Wikipedia talk:Citing sources/Archive 3

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Please cite your sources so others can check your work.

This shows up whenever editing a page. We should be encourageing people to cite sources for positive reasons, not because work needs to be "checked" (negative implications). The primary purpose of citation is that it is a link .. citations are the original hypertext link. It allows one to navigate the 150 million books in existence, and countless other sources. Citations are basically "Wikification", it adds links, and links are what Wikipedia is all about. It is the spirit of Wikipedia to cite sources, not for "fact checking" reasons (although that is one reason), but primarily because linking (citations) allows one to learn more. Perhaps we can re-phrase this to be more positive and encourageing?

One suggestion: Please cite sources so that yourself and others can learn more. Stbalbach 04:10, 8 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I like that. Maurreen 08:19, 8 Jan 2005 (UTC)

How about Please cite sources so that yourself and others can learn more and for purposes of article validation. -- Jmabel | Talk 19:07, Jan 8, 2005 (UTC)

Should be Please cite sources so that you and others can learn more and for purposes of article validation. in that case. arj 19:34, 8 Jan 2005 (UTC)

More ideas: Cite Your Sources. It helps yourself and others learn more and allows for article validation. --Stbalbach 20:09, 8 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I think that's the best suggestion so far. -- Jmabel | Talk 20:40, Jan 8, 2005 (UTC)
Except how about "you" instead of "yourself"? Maurreen 02:41, 9 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Yes, yes, sorry. -- Jmabel | Talk 21:14, Jan 9, 2005 (UTC)
I like this new proposed text too! How about changing "more and" to "more, and it" so that the sentence is easier to parse? In other words:
Cite Your Sources. It helps you and others learn more, and it allows for article validation -- Dwheeler 23:02, 2005 Jan 11 (UTC)

Reference Links to Pay and Subscription Sites

An issue came uyp over at Talk:United States Air Force Academy where references in the article directed one to an on-line subscription site for the New York Times. Only after one had signed up for the New York Times could you go further into the webpage and view the references. I seem to remember a rule that Wikipedia can not sponser pages which link to external sites promoting a product or service. I would like to hear others opinions on this. The person who put the links in was very civil about it (good for him :-)!) and changed the links to footnotes. Opinions? -Husnock 18 Jan 05

To suggest you can't add a reference because there is some "cost" (greater than clicking a link) associated with the resource is deplorable. The rule you are referring to is presumably some defence against self-promotion of your own website. It doesn't apply to the NYT! Pcb21| Pete 20:26, 18 Jan 2005 (UTC)
There is no absolute bar on including links to pay or subscription sites. However, if the same information is available from a free or non-subscription source, then the free source should be preferred over the pay, subscription (or, IMO, ad-supported) sites. But if the information is only available through a pay or subscription site, it may be included, though the link should be labelled as requiring a subscription. olderwiser 20:33, Jan 18, 2005 (UTC)
Especially when the site is a reference, not merely a see also. After all, if we reference a book, you have to buy it or hope to find it in a library in order to look up that reference, don't you? And that library membership is equivalent to a NYT subscription, which is free. —Morven 21:01, Jan 18, 2005 (UTC)
This doesn't quite tell the full story because it ignores the credibility issue. Suppose some fact is in the NYT or a journal or a book or any reference that isn't a "one click reference", and then that fact is also in some blog. We prefer the former reference for credibility even though the latter is more accessible. In terms of providing a reliable resource (and note the only complaint about Wikipedia to stick is the purported lack of credibility), the quality of a resource is much more important than how it is accessed. Pcb21| Pete 22:23, 18 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Possibly the best way to resolve this is to cite the authoritative (but requiring registration or pay) service and then point to a freely available, but less authoritative, alternative source too. —Morven 19:08, Jan 19, 2005 (UTC)


Guideline versus policy

I just learned yesterday that Cite sources is a guideline, not a policy. I'm like to suggest that it becomes policy. Does anyone have views on this? SlimVirgin 08:22, Jan 19, 2005 (UTC)

Well, considering that most of this article is presented as a "how to" cite sources, it seems appropriate that it is part of the style guide rather than official policy. By my understanding of the terms, "policy" is a relatively high-level directive concerning what is and is not acceptable and why. "Guidelines" are more concerned with the details of how to do something. The details presented in guidelines should support policies, but the level of detail and the consequences of violation for each is different. In general, although most wikiepedians would likely agree that it is a good thing for editors to cite sources, I think there would be considerable disagreement about imposing penalties on editors for failing to cite sources. That's my take on it anyhow. olderwiser 15:59, Jan 19, 2005 (UTC)
The fact is, no matter what we do, the majority of articles will not have good citations, but it's certainly not a reason to delete them. If we called this "policy", that's effectively what we'd be calling for. -- Jmabel | Talk 18:45, Jan 19, 2005 (UTC)
Articles that aren't NPOV aren't deleted (unless inherently so); articles containing original research aren't deleted. The point of making it policy to cite sources (regardless of the format) is that it would force editors to concentrate on fact-checking, and would strengthen the hand of editors who ask for references. As I see it, if no original research is policy, then cite sources ought to be too, because the two are closely linked, in that the only way I can prove my edit isn't original research is to cite my source. I suppose in that case it could be argued that, as it's linked to no original research, which is policy, cite sources doesn't need to be. I suppose I'd just like to see something that would encourage editors to use source material properly. SlimVirgin 19:37, Jan 19, 2005 (UTC)
Cite Sources is a how-to guideline that supports the No Original Research policy (and perhaps others as well). It is a generally accepted guideline, and as such it has community support. I don't see how making this policy would make that much of a difference. While articles may not be deleted, I would not want to give any possible rationalization for people to revert edits simply on the basis that they did not cite sources--that would be nightmarish if trolls were able to take advantage of such a policy. It is simply not possible to require people to cite sources (or at least without fundamentally changing Wikipedia). I think the article is clear as is in emphasizing the importance of citing sources and provides suficient ammunition in a dispute over original research. olderwiser 21:35, Jan 19, 2005 (UTC)

Editors are supposed to cite a source if challenged, and edits that can't be backed up are meant to be removed, because an an inability to cite a source may indicate original research. The OR policy says editors have the right to remove OR, so in effect the cite sources requirement is in place; it's just that people don't see it's the same thing. Stevenj has just reverted the edits I made yesterday. I have changed them back and would ask that my changes be discussed here, rather than just being thrown out. There were aspects of the old version that were misleading. For example, it suggested that editors could add references after the fact, in order to help the reader to learn (or words to that effect: I'm paraphrasing from memory). But references or citations refer to material used by editors in the creation of the page. Anything additional to help readers would come under a "further reading" section or some such. It has been noticed how few articles are properly referenced when they apply for featured-article status, and often editors feel justified in adding references after the fact (whether or not they actually used them). I wonder whether that's because this page has caused some confusion. Also, Stevenj complained that some of the material I had added belonged on the "no original research" page, and that's true, but I feel some mention of original research and what that is belongs here too, because it's another issue that many editors find confusing, and "no original research" and "cite sources" are inextricably linked. The only way you can prove your edit isn't OR is to cite your source. However, if people feel I've said too much about it, or it needs to be written differently to differentiate it more from the OR page, that can be done without ditching it entirely. Could we please discuss the individual changes I made instead of reverting them wholesale?

Older wiser, how do you feel it would fundamentally change Wikipedia if editors were required to cite sources? SlimVirgin 02:18, Jan 20, 2005 (UTC)

There is a difference between requiring editors to produce references in a dispute over original research and a blanket requirement that all editors should always cite sources for everything. Wikipedia invited EVERYONE to become an editor and contribute what they know. The way I see your proposal, this would become instead only those people willing to pedantically cite sources will be allowed to edit. I see no contradiction between having POLICIES such as No Original Research and How-to guidelines such as Cite sources which support the NOR. olderwiser 13:27, Jan 20, 2005 (UTC)
Because of the importance of this guideline, it is good etiquette to discuss any major changes on the Talk page before making them to the article. I think the reversion was, therefore, reasonable. I agree that a lot of the material you added belongs more properly on Wikipedia:No original research, and in addition I find some of it questionable on practical and political grounds. I believe it is best for this guideline to avoid making judgements about the credibility of specific sources. In addition, I think there is little reason to issue a blanket condemnation of small and independent news and information sources, and the new text appears to countenance political litmus-testing of sources as a reason for deleting putatively factual citations. All of this is questionable enough that it's best discussed before, not after, it is introduced into a central Wikipedia guideline page. I have therefore reverted the page again. -- Rbellin|Talk 04:16, 20 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Could editors then go through their objections, please, and I will address them? SlimVirgin 04:19, Jan 20, 2005 (UTC)

For one thing, I don't agree with copy-and-paste insertion of material from Wikipedia:No original research (draft rewrite). It should either go here or there. —Steven G. Johnson 04:27, Jan 20, 2005 (UTC)
Does it have to be either or, and not both? The NOR section can be reworded if you think it shouldn't be identical. My central point is this: there are two essential policies at Wikipedia that have been variously described as fundamental and non-negotiable: NOPV and NOR. Cite sources is very closely linked to both of them, but we don't make that linkage clear.
  • Cites sources is linked to NOR because the only way you can show your edit is not OR is to cite your source.
  • Cite sources is linked to NPOV because NPOV is states that tiny minority points of view are not to be represented on Wikipedia as though they are significant minority views, and sometimes they are not to be represented at all. The only way you can tell whether a view is held by a majority, a significant minority, or a tiny minority is by looking at the authoriative sources on the matter, and citing them.

Someone said above that we should not judge between sources, but we must. We can't treat The Times of London as though it has no more authority than my friend's weblog. The idea of a "reputable" source is impossible to define, but as I tried to make clear in my Cite sources edit (and I wrote the same passage for the NOR draft), we can develop intuitions about what it means, and they will be right most of the time.

Here's what Jimbo Wales said about tiny minority views (September 2003, on the mailing list):

  • If a viewpoint is in the majority, then it should be easy to substantiate it with reference to commonly accepted reference texts;
  • If a viewpoint is held by a significant minority, then it should be easy to name prominent adherents;
  • If a viewpoint is held by an extremely small (or vastly limited) minority, it doesn't belong in Wikipedia (except perhaps in some ancillary article) regardless of whether it's true or not; and regardless of whether you can prove it or not.

So my argument is that the issues of NPOV, NOR, and Cite sources are linked so closely, in an epistemological sense (by which I mean: you can't understand any of them correctly unless you've understood them all), that an attempt to keep them entirely separate, with no linkage, and no overlap in vocabulary, is to miss how inter-dependent they are.

Does that make sense? SlimVirgin 05:42, Jan 20, 2005 (UTC)

There is a difference between requiring editors to produce references in a dispute over original research and a blanket requirement that all editors should always cite sources for everything. Wikipedia invited EVERYONE to become an editor and contribute what they know. The way I see your proposal, this would become instead only those people willing to pedantically cite sources will be allowed to edit. I see no contradiction between having POLICIES such as No Original Research and How-to guidelines such as Cite sources which support the NOR. olderwiser 13:27, Jan 20, 2005 (UTC)
No one is saying that every single claim has to be sourced. It's a question of commonsense. Anything that might be challenged should be sourced, and anything that is challenged would also have to be sourced or removed. The problem with editors randomly contributing what they know, is that it might end up being what they think they know, but are actually wrong about; or simply have an opinion about, without being able to back it up. There's an interesting discussion taking place on the mailing list about citing sources, and it indicates that there's a lot of confusion about this, and that this page is perhaps not as clear as it ought to be. Does anyone have further objections, because if not, I feel I should be allowed to edit the page without my edit being reverted. So please let me know if there are further objections before I do that. SlimVirgin 22:26, Jan 22, 2005 (UTC)
Slim, how can we know in advance if we will object to an edit you are going to make? -- Jmabel | Talk 22:35, Jan 22, 2005 (UTC)

Because I've already made the edit and it's been reverted twice. :-) I would like to edit it more or less the way I did before, except that I'll take into account the objections made above, namely: (1) that nothing on the no original research page should be repeated word for word here; and (2) that there shouldn't be too long a description of original research. But I'd still like to include one, for the reasons I outlined above, viz. that the two issues are closely linked. Do you have any specific concerns yourself? SlimVirgin 22:46, Jan 22, 2005 (UTC)

I've just archived some of this page as it was 179 k long. See Wikipedia talk:Cite sources/archive1. SlimVirgin 22:53, Jan 22, 2005 (UTC)
Slim, if there is concern that your changes may be objectionable, how about posting them on the talk page for discussion first. What you see as "commonsense" may not be so obvious to others. What you see as a "problem", editors randomly contributing what they know, is pretty much precisely what Wikipedia is about. If you want to change this, I expect that there will need to be a fairly wide-ranging discussion beyond only this page. Yes, I agree completely that if there is a reasonable doubt about information for which a source cannot be provided, then it should be removed. Yes, we should encourage editors to cite sources and show them how. But the phrasing should not imply that any editor who does not cite sources is somehow remiss nor should it suggest that such edits are inherently dubious. I think that you are well-intentioned and perhaps I am misunderstanding your intents, but tenor of your argument so far suggests a path leading towards transforming Wikipedia into a Cathedral rather than a Bazaar. olderwiser 23:07, Jan 22, 2005 (UTC)

Older/wiser, if you look at my edits that were reverted, you'll see what changes I want to make. In brief, the page needs a general copy edit. It also needs to have the relationship between "no original research" and "cite sources" tightened. It further needs to make clear that references are sources used in the creation of the article, and not further reading to help the reader learn more, which is what the page currently says. What you say about Wikipedia being about editors randomly inserting what they (think) they know may be "original research" and is exactly what the cite sources policy is there to avoid. I am not allowed to edit something into the Wikipedia just because I have personal knowledge of it, or believe I have personal knowledge of it. Even if I witness something with my own eyes, and know it to be true, I am not allowed to edit that into the Wikipedia unless it has been published somewhere else already. That is the point of the "no original research" policy; that is why citing sources is so important; and that is why I want to make the link between the two clear on this page.

Look, the bottom line is that editors are currently applying for FAS with no references. When they face objections, they hurry off and return with what they call "references," but which were not used in the creation of the text and so are not references at all. When they're referred to Wikipedia:Cite sources, they return none the wiser, because this page is not clear. This page, which is supposed to clarify, is causing confusion. All I am asking is that you give my edit a chance to sit, and that we invite others who have expressed concerns in this area to chime in; and that you not revert the edit on sight before others have had a chance to say what they think. SlimVirgin 23:31, Jan 22, 2005 (UTC)

Once more: because this is such a central policy guideline page, please discuss edits here before making them. If you want feedback on a proposed change, it is often best to post the proposed text here on the Talk page so that others can respond. My concern about the new text -- which I don't think you've addressed -- is that it appears to create a brand-new Wikipedia policy about approval of "reliable" sources and disapproval of "unreliable" ones. This is a big change with very broad implications. It has not been discussed anywhere, much less come to consensus. I disagree with the principle, and with the language it's couched in, and with the specific hypothetical examples used to illustrate it. This needs to be discussed about the draft rewrite of Wikipedia:No original research, where the text was copied from, as well. My suggestion is this: since it's clear (to me, anyway) that "use reliable sources" is a separate issue from "cite sources" and "no original research," introduce it as a separate page in Category:Wikipedia policy thinktank, so there can be a separate discussion and a separate attempt for consensus. The trouble with big changes to broad policies is that it's difficult to separate the issues; this one admits easily of separate discussion and doesn't need to clutter this page. (As a side note, you should look at User:Stevenj's arguments about the unusefulness of the "references"/"further reading" split; I agree with him and find the complaint about sources "not used in the creation of the text" irrelevant. In my opinion, if a source can be used for information on an article's topic, it is always a good reference.) -- Rbellin|Talk 00:00, 23 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Rbellin, this isn't a policy page. I feel it ought to be, but currently it isn't. The "authorititative sources" thing is not the introduction of a new policy or guideline. Editors are currently expected to use reliable, authoritative, reputable sources. The issue is freqently discussed: see the mailing list, for example. Using good sources doesn't mean that minority views are dismissed. It means that, for example, my Uncle Tom's website shouldn't be used as a source, except for an article about my Uncle Tom. It means that the views of Stormfront should not be cited in an article about Martin Luther King. Even though a clear definition of "authoritative" is impossible to come up with, a range of examples can be offered which will allow editors to develop an intuition about what counts as a good source and what doesn't. Instead of posting my changes here, I'll create a subpage, so that you can see what I'd like to write, and we can discuss it here. Finally, to confuse citations of material used in the creation of the text with "further reading" would be to go against standard publishing policy. Most academic or serious non-fiction texts use footnotes, listed simply as "Notes" at the end of each section/chapter, or at the end of the book or paper. We don't do that because we'd then have numbered lists of Notes clashing with numbered lists of external links, so instead we have a References section. But whether you call that section Notes or References, there does need to be a list of the author's sources somewhere so the reader can check their quality, and thereby judge the quality of the article. SlimVirgin 00:18, Jan 23, 2005 (UTC)

First, sorry, I was using the word "policy" too loosely. If the "reputable source" litmus-testing discussed in the original-research draft rewrite and in your edits here has been previously discussed and agreed upon, I am not aware of it; please provide a location for the previous discussions and consensus support. Ideally, if you want to generate support for this idea, you should introduce it as a separate proposed guideline for discussion. In my opinion, the wikien-l mailing list is certainly not the place to try to generate a broad Wikipedia community consensus in support of a proposed guideline; I, and the vast majority of other Wikipedians, do not read it.
On the issue of References vs. Further Reading, I think you are confusing two different concerns. I agree with you, emphatically, that Wikipedia needs more in-text citations -- but this is a wholly separate issue from whether there should be one reference list or two. How does having only one reference list make it harder to cite sources in article text? -- Rbellin|Talk 00:45, 23 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Your last question first: it doesn't. But if you randomly look through Wikipedia articles, you'll find a number of different styles. Editors will often place a link at the end of a sentence, implying that it's a source citation, so you click on it, spend ages reading the article, do a "search/find" for keywords in their sentence, trying to find out why they cited it, then you leave a note on the Talk page asking them, and eventually comes the response: "Oh, that wasn't a source for the sentence; just more information about the subject"! That's the kind of thing we need to try to stop because it wastes the readers' time.

Therefore, I feel we should explain what it means to cite a source. Here is my claim: "The philosopher Bertrand Russell argued that the revolution that took place in 1950s England was more profound than anything France had achieved." [1] The link takes the reader to my source. Under a References section, I then give the full citation so readers can glance at the quality of my sources without having to click on every link: "Bertrand Russell, "The next 80 years", The Guardian, May 18, 1952. Then under "Further reading," I might want to list books and articles about Bertrand Russell or about the 1950s revolution in case the readers wants to learn more. The important point is to have a References list (call it "Sources" if you prefer) where readers can, at a glance, evaluate the quality of sources you have used. If you confuse this with "Further reading," you are forcing readers to plough through your text and click on all your links to check out how good your sources are. Why create this confusion when you can have two lists?

As for the "litmus test" (and it's not meant to be that: just a guide), go to the original research draft rewrite page: you'll see the discussion there. That has been on the page for several weeks and in fact some of the people who took part in this discussion also took part in that one, so I'm confused as to why this is being objected to here. Look through the mailing list archives: you don't need to be a member, and it's useful to do that, because it's where Jimbo Wales explains how he sees the issues, and he often expresses things with great clarity simply because he's been working on these issues longer than most of us, at least with reference to Wikipedia. If you check out the "original research" threads, you'll see some of the discussions. I'll look to see whether there are specifically any "cite sources" threads too. SlimVirgin 01:32, Jan 23, 2005 (UTC)

Slim, I certainly believe I generally meet (or at least come close to) this standard in my own work. Still, it's my impression that I'm in about the 2%, maybe 5%, who do so. Can we really make something a standard that so few people do? I certainly wouldn't scream if people make it one, but I don't think I'll change anything about either my own level of citation or how strenuously I demand citations from others (the latter already being sufficiently so that I've pretty much given up on the Spanish-language Wikipedia, because so many people there seem to consider a request for sources as an insult). -- Jmabel | Talk 20:03, Jan 23, 2005 (UTC)
I totally agree with you. My argument is simply that, whenever a discussion about sources comes up, or on pages about "how to write the perfect article" or whatever, Wikipedia:Cite sources is always the reference. Yet when editors come here, they don't find clear guidelines with good examples, or excellent arguments for sticking to those guidelines. They don't find an explanation about the different types of sources that exist, or an explanation of how Wikipedia: Cite sources hangs together with Wikipedia:No Original Research, and how both of these support Wikipedia:NPOV. In other words, there's no systematic underpinning of the "cite sources" philosophy. I'd like to see this page be persuasive in its support of citing sources, and I'd like to see it express a standard that is clear and consistent, and one which, if every Wikipedia editor were to stick to it, would make this a great encyclopedia. Whether they do stick to it or not is another matter. We can take the horse to the water but . . . :-) SlimVirgin 00:58, Jan 24, 2005 (UTC)

Jmabel thinks I archived or deleted most of the contents and when I checked the page history, I saw why. All I can say is -- it is a computer glitch. I added my own comments and hit "save" and for some reason it deleted what I wrote, as well as what others wrote. I do not understand how this happened, I can only say it was not what I was trying to do. My comments:

I think the question of two lists, sources and extra-reading, is a relatively trivial issue and I am not sure we need a strict policy on it -- that said, I think that SlimVirgin's suggestion of two lists makes a tremendous amount of sense; it will invole at most a little bit more work for editors, but will be so much more useful for readers.
On the issue of reputable sources ... well, I think this is something we cannot compromise on. From the very start Jimbo made it clear that the open content/anyone can edit policy in no way signifies that there are low or no standards for quality. And this is something that the community has made clear it supports over the year. Indeed, I'd say that the whole point of open editing is the faith we have that the result will be a progressive increase in quality. For this to work, we have to agree that we want to use reputable sources appropriately.
Can we all agree on what a reputable source, used appropriately, is? Of this I am very sceptical. I do not think I could come up with one standard that would work for every article. The reason is, I think different topics often require different kinds of standards (equally high -- but in very different forms). Moreover, I suspect that if I could, it is likely that others would come up with different standards.
But I do not see this as aproblem with a policy of "reputable sources used appropriately." Again, this has to do with the whole point of the "anyone can edit" policy. The point is, dozens or hundreds of people collaborating on an article will try out things, see others evaluate them, discuss it on the talk pages, and together sort out what for any given page constitues the best sources used the best way. Isn't this the whole point -- to write good articles? +
Maybe the problem is, some people are thinking of these policies as rigid rules. I cannot see how they can be. But just because they cannot be does not mean that we abandon standards altogether. I see policies as statements of our ideals, and enough explanation and examples to help educate newbies, and to help guide people in resolving conflicts.
Remember, it is not for anyone person to write the perfect article. It is not for any one person to provide all the citations, or to draw on all the sources. Today we write an article using the best sources we know of. Tomorrow someone new joinsa wikipedia, and they have access to or are familiar with better sources. By all means, they should go ahead and change the article! BUT They must be prepared to explain what their sources are, why they think their sources are reputable, and appropriate. This to me is the very condition of "collaboration." If people cannot or will not do this, then why do we have talk pages? It's a rhetorical question. We have talk pages for precisely such discussions as this. Slrubenstein 23:22, 23 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Slim, I say take a shot and prepare to be "edited mercilessly".

I've tried to uphold the distinction between "sources" and "further reading" only to find people keep wanting to combine the too after the fact into one list. But maybe that is partly through lack of understanding on the part of people with less of an academic background. We seem to be on the same page as to goals here. -- Jmabel | Talk 02:09, Jan 24, 2005 (UTC)

Um, some of us with an academic background would argue that the distinction between "sources" and "further reading" is usually artificial and is rarely made in practice—which is why academic articles normally just have a single "references" list. And the artificiality is even greater for something like Wikipedia with numerous anonymous authors. —Steven G. Johnson 05:01, Jan 24, 2005 (UTC)
I'm in agreement. While I don't cite sources as well or as often as I should - although I'm sure I'm pretty good compared to many - I see SlimVirgin's point that Wikipedia:Cite sources should show a high spandard to live up to, even if the average article will not meet that standard. It should be a goal.
The encouragement should be also to put up one's best sources even if they aren't very good. If one is working from poor sources, documenting those is better than documenting none. At least then future editors will know where you got those facts. I think sometimes people are embarassed about their sources; they shouldn't be. —Morven 04:50, Jan 24, 2005 (UTC)

I'm not sure where this discussion is going. However, I don't think it's a good idea to try to define "reputable source" in this article. People can argue about that elsewhere; the priority here is just to get them to cite things in the first place. —Steven G. Johnson 05:01, Jan 24, 2005 (UTC)

I agree. -- Rbellin|Talk 05:29, 24 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Regarding Steven's point about academic practice, academics use footnotes and have a "Notes" section at the end of the paper (or chapter or book), so that their references can be checked. Wikipedia doesn't do this, so we need some way to distinguish between material used in the creation of the article, and material offered up as suggestions for further reading, in my view. Also Steven and Rbellin, if you don't like the word "reputable," other words can be used, but shouldn't there be some discussion on the page about good and appropriate sources? How would you prefer to see this phrased (if at all)? SlimVirgin 05:38, Jan 24, 2005 (UTC)

As this discussion was also taking place on Wikipedia talk:No original research (draft rewrite), but there are more editors joining in here, I've copied Rbellin's comment about source quality (below) from there. SlimVirgin 06:28, Jan 24, 2005 (UTC)

I think "any source is acceptable" -- in fact, anything (short of egregious antisociality) is acceptable -- is the greatest strength of Wikipedia; peer-editor review can correct many problems, and any citation at all is always, always better than none. I'm leaving the specific Israel example aside, as I think it's not quite to the point and don't want to get into a long side discussion.
The very most I'd be comfortable agreeing with as a general rule for all of Wikipedia would be something like: "Try to cite sources that are as widely available, relevant, and credible as possible." I have been thinking about this concern for a while, since I believe it's not a matter that a general rule can help with very much. I think "reputable" is a distraction from the issue: the most general question is is the source credible? -- and the guideline should never discourage citation. Instead, it should encourage citations that are as relevant and credible as possible; this means that we encourage citations from authors or publishers with (a) direct knowledge, (b) field expertise, or (c) stringent fact-checking policies, when such sources are available.
It is still my opinion that the best way to get a strong guideline on what kinds of sources are preferred over others would be to create a separate proposed guideline page and open it up for discussion. Lumping it in with the two very central pages on original research and citation means that the question gets jumbled up with many, many others. I have said enough by now; so feel free to take or discard my opinion on this, and I invite others to contribute theirs. -- Rbellin|Talk 05:44, 24 Jan 2005 (UTC)

"Reputable" vs. "Appropriate" sources

The tricky thing about a requirement of "reputable" sources is that the appropriateness of a source really depends on what the source is being used for, and in some cases a very un-reputable source may be entirely appropriate. For example, you would never cite a transcript of a Hitler speech for any purpose other than to indicate what Hitler said, but for that purpose it would be the most appropriate source. To take a less extreme example, I would not quote an arts review in a minor newspaper to sum up the work of a major figure, but I would not hesitate to quote it to show critical opinion from a particular place and time. We went through an interesting round of this at Republican/Democrat In Name Only, having to come up with a standard for what would count as appropriate citation of someone being called a RINO or DINO. Maybe "appropriate" is a more operative word than "reputable"? -- Jmabel | Talk 06:48, Jan 24, 2005 (UTC)

I agree with this. Might it be appropriate to explain the difference between using a source as a primary source, and as a secondary one? To quote Stormfront in an article about them is to use them as a primary source, and is entirely appropriate. To use them to discuss Martin Luther King in an article about him, is to use them as a secondary source, and is entirely inappropriate. Also, just thinking out loud here, could we adapt the term "good enough" that is used in psychoanalysis to describe the "good-enough" parent? Not perfect, but appropriate, adequate, and fulfulling basic requirements? We'd still have to come up with a description of "good enough," however. I have no problem with the word "appropriate." Whatever term we choose, we can define it using ostensive definition i.e. by giving examples, rather than trying to pin down a hard-and-fast definition. SlimVirgin 06:58, Jan 24, 2005 (UTC)