Wikipedia:No original research

Outside of Wikipedia, original research is a key part of scholarly work. However, Wikipedia editors must not base their contributions on their own original research. Wikipedia editors must base their contributions on reliable, published sources.

Wikipedia articles must not contain original research. The phrase "original research" (OR) is used on Wikipedia to refer to material—such as facts, allegations, and ideas—for which no reliable, published sources exist.[a] This includes any analysis or synthesis of published material that serves to reach or imply a conclusion not stated by the sources. To demonstrate that you are not adding OR, you must be able to cite reliable, published sources that are directly related to the topic of the article, and directly support the material being presented. (This policy of no original research does not apply to talk pages and other pages which evaluate article content and sources, such as deletion discussions or policy noticeboards.)

The prohibition against OR means that all material added to articles must be attributable to a reliable, published source, even if not actually attributed.[a] The verifiability policy says that an inline citation to a reliable source must be provided for all quotations, and for anything challenged or likely to be challenged—but a source must exist even for material that is never challenged. For example: the statement "the capital of France is Paris" needs no source, nor is it original research, because it's not something you thought up and it is so easily verifiable that no one is likely to object to it; we know that sources exist for it even if they are not cited. The statement is attributable, even if not attributed.

Despite the need to attribute content to reliable sources, you must not plagiarize them or violate their copyrights. Rewriting source material in your own words, while substantially retaining the meaning of the references, is not considered to be original research.

"No original research" (NOR) is one of three core content policies that, along with Neutral point of view and Verifiability, determines the type and quality of material acceptable in articles. Because these policies work in harmony, they should not be interpreted in isolation from one another, and editors should familiarize themselves with all three. For questions about whether any particular edit constitutes original research, see the NOR noticeboard.

Using sources

Research that consists of collecting and organizing material from existing sources within the provisions of this and other content policies is fundamental to writing an encyclopedia. The best practice is to research the most reliable sources on the topic and summarize what they say in your own words, with each statement in the article attributable to a source that makes that statement explicitly. Source material should be carefully summarized or rephrased without changing its meaning or implication. Take care not to go beyond what is expressed in the sources, or to use them in ways inconsistent with the intention of the source, such as using material out of context. In short, stick to the sources.

If no reliable independent sources can be found on a topic, Wikipedia should not have an article about it. If you discover something new, Wikipedia is not the place to announce such a discovery.

Reliable sources

Any material that is challenged or likely to be challenged must be supported by a reliable source. Material for which no reliable source can be found is considered original research. The only way you can show your edit is not original research is to cite a reliable published source that contains the same material. Even with well-sourced material, if you use it out of context, or to reach or imply a conclusion not directly and explicitly supported by the source, you are engaging in original research; see below.

In general, the most reliable sources are:

  • Peer-reviewed journals
  • Books published by university presses
  • University-level textbooks
  • Magazines, journals, and books published by respected publishing houses
  • Mainstream newspapers

As a rule of thumb, the more people engaged in checking facts, analyzing legal issues, and scrutinizing the writing, the more reliable the publication. Self-published material, whether on paper or online, is generally not regarded as reliable, but see self-published sources for exceptions.

Information in an article must be verifiable in the references cited. In general, article statements should not rely on unclear or inconsistent passages, or on passing comments. Passages open to multiple interpretations should be precisely cited or avoided. A summary of extensive discussion should reflect the conclusions of the source. Drawing conclusions not evident in the reference is original research regardless of the type of source. It is important that references be cited in context and on topic.

Primary, secondary and tertiary sources

Wikipedia articles should be based on reliable, published secondary sources and, to a lesser extent, on tertiary sources and primary sources. Secondary or tertiary sources are needed to establish the topic's notability and to avoid novel interpretations of primary sources. All analyses and interpretive or synthetic claims about primary sources must be referenced to a secondary or tertiary source, and must not be an original analysis of the primary-source material by Wikipedia editors.

Appropriate sourcing can be a complicated issue, and these are general rules. Deciding whether primary, secondary, or tertiary sources are appropriate in any given instance is a matter of good editorial judgment and common sense, and should be discussed on article talk pages. A source may be considered primary for one statement but secondary for a different one. Even a given source can contain both primary and secondary source material for one particular statement. For the purposes of this policy, primary, secondary and tertiary sources are defined as follows:[b]

  • Primary sources are original materials that are close to an event, and are often accounts written by people who are directly involved. They offer an insider's view of an event, a period of history, a work of art, a political decision, and so on. Primary sources may or may not be independent sources. An account of a traffic incident written by a witness is a primary source of information about the event; similarly, a scientific paper documenting a new experiment conducted by the author is a primary source on the outcome of that experiment. Historical documents such as diaries are primary sources.[c]
    Policy: Unless restricted by another policy, primary sources that have been reputably published may be used in Wikipedia, but only with care, because it is easy to misuse them. [d] Any interpretation of primary source material requires a reliable secondary source for that interpretation. A primary source may be used on Wikipedia only to make straightforward, descriptive statements of facts that can be verified by any educated person with access to the primary source but without further, specialized knowledge. For example, an article about a novel may cite passages to describe the plot, but any interpretation needs a secondary source.
    • Do not analyze, evaluate, interpret, or synthesize material found in a primary source yourself; instead, refer to reliable secondary sources that do so.
    • Do not base an entire article on primary sources, and be cautious about basing large passages on them.
    • Do not add unsourced material from your personal experience, because that would make Wikipedia a primary source of that material. Use extra caution when handling primary sources about living people; see WP:Biographies of living persons § Avoid misuse of primary sources, which is policy.

  • A secondary source provides an author's own thinking based on primary sources, generally at least one step removed from an event. It contains an author's analysis, evaluation, interpretation, or synthesis of the facts, evidence, concepts, and ideas taken from primary sources. Secondary sources are not necessarily independent sources. They rely on primary sources for their material, making analytic or evaluative claims about them.[e] For example, a review article that analyzes research papers in a field is a secondary source for the research.[f] Whether a source is primary or secondary depends on context. A book by a military historian about the Second World War might be a secondary source about the war, but where it includes details of the author's own war experiences, it would be a primary source about those experiences. A book review too can be an opinion, summary or scholarly review.[g]
    Policy: Wikipedia articles usually rely on material from reliable secondary sources. Articles may make an analytic, evaluative, interpretive, or synthetic claim only if that has been published by a reliable secondary source.
  • Tertiary sources are publications such as encyclopedias and other compendia that summarize primary and secondary sources. Wikipedia is considered to be a tertiary source.[h] Many introductory undergraduate-level textbooks are regarded as tertiary sources because they sum up multiple secondary sources.
    Policy: Reliable tertiary sources can be helpful in providing broad summaries of topics that involve many primary and secondary sources, and may be helpful in evaluating due weight, especially when primary or secondary sources contradict each other. Some tertiary sources are more reliable than others, and within any given tertiary source, some entries may be more reliable than others. Wikipedia articles may not be used as tertiary sources in other Wikipedia articles, but are sometimes used as primary sources in articles about Wikipedia itself (see Category:Wikipedia and Category:WikiProject Wikipedia articles).

Synthesis of published material

Do not combine material from multiple sources to reach or imply a conclusion not explicitly stated by any of the sources. Similarly, do not combine different parts of one source to reach or imply a conclusion not explicitly stated by the source. If one reliable source says A, and another reliable source says B, do not join A and B together to imply a conclusion C that is not mentioned by either of the sources. This would be improper editorial synthesis of published material to imply a new conclusion, which is original research performed by an editor here.[i] "A and B, therefore C" is acceptable only if a reliable source has published the same argument in relation to the topic of the article. If a single source says "A" in one context, and "B" in another, without connecting them, and does not provide an argument of "therefore C", then "therefore C" cannot be used in any article.

Here are two sentences showing simple examples of improper editorial synthesis. In the first sentence, both parts of the sentence may be reliably sourced, but they have been combined to imply that the UN has failed to maintain world peace. If no reliable source has combined the material in this way, it is original research.

In this second sentence, the opposite is implied using the same material, illustrating how easily material can be manipulated when the sources are not adhered to:

Here are two paragraphs showing more complex examples of editorial synthesis. They are based on an actual Wikipedia article about a dispute between two authors, here called Smith and Jones. This first paragraph is fine, because each of the sentences is carefully sourced, using a source that refers to the same dispute:

This second paragraph demonstrates improper editorial synthesis:

The second paragraph is original research because it expresses a Wikipedia editor's opinion that, given the Harvard manual's definition of plagiarism, Jones did not commit it. To make the second paragraph consistent with this policy, a reliable source would be needed that specifically comments on the Smith and Jones dispute and makes the same point about the Harvard manual and plagiarism. In other words, that precise analysis must have been published by a reliable source in relation to the topic before it can be published on Wikipedia.

Original images

Because of copyright laws in a number of countries, there are relatively few images available for use on Wikipedia. Editors are therefore encouraged to upload their own images, releasing them under appropriate Creative Commons licenses or other free licenses. Original images created by a Wikipedian are not considered original research, so long as they do not illustrate or introduce unpublished ideas or arguments, the core reason behind the NOR policy. Image captions are subject to this policy no less than statements in the body of the article.

It is not acceptable for an editor to use photo manipulation to distort the facts or position illustrated by an image. Manipulated images should be prominently noted as such. Any manipulated image where the encyclopedic value is materially affected should be posted to Wikipedia:Files for discussion. Images of living persons must not present the subject in a false or disparaging light.

Translations and transcriptions

Faithfully translating sourced material into English, or transcribing spoken words from audio or video sources, is not considered original research. For information on how to handle sources that require translation, see WP:Verifiability § Non-English sources.

Routine calculations

Routine calculations do not count as original research, provided there is consensus among editors that the result of the calculation is obvious, correct, and a meaningful reflection of the sources. Basic arithmetic, such as adding numbers, converting units, or calculating a person's age are some examples of routine calculations. See also Category:Conversion templates.

Related policies

Verifiability

Wikipedia's content is determined by previously published information rather than by the personal beliefs or experiences of its editors. Even if you're sure something is true, it must be verifiable before you can add it. The policy says that all material challenged or likely to be challenged, and all quotations, need a reliable source; what counts as a reliable source is described at WP:Verifiability § Reliable sources.

Neutral point of view

The prohibition against original research limits the extent to which editors may present their own points of view in articles. By reinforcing the importance of including verifiable research produced by others, this policy promotes the inclusion of multiple points of view. Consequently, this policy reinforces our neutrality policy. In many cases, there are multiple established views of any given topic. In such cases, no single position, no matter how well researched, is authoritative. It is not the responsibility of any one editor to research all points of view. But when incorporating research into an article, it is important that editors provide context for this point of view, by indicating how prevalent the position is, and whether it is held by a majority or minority.

The inclusion of a view that is held by only a tiny minority may constitute original research. Jimbo Wales has said of this:

  • If your viewpoint is in the majority, then it should be easy to substantiate it with reference to commonly accepted reference texts;
  • If your viewpoint is held by a significant minority, then it should be easy to name prominent adherents;
  • If your viewpoint is held by an extremely small minority, then—whether it's true or not, whether you can prove it or not—it doesn't belong in Wikipedia, except perhaps in some ancillary article. Wikipedia is not the place for original research.[9]

See also

Guidelines

Templates

  • {{Original research}}—used to warn of original research
  • {{OR}}—inline tag used to warn of original research
  • {{Synthesis}}—used to warn of unpublished synthesis
  • {{AEIS}}—used in talk/noticeboards to remind that analytic, evaluative, interpretive, or synthetic claims require secondary sources
  • Template messages/Disputes — lists other warning templates related to OR, among others

Supplemental pages

Essays

Research help

Copyright