No original research (adapted from Wikipedia):
Wikibooks is not the place for original research. Citing sources and avoiding original research are inextricably linked: the only way to verify that you are not doing original research is to cite sources who discuss material that is directly related to the module, and to stick closely to what the sources say.
Wikibooks:No original research is one of three content policies. The other two are Wikibooks:Neutral point of view and Wikibooks:Verifiability. The three policies are complementary, jointly determining the type and quality of material that is acceptable in the main namespace. They should therefore not be interpreted in isolation from each other, and editors should try to familiarize themselves with all three.
What is original research?
Original research refers to original research by editors of Wikibooks. It does not refer to original research that is published or available elsewhere (although such research may be excluded if editors consider the source to be disreputable or inappropriate).
The phrase "original research" in this context refers to untested theories; data, statements, concepts and ideas that have not been published in a reputable publication; or any new interpretation, analysis, or synthesis of published data, statements, concepts or ideas that, in the words of Wikibooks's founder Jimmy Wales, would amount to a "novel narrative or historical interpretation".
Primary and secondary sources
- Primary sources present information or data, such as archeological artifacts; photographs (but see below); historical documents such as a diary, census, transcript of a public hearing, trial, or interview; tabulated results of surveys or questionnaires, records of laboratory assays or observations; records of field observations.
- Secondary sources present a generalization, analysis, synthesis, interpretation, or evaluation of information or data.
Original research that creates primary sources is not allowed. However, research that consists of collecting and organizing information from existing primary and/or secondary sources is strongly encouraged. In fact, all modules on Wikibooks should be based on information collected from primary and secondary sources. This is not "original research," it is "source-based research," and it is fundamental to writing a textbook.
In some cases, where a module (1) makes descriptive claims the accuracy of which is easily verifiable by any reasonable adult without specialist knowledge, and (2) makes no analytic, synthetic, interpretive, or evaluative claims, a Wikibooks article may be based entirely on primary sources, but these are exceptions.
In most cases, Wikibooks modules include material on the basis of verifiability, not truth. That is, we report what other reliable secondary sources have published, whether or not we regard the material as accurate. In order to avoid doing original research, and in order to help improve the quality of Wikibooks modules, it is essential that any primary-source material, as well as any generalization, analysis, synthesis, interpretation, or evaluation of information or data has been published by a third-party reputable publication (that is, not self-published) that is available to readers either from a website (other than Wikibooks) or through a public library. It is very important to cite sources appropriately, so that readers can find your source and can satisfy themselves that Wikibooks has used the source correctly.
In some cases, there may be controversy or debate over what constitutes a legitimate or reputable authority or source. Where no agreement can be reached about this, the module should provide an account of the controversy and of the different authorities or sources. Such an account also helps ensure the article’s neutral point of view.
"No original research" does not mean that experts on a specific topic cannot contribute to Wikibooks. Indeed, Wikibooks welcomes experts and academics. However, such experts do not occupy a privileged position within Wikibooks. They should refer to themselves and their publications in the third person and write from a neutral point of view (NPOV). They must also cite publications, and may not use their unpublished knowledge as a source of information (which would be impossible to verify).
Why do we exclude original research?
- It's an obligation of Wikibooks to its readers that the information they read here be reliable and reputable, and so we rely only on credible or reputable published sources. See Wikibooks:No original research#What counts as a reputable_publication? for a discussion on how to judge whether a source is reliable.
- Credible sources provide readers with resources they may consult to pursue their own research. After all, there are people who turn to textbooks as a first step in research, not as a last step.
- Relying on citable sources helps clarify what points of view are represented in a module, and thus helps us comply with our NPOV policy.
- Relying on credible sources also may encourage new contributors. For example, if someone knows of an important source that the module has not drawn on, he or she may feel more confident in adding important material to the module.
The role of expert editors
"No original research" does not mean that experts on a specific topic cannot contribute to Wikibooks. On the contrary, Wikibooks welcomes experts. We assume, however, that someone is an expert not only because of their personal and direct knowledge of a topic, but because of their knowledge of published sources on a topic. This policy prohibits expert editors from drawing on their personal and direct knowledge if such knowledge is unverifiable. If an expert editor has published the results of his or her research elsewhere, in a reputable publication, the editor can cite that source while writing in the third person and complying with our NPOV policy. Otherwise, we hope expert editors will draw on their knowledge of other published sources to enrich our modules.
What is excluded from articles?
A Wikibooks entry (including any part of a module) counts as original research if it proposes ideas; that is:
- it introduces a theory or method of solution; or
- it introduces original ideas; or
- it defines new terms; or
- it provides new definitions of pre-existing terms; or
- it introduces an argument without citing a reputable source, which purports to refute or support another idea, theory, argument, or position; or
- it introduces or uses neologisms.
All of the above may be acceptable content once it has become a permanent feature of the public landscape. For example:
- the ideas have been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal; or
- the ideas have become newsworthy: they have been independently reported in newspapers or news stories.
If you have an idea that you think should become part of the corpus of knowledge that is Wikibooks, the best approach is to arrange to have your results published in a peer-reviewed journal or reputable news outlet, and then document your work in an appropriately non-partisan manner.
The fact that we exclude something does not necessarily mean that material is bad -- Wikibooks is simply not the proper venue for it. We would have to turn away even Pulitzer Prize-level journalism and Nobel Prize-level science if its authors tried to publish it first on Wikibooks.
How to deal with Wikibooks entries about theories
- state the key concepts;
- state the known and popular ideas and identify general "consensus", making clear which is which, and bearing in mind that extreme-minority theories or views need not be included.
Unstable neologisms, and ideas stemming from one individual who is not an authority, or from a small group of such individuals, should either go to "votes for deletion" (because they "fail the test of confirmability", not because they are necessarily false), or should be copyedited out.
What counts as a reputable publication?
Reputable publications include peer-reviewed journals, books published by a known academic publishing house or university press, and divisions of a general publisher which have a good reputation for scholarly publications.
For non-academic subjects, it is impossible to pin down a clear definition of "reputable". In general, most of us have a good intuition about the meaning of the word. A magazine or press release self-published by a very extreme political or religious group would often not be regarded as "reputable". For example, Wikibooks would not rely only on an article in the Socialist Workers' Party newspaper, The Militant, to publish a statement about President Bush being gay. However, if that same claim was in The New York Times, then Wikibooks could refer to the article (and to the sources quoted in the article). The political magazine could, however, be used as a source of information about the party itself.
Ask yourself some questions when you are evaluating a publication. Is it openly partisan? Does it have a large or very small readership? Is it a vanity publisher? Is it run principally by a single person, or does it have a large, permanent staff? Does it seem to have any system of peer review, or do you get the feeling that it shoots from the hip? If you heard that the publication you are about to use as a source was considering publishing a very negative article about you, would you (a) be terrified because you suspect they are irresponsible and do not fact-check; or (b) feel somewhat reassured because the publication employs several layers of editing staff, fact-checkers, lawyers, an editor-in-chief, and a publisher, and will usually correct its mistakes? If it is (a), do not use it as a source. If it is (b), it is what Wikibooks calls "reputable".
When dispute arises regarding whether a publication is reputable, you can attempt to get more editors involved and work toward a consensus. There is no clear definition, but don't ignore your intuition.
Pictures have enjoyed a broad exception from the NOR policy. Wikibooks editors have always been encouraged to take photos or draw pictures and upload them, releasing them under the GFDL or another free licence, to illustrate modules. There are several reasons this is welcomed:
- Pictures are generally used for illustration and do not propose unpublished ideas or arguments, the core reason behind the NOR policy.
- Due to copyright law in a number of countries and its relationship to the work of building free textbooks, there are relatively few publicly available images we can take and use. Wikibooks editors' pictures fill a needed role.
A known disadvantage of allowing original photographs to be uploaded is the possibility of editors using photo manipulation to distort the facts or position being illustrated by the photo. Manipulated images should be prominently noted as such and, if they are not, should be posted to Wikibooks:Votes for deletion. Even noted as having been manipulated, they should not be used to illustrate modules in the main namespace, although editors are free to make use of them on user pages.
Images that constitute original research in any other way are not allowed, such as a diagram of a hydrogen atom showing extra particles in the nucleus as theorized by the uploader. All uploaded pictures are subject to Wikibooks's other policies and guidelines, notably Wikibooks:Verifiability, and Wikibooks:Neutral point of view.
Related policies and guidelines
The prohibition against original research limits the possibility of an editor presenting his or her own point of view in a module. Moreover, by reinforcing the importance of including verifiable research produced by others, this policy promotes the inclusion of multiple points of view in a module. Consequently, this policy reinforces our neutral point of view 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 module, it is important that editors situate the research; that is, provide contextual information about the point of view, indicating how prevalent the position is, and whether it is held by a majority or minority.
The quality of a textbook depends on its accuracy and reliability. Our NPOV policy acknowledges that people may disagree as to what "the truth" is. People can, however, agree that certain points of view exist. By relying on the research of others, and by presenting facts, assertions, theories, ideas, claims, opinions, and arguments that have been published by a reputable publisher, the no-original-research policy and our verifiability policy reinforce one another.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikibooks is verifiability, not truth.
See Wikibooks:Verifiability for more detailed information.
In order for people to be able to verify the research represented in a Wikibooks module, they must know where they can find the sources outside Wikibooks. Since this policy encourages editors to draw on previously published sources, it reinforces our cite sources policy.
See Wikibooks:Cite sources for more details and rationales, as well as an example of citation style (although formatting is of secondary importance).
Origin of this policy: the opinion of Wikibooks's founder
Wikibooks's founder, Jimmy Wales, has described original research as follows (although referencing Wikipedia, the same holds true here):
The phrase "original research" originated primarily as a practical means to deal with physics cranks, of which of course there are a number on the Web. The basic concept is as follows: It can be quite difficult for us to make any valid judgment as to whether a particular thing is true or not. It isn't appropriate for us to try to determine whether someone's novel theory of physics is valid; we aren't really equipped to do that. But what we can do is check whether or not it actually has been published in reputable journals or by reputable publishers. So it's quite convenient to avoid judging the credibility of things by simply sticking to things that have been judged credible by people much better equipped to decide. The exact same principle will hold true for history" (WikiEN-l, December 3, 2004).
An article that makes no new low-level claims, but nonetheless synthesizes work in a non-standard way, is effectively original research that I think we ought not to publish. This comes up most often in history, where there is a tendency by some Wikipedians to produce novel narratives and historical interpretations with citation to primary sources to back up their interpretation of events. Even if their citations are accurate, Wikipedia's poorly equipped to judge whether their particular synthesis of the available information is a reasonable one. ... I think in part this is just a symptom of an unfortunate tendency of disrespect for history as a professional discipline. Some who completely understand why Wikipedia ought not create novel theories of physics by citing the results of experiments and so on and synthesizing them into something new, may fail to see how the same thing applies to history" (WikiEN-l, December 6, 2004).
On talk pages and project pages
Like most Wikibooks policies, No original research applies to modules, not to talk pages or project pages, although it may be regarded as poor taste to discuss personal theories on talk pages.
- Meta-Wiki allows original research, see for instance m:research, m:Wikiresearch, m:Wikimedia Research Network, m:wikiversity, m:category:research, and m:statistics.