Wikipedia:Wikipedia is a mainstream encyclopedia
This is an essay on the role of Wikipedia.
It contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. This page is not an encyclopedia article, nor is it one of Wikipedia's policies or guidelines, as it has not been thoroughly vetted by the community. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.
|This page in a nutshell: |
Wikipedia is a mainstream encyclopedia. This means that writers and editors on Wikipedia should strive for articles that would be appreciated as being of the highest quality by a consensus of experts in any field of science or scholarship. Crucially, this means that Wikipedia content is not based on a popularity contest. In many debates, the most popular view is different from the scholarly or scientific view. In such cases, Wikipedia depends on the most reliable sources to verify content, and Wikipedia relies on vetted academic sources to determine what the mainstream understanding of a topic is. While what is considered "mainstream" may sometimes be a minority view in society, the mainstream understanding will conform to explanations provided by the highest-quality sources.
Wikipedia is neutral, which means it does not take sides in any dispute. If the preponderance of the best sources indicate that a subject has many equally valid sides, then Wikipedia gives equal space to the description of all sides. However, the best sources may indicate that a subject does not have equally valid sides. This is why Wikipedia gives the most space and prominence to descriptions of a subject that conform to the expert understanding while marginalizing in space and prominence the minority understanding, or even excluding some descriptions or issues that cannot be reliably sourced. To do otherwise would create an encyclopedia that experts would not accept as being of the highest quality.
Wikipedia never endorses the expert understanding of a subject; it just pays the most attention to it. Articles in Wikipedia maintain a neutral, dispassionate tone with regards to the subject, never indicating a preference for or against the perspective being examined.
Many statements of fact made in Wikipedia can be reliably sourced as being disputed by somebody somewhere. This is irrelevant to our task of writing a mainstream encyclopedia, and should not be used as justification to create an article that differs from that of a mainstream encyclopedia. Unless a dispute is verifiably acknowledged to exist in high-quality sources, it does not belong in Wikipedia.
Is this situation fair? Perhaps not. But it is the situation we must tolerate if we are going to take the goal of making Wikipedia into a mainstream encyclopedia seriously.