Wikipedia talk:Verifiability

Active discussions
  (Redirected from Wikipedia talk:VERIFY)
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Where should I ask whether this source supports this statement in an article?
At Wikipedia:Reliable sources/Noticeboard. Don't forget to tell the editors the full name of the source and the exact sentence it is supposed to support.
Do sources have to be free, online and/or conveniently available to me?
No. Sources can be expensive, print-only, or available only in certain places. A source does not stop being reliable simply because you personally aren't able to obtain a copy. See Wikipedia:Reliable sources/cost. If you need help verifying that a source supports the material in the article, ask for help at Wikipedia:WikiProject Resource Exchange or a relevant WikiProject.
Do sources have to be in English?
No. Sources can be written in any language. However, if equally good sources in English exist, they will be more useful to our readers. If you need help verifying that a non-English source supports the material in the article, ask for help at Wikipedia:Translators available.
I personally know that this information is true. Isn't that good enough to include it?
No. Wikipedia includes only what is verifiable, not what someone believes is true. It must be possible to provide a bibliographic citation to a published reliable source that says this. Your personal knowledge or belief is not enough.
I personally know that this information is false. Isn't that good enough to remove it?
Your personal belief or knowledge that the information is false is not sufficient for removal of verifiable and well-sourced material.
Is personal communication from an expert a reliable source?
No. It is not good enough for you to talk to an expert in person or by telephone, or to have a written letter, e-mail message, or text message from a source. Reliable sources must be published.
Are there sources that are "always reliable" or sources that are "always unreliable"?
No. The reliability of a source is entirely dependent on the context of the situation, and the statement it is being used to support. Some sources are generally better than others, but reliability is always contextual.
What if the source is biased?
Sources are allowed to be biased or non-neutral. Only Wikipedia articles are required to be neutral. Sometimes "non-neutral" sources are the best possible sources for supporting information (with due weight) about the different viewpoints held on a controversial subject.
Does every single sentence need to be followed by an inline citation?
No. Only four broad categories of material need to be supported by inline citations. Editors need not supply citations for perfectly obvious material. However, it must be possible to provide a bibliographic citation to a published reliable source for all material.
Are reliable sources required to name the author?
No. Many reliable sources, such as government and corporate websites, do not name their authors or say only that it was written by staff writers. Although many high-quality sources do name the author, this is not a requirement.
Are reliable sources required to provide a list of references?
No. Wikipedia editors should list any required sources in a references or notes section. However, the sources you are using to write the Wikipedia article do not need to provide a bibliography. Most reliable sources, such as newspaper and magazine articles, do not provide a bibliography.
Does anyone read the sources?
Readers do not use the reference list extensively. This research indicates that readers click somewhere in the list of references approximately three times out of every 1,000 page views.


I am trying to make an article and it says WordPress isn't allowed? That's where they all posted because they didn't have personal sites!

Trakaplex (talk) 01:09, 16 August 2021‎ (UTC)[]

In general, and with some exceptions, anything that is self-published (the person who write it is the person who posted it on the internet) is not a good source. WhatamIdoing (talk) 23:46, 18 August 2021 (UTC)[]

If available, academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources in topics such as history, medicine, and science.Edit

The Wikipedia:Verifiability#Reliable sources section says "academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources in topics such as history, medicine, and science." However, after my revision citing such a source was reverted, I was tolded that medical topics follow a stricter sourcing policy, WP:MEDRS. Apparently, academic papers describing the authors' own research are considered primary sources and should be avoided if possible.

Wikipedia:No original research#Primary, secondary and tertiary sources also states that "a scientific paper documenting a new experiment conducted by the author is a primary source on the outcome of that experiment" and "Wikipedia articles usually rely on material from reliable secondary sources." It seems that "avoid primary sources" applies not only to medicine, but also to science in general. A scientific paper is usually about the author's own experiment and research and therefore a primary source. (However, a paper in the field of humanities is usually not primary, but secondary, since they mostly analyze other materials, if I understand this correctly.)

There are many policy pages on Wikipedia but Wikipedia:Verifiability#Reliable sources is actually the entry point for sourcing ("WP:SOURCE" redirects to there). It's good for it to stay concise while causing as little misunderstanding as possible.

I propose to change the sentence to better summarize the policies. Here are some possible revision proposals:

Proposal 1 (minimal change):

If available, academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources in topics such as history and science. Articles about medical topics follow a stricter sourcing policy, WP:MEDRS.

Proposal 2 (more accurate and straightforward):

If available, academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources in topics such as the humanities. For medicine and science, however, academic papers describing the authors' own research are considered primary sources and should be avoided if possible. Published secondary sources such as literature reviews or systematic reviews are usually the preferred sources for these topics. - Betty (talk) 02:51, 16 August 2021 (UTC)[]

WP:SECONDARY sources are preferred across all academic topics (really, all topics). This text seems to imply that that isn't the case for non-medical topics or for the humanities, which is not true. I don't see the need to redundantly explain secondary sourcing right there; we have Wikipedia:Verifiability#Original research already and what it links to. Or, if we did, I would go with neither proposal and instead say something brief about secondary sources without specifying academic subjects, perhaps using material lifted from that heading or other policy pages. Crossroads -talk- 03:52, 16 August 2021 (UTC)[]
I agree with Betty that some mention of WP:MEDRS should be included in general sourcing guidance, and suggested that she bring it up on a relevant talk page. MEDRS has strict guidelines for sources. Other content areas can judiciously make use of primary sources; biomedical topics, practically never. But one would only know that if they read MEDRS. For newer editors, it would be helpful to make the existence of MEDRS more explicit so that they can discover it before making good-faith edits that are immediately reverted for failing MEDRS.
Yes, if a new editor clicks through every wikilink in WP:V, they will eventually end up at WP:PRIMARY which has a sentence that says a scientific paper documenting a new experiment conducted by the author is a primary source on the outcome of that experiment that correlates with the MEDRS description of primary sources. But those links to WP:PRIMARY are only in these sections: Wikipedia and sources that mirror or use it; Newspaper and magazine blogs; Exceptional claims require exceptional sources. Not very discoverable.
The top level guidance, What counts as a reliable source, says If available, academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources in topics such as history, medicine, and science. An editor who is not aware of MEDRS would naturally read that to mean that an academic study published in a peer-reviewed journal is a reliable source. There is no mention here of primary sourcing, no link to it, and a scientific paper documenting a new experiment conducted by the author is a primary source on the outcome of that experiment is not obvious or intuitive. Schazjmd (talk) 14:53, 16 August 2021 (UTC)[]
Exactly what Schazjmd said.
The sentence "a scientific paper documenting a new experiment conducted by the author is a primary source on the outcome of that experiment" is not very discoverable.
"If available, academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources in topics such as history, medicine, and science" is just inaccurate, because academic and peer-reviewed publications include those papers describing the authors' own research, and this sentence states that they are the most reliable sources.
Here is a modified proposal, without specifying academic subjects except medicine, which indeed has a stricter policy:
If available, academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources in academic topics. However, academic papers describing the authors' own research are considered primary sources and should be used with caution, or avoided altogether in some areas such as medicine. Peer-reviewed published secondary sources such as literature reviews or systematic reviews are usually the preferred sources. Betty (talk) 13:46, 17 August 2021 (UTC)[]
Better. Do we want to mention peer-reviewed books too? "Some areas such as medicine" implies there are other areas aside from medicine, and I'm not sure there are. Also, MEDRS does not entirely forbid primary sources, so "generally" should be added to match MEDRS' lead. Crossroads -talk- 23:21, 17 August 2021 (UTC)[]
Books are mentioned in the next paragraph "Books published by respected publishing houses" on that page and publications already include books.
I don't know if there are other areas aside from medicine so I left some room there. If you are sure there are no other such areas, you can delete that part. Betty (talk) 07:27, 18 August 2021 (UTC)[]
"academic papers describing the authors' own research" seems like it would subsume almost scholarly publications. For example, a historian is publishing their own research. Alanscottwalker (talk) 11:29, 18 August 2021 (UTC)[]
"A scientific paper documenting a new experiment conducted by the author is a primary source on the outcome of that experiment" -- I don't know how to make that sentence shorter. Or maybe it can't be made any shorter, so we'll have to keep using that sentence. Betty (talk) 03:29, 24 August 2021 (UTC)[]
It rather seems the issue there is that in science, to be "good science", it has to be testable by being reproduced by other scientists, and if it's "new" that has not been done. In other words, the scientist is saying "under these conditions, I observed this (which is really where the "primary" concern arises), and this is what scientific laws tell us about it" other scientists then have to be able to follow the "new" conditions, and get the same result. So, I don't think it can be shortened. Alanscottwalker (talk) 12:44, 24 August 2021 (UTC)[]
I wonder whether we should think about this subject more broadly: academic sources are better that non-academic sources (for relevant subjects), and separately, secondary sources are better than primary sources, and separately, independent sources are better than non-independent sources, and so forth. WhatamIdoing (talk) 23:51, 18 August 2021 (UTC)[]
Yes, maybe the paragraph could be rewritten altogether. My proposal was an attempt to pose minimal change.
Anyway, my main concern is that I cited a peer-reviewed published academic paper believing that I was using a good source, and then my edit was reverted immediately. I don't want such unpleasant things happen to future editors again. That's why I propose a change in this policy page, to make it clearer. Betty (talk) 03:25, 24 August 2021 (UTC)[]
Peer reviewed paper + secondary sourcing might be best but even that won't necessarily prevent challenges.Selfstudier (talk) 14:57, 24 August 2021 (UTC)[]
Sure, but the reason of the challenge won't be "what you wrote is very good but it's primary source so it can't stay here". Betty (talk) 12:05, 25 August 2021 (UTC)[]
Here is the new proposal based on the discussion above ("primary sources should NOT normally be used" is a direct quote from WP:MEDRS):
If available, academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually reliable sources in academic topics. However, a scientific paper documenting a new experiment conducted by the author is a primary source on the outcome of that experiment and should be used with caution. Medical topics are especially strict on this and primary sources should NOT normally be used. Peer-reviewed published secondary sources such as literature reviews or systematic reviews are usually the preferred sources. Betty (talk) 12:36, 25 August 2021 (UTC)[]
It's been a week. If there is no objection, I'll edit the page. Betty (talk) 08:54, 1 September 2021 (UTC)[]
@Betty, I really appreciate the progress you've been making. For medical content, I'm not sure that peer-reviewed sources are preferred over med school textbooks or professional reference works, neither of which are technically peer-reviewed. If you look at Wikipedia:Biomedical information (which despite appearances and people authoritatively declaring that is the Sole Truth™ [whenever it supports their POV], is largely my unfinished attempt to figure out some of the complexities here), you can see how I've conceptualized it.
Also, as a minor point, the concept of a review article encompasses both of those types of reviews, which might let us slightly shorten the sentence. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:11, 4 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Review article is a good term, thank you. The paragraph is trying to say review articles are perferred over "a scientific paper documenting a new experiment conducted by the author". The next paragraph on Wikipedia:Verifiability#Reliable_sources already covers textbooks. If put together, it'll be like this (I took your advice and used "review articles"):
If available, academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually reliable sources in academic topics. However, a scientific paper documenting a new experiment conducted by the author is a primary source on the outcome of that experiment and should be used with caution. Medical topics are especially strict on this and primary sources should NOT normally be used. Peer-reviewed published secondary sources such as review articles are usually the preferred sources.
Editors may also use material from reliable non-academic sources, particularly if it appears in respected mainstream publications. Other reliable sources include:
  • University-level textbooks
  • Books published by respected publishing houses
  • Magazines
  • Mainstream newspapers
The part starting from "Editors may also use" is taken from the current Wikipedia:Verifiability#Reliable_sources page. I didn't change a word. Betty (talk) 09:52, 4 September 2021 (UTC)[]
  • Proposal 1 is good, Proposal 2 is not good. Only a tiny fraction of scholarly research in the humanities and sciences is ever the subject of peer-reviewed review articles. Moreover, it usually takes years for anything to get into textbooks and more importantly "university-level textbooks" are a terrible source as they are usually dumbed down and full of inaccuracies. (I realise you took it from a policy page; that should be fixed.) The only books that rank with peer-reviewed articles are research monographs (which at university would only be used for upper-level graduate courses). To say that a source should be used "with caution" is to say nothing, since every source should be used with caution. Take a look at History of France. In addition to research monographs, there are a large number of original research articles in peer-reviewed academic journals. This is to the great good of the article and I don't think it is a fine idea to write the policy to force editors to use inferior sources. Cheers. Zerotalk 14:28, 4 September 2021 (UTC)[]
    The current policy page says "academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources in topics such as history, medicine, and science". The reality is that such publications are far from the most reliable sources and edits citing "a scientific paper documenting a new experiment conducted by the author" will be reverted almost immediately in medical topics. What I'm trying to do is point out that such papers are not good enough sources, at least for some topics. If I understand right, you are saying that other sources listed on the policy page are not good sources, either. I don't disagree. You can propose your suggestions regarding them and I'm sure people will be open to discuss them.
    "With caution" is just a euphemism for "don't use such sources unless you are ready for an edit war". Now that you mention it, yeah, I think we can get rid of that part. Betty (talk) 05:18, 6 September 2021 (UTC)[]
We have special rules for medical topics for motives that don't apply to most other topics (such as not wanting to kill anyone). Trying to describe what is best for medical and non-medical topics at the same time is sure to be unsatisfactory. So I think that there should be a strict division with the non-medical policy carrying a prominent warning like "This part of the policy does not apply to medical topics; for those see LINK." Zerotalk 06:08, 7 September 2021 (UTC)[]
You are right, that's why my proposal says "medical topics have a stricter policy" and has a link to the medical policy. Betty (talk) 10:27, 7 September 2021 (UTC)[]
We just had a contentious RFC about the original intent behind MEDRS, and it makes me hesitate to advance any summary of the motivations. I think, however, that it would be worth considering the Replication crisis, and thinking about whether a report of a single unreproducible outcome is actually the sort of thing you'd want to "rely on" for a statement that sounds like "It cures cancer", rather than a statement that sounds like "One time, Alice Expert claimed that it killed some immortalized cells she was trying to grow in her lab". WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:24, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
  • Proposal 1 is simply incorrect. It says : "... follow a stricter sourcing policy, WP:MEDRS", but WP:MEDRS is not a policy, but guidelines. Second, the words "academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources in topics such as history and science. Articles about medical topics follow a stricter sourcing policy" imply some more reliable sources exist than "academic and peer-reviewed publications ". That is obviously not true. Academic and peer-reviewed publications are the best sources available to us. No more reliable sources exist. I agree that some academic and peer-reviewed publications may be primary sources, and, in that sense, some secondary sources should be used to avoid possible OR problems. However, those secondary sources are "academic and peer-reviewed publications" too. Proposal 1 is illogical, poorly written and confusing.
  • Proposal 2. It is more accurate. However, each research paper has Introduction, Results and Discussion sections. In the introduction, authors discuss the current state of the field and analyze the works of their peers. In that sense, the Introduction section is always a secondary source. The Discussion section include the analysis of the author(s) own results in a context of already published works, so that is a mixture of primary and secondary sources. Only the Results section can be considered a primary source sensu stricto. Taking into account that the same people usually author review articles and research papers, and both type publications are peer-reviewed, it is not clear why all information in research papers is declared less reliable.--Paul Siebert (talk) 19:00, 9 September 2021 (UTC)[]
    You are making some valid points. The proposals you replied to are the initials ones and have been revised since. Betty (talk) 09:33, 10 September 2021 (UTC)[]
    The introduction section contains some secondary content, but it typically contains a selected, biased representation of the current state of the field. Its purpose is not to provide a general overview, but to build a case for why "my" research represents an important contribution to the field. It is therefore not an ideal source ("ideal" is the exact word that MEDRS uses), so we would recommend it primarily when other options don't exist. The main use case for such sections would be writing about rare diseases or unusual situations. (Also, it's unusual to see anyone try to do that. Primary sources in medical articles are generally cherry-picked for showing the One True™ Answer about something, e.g., that saturated fat definitely does/absolutely never will cause heart disease.) WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:32, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
It seems that people are still reacting to the initial proposals, which unfortunately might be a waste of their effort because the proposals have already been revised a lot on the basis of the discussion. So I edited the page to reflect what has been achieved according to the discussion so far. If you have other suggestions or find other problems, you can always try editing or opening another discussion. Cheers. Betty (talk) 09:44, 10 September 2021 (UTC)[]

I've reverted Betty's change. There isn't a need to mention "medical topics" or, via a link, equate that with WP:MEDRS. Nor can MEDRS be summarised as simply preferring review articles. Verifiability is but one requirement for sourcing and the text we write, and is insufficient on its own. We aren't questioning that a primary research paper is unreliable in terms of what it says about the research just done or that the authors hold certain opinions about what they did or didn't discover. That isn't on its own a sufficient reason to include it in Wikipedia. It is more a question of whether that research has changed or confirmed the expert consensus so we can say e.g., "The Lurgy is typically cured with Wonderpam but The Dreaded Lurgy is often fatal". There's a misconception that MEDRS is "stricter". It is simply the appropriate application of policy to a topic domain and always has been. And arguing distinction between policy and guideline is usually misguided (see Wikipedia:The difference between policies, guidelines and essays) and unhelpful. Paul, this is not the page to discuss what kind of source the parts of a research paper might be. It isn't sufficient to just say "Is X a reliable source" or even "Is X a reliable source for Y topic" to gain approval for writing any article text based on it. One needs to consider the proposed article text and then one needs to consider WP:WEIGHT and other policies. A primary research paper, no matter how fancy the journal is, has no WEIGHT on its own. See also WP:SCHOLARSHIP. -- Colin°Talk 14:29, 10 September 2021 (UTC)[]

The question is, the current statement is simply not the reality. The current policy page says "academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources in topics such as history, medicine, and science". The reality is that I cited such a publication believing that I was using a good source, and then my edit was reverted immediately, not because of anything else, just because it is primary source. Quot: "Sorry, that is a primary source - I am sure there is a secondary source that can be used to illustrate that point." "The mortality benefit from metformin is fascinating (hence its popularity with the life extension crowd) and I am sure an appropriate secondary source can be found." So the text is important enough and very relavant to the article. It was reverted only because a primary source was cited.
Maybe you wiki "gurus" know too well to see why the current statement is misleading. I just want to make what happened to me less likely to happen again wasting the time and effort of new good-will editors and crushing their passion. Wiki is already hard enough for new contributors, what is so wrong to make the policy page a little clearer?
If you think my change was not good enough, "reverting" does not make it any better, because it was changed into something unclear and misleading. Surely the current statement is not the best possible wording, isn't it? Why not write something more accurate to your standards and clearer and less misleading to new editors? Betty (talk) 02:58, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
"Primary" vs "secondary" has no relation to reliability. A primary source may be super-reliable, but it may be unacceptable per NOR. In your case, the edit made by you seems to be related to medicine. That means the text added by you may be used by a reader as a direct medical advice. You may be quite smart and educated person, but we must assume we all are amateurs, which means we can misinterpret (accidentally) primary sources that we use. If we misinterpret, e.g. history related sources, that can hardly cause any physical harm to anybody. But in your case the situation is different. --Paul Siebert (talk) 03:13, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
You can take your source and see, using google scholar, which articles are citing it. If some other peer-reviewed publication cites it, and comments are positive, you may use the wording from that publication and use it as a source. That will be a super-reliable secondary source in full accordance with the current policy.--Paul Siebert (talk) 03:17, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Betty, nobody wants to crush anyone's passion. But writing policy is hard. This is a vital policy page, relied on by editors all over Wikipedia. I think you've got confused that being reliable is sufficient for it to be acceptable. And "reliable" begs the question: "for what?", which with a primary research papers is disappointingly little. As Paul says, WP:V is just one requirement. Other policies are concerned more with Wikipedia reflecting consensus among experts and the published secondary literature. It is a bit confusing that WP:MEDRS has "reliable sources" in its name, since it is concerned with more than just whether a source is reliable or not. It is handling both WP:V and WP:WEIGHT at the same time. A better title might have been "Ideal sources for biomedical material".
Paul I think you are trying to give guidance here from first-principles and your own understanding, rather than just advising Betty to read our many guideline and policy pages. Just because another source cites a primary research paper doesn't magically turn that other source into a "super-reliable secondary source". WP:MEDRS explains that there are certain kinds of secondary sources that are ideal, such as literature reviews, systematic reviews and professional textbooks, as well as clinical guidelines and consensus statements by specialist bodies. The best sources give us the most confidence that what we are saying reflects current accepted wisdom. Betty, if you want help finding good sources for a medical topic area that interests you, post a request for help at WT:MED and the folk there will help you out. -- Colin°Talk 15:03, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
If you read a professional reviews (and I am sure you did), you may probably notice that the literature list may be 200-400 items long, so on average 1-5 lines are devoted to one single article. In that sense, I don't see what is a difference between the mention of such an article in a systematic review and in a research article, where its discussion may be even more detailed. By the way, I find the words "systematic review" somewhat odd. What does it mean? What is teh difference between a systematic and other reviews? What other kinds of reviews do you know. Reviews are usually being written by the same authors who write research articles, and the analysis of the works written by other is equally detailed in both type publications (not more than a couple of sentences, usually just a half of it)--Paul Siebert (talk) 21:06, 13 September 2021 (UTC)[]
A systematic review is as opposed to a narrative review. A narrative review is just the author using whatever articles they like to draw the conclusions they do, using ad-hoc criteria to figure out which papers to include. A systematic review, on the other hand, has defined criteria for how the authors found the studies used to write the publication, with rigid criteria including MeSH search terms, years published, impact factor of the journal, h index of the authors, etc. So given these criteria, you are supposed to see exactly how they systematically drew the conclusions they did from those primary sources. It's a thing in science and medicine. See: [1] [2] [3] [4] — Shibbolethink ( ) 21:36, 13 September 2021 (UTC)[]
I authored research papers and reviews, in such topics as Molecular Biology, Chemistry and Biophysics, but I never saw these criteria. It seems they are more related to the topics that are closer to medicine. Therefore, I am afraid many topics that fall under MEDRS may not fall under the rules described by you. Thus, I am 100% sure most bioinflrmatics and general molecular biologists or biochemists are writing just usual reviews (they do not try to bring them in accordance with the above described standards). That means some topics that fall under MEDRS cannot be sourced per MEDRS.--Paul Siebert (talk) 00:02, 14 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Narrative reviews are still MEDRS-compliant, systematic reviews are just better. — Shibbolethink ( ) 00:08, 14 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Oh, I forgot to mention that the paper I cited has been cited 290 times according to google scholar. I obviously haven't read all of them but there are positive comments. It's very reliable to (my) common sense.
There are too many policy and guideline pages on Wikipedia but this page Wikipedia:Verifiability#Reliable sources is actually the entry point for sourcing ("WP:SOURCE" redirects to there). It's unrealistic to expect a new editor to read all the secret rules buried in the mountain of policy and guideline pages. At least this entry point should mention the common pitfalls. Betty (talk) 04:41, 13 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Betty, I appreciate you got confused but it doesn't follow that the policy is confusing and needs fixing. It isn't a secret or buried. We only have three core policies and the advice to use secondary sources is explained in Wikipedia:No original research. That policy also explains about research papers (primary) and reviews (secondary). It isn't that surprising that the best guidance for sourcing an article on the drug metformin is Wikipedia:Identifying reliable sources (medicine). There are thousands of research studies published in "reliable" peer reviewed journals all the time. If that was the only test we used for what to write, our articles would be chock full of "A study in 2014 found that..." noise. -- Colin°Talk 12:44, 13 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Actually, exact WP:MEDRS wording is For biomedical content, the Wikipedia community relies on guidance contained in expert scientific reviews and textbooks, and in official statements published by major medical and scientific bodies. It seems "expert scientific review" is a review authored by an expert, but all authors who publish reviews in peer-reviewed journals are experts.
MEDRS further explains This is because primary biomedical literature is exploratory and often not reliable (any given primary source may be contradicted by another). That means research articles should be avoided because of potential contradictions with other sources. However, if some article was cited 290 times, and there is no obvious criticism, this possibility can be ruled out.
MEDRS continues Any text that relies on primary sources should usually have minimal weight, only describe conclusions made by the source, and describe these findings so clearly that any editor can check the sourcing without the need for specialist knowledge. Clearly, if research articles were strictly prohibited by MEDRS, this sentence would be redundant. It demonstrates that research articles ARE allowed per MEDRS, provided that the above conditions are met. 290 references with no obvious criticism can be seen as a serious proof of weight. The only remaining issue is if the statement this source is suppose support is a purely descriptive. If yes, and if it can be easily demonstrated, then I see no reason why this source cannot be used per MEDRS.--Paul Siebert (talk) 00:14, 14 September 2021 (UTC)[]
I think the operative question is: "Of those 290 citations, is at least one of them a suitable review that would have stronger MEDRS basis?" — Shibbolethink ( ) 01:30, 14 September 2021 (UTC)[]
This isn't the talk page of MEDRS, so a detailed examination of that guideline's wording belongs elsewhere. Paul, you are conducting WP:Original Research of the primary literature. You are selectively quoting guideline text to make an argument that goes against text elsewhere in that guideline and goes against our core policies. While guideline and policy does allow very very limited use of primary literature, that isn't permission to use it any time one wants. What started this was citing a really old (2014) research paper. A very simple question: if the secondary literature hasn't found that research to be worth commenting on and building on for the last seven years, then why on earth should Wikipedia? -- Colin°Talk 07:59, 14 September 2021 (UTC)[]
It seems you don't understand the WP:OR policy. It relates to the article space only, and it does not say anything about interpretation of the policy itself. If you believe your interpretation of this policy is more correct, please, explain you point. However, both your and mine vision of this policy are just interpretations, and they both, by default, should be treated with respect.
I never said MEDRS permits usage of primary sources in any time and any context you want. That does not follow from my words.
Depending on a topic, 290 references for 7 years may be quite good. In some topics, the article with this number of citations may be very notable. And I am sure some of those references are reviews. I am not going to do analysis of them, because I am not interested in this topic, but all further discussion is possible only based on the analysis of what those references say, and of the context this article is supposed to be used in. It is quite likely that such an article may be a quite good source. You are making so much stress on guidelines letter, and you are forgetting about its spirit.--Paul Siebert (talk) 14:35, 14 September 2021 (UTC)[]
I didn't say you are doing OR on policy, but you are wikilawyering about MEDRS. You are doing OR on that research paper, and personally judging its results to be notable and accepted by the scientific or medical community based on the number of citations. That's OR. The spirit of our guidelines and policy is "Wikipedia articles should be based on reliable, published secondary sources". Not 6 year old primary research papers, no matter how many citations it has got. There are many secondary sources on this topic, Paul, it is one of the most prescribed drugs in the world and used for one of the most common medical conditions, and I really don't know why you are continuing to argue so strongly to ignore them and insist this ancient primary paper is permitted by policy or guideline. It really really isn't. -- Colin°Talk 09:05, 15 September 2021 (UTC)[]
WP:NOR says: do not publish original thought. As soon as I am not writing any text in the article space, I am not engaged in original research.
Furthermore, WP:NPOV says "you should strive to treat each aspect with a weight proportional to its treatment in the body of reliable, published material on the subject". That implies we are supposed to figure out the weight. How can we do that? Clearly, by performing analysis of the body of reliable, published material on the subject. That means not only we can, we are expected, per NPOV, to do such an analysis.--Paul Siebert (talk) 00:48, 16 September 2021 (UTC)[]

Obituaries as sourcesEdit

I have found discussions but no Wikipedia policy or consensus on using obituaries as sources. If someone can enlighten me, please do. In the absence of consensus or policy, I would like to make strides here in hopes of the establishment of Wikipedia policy discouraging obituaries as sources. While obits meet the low standard of being published, they lose the battle of verifiability, as described in this article regarding questionable sources: "Questionable sources are those that have a poor reputation for checking the facts, lack meaningful editorial oversight, or have an apparent conflict of interest." Obits hit on all three. As a retired newspaper editor, I can confirm what many know - that obits are provided by funeral homes which get them from the family or friends of the deceased. There is no oversight. Few newspapers have obit editors on staff as they did long ago. Occasionally, a newspaper will publish an obit like a editorial if the deceased is a prominent person. Rarely, there is a reporter's byline. Unfortunately, it is not possible for Wikipedia to discern if any editorial oversight has been given to the information. Obits are paid advertisements, funded by family and/or friends advertising the passing of their loved ones. While obits are successful in their mission of providing some context of a person's life and giving those mourning an outlet for their grief, they are wholly unreliable as a source for an encyclopedia. I hope if it has not done so, that Wikipedia will establish a policy that disallows obits as reliable sources. If it already has, then never mind. God bless and happy editing! MarydaleEd (talk) 05:34, 30 August 2021 (UTC)[]

Hi, @MarydaleEd. I think you've got a handle on the situation, namely that it depends on which kind of obit you're talking about. If it's a news article written by a journalist because someone died, then that's a great source. These may be less common than they used to be, but they do still exist. If it's something that the family paid to publish, you should probably treat it approximately the same as you would treat social media posts by family members, or a paid advertisement from a business. That is, they're not likely to be completely wrong, but they're not Wikipedia:Independent sources, either. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:24, 4 September 2021 (UTC)[]

contributor=editor - clarification requiredEdit

Extended content

"Contributor" as well as "Editor" are used in WP:Verifiability and no definition is given... In a way or another a "clarification" must clearly be made on such a highly visited page (nearly 100,000 page views in the past 30 days, see Page information).

Let's be precise and clear from the beginning for newcomers and non-editing readers (in their minds another name=another status, and this is even more true for non-native English speakers). A quick and short explanation that a contributor is an editor should be provided to them (if it is not stated, people will tend to think that they are different "status" — and it can be "confusing" because these 2 words are sometimes used together on Wikipedia pages).

I have noticed that "technical" pages (for example: administrative pages) will try to push the usage of "Editor" (although you can find "Contributor" from time to time... even against the will of the editors because of transclusion; see example below). But in general, Encyclopedia articles (for example: Wikipedia) and legal pages (for example: Wikipedia:Copyrights) will mix "Contributor" and "Editor" words incoherently and randomly.

Some uses found: "a community of contributors", "a major contributor", "foreign-language contributors" but "Template editor"...

English is spoken all over the world and non-native English speaking readers will find no aid using a thesaurus to help them understand that contributor=editor:

According to Merriam-Webster Thesaurus and Wiktionary, "Contributor" and "Editor" are not synonyms!

Example of transclusion:

  • An informative notice Template:essay that can introduce "confusion" to newcomers and readers (especially when this notice is placed on top of articles only using "Editor" in their pages, for example: Wikipedia:Cherrypicking is using 33 times "Editor" and 0 time "Contributor"):

Actual version:

Its content is determined by previously published information rather than the beliefs or experiences of editors.

My suggestion (or something better phrased from a native English speaker):

Its content is determined by previously published information rather than the beliefs or experiences of editors, also known as contributors.

Antoine Legrand (talk) 17:44, 9 September 2021 (UTC)[]

I googled "wikipedia editor contributor" and found this page: Wikipedia:Wikipedians, which should explain "editors" and "contributors". Maybe you could check if that page needs improvement and link to that page? Betty (talk) 09:59, 10 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Contributor ≠ editor. Editors contributors.
This is because you can "contribute" (e.g., uploading images, operating a bot) without "editing". WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:42, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
However that page just makes the confusion worse: "Wikipedians (Wikipedia's editors and contributors) are the volunteers who write and edit Wikipedia's articles, unlike readers who simply read them." If there is a distinction between contributor and editor to be found there, it is that contributors create articles and editors work on them. It isn't the same distinction at all. Personally I think this confusion of definitions is a self-inflicted injury. Zerotalk 15:45, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
It is not true that contributors create articles. The World Health Organization is a contributor to Wikipedia. See c:Category:World Health Organization COVID-19 disinformation infographics for some of the organization's contributions. The WHO is not, however, an editor; the organization itself does not edit articles. WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:47, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
  • All editors are contributors - not all contributors are editors. Blueboar (talk) 16:39, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]

Discussion will be centralized on: Wikipedia_talk:Project_namespace#contributor=editor=WikipedianAntoine Legrand (talk) 18:58, 12 September 2021 (UTC)[]

Moved to where it belongs: Wikipedia talk:Wikipedians#contributor=editor=Wikipedian. Lembit Staan (talk) 21:51, 12 September 2021 (UTC)[]

A general proposalEdit

It was partially inspired by this. I noticed that some discussion about policy change do not lead to any outcome, but the opinia on the meaning of some policy clause may be very instrumental and useful. What is we create a link to some talk page discussion and add them to the policy? A possible mechanism can be as follows: if some user believes the discussion deserves to be presevted, they can initiate an RfC, and if the community verdict is "Yes" the permanent link to this discussion will be added to the policy (similar to the links to some essays). In particular, the discussion about the meaning of the word "Mainstream newspapers", which took place few years ago, was very useful.--Paul Siebert (talk) 20:42, 9 September 2021 (UTC)[]

This would occasionally be convenient for me, but I think it would tend to elevate past decisions and enshrine them as the One True™ Interpretation. I think the less convenient (for me) option might be better for Wikipedia in the long run. WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:46, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
I would agree with @WhatamIdoing here. Such an approach is appropriate for consensus templates imo, such as Wikipedia:WikiProject COVID-19/Consensus. Because they are meant to be much more fluid, but still less fluid than talk pages. However, as a policy, these pages are meant to be some of the most cut in stone around. I think citing past talk pages removes some of that firmness of the policy, and elevates the talk page discussion, in an inappropriate way. The policy is based on much more than a single discussion, given that it has stood the test of time and use, which are not easy to link. — Shibbolethink ( ) 19:07, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
WhatamIdoing&Shibbolethink, I meant something else. The very fact that some clauses in the policy were a subject of long debates, the breadth of the spectrum of opinia expressed, and the very fact that no consensus was achieved is an important information. It is a kind of a red flag: "Look, this part of the policy seems unclear to many people, and each of them interprets it differently!". That may help future improvement of the policy and avoiding repetition of the same arguments.--Paul Siebert (talk) 19:55, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
I think in more cases, the past discussions would tend to shut down future discussions. The ability of editors to see what they want to see in past discussions shouldn't be underestimated. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:49, 17 September 2021 (UTC)[]


This post is inspired by this discussion. Many users argue that some source is not a RS because it is fringe and/or primary.

IMO, the main function of WP:V, WP:NOR and WP:NPOV are different, and they are as follows:

  • WP:V requires that when readers read something in Wikipedia, they must be provided with an opportunity to independently verify each statement by looking at the source. That means a reader must be capable (at least theoretically) to find that source and to make sure what the source says in reality. That requires that the information must be reliably published, which means a publisher must be respectable, reputable, and the source must be stable. "Mainstream vs fringe" has no relation to that, for even a fringe views may be a RS if they were reliably published.
  • WP:NPOV requires that only mainstream or significant minority views can be represented on Wikipedia pages. That means that even if a source is 100% reliable, it can and must be rejected if it is fringe. In other words, all considerations such as author's credibility, number of citations, criticism and acceptance by peers - all of that relates to NPOV, not to V.
  • WP:NOR requires that primary sources must be used with cautions. That means a primary source may be 100% reliable, but it cannot be used in some context for NOR reasons. Again, that issue is irrelevant to WP:V. added to address Shibbolethink's argument

However, many participants of that discussion, which was aimed to establish if some source meets formal WP:V criteria, claim that that source is unreliable, because it is fringe. In my opinion, that happened because the core ideas of WP:V and WP:NPOV are not clearly separated in the policy text, and too much attention is given to the issues that in reality relate to WP:NPOV rather to WP:V.--Paul Siebert (talk) 17:52, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]

You have just mischaracterized the position of many users. They do not think the source in question is unreliable because it is fringe. Many in that discussion consider it unreliable because the authors have no relevant expertise, are describing their WP:PRIMARY findings, are likely not peer-reviewed by experts in the area, and are cited by other RSes mainly as refutation. The fact that the paper espouses a FRINGE viewpoint and does not have any WP:DUE content adds context, but it is not the sole reason why it is not an RS.
You also have misunderstood the point of the reliable sources noticeboard. It is not to determine whether something meets WP:V. If it was, it would be called the "Verifiability noticeboard." The board exists to help determine if sources should or should not be considered reliable. Not whether they are used in a WP:V-compliant way, which is a separate issue. — Shibbolethink ( ) 17:58, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
I always understood RSN as a noticeboard where users ask question about compliance of sources with WP:V, so "verifiability" should not be understood in a colloquial meaning of that word. The shortcut is WP:V/N--Paul Siebert (talk) 18:06, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
or WP:RSN. Of course verifiability matters there. But that is not the sole purpose of the board; It appears you may be excluding the entire WP:RS guideline as if it has no bearing on the discussions themselves. See the top line of the page description: The guideline that most directly relates to whether a given source is reliable is Wikipedia:Reliable sources. It has an explanatory supplement at Wikipedia:Reliable sources/Perennial sources, listing the outcomes of many consensus discussions at this noticeboard. If WP:RS and WP:V conflict, WP:V has priority as a policy. But, in this case, they are extremely compatible. WP:V lists author and status/expertise of that author as relevant. Removing that may create unnecessary conflict between WP:RS and WP:V, reducing the ability of the project to form consensus on these issues. Why would we want that? — Shibbolethink ( ) 18:42, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Well, WP:PRIMARY is a realm of the third core policy, WP:NOR. Yes, a good notion. Will add it to my original post.--Paul Siebert (talk) 18:00, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
I think an important aspect of this talk post is that you have not suggested any change to the policy. What would you change here to prevent the inaccurate interpretations you perceive in other users? — Shibbolethink ( ) 18:01, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
If we will come to an agreement that the policy needs in some clarification (imo, part of its content should be moved to NOR/NPOV), then I am ready to discuss it. Thus, it should be properly explained that WP:V focuses on formal criteria, such as a publisher, affiliation, peer-reviewing etc. Everything that relates to acceptance of some publication by peers, criticism, support, number of citations, quality of citations - all of that is an NPOV realm. Similarly, WP:PSTS has no relation to reliability: there are totally unreliable secondary sources and super-reliable primary or tertiary ones. Some formally peer-reviewed journals are less reliable than good blogs - but that, again, the due weight issues, formally, the former is a RS, whereas the latter is not.--Paul Siebert (talk) 18:04, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Firm disagree that criteria based on author, perception of the field, citations, etc should be removed from this page. If we do that, we open the door to lots and lots of pseudoscience and fringe science being perceived as legitimate and in compliant with WP:V. — Shibbolethink ( ) 18:34, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
I think where PRIMARY comes into play in this situation is WP:REDFLAG. We know from NOR that PRIMARY sources are typically less reliable than secondary. And indeed the V policy states outright that independent sources are more important. So when we have an exceptional claim, such as those made in this paper, then a PRIMARY source may be more likely to fail verification as an inadequate source. — Shibbolethink ( ) 18:55, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
I'm not seeing a major conflict here. We have a peer-reviewed paper in a major MEDRS journal but one that presents a view that is very contrary to a number of other established theories. The paper meets V, but inclusion of it would appear to fail to meet NPOV, specifically UNDUE - its a minority viewpoint compared to the bulk of prevailing theories. We don't even need to bring up the question of the authority of the paper's authors (outside that they are not leading experts in the field which would factor into UNDUE).
I would point out that is the situation at this time. Maybe in time this paper will be proven right, just as Copernicus was in time. But WP definitely should avoid including theories that yet to have that larger acceptance in the broad scientific/medical community per MEDRS, even if the source is an RS/meets V. --Masem (t) 18:27, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Gotta be honest with you, calling BioEssays a major MEDRS journal is a very flawed characterization. I have rarely, if ever, seen a BioEssays paper that truly meets MEDRS. I cannot think of a single one. They are quite often very speculative and therefore nowhere near the stability or "confirmed"-ness required by WP:MEDRS. Some may meet WP:RS, if they are from content experts and written as topic reviews, or even as WP:RSOPINION, perhaps summing up or describing some recent shift in the field... But MEDRS is a much higher bar, as it should be imo. — Shibbolethink ( ) 18:36, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
I agree its not Nature or the like, but we can even take that out of the equation here and just simply point to UNDUE being the reason to exclude the source for now per "one paper vs prevailing medical-based theory". As soon as you start begging the question of the journal quality, the authors' expertise, or the primary-nature of the work, you complicate the question that makes the OP question about these policies' overlap confusing. You can easily simplify the question that you have one source that is very much counter to everything else out there, that unless it was from the most expert source in the world, then its just UNDUE, period. --Masem (t) 18:41, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
I guess my concern is that this approach opens the door to other papers from this author, this journal, etc. I don't think it would be appropriate to use a similar paper from this publication that is anti-lab leak either. Not if it is as heavily WP:PRIMARY, WP:RSOPINION as this one is, etc. I think it's important we define which criteria we are using to reject a source on that noticeboard, and the plausible criteria are spelled out right here on WP:V! and especially WP:REDFLAG.
In the future, I would still like to be able to cite those same criteria in WP:RSN discussions. Being UNDUE may not come up in those discussions depending on the viewpoint, but it does not make that future source more reliable. I see what you mean that we should be satisfied with the UNDUE component. But this discussion was brought to the RSN, not the NPOVN, so I think many users described the reliability based on criteria here and in WP:RS, and did not touch DUE.
To me, this talk page section seems like a grievance looking for a home. rather than pointing out an actual inconsistency in this policy. — Shibbolethink ( ) 18:46, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
If I see what you are getting at: there is nothing that would immediately disqualify said paper from being a RS per WP:V (given its peer review from a non-predator journal) but under MEDRS, it can be taken as a lower quality source to be using for any medical related claim due to the low weight of the journal and that as you say, that journal is generally meant as "essays" rather than research results and thus prone to more open hypothesis rather than scientific method and results. Perhaps the closest we have is as you say, this specific journal is basically RSOPINION (in context of MEDRS), similar to any newspaper's op-ed page. I just don't think one needs to complicate the reason not to use this article without getting so far into the weeds of the complexity of V/NPOV/NOR policies. --Masem (t) 19:10, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
MEDRS is built upon several policies. Thus, when it refers to PRIMARY, it is WP:PSTS (i.e. NOR). However, do I understand it correct that the RSN discussions should be focused NOT on whether this particular source is good for this particular article, but on whether this particular source is acceptable per WP:V? In that sense, the conclusion "Yes. It is reliable" means it meets WP:V criteria, not that it can be used for this particular purpose.
However, if I am right, then most people don't understand the policy, which means it should be made more clear.--Paul Siebert (talk) 19:40, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
You are mistaken. The introductory words on RSN demonstrate that the purpose of that board is for evaluating sources in context, in fact they ask that posters include links to the specific article and the specific text to be verified, so that WP:RS may be applied to the question. It says this is because questions of reliability are context-dependent. Many sources are reliable for statement "X," but unreliable for statement "Y". — Shibbolethink ( ) 20:01, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
In other words, that RSN discussion is so long and hot because different people answer different questions. Some of them, like me, answer the question: "Does this source meet WP:V?", whereas others, like Shibbolethink, answer the question "Can this source be used in this concrete article and in that concrete context?", which is a much broader question. To demonstrate my point, had the same question about this source been posted on WP:NPON, my responce would be "this reliable source represents either fringe or insignificant minority view, so it should not be used in this article".--Paul Siebert (talk) 19:44, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
You may be right about our two questions, but your question is not the only purpose of that noticeboard. From the very first words on that board: Welcome to the reliable sources noticeboard. This page is for posting questions regarding whether particular sources are reliable in context. (emphasis mine) — Shibbolethink ( ) 19:56, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Interesting. It seems different users understand it differently, and, taking into account that many of them express the same view as I, we need to provide some explanation (maybe, by modifying the introductory words). My (and not only my) understanding is that RSN is linted to V in the same way as NPOVN is linked to NPOV and NORN linked to NOR.--Paul Siebert (talk) 20:13, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Wouldn't it make more sense for RSN to be linked to RS? That is how the discussion seems to be going, anyway, as there are many editors (myself included) who analyse the source as a function of the criteria listed at WP:RS and also in light of the context of where it is to be used (WP:CONTEXTMATTERS). RandomCanadian (talk / contribs) 20:34, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Actually, it is linked to RS, but RS is just guidelines, which is not binding.--Paul Siebert (talk) 20:40, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Most of the same criteria are listed at WP:V anyway, so this seems like a lawyerish and unimportant distinction in this context. RandomCanadian (talk / contribs) 20:43, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
If that were the case, we would never had such a long RSN descussion. WP:V is more formal, and it does not include PSTS or FRINGE. Since PSTS/FRINGE arguments were brought during that discussion, that means different people understand reliability criteria totally differently---Paul Siebert (talk) 20:49, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Many users have gotten mired in disagreements much smaller and more nonsensical than this, so I do not find this argument very convincing. — Shibbolethink ( ) 21:46, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
But if we can easily avoid that by clarifying the rules, why cannot we do that?--Paul Siebert (talk) 22:20, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Are you saying we should disregard the guidelines without any actual reason to do so? I believe the default in most cases is that the guidelines should be how we conduct ourselves, and only default to the policy when the policy and guidelines disagree. If you think the guidelines are not meaningful or actionable, that is very troubling indeed, and does not appear to be a view shared by most WP:RSN users, from reading the current discussions on that page. — Shibbolethink ( ) 20:57, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
I am saying that when you ask people a question, you must do that clearly. I (as well as many other users) think that each RSN question is about compliance with WP:V (and not to NOR/NPOV). And answer the question accordingly. My answer was "yes, it complies with formal WP:V criteria" (and I meant it was obvious from my answer that subsequent analysis may show that source fails WP:NPOV/NOR; however, I didn't write that explicitly, because I believe that is offtopic on this concrete page). Note, several other users responded in the same vein, which means they share my vision of functions of that page.
You may also notice that there were no claims that that source is mainstream or not primary. The objections were just about its rejections from WP:V point of view. --Paul Siebert (talk) 21:09, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
The objections (mine included) are about much more than it's lack of suitability per NPOV. There's quite a lot of discussion of the factors which determine the reliability of a source (which are identical on both V and RS); namely the source itself, it's authors, and the publisher. Hard to see how you would miss that. RandomCanadian (talk / contribs) 21:53, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
And that is a big problem, because if we apply the same approach to Wikipedia in general, lion's share of its content must be removed.--Paul Siebert (talk) 22:03, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Why? — Shibbolethink ( ) 22:42, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Because majority of WP articles are based on such sources as local newspapers, web sites, magazines, which, according to your (and mine) standard are total garbage. We cannot pohibit those sources, because most article will become unsourced. Meanwhile, if we get rid of those articles, Wikipedia will not be Wikipedia anymore.--Paul Siebert (talk) 23:01, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
My standards are applied to scholarly sources, I treat news sources differently because they have different properties. Speak for yourself. — Shibbolethink ( ) 03:26, 12 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Your "speak for yourself" is somewhat impolite. Actually, my standards are the same. The problem is that in the topics that I usually edit other users use quite different standards, and, they are in accordance with our policy too.--Paul Siebert (talk) 03:59, 12 September 2021 (UTC)[]
My apologies. I didn't mean to offend. By way of explanation: I get very ornery when someone claims to know how I feel about something, especially when I don't feel that way! I think you are pointing out an overall issue with wikipedia in that it does not value expertise. But I don't see your suggestions as solving that problem, and I think they may create new ones... For instance, I see that allowing users to challenge the author of a source as unreliable creates problems for you in other areas. But removing that criteria from V creates many additional problems in the areas of pseudoscience and alternative medicine. Because many crackpots get published in high quality venues, and it is not immediately obvious that the claims are UNDUE. DUE/UNDUE takes a lot more time and effort to establish than simply pointing out the flawed credentials of the author. That's why I appreciate such a criteria included here. — Shibbolethink ( ) 13:56, 12 September 2021 (UTC)[]
I do not propose to remove anything from WP:V. I propose to clearly split it on two parts, let's conditionally call then WP:V-a and WP:V-b. The first part is about verifiability proper (as I describe it below), and it determines if this concrete statement is verifiable (can be checked by going by the reference, which is reliably published and stable). The second part WP:V-b is about trustworthiness, and different criteria are applied here. Currently, these two components are mixed, so some users make a stress on the first part (and pretend everything is fine with the source), whereas others emphasize the second part. If these two aspects will be clearly separated, and it will be stipulated that they both must be met, pushing questionable sources will become much more problematic.--Paul Siebert (talk) 16:52, 12 September 2021 (UTC)[]
@Paul Siebert, I'm really interested in this question, so thanks for bringing it here. Were you around for the Wikipedia:Attribution proposal? It might have been before your time. The main proposal was to merge WP:V and WP:NOR. NOR basically has two pieces: the parts that are more or less WP:V and the WP:PSTS section. (There was some talk then, and several times since then, about splitting PSTS to its own policy page.) The reason I bring this up is: I don't think that there's a really sharp dividing line between WP:V and WP:NOR (or at least the non-PSTS parts of NOR). I do agree with you about NPOV being a separate consideration. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:22, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
If you want my opinion about Wikipedia:Attribution, I see it somewhat differently. I would clearly separate Verifiability from Reliability, because they are totally different things.
Verifiability means just one thing: everything that is written in Wikipedia can be verified when a reader go by a reference. If something was published, printed and stored in some reliable place (or on some reliable server), and this information is (at least theoretically) available to a reader, that source is reliable. In that case, "reliable" means we can rely on it for verification purposes. If some Nobel prize winner gave a speech, but that speech has never been properly recorded, that source is not reliable. If a Flat Earth theorist published some article in NYT, that source is reliable (for verification purposes only). In connection to that, one Verifiability aspect, which is totally overlooked, is as follows: "Does this particular source have a significant risk to produce a dead link? In reality, a lot of ostensibly "sourced" information in Wikipedia are references that lead to page 404: there was some information by the moment the article had been written, but it disappeared since then. IMO, our goal is to estimate a probability of such risks. Thus, many references that lead to questionable web archives should be considered unreliable. In other words, stability is an important aspect of verifiability, which seems to be totally ignored in the policy.
The reason why I think Verifability and Reliability must be separated are quite simple: the former can be checked by simple and formal criteria, thereby eliminating a possibility of conflicts and edit wars.
Reliability is a totally different story. Actually, we should call it "trustworthiness" or "correctness". It relates to reliability of information that is published in some concrete source (of course, we limit ourselves with reliably published sources only). In contrast to verifiability, a decision about reliability of some information is much harder to make, and, frankly, that is something we must avoid (because we all must be considered amateurs with no expertise). Instead, we should use mainsreamness criteria: if the source does not contradict to what other sources say on that account, or (which even better) that source is explicitly supported by others (for example, it has positive reviews etc), than it, most likely, reflects majority or significant minority viewpoint. In other words, "reliable" is closely linked to "mainstream/majority". In contrast to the analysis of author's credential or the context (which may require some expertise), evaluation of mainstreamness is more straitforward.
That is why I think the two aspects of WP:V should be clearly separated, and the second one (reliability/trustworthiness) should be closer linked to NPOV.--Paul Siebert (talk) 22:53, 11 September 2021 (UTC)[]
That would allow for wikilawyering of the "but it's listed in [garbage source]". If a source isn't reliable, then no, it cannot be used to satisfy verifiability; otherwise we'd be linking to bullshit predatory journals and fansites and the like. You claim on your user page to have published peer-reviewed papers: now, I don't know what discipline it is in, but I assume that no matter where, serious scholarly publications require serious sources; and that you have enough self-awareness to acknowledge that this is more complicated than what you are depicting above. RandomCanadian (talk / contribs) 00:25, 12 September 2021 (UTC)[]
To take an extreme example, if we were to publish a quote from the Daily Mail - despite being a deprecated and generally unreliable source - we can still show it is possible to verify it through a proper citation to the publication date/page or URL. That meets WP:V, but as we all know, it is very unlikely this is reliable information. To me, that falls under the context of where WP:V and WP:NOR overlap - we want to include information from sources that we know are verified (so no through-the-grapevine or personal calls with experts or email chains) but that show that no original research is needed to extract the necessary information, meaning that we are looking to the reliability of those sources to make sure they are telling us what is that information. And while there are necessary ground rules (that we prefer third-party sources, and generally favor secondary sources over primary), this is also where there are a lot of field-specific aspects to consider. As soon as you step into the world of science and peer-review, then we know there's a range of quality of journal publications that come into play, something that doesn't affect more common mainstream topics like politics, sports, or entertainment. Its just that I don't think we can we write absolute reliability rules beyond the minimum set out in WP:V, and instead leave this to the individual fields. (This would parallel with how notability has a general base rule but also field-specific considerations) I can see where there is the idea of reliability can come from, but in considering that V/NOR/NPOV and NOT form the core content policies, reliability is a sourcing aspect. --Masem (t) 00:50, 12 September 2021 (UTC)[]
I don't see any problem here. Instead of the current single step (mixed) check procedure, we will have a two step procedure: (i) "Is that information verifiable?" "Yes, it was published in Daily Mail, and everybody can check the newspaper archives by themselves", (ii) "Is this source reliable" "No, according to other, reliable sources, information published in Daily Mail is generally non-reliable".
The advantage of that approach is obvious. Since the current approach is an implicit combination of these two components, some users make more stress on the first or second aspect (depending on what supports their POV better). However, if the two aspects are separated, and we explicitly say BOTH of them must be met, the WP:V related disputes will be more formal and structured, and there will be less freedom of maneuver for POV pushing. --Paul Siebert (talk) 04:08, 12 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Are you suggesting we formalize the criteria in WP:RS as a bigger part of WP:V? If so, I would agree with that approach. But I am not sure you will find consensus, because I do not see all that many instances where POV charlatans really care about the PAGs anyway. They usually haven't read any of these pages, and don't care much about the structure of policy vs guideline... — Shibbolethink ( ) 13:58, 12 September 2021 (UTC)[]
If we assume that any good proposal will be filibustered by POV pushers, then editing Wikipedia is senseless. But we are still here, aren't we?--Paul Siebert (talk) 16:53, 12 September 2021 (UTC)[]
@Paul Siebert, I think your view of WP:V aligns with my view of NOR: it's proof that someone else said it (i.e., it wasn't just made up by a Wikipedia editor), regardless of whether the source is suitable for the statement in question. WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:26, 18 September 2021 (UTC)[]
I think the linked discussion occurred on the wrong noticeboard and conflated "is reliable" for "I can use it (in some unspecified way)". Or at least it was perceived as some that way. Perhaps the Wikipedia:Fringe theories/Noticeboard would have been more appropriate. Paul, you may be right that you were want to answer general question whereas others were answering a specific question but really, everyone discussing Covid conspiracies knows that "give and inch and you'll take a mile". Most of the above (and earlier) discussions seems to be two editors talking past each other. Covid never really brings out the best kind of policy discussions and I think this one isn't going anywhere useful. -- Colin°Talk 13:08, 13 September 2021 (UTC)[]
"give an inch and you tale a mile" is an argument that is not relevant to policy or guidelines. Although I myself find the hypothesis about artificial origin of SARS-CoV2 totally fringe, I may argue that it might be useful to mention such articles (in a context of their debunking), because general public still believes in the lab leakage hypothesis, and if Wikipedia will ignore such articles (instead of their explicit refutation), that may reinforce laymen's belief that Wikipedia is dominated by leftists/Communist/CIA/FSB , or similar consporacy bullshit. However, it is possible that I am missing something. I amm not editing that topic (SARS-CoV2 is my job in RL, so I believe I have a right to relax here, and to do something that is not related to it, like history).--Paul Siebert (talk) 20:57, 13 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Paul you know the old joke: "In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is." Most sourcing discussions are contaminated by the agenda and worldviews of the participants, and Covid is the outlier that breaks everything. Many participants are playing the game "If I can get consensus that policy/guideline says X or that policy/guideline does not apply/does apply, then I can write Y or I can remove Y". It mostly isn't about trying to improve policy or guidelines for the benefit of all articles, but about being able to win whatever argument they are involved in. IMO anything covid related should be banned from influencing guideline and policy because the particpants really are not concerned with anything other than their immediate agenda. I think your approach of avoiding a subject related to real life is a good one. -- Colin°Talk 22:17, 13 September 2021 (UTC)[]
But I will say, in general, I think it's a good thing that we treat policies and guidelines with very special care re: changes, even outside of these contentious areas. Most people come to this talk page wanting to change something that was an annoyance in another discussion, and it's difficult to see the full and total implications of that change unless it is examined in hindsight... I really do believe "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" applies here more than almost anywhere on wiki. Because the changes have lots of repercussions... Hence why we need an awfully large consensus to make changes, and why it's really okay with me that the massive BMI RfC failed. It probably should have failed to pass. Because, in hindsight, we were making unnecessary changes to fix current problems. We were trying to make an Asshole John rule. — Shibbolethink ( ) 23:17, 13 September 2021 (UTC)[]
I don't see what current problems this thread is supposed to address. My proposal was a result of my observations that I made during several years, and the recent discussion just pulled a trigger.
I think it is important to make things as formal as possible for a very simple reason. Although it is not recommended, closure of long discussions is performed by de facto vote count. Now imagine a situation when 70% of responces were: "Reliable, because it was published in a peer-reviewed journal and well referenced". I perfectly understand that that is just a part of truth, but, according to our policy that is a correct conclusion. And it would be not a surprise if the outcome will be interpreted as "RS". However, if we explicitly stipulate that the question is actually TWO combined questions ("Is it reliable?" "Is it trustworthy?") the answer is supposed to have a format: "Yes, RS. No, not trustworthy", which significantly facilitates formal closure.--Paul Siebert (talk) 23:56, 13 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Paul, you keep using this word "Reliable" as though it is something that fully and easily describes a whole thing, like a car being red. Always ask yourself "reliable for what?" A small study looks at a cancer drug and found a few patients get better for a while. That sort of thing gets published in a "peer-reviewed journal" and I'm sure the paper is full of "references". But it isn't "reliable" for a statement that "drug X treats cancer" or "drug X is a promising new cancer therapy". And even the marginally better "A study found drug X helps cancer patients" is misleading the reader by missing out important details like how small the study was, how the patients were selected, which got better and for how long, etc, etc. This is why we use secondary sources. A primary research paper in a good journal is "reliable" for describing what the research did and the very specific and limited results it got. Wikipedia articles aren't just a list of research studies. An encyclopaedia might sometimes mention some groundbreaking or notable research, but mostly we are wanting to describe the consensus and knowledge these studies led to. And judging whether that research established a new consensus or confirmed or rejected existing knowledge that we might want to write about in an encyclopaedia .... that's not a job for Wikipedians. So if your "reliable" is "Is being published in a peer reviewed journal enough to make a study reliable for us making health claims about a treatment?" Very very much no. -- Colin°Talk 07:48, 14 September 2021 (UTC)[]
  • Comment
    I just wanted to comment on a couple of things that was stated: "Actually, it is linked to RS, but RS is just guidelines, which is not binding.", Any guideline, or even an essay, can be relevant or "binding" (certainly if there are enough editors that support it) if it is not contested as going against or undermining a policy, Many times things are not contested and enjoy consensus by silence which can change if contested. Maintenence is always far behind article creation.
    I don't see a "versus" as this section is titled. NPOV is often subjective because it includes "fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible (my emphasis), without editorial bias". The NPOV aspect is not a particular concern of the reliability of a source but is assuming the source is considered reliable. Is a source reliable in the context wherein it is being used? Wikipedia core content policies are to work in harmony with NPOV concerns as the more important. This is probably why WP:NPOV states: Editors are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with all three. This will add a stumbling block to many "POV pushers".
    Many news media outlets may not be actually independent (An "explanatory supplement") but this is an important aspect of sourcing. Gannett (for example) owns "100 daily newspapers and nearly 1,000 weekly newspapers". Advertising is used to influence people and so does mass news media or the other name for "mainstream media". This is where WP:Balance is important. If a source is generally considered reliable, and it does not misinform or mislead a reader, it is acceptable as a source but content using the source (thus the source) can very well slant the article to a particular POV. I have seen many articles "slanted" by content using dead links. If I run across an article with several 404 errors, that I can't verify, I might add a WP:OR tag to the article or bring it up on the talk page. . This type of content, if not corrected, can be removed (and the source) if it presents undue weight. This is where consensus becomes important. ​I was not in the discussions but wonder if it was a good idea to depracate the controversy section? Otr500 (talk) 21:29, 12 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Now my proposal is to add the following sentence: (after the current statement "If available, academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources in topics such as history, medicine, and science.")
Note that a scientific paper documenting a new experiment conducted by the author is a primary source on the outcome of that experiment, and primary sources should NOT normally be used as a basis for biomedical content.
The two parts of the sentence are both direct quote from existing policy or guideline pages. I only added the linking words "note that" and "and". If you find them problematic, you need to change the policy or guideline pages first.
Why is it needed here if other policy or guideline pages already contain it?
Because this page Wikipedia:Verifiability#Reliable sources is the entry point for sourcing ("WP:SOURCE" redirects to there). It's unrealistic to expect a new editor to read all the secret rules buried in the mountain of policy and guideline pages. This entry point should be a consice summary on the policy of sourcing.
This policy page is one sentence longer.
Makes thing a little clearer. Betty (talk) 06:01, 13 September 2021 (UTC)[]
I agree with this revert by user:Colin and the comment "This is covered by WP:PSTS. There are reasons beyond verifiability why WP prefers secondary sources". In the past when changes like this are added to a policy, although they may initially be in harmony with other policy sections that cover a similar point, over time there is a tendency for them to diverge and this give Wiki-lawyers wriggle room. -- PBS (talk) 15:43, 14 September 2021 (UTC)[]

Ok, it seems I understand the problem. We have three core content policies V, NOR, NPOV, and three noticeboards (WP:RSN, WP:NORN, WP:NPOVN). Many users, including myself, conclude (which seems quite logical) that each of the three noticeboards is linked to the corresponding policy. That is true for NORN and NPOVN, but it seems that WP:V is not liked directly to WP:V, but is linked to WP:SOURCES, WP:MEDRS and some other guidelines. That may lead (and frequently leads) to long disputes where some people argue that the source X is acceptable per WP:V, whereas others say that it is not acceptable per WP:FRINGE or WP:SOURCES, etc. This situation is not unique, and I think we need to clarify that misunderstanding in either way. What if we start an RFC about that?--Paul Siebert (talk) 20:51, 15 September 2021 (UTC)[]

I think what the above discussion shows is that most users here do not believe any clarification is necessary, and could lead to further problems. — Shibbolethink ( ) 23:00, 15 September 2021 (UTC)[]
What? WP:SOURCES is not a guideline, it is policy. WP:SOURCES is a central, perhaps the central, part of WP:V. Unreliable sources do not comply with WP:V, that's flat out stated in the first sentence of this policy. If people are discussing WP:SOURCE, it is a discussion directly about WP:V. -- Alanscottwalker (talk) 01:42, 16 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Alanscottwalker, it was just a typo. The header says: Welcome to the reliable sources noticeboard. This page is for posting questions regarding whether particular sources are reliable in context.
That means I made a typo: instead of WP:RS I typed WP:SOURCES. However, that does not affect my major point: unlike other two noticeboards, WP:RSN is linked not to the policy (WP:V), but to guidelines, and WP:V doesn't have its own noticeboard.
Clearly, if the header were Welcome to the reliable sources noticeboard. This page is for posting questions regarding whether particular sources are reliable in context, I would never start this discussion.--Paul Siebert (talk) 02:07, 16 September 2021 (UTC)[]
WP:V is about relaible sources. What do you want to discuss, if not reliable sources since that's what WP:V is about? Perhaps analogies help; V is the bricks, NOR is the mortar, and NPOV is the superstructure, or V is the paper fibers, NOR is the paper glue, and NPOV is the binding ready sheet. I'm not sure why it matters that RS is linked since RS' purpose to to elaborate V -- no one is going to prevent you from addressing V there, since RS incorporates and actuates V. And the inseperable issue for V is publishing process and context. -- Alanscottwalker (talk) 17:46, 16 September 2021 (UTC)[]
I don't think we should make such a big a deal over the difference between WP:SOURCES and WP:RS. Almost the first thing that the former does is link to the latter for "Further information". Ultimately all the policies and any relevant guidelines should be considered when considering article text and its sources. I don't think we need to be rigid that there is a 1:1 mapping from policy to noticeboard or that discussions started on one board may only reference the associated policy. For example, people quite often try to push a alt POV on Wikipedia by bigging up the quality of the source: "Look it was published in a peer reviewed journal" and discussion really needs steered away from tedious debates about whether that journal is reliable and more towards the WP:WEIGHT side of "Why are you pushing something the secondary literature ignores / rejects?" -- Colin°Talk 19:38, 17 September 2021 (UTC)[]
Return to the project page "Verifiability".