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Wikipedia:These are not original research

This essay describes some examples of analysis that the authors believe do not constitute original research. This page is not policy, and should not be applied as if it were. For the policy, please see Wikipedia:No original research.

Note that the policy on sourcing, Wikipedia:Verifiability, says that anything challenged or likely to be challenged requires an inline citation, as do all direct quotations.


  • Accurate paraphrasing of reliable sources is not considered original research. In fact, in most cases you are actually required by policy to write in your own words rather than plagiarizing the source's wording. This includes:
    • using synonyms rather than quotations;
    • using plain English rather than jargon from a technical source; and
    • summarizing whole pages, chapters, or books in one or two sentences.

Simple calculationsEdit

Simple calculations such as population density or age differences do not constitute original research.
  • Any relatively simple and direct mathematical calculation that reasonably educated readers can be expected to quickly and easily reproduce. For example, if given the population and the size of a specific area, then the population density of that area may be included.
  • Complex calculations (for instance, those involving statistics) should not be used to build an argument because they require skills that common educated readers do not possess, or involve a large number of steps that may not be obvious, making it difficult to detect errors. However, you can use simple descriptive statistics to describe data without advancing any argument. For example, rather than reproducing an entire table of data, you may describe the range or the median from a table of data, e.g., "The town's population during the last century has ranged from X to Y".
  • You may round to appropriate levels of precision. If the source says that "23.64456% of the objects are foo"—and that level of precision is not relevant or an appropriate level of detail for the article—then it is acceptable for you to write that "about 24% are foo" or "about one-quarter are foo". Any reasonably educated person can see that this is an accurate description of what the source says.
  • You may describe quantitative relationships in words. If the source says that "25% of the objects are foo and 75% are bar", then it is acceptable for you to write "One quarter of objects are foo". "Most objects are bar", however, is much more vague, and not an accurate description of the quantitative relationship.

Compiling facts and informationEdit

  • Compiling related facts and information from independent sources is part of writing an encyclopedia. For example, multiple secondary sources are usually required before the notability of a subject is established. Those sources must then be combined to produce a cohesive, comprehensive, and coherent article. Neutral point of view requires presenting all significant viewpoints on an issue, and may include collecting opinions from multiple, possibly biased and/or conflicting, sources. Organizing published facts and opinions that are based on sources that are directly related to the article topic—without introducing your opinion or fabricating new facts, or presenting an unpublished conclusion—is not original research.
  • Comparing and contrasting conflicting facts and opinion is not original research, as long as any characterization of the conflict is sourced to reliable sources. If reliable references cannot be found to explain the apparent discrepancy, editors should resist the temptation to add their own explanation. Present the material within the context contained in reliable sources, but avoid presenting the information in a way that "begs the question". An unpublished synthesis or analysis should not be presented for the readers' "benefit". Let the readers draw their own conclusions after seeing related facts in juxtaposition.
  • Identifying synonymous terms, and collecting related information under a common heading is also part of writing an encyclopedia. Reliable sources do not always use consistent terminology, and it is sometimes necessary to determine when two sources are calling the same thing by different names. This does not require a third source to state this explicitly, as long as the conclusion is obvious from the context of the sources. Articles should follow the naming conventions in selecting the heading under which the combined material is presented.

Conflict between sourcesEdit

At times, sources provide conflicting facts and opinions. Comparing and contrasting these conflicts is not generally classed as original research (as the nature of the conflict can be referenced to sources meeting WP:VERIFY), but synthesis or unsupported conclusions based on those conflicts must not appear in an article. These source conflicts fall into two broad categories: factual and summation.

A factual conflict arises when reliable sources present facts that appear to contradict each other. As an example, one source may claim a town had a population of 5,000 in 1990, whereas another claims a population of 7,000 in the same year.

A summation conflict arises when sources disagree in conclusions or interpretations that can be drawn from facts. For example, if one source says that currently low inflation will result in improvements in the economy, and another source says that currently low inflation will lead to a worsening of the economy. Both sources agree that inflation is low, but disagree as to what that means.

It is important to keep in mind that in cases of apparent contradictions, both sources may in fact be correct in their own contexts. For example, in the case of the population of a town, the sources may use different boundaries to define the town, or different criteria as to who counts as a member of the population.

To resolve such conflicts, consider the quality, number, and respective age of reliable sources.

  • If all, or nearly all, high-quality sources agree with each other, it is appropriate to omit the information in the lower quality sources, per WP:GEVAL, or the rare minority source, per WP:DUE.
  • If equally reliable sources disagree, present all of the information: "The town's population in 1990 has been reported as being 5,000 and 7,000." You may also note that sources disagree, if the disagreement is general: "Inflation has been low, and experts disagree on the effect this will have."
  • You may attribute the conflicting positions directly to the sources with WP:INTEXT attribution: "Famous Expert A says that because inflation has been low, the economy will improve. Famous Expert B says that low inflation will lead to a worsening of the economy."
  • If the sources differ significantly in time it is advisable to do more research to determine if a change in meaning or view has occurred.
  • If the conflict represents information that is trivial or of limited value to the article, you may also omit the disputed information entirely.
  • Take care to avoid characterizing, implicitly or overtly, the accuracy of otherwise reliable sources in any article. We do discuss and evaluate sources as part of our work in researching material for inclusion in articles, but the policy no original research prohibits combining material from multiple sources to reach or imply a conclusion not explicitly stated by any of the sources. There are times that a reliable source is simply incorrect, but it is inappropriate to imply or state that is the case without a reference to a reliable source. You may not, using the examples above, say "Source A asserts the town's population as 5,000; however, this is disproven by the following sources and circumstances, and the true population was at least 7,000 in 1990."
  • If another reliable source discusses the accuracy of one or another source, it may be appropriate to use that source to choose between alternative sources or to discuss the conflict between them, depending on the strength of the sources and the relative importance of the material. For example, if source C says that source A is incorrect, it may be appropriate to simply state "The town's population in 1990 was 7,000" and cite source B and/or C, or to say "Source A asserts the town's population as 5,000, but Source C disputes the accuracy of that claim, because Source B asserts the population was 7,000 in 1990."
  • If reliable sources exist that show that another apparently reliable source is demonstrably factually incorrect, the factually incorrect material should be removed. (See also WP:Inaccuracy).

Works of fiction and non-fictionEdit

A book, short story, film, or other work of fiction is a primary source for any article or topic regarding that work. Anything that can be observed by a reasonable person simply by reading/watching the work itself, without interpretation, is not original research, but is reliant upon the primary source. This would include direct quotes or non-interpretative summaries, publication dates, and any other pertinent information that can be observed from the work. For example, if there are multiple versions of a particular story, and one version does not have a particular character, or has extra characters, that is clear simply by reading or watching the work. The fact that one would have to read or watch the whole thing does not make the matter original research. The work is verifiable, even if it takes more time than flipping to a single page.

The same is true for non-fiction works: You may use a book like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks as a primary source for a description of what the book is about.

Review Wikipedia:NOR#Primary, secondary and tertiary sources.

Translation and contextualizingEdit

Material written in a fictional context needs to be described in an out of universe perspective.

Sources are written in a given language and context, and may need to be translated into a specific dialect of English, or placed in an encyclopedic context. Caution is needed to ensure that the original meaning is preserved in any transformation.

  • Wikipedia articles are written in a consistent register of the English language. It may be necessary to change spelling, use synonyms, or rephrase text written in different registers and dialects to conform to Wikipedia's encyclopedic, fairly formal register of writing. This is not original research as long as the original meaning is preserved.
  • Although the English language version of a source should be used when it is published in multiple languages, foreign language sources are also welcome, and even encouraged, to reduce systemic bias. In this case, a previously published translation is preferred if one is available. Text from another language that has no translation into English available may be newly translated. Any original translations should be faithful, to the point of literalness; if interpretation is called for, it should be explicitly in parenthetical notes.[a]Fluency in a foreign language is an exception to the "without specialist knowledge" provision.[clarify]
  • Sources may be written in a fictional, nationalistic, religious or other narrow context. Material from these sources incorporated into Wikipedia must be placed in a broader, more encyclopedic context; this is different from taking things out of context. For example: material written in a fictional context needs to be described in an out of universe perspective; material written from a localized or nationalistic perspective must be presented in a perspective consistent with a world-wide viewpoint; religious dogma must be characterized as such, and not presented as accepted fact outside of that religion.[b] This is not original research when good editorial judgment is used.
  • Source information does not need to be in text form—any form of information, such as maps, may be used to provide source information. Interpretation of such media is not original research provided that it is done in a routine manner observing any limitations usually associated with the medium concerned, and such interpretations are readily verifiable by anybody who has access to the same source.

Accurately contextualizing quotationsEdit

It is not original research to contextualize a possibly misleading quotation, provided this is done accurately and neutrally. A real-world example: A news article contains a passage specifically and only about polydactyl cats, not cats generally. Referring to the work of recent genetic researchers on American polydactyl cats, molecular biologist Danial Ibrahim is partially quoted: "From this, they hypothesized that all American cats must have a common ancestor, a founder cat who was polydactyl and then spread the trait across the U.S." The piece then continued its commentary on the polydactyl cat research.[1] A Wikipedia article may quote Ibrahim (a secondary source interpreting a primary-source journal paper) as concurring that the research "hypothesized that all American [polydactyl] cats must have a common ancestor". In fact, it would be a misuse of the source material to fail to clarify the quotation, much less to try to use it to suggest that all American cats, normal and polydactyl alike, share a common ancestor.

Typos and proofing errorsEdit

Many sources contain typographical and proofing errors. Claiming tendentiously that such a mistake represents the author's intent may be disingenuous. However, it is important to be exacting when using direct quotations.[1] The proper way to deal with them is:

  • If at all possible, if the mistake is trivial (spelling, grammar) avoid the problem by paraphrasing the source. People who verify the citation will read it in context, and see that it is obviously an error in the printing.
  • If the text must be quoted, either place the correction in brackets,[c] or mark it with a {{sic}}—which renders as: [sic]—to clearly indicate errors. The best choice between these two options at any given place is a matter of in-context interpretation of Wikipedia's Manual of Style on quotations.

Removing incorrect claims and pointing out errorsEdit

Experts are human, and can publish statements that are contradicted by known facts, or otherwise erroneous.[2] The reasons for this contradiction vary: intentional bias, a failing of editorial oversight, or lack of context. Sometimes the statements of experts can become obsolete or inaccurate in light of the normal process of peer-review and advancement in their field.

Wikipedians are not mere copyists, bound to repeat simple statements absent context or without thought. The intent of WP:Neutral point of view is presenting the dialogue that is apparent in the body of reliable references, not to mechanically include every possible opinion about the subject. We have a responsibility to present an accurate and factual overview of the topic addressed in the article.

In many cases, the best solution is to remove minor incorrect claims. This streamlines articles by letting them present only true facts. Making this determination is a core editing activity, and is not original research if the contradiction is obvious, unlikely to be challenged, or is supported by reliable sources that either directly address the inaccuracy or firmly establish that academic consensus contradicts the claim. Incorrect claims can be simply removed by editors who notice they are incorrect, or after consensus is reached on the talk page that the claim is incorrect. It is always helpful to explain why a claim is believed to be incorrect, since at least two people (the cited author and the editor who added the claim) believed it to be correct, and to cite sources in the edit summary or talk page when removing. See Wikipedia:Identifying reliable sources for help in deciding if the source with the incorrect claim was reliable in the first place, an issue which may require discussion with other editors to resolve.

It is original research to do non-straightforward reasoning to prove a claim is incorrect or contradictory to another source, such as mathematical derivations or making scientific or academic arguments concerning the interpretation of the competing claims. Wikipedia must rely on secondary and tertiary sources to identify and resolve complex contradictions. In some cases, it may take an expert on the subject to determine that there is in fact some explanation that resolves two claims as not actually contradictory.

Keeping in mind Wikipedia's policy due and undue weight of sources, sometimes an incorrect claim is appropriate to retain if:

  • it represents a common misconception or error commonly encountered when researching or learning the subject matter;
  • it is a prominent claim that readers are not unlikely to encounter outside of Wikipedia; or
  • it is a notable aspect of the history of a topic or academic discipline, such as an obsolete scientific theory or an item in historiography.

There are several degrees of incorrectness, which may require different treatment:

  • It is uncertain whether the claim in a reliable source is incorrect, but it straightforwardly contradicts other reliable sources: Simply report both claims without bias toward one or the other, citing both, and mention that they are apparently contradictory.
  • The claim contradicts common sense or common knowledge, and its incorrectness is unlikely to be challenged: Report the claim and note that it is incorrect or obsolete given modern understanding.
  • The claim has been specifically debunked by a different source which either makes arguments which are obviously persuasive, or which other sources find persuasive, leaving no significant controversy were neutral point of view would require balancing two or more sides: Report the incorrect claim, report that it has been debunked, and cite both sources and any sources that support the debunking as persuasive.
  • The claim contradicts modern academic consensus which is not common knowledge: Note the contradiction, and link to either a Wikipedia article which describes the current consensus, or cite a reliable source that documents that consensus.

Adding arguments to the article from your own reasoning which purport to debunk an incorrect claim is original research, if you are going beyond a statement of common knowledge unlikely to be challenged, or you are going beyond straightforwardly explaining or summarizing referenced sources.

Explaining why a minor claim is incorrect or documenting its incorrectness might be best done in a footnote, to avoid disrupting the flow of the article.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The credit for any new translation should be (tr:WP). The translation must, of course, be editable. Fair use caveats apply as they do for other quoted texts; note that while the original text may be public domain, some translations of it may be copyrighted.
  2. ^ This does not apply to direct quotations, which should be quoted exactly. The lead-in or follow-up to the quote should provide appropriate context.
  3. ^ For example: If the original text reads "Smith decided it was a impossible task", rendering it as "Smith decided it was a[n] impossible task" or "Smith decided it was [an] impossible task". This clearly shows the reader the correction made from the original source.


  1. ^ Chicago Manual of Style. 15th Edition. University of Chicago Press (2003), p. 445. ISBN 9780226104034. It is impossible to overemphasize [emphasis added] the importance of meticulous accuracy in quoting from the works of others.
  2. ^ Sagan, Carl (1995) The Demon-Haunted world ISBN 0-394-53512-X pg 212–216