives editors might add; as SlimVirgin cautions, we should deliberate carefully before changing policy, and try to get this right. --JN466 01:44, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Support Proposal 5 but would accept one of the watered-down versions if necessary. Peer-reviewed scholarly research is obviously more reliable than hobbyist websites, but it's also arguably more reliable than journalism. Wonderful journalists exist, but: (1) they usually work under short-term deadlines; (2) they are required to cover a huge range of topics and often lack the background knowledge that specialist academics can acquire over time; (3) the peer review mechanisms in journalism are not as strong. In the areas I edit (classical composers, early keyboard instruments), I find that journalists often mess up pretty badly; the professional scholars do much better. Opus33 (talk) 02:14, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Support Proposal 5. Proposal seven is much too long; we already suffer from a TL;DR with policies, and while length which is necessary to make policy clear is unavoidable, 7 does not clarify but rather waters down, weakens, and confuses the policy. KillerChihuahua?!?Advice 15:05, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose any of the proposals:
    • The proposals apply only to the sciences, while Wikipedia:Verifiability#Reliable_sources applies to all fields, e.g. popular fiction and video games. --Philcha (talk) 19:31, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
    • The work of non-academic sources is variable, e.g. I can find good and poor work from the same publishers in both paleontology and video games. --Philcha (talk) 19:31, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
      • I disagree with your first point, Philcha, for two reasons. First, the proposals as written clearly acknowledge that there may be areas where scholarly sources are not available. Secondly, there is scholarly literature on popular fiction and video games (clearly not on every individual title ever released, but certainly on the genres per se, and some of their major proponents), just like there are academic musicologists writing on heavy metal (our featured articles in this area cite them). One of our present weaknesses is that too little use is made of such scholarly literature -- where available, they are intelligently written sources, making interesting points that would enrich what we offer our readers. As for your second point, we can't legislate for varying quality in publishers' outputs, and the proposals entail no change over present policy in that regard. --JN466 19:50, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
      • To give an example, there are over 100 university press-published book sources on World of Warcraft; not one of them is cited in our article. That is a loss to our readers, because these untapped sources have interesting and insightful things to say. (There are also several thousand sources on WoW in google scholar.) --JN466 20:03, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
        • I'm all in favour for using academic sources where available, for any topic - and I agree that there scholarly literature on "popular culture" such as popular fiction and video games. While even academic sources occasionally go wrong, other academics will usually corrected errors in a reasonable time - it's very Darwinian business. --Philcha (talk) 23:06, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
        • I am much less confident in non-academic sources, even in the most prestigious non-academic publications. As I said, I've seen errors in non-academic articles about paleontology and video games. Non-academic publications do not get the independent post-publication scrutiny that articles and books by academic articles and books have to withstand. --Philcha (talk) 23:06, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
          • Does that mean you would like the proposals to discourage the use of non-academic sources more than they do at present? --JN466 23:17, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
            • I'm dissatisfied with the commercial, non-academic press, for the reasons I've described. I had more on this in one of my own pages but cleared that out - if needed I can try to find it in the history. On the other hand some SPS is very good and reliable in the RL sense - Carl Zimmer's blog is an excellent example. --Philcha (talk) 12:51, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
              • What is your view of the current policy wording in this regard? --JN466 18:19, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Support 5, prefer 7, for reasons I gave during the discussions. RJC TalkContribs 23:38, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Support 5: Straightforward wording, and makes it clear that professional scholarly sources are preferable in their respective fields while not excluding the use of other media. Awickert (talk) 03:39, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Support Proposal 7 rather than Proposal 5, Proposal 5 may conflict with MEDRS. Peer-reviewed scholarly research is more reliable than a newspaper article. QuackGuru (talk) 08:28, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
The text is hard to follow for proposal 5. I think it should be organised the same way to follow the text in proposal 7. QuackGuru (talk) 19:50, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
Could you give a specific example of what is hard to follow? I think that 5 does say that peer-reviewed works are more reliable, and is in any case a step up from the current ambiguity. Awickert (talk) 21:42, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
First, I would like proposal 5 to be rearranged into three concise paragraphs and in same order like proposal 7. I am unable to follow the text of prop 5. If someone could reorganise prop 5 it would improve. Prop 5 is a bit too simple but prop 7 may be a bit too long. It may be possible to merge 5 and 7 together. QuackGuru (talk) 19:00, 14 October 2010 (UTC)
Both versions have problems so I withdraw my support for 7 rather than 5. QuackGuru (talk) 18:08, 15 October 2010 (UTC)
I made a new proposal to rectify the problems I was having with proposals 5 and 7. See Wikipedia talk:Verifiability#Proposal 8. QuackGuru (talk) 18:52, 15 October 2010 (UTC)
  • I like both proposal 5 and 7, though I think 5 covers the issue in a more concise way. Either would be a significant improvement. Shell babelfish 06:40, 14 October 2010 (UTC)

  • Just to make this a bit easier for new arrivals, here are proposals 5 and 7 side by side:
Proposal 5 Proposal 7
Academic publications, such as peer-reviewed journals and books published by well-regarded academic presses, are usually the most reliable sources in topic areas where they are available. Non-academic sources may be used as well, particularly if they are respected mainstream publications. This includes books by reputable publishers as well as newspapers, magazines, journals and electronic media.

The appropriateness of any source depends on the context. In topics which are the subject of scholarly research, the most authoritative sources are academic works that have undergone scrutiny by a community of experts in that field. Quality mainstream media are equally valuable sources for areas such as current affairs – including the socio-economic, political, and human impact of science – or biographies of living persons. In general, the best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing scientific findings, evidence, facts, and legal aspects; the greater the scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source.

The appropriateness of any source depends on the context. In general, the best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing scientific findings, evidence, facts, legal issues, and arguments; as a rule of thumb, the greater the degree of scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source.

Academic publications, such as peer-reviewed journals and books published by academic presses, are usually the most reliable sources where available. Other reliable sources include books published by respected publishing houses, magazines, journals, and mainstream newspapers. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria.

The best sources for data in science, history, medicine, and other academic disciplines are usually scholarly sources, particularly peer-reviewed ones. Non-academic sources may misreport or misinterpret the data and its significance, and should therefore not be relied upon exclusively as sources of that kind of material where academic secondary sources are available. Non-academic sources, including high-quality mainstream media sources, may be used to report and interpret the socio-economic, political, and human impact of research in science, history, medicine, and other disciplines.

The present policy wording these are designed to replace can be found further up in this section. --JN466 04:39, 15 October 2010 (UTC)

  • Strongly Oppose both the notion that academic/peer-reviewed journals are more relevant in all fields where they exist is nonsense. Even in my area, computer design, EE Times is often going to be a better source than an academic journal if for no other reason than the EE Times will be readable by a broader audiance. The WoW example given above is another example of a problem. The academic work on WoW is probably less relevant to the article than the popular press. There are places this is the right thing to do, but this should NOT be part of WP:V for goodness sake. Put it in a style guideline. Hobit (talk) 03:12, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
  • Strongly Oppose both. Please stop trying to re-write WP:V so that it's all about promoting scientific orthodoxy. Wikipedia has over 3 million articles, and policies need to be general enough to deal with all of them. WP:UNDUE, WP:FRINGE, WP:REDFLAG, and WP:RS already deal effectively enough with quackery, fringe, and extreme minority views. Jayjg (talk) 04:03, 28 October 2010 (UTC)

Status update

The above discussion has been open for several weeks now. I've tried to tot up what has gained support from whom (if I've missed anyone, or anyone has changed their minds, please correct your entry):

Proposal 5 has attracted support from

  1. User:Fifelfoo
  2. User:Sm8900
  3. User:KillerChihuahua
  4. User:Opus33
  5. User: JoshuaZ
  6. User:Jayen466 (proposer, 1st choice, with proposal 7 as 2nd choice)
  7. User:Awickert (1st choice, with proposal 7 as 2nd choice)
  8. User:Shell_Kinney (1st choice, with proposal 7 as 2nd choice)
  9. User:Literaturegeek (2nd choice, with proposal 7 as 1st choice)
  10. User:RJC (2nd choice, with proposal 7 as 1st choice)
  11. User:Yobol (2nd choice, with proposal 7 as 1st choice)

Proposal 5 has been opposed by

  1. User:SlimVirgin
  2. User:QuackGuru
  3. User:Philcha
  4. User:Hobit
  5. User:PL290
  6. User:Dreadstar
  7. User:Lambanog
  8. User:Jayjg
  9. User:Bob K31416

Proposal 7 has attracted support from

  1. User:Yobol (1st choice, with proposal 5 as 2nd choice)
  2. User:Literaturegeek (1st choice, with proposal 5 as 2nd choice)
  3. User:RJC (1st choice, with proposal 5 as 2nd choice)
  4. User:Shell_Kinney (2nd choice, with proposal 5 as 1st choice)
  5. User:Awickert (2nd choice, with proposal 5 as 1st choice)
  6. User:Jayen466 (2nd choice, with proposal 5 as 1st choice)

Proposal 7 has been opposed by

  1. User:SlimVirgin
  2. User:KillerChihuahua
  3. User:Philcha
  4. User:Hobit
  5. User:QuackGuru
  6. User:Dreadstar
  7. User:Lambanog
  8. User:Jayjg

Proposal 8 has attracted support from

  1. User:QuackGuru (proposer)
  2. User:Jayen466 (equal 1st preference)

Proposal 8 has been opposed by

Users opposing any change to current policy

  1. User:SlimVirgin I'm opposing this change in the current circumstances because it would be a fundamental one. That means it has to be done very carefully, with very precise wording to make sure we understand the implications—both for the kinds of articles the current commentators have in mind and for the ones they haven't thought of—then thrown open to the community to check for consistency with other policies and best practice.
  2. User:Philcha
  3. User:Hobit
  4. I don’t think any of the above proposals are better than the current wording. This policy gives general advice about what it means for a source to be "good enough" (reliable), not perfect. It is the threshold for entry, so core policy V shouldn't rate sources in detail because sources are subject-dependent, like WP:MEDRS is targeted at Medical articles, which is appropriate for that subject even though we're a general purpose Encyclopedia, not a medical journal. We can't apply MEDRS to all sources in all Wikipedia articles. The proposals all seem to add unfair restrictions on the use of sources for all articles, when it's clearly intended to focus on fringe/pseudoscience. Not all peer-reviewed, academic sources are good and a large percentage of newspaper reports are superior and more time-sensitive to various issues. The core principle of V is, "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true." What is being proposed almost seems to be a narrowly focused 'truth over verifiability per the opinion of WP editors.' Additionally, the proposals are too wordy and complicated, ripe for abuse and misunderstandings. Dreadstar 22:52, 25 October 2010 (UTC)
  5. User:Lambanog Instruction creep on a policy page. I would be fine with these modification being made on a guideline such as WP:RS but not policy. As it is WP:V already prescribes too much on matters where editorial judgment should be given more latitude. Lambanog (talk) 02:41, 26 October 2010 (UTC)
  6. WP:V should not be saying what kinds of sources are "more reliable". It should merely describe attributes that tend to give a source more credibility. Reliability is completely contextual, and an academic source can easily be used to back up inappropriate claims. The only change I would support is more stressing that reliability is contextual based on the claim involved. Gigs (talk) 19:06, 27 October 2010 (UTC)
  7. Dreadstar and Gigs have it right here. Wikipedia has over 3 million articles, and policies need to be general enough to deal with all of them. WP:UNDUE, WP:FRINGE, and WP:REDFLAG already deal effectively enough with quackery, fringe, and extreme minority views. Jayjg (talk) 04:10, 28 October 2010 (UTC)

Other proposals

There are alternative proposals by SilkTork and by QuackGuru below, see #A bit more and #Proposal 8, which so far have not attracted many comments. --JN466 01:07, 20 October 2010 (UTC)

A bit more

Jayen has raised an important issue here, and has detailed it carefully. Slim has also voiced some pertinent concerns. They and those others involved in shaping this so far have to be commended for their insights and the supportive collegiate atmosphere in which this discussion has been conducted.

I wanted to look closely at proposal 5 and 7 to see where they differed. The paragraphs starting "Academic publications..." are both concerned with which publications are most reliable (and both say that academic publications are most reliable, then respected mainstream publishers; though there are subtle but significant differences which I will get to later). The paragraphs starting "The appropriateness of any source..." are both concerned with the context and methodology of publication, though they are placed in different places in the proposals. I was interested in how these proposals fitted into the relevant section in WP:V, and so had a close look at Reliable sources to see how these proposals fitted in and impacted on the rest of the section.

The section starts with a definition of how Wikipedia uses the term "source" - it says it has three meanings: "the piece of work itself (a document, article, paper, or book), the creator of the work (for example, the writer), and the publisher of the work (for example, The New York Times)." The proposals above appear to be mainly concerned with the third definition, that of "publisher". It might as such be useful to consider who or what is a publisher, and to clarify why we are concerned with the publisher. News Corporation is a publisher, and publishes both MySpace and The Times. Of these two, we regard The Times as reliable and MySpace by and large as not reliable. Both come from the same "publisher". If we are to overhaul WP:SOURCES, then a slight clarification might be helpful: change "and the publisher of the work (for example, The New York Times)" to "and the publisher or publication directly responsible for making the piece of work available."

And it would then be useful to clarify which of the three examples of "source" we are using in the next paragraph: "Articles should be based on reliable, third-party, published sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy." This appears to be the publication we are talking about ("third party" suggests that), though the rest of the paragraph and the general tone suggests that the implication is that all three sources are being mentioned ("Citing these sources..." etc). A little clarity might be helpful. If we are to talk about three different types of sources then perhaps we could detail them rather than trying to conflate them: "Articles should be based on material acknowledged to be reliable; or written by an acknowledged expert; or found in reliable, third-party, publications with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy."

So far, the changes would be:

Current wording Suggested wording
The word "source" as used in Wikipedia has three meanings: the piece of work itself (a document, article, paper, or book), the creator of the work (for example, the writer), and the publisher of the work (for example, The New York Times). All three can affect reliability.

Articles should be based on reliable, third-party, published sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy. Citing these sources prevents unverifiable claims from being added to articles, and makes it easier to identify plagiarism and copyright violations. Sources should directly support the material as it is presented in an article, and should be appropriate to the claims made.

The word "source" as used in Wikipedia has three meanings: the piece of work itself (a document, article, paper, or book), the creator of the work (for example, the writer), and the publisher or publication directly responsible for making the piece of work available. All three can affect reliability.

Articles should be based on material acknowledged to be reliable; or written by an acknowledged expert; or found in reliable, third-party, publications with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy. Citing these sources prevents unverifiable claims from being added to articles, and makes it easier to identify plagiarism and copyright violations. Sources should directly support the material as it is presented in an article, and should be appropriate to the claims made.

Which brings us to proposals 5 & 7.

The reliable publications paragraph ("Academic publications...") of each proposal do trim the policy wording and provide a clearer focus. Differences between them are: 5 has "well-regarded academic presses", 7 has "academic presses" (do we need "well regarded?); 5 has "are usually the most reliable sources in topic areas where they are available", 7 has "are usually the most reliable sources where available" (the "topic area" point is vague - if it means that archaeological sources are best for archaeological articles, but may not be so good for medical articles, then it's a valid and important point, and should be made clearer); 5 mentions "Non-academic sources" here, while 7 mentions them in a separate additional paragraph; 5 places electronic media on a list alongside other forms of publication such as magazines, while 7 places electronic media in a separate sentence. The aim of the paragraph in the policy and in the proposals appears to be to measure publications for reliability. This entire discussion is looking at how we may need different sorts of sources for different purposes, and to proclaim that academic sources are best may be a little simplistic; it has been pointed out above that academic sources may be inappropriate in regards to citing current affairs, controversies and alternate views, all of which are important to us as a general rather than academic encyclopaedia. The question of appropriateness appears to be equal, and it might be helpful to discuss appropriate at the same time as reliable rather than as two distinct areas as the policy does at present. That is we should be talking about using the most reliable of the most appropriate. If the circumstance calls for a newspaper report, then we should be using the most reliable newspaper report and favouring the report over an academic source which may have a limited viewpoint and be out of date. Trying to word the policy to account for every circumstance is going to be tricky, so it's probably about making a case by case judgement, advised and guided by policy.

I've merged the two proposals together, and made some amendments based on what I feel are the main trends in this discussion.

Current wording Suggested wording
The appropriateness of any source depends on the context. In general, the best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing facts, legal issues, evidence, and arguments; as a rule of thumb, the greater the degree of scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source.

Academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources where available, such as in history, medicine, and science, but they are not the only reliable sources in such areas. Material from reliable non-academic sources may also be used, particularly if it appears in respected mainstream publications. Other reliable sources include university-level textbooks, books published by respected publishing houses, magazines, journals, and mainstream newspapers. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria.

Sources are best selected for both reliability and appropriateness. Academic publications, particularly peer-reviewed ones, are usually the most appropriate and reliable sources for their topic areas, especially in regard to science, history, medicine, and other academic disciplines. High-quality mainstream media sources, including electronic media, are usually the most appropriate and reliable sources for reporting and interpreting areas such as current affairs – including the socio-economic, political, and human impact of research in various disciplines. Academic and non-academic sources can balance and complement each other, and serious consideration should be given to using both to ensure that Wikipedia articles are comprehensive and neutral, especially in regard to biographies of living persons.

In general, the best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing scientific findings, evidence, facts, legal issues, and arguments; as a rule of thumb, the greater the degree of scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source.

For clarity, here are the changes in total:

Current wording Suggested wording
The word "source" as used in Wikipedia has three meanings: the piece of work itself (a document, article, paper, or book), the creator of the work (for example, the writer), and the publisher of the work (for example, The New York Times). All three can affect reliability.

Articles should be based on reliable, third-party, published sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy. Citing these sources prevents unverifiable claims from being added to articles, and makes it easier to identify plagiarism and copyright violations. Sources should directly support the material as it is presented in an article, and should be appropriate to the claims made.

The appropriateness of any source depends on the context. In general, the best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing facts, legal issues, evidence, and arguments; as a rule of thumb, the greater the degree of scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source.

Academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources where available, such as in history, medicine, and science, but they are not the only reliable sources in such areas. Material from reliable non-academic sources may also be used, particularly if it appears in respected mainstream publications. Other reliable sources include university-level textbooks, books published by respected publishing houses, magazines, journals, and mainstream newspapers. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria.

Self-published expert sources are considered reliable in limited circumstances (see below). All self-published sources, whether experts or not, are considered reliable as sources on themselves, especially in articles about themselves, subject to certain criteria, though no article should be based primarily on such sources (see below).

The word "source" as used in Wikipedia has three meanings: the piece of work itself (a document, article, paper, or book), the creator of the work (for example, the writer), and the publisher or publication directly responsible for making the piece of work available. All three can affect reliability.

Articles should be based on material acknowledged to be reliable; [and/]or written by an acknowledged expert; [and/]or found in reliable, third-party, publications with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy. Citing these sources prevents unverifiable claims from being added to articles, and makes it easier to identify plagiarism and copyright violations. Sources should directly support the material as it is presented in an article, and should be appropriate to the claims made.

Sources are best selected for both reliability and appropriateness. Academic publications, particularly peer-reviewed ones, are usually the most appropriate and reliable sources for their topic areas, especially in regard to science, history, medicine, and other academic disciplines. High-quality mainstream media sources, including electronic media, are usually the most appropriate and reliable sources for reporting and interpreting areas such as current affairs [and biographies of living persons] – including the socio-economic, political, and human impact of research in various disciplines. Academic and non-academic sources can balance and complement each other, and serious consideration should be given to using both to ensure that Wikipedia articles are comprehensive and neutral[, especially in regard to biographies of living persons].

In general, the best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing scientific findings, evidence, facts, legal issues, and arguments; as a rule of thumb, the greater the degree of scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source.

Self-published expert sources are considered reliable in limited circumstances (see below). All self-published sources, whether experts or not, are considered reliable as sources on themselves, especially in articles about themselves, subject to certain criteria, though no article should be based primarily on such sources (see below).

Rather a long addition to this discussion I'm afraid, though I hope some points are useful. SilkTork *YES! 19:32, 15 October 2010 (UTC)

Discussion.

Thanks for your work on this, and the thought that went into it. Reading through it, I had two minor twinges of concern:
  • "Articles should be based on material acknowledged to be reliable; or written by an acknowledged expert; or found in reliable, third-party, publications with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy" -- because of the last "or", I thought that these were mutually exclusive: so the first two were obviously not "found in reliable, third-party, publications with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy". That made me think of self-published blogs, and made me wonder what "material acknowledged to be reliable" might mean in a talk page discussion if the source is not a "reliable, third-party, publications with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy". The question of self-published expert blogs is addressed further down, so it may not be that much of a problem. The appearance of mutual exclusiveness, which was obviously not what you had intended (material may be deemed reliable, be written by an expert, and be found in a reliable publication) could perhaps be fixed by turning the 2 "ors" into "and/ors", or some other trick of wording that achieves the same thing.
  • "especially in regard to biographies of living persons": I was not sure this applied especially to BLPs (although it certainly does apply to them). I would be tempted to return the BLPs to the current affairs sentence, and leave the sentence about sources complementing each other without an example.
On the whole, this is a promising proposal, and does a good job of discussing some important sourcing guidance in a relaxed, matter-of-fact manner, stating what each type of source is best at. I look forward to reading other editors' observations and comments. --JN466 23:49, 15 October 2010 (UTC)
I had a similar twinge myself when writing out the proposal, and wondered what difference it would make to use "and/or" in place of "or". I think it might avoid potential confusion to use "and/or", so have added that in brackets above. I have struck "especially in regard to biographies of living persons", and added "and biographies of living persons" to the example areas alongside current affairs. SilkTork *YES! 19:46, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
ah, well, I rather like this combined version, but I have a couple of twinges of my own. to wit:
  • The tripartite definition of the word 'source' does (and is bound to) cause problems. what do we do when there's a conflict between the apparent reliability of author, publisher, and publication? I've seen cases where editors have used this ambiguity to push POVs (arguing, for instance, that an academic publishing in a respected academic press is unreliable because of the kinds of things s/he's published); I'm uncomfortable leaving the door open to having sourcing issues settled by character assassination of one sort or another.
  • The whole third paragraph (the one beginning "Sources are best selected for both reliability and appropriateness.") confuses reliability and appropriateness in some unpleasant ways. There are (clearly) many sources that are appropriate to a particular topic that cannot be used because they are not reliable, and many reliable sources that are not appropriate to a given topic whatsoever. for instance, consider a self-published primary source on some topic. such a source is a perfectly accurate reflection of the point of view of the author (so in that sense it's perfectly reliable, at least for that use), but it is often inappropriate to use that source because that particular source's POV is nowhere near significant for a topic. The word 'reliable' is being asked to do too much - it is used semi-randomly to imply that a source (1) accurately reflects a particular viewpoint, (2) accurately reflects a mainstream viewpoint, (3) accurately reflects factual reality - and so what happens when you get cases where mainstream viewpoints disagree about what constitutes factual reality, or cases where a wikipedia article needs to accurately cover a topic that disputes both mainstream views and factual reality?
To use a hopefully non-confusing analogy, when we write articles about the Encyclopedia Britannica, the collected works of Milan Kundera, and the collected works of Lewis Carroll, we don't want to use some single standard metric of evaluation; doing so will lead us to say either that the Britannica fails on literary style, or that Kundera fails on simplicity and facticity, or that Carroll fails on proper spelling and grammar. We need to somehow accommodate the fact that each is aiming at something different and evaluate properly in that context. The same goes for reliability - we need to clarify 'reliable as an expression of what?' whenever we use the term. --Ludwigs2 04:42, 20 October 2010 (UTC)
What I like about the "reliability and appropriateness" idea is primarily what it doesn't support: The best source is not determined by price, online availability, editor convenience, or its ability to be easily understood by the median thirteen year old. As an example, medical articles really ought to be built on systematic reviews or university-level textbooks—not the deliberately dumbed-down websites aimed at the low-end of patients. WhatamIdoing (talk) 22:42, 20 October 2010 (UTC)
I don't have an objection to using reliability and appropriateness as criteria, it's just that when you get them tangled together they make a mess. you end up (for instance) with people arguing that the appropriateness of a source is determined by its reliability (the kind of people who advocate for off-topic scholarly sources over on-topic journalistic sources), or that the reliability of a source is determined by its appropriateness (the kind of people who advocate that truly junk material should be used because it's directly on topic). I don't want to remove the concepts, I just want to untangle them. --Ludwigs2 20:49, 21 October 2010 (UTC)