Sourcing and citing are supremely important on Wikipedia. Despite legitimate concerns about the reliability of Wikipedia (exemplified by the fact that almost no college professor will allow a student to use Wikipedia as a source for their papers), it is, for the most part, an extremely reliable source for encyclopedic information on nearly every conceivable topic. A big reason for that are the requirements surrounding sources and citation.
The question is: what makes a good/acceptable source on Wikipedia?
The site does its best to answer this question on the page, Identifying Reliable Sources. It’s a long page with a lot of ins and outs, so let’s cut to the most important points.
We’ll start with the easiest criterion. An acceptable source on Wikipedia is third-party. This essentially means it is separate from the subject matter. For example, if the Wikipedia page is about a company, the source cannot be from the company’s official website. If the page is about a living person, the source cannot be from that person’s blog or Facebook page. It must be from some person or organization NOT connected to the interests of the subject matter in question.
Second, the sources have to be reliable. This is tough, because it often comes down to a judgement call. And if you look at the page linked above, you’ll see the discussion around what makes a source reliable is not well-defined. But the source must be published at the very least—in print or online or as a part of a video or audio release that is publically available. That’s the minimum. But beyond that, we’re calling it as we see it.
It’s easier to give examples.
What IS a good source?
- In-depth newspaper articles dedicated to the subject matter in question
- Academic journals
- Books published by a third party
- Third-party profiles, i.e., a professor’s university profile page, a NFL football player’s official team website, etc.
What is not a good source?
- Social media pages/posts/tweets, etc.
- Personal blogs
- The company or individual’s official website
- Videos from the company or individual’s official YouTube channel
- Online forums
Sources that may be called into question:
- IMDB pages due to their user-generated content
- Third-party blogs as they are often biased, unreliable and hearsay
- Tabloid articles as they are often biased, unreliable and hearsay
- Interviews conducted by and posted on a third-party website
The quantity of sources is also somewhat important, depending on the topic. If the page is about a person who made the news for a notable action—maybe they became an Internet sensation or saved someone from a burning building—then the page may be only a few sentences long and require only one or two sources. But for an extensive topic or a page about someone with a long career of notable achievements, the number of sources makes the page more credible overall.
Wikipedia has a policy of remaining neutral. This applies to controversial people, ideas or topics in particular. If that’s the case, it requires that opposing or minority views are presented. As an example, a page on trickle-down economics must include at least two sides of the issue—for and against in addition to a good description of the concept—and it is even better if shades of grey are represented as well.
As with anything, there are exceptions to the rule and the reliability or credibility of sources can be argued, and often are. Every Wikipedia has a talk page, and some are very long with raging debates as to whether the article is presented from a neutral point of view and if sources used are good or not. It’s much more an art than a science. As a result, it can be confusing and frustrating for new or inexperienced Wikipedia writers who are just getting started or “winging it.” One of the beautiful things about Wikipedia is its all-inclusive nature, but it can seem non-inclusive to new writers whose pages are not approved or their sources are questioned.
If you are looking to get a page posted to Wikipedia, it may be better to use professionals with experience who understand the nuances and grey areas of sourcing as well as the nuts and bolts of citing sources properly. Contact WikiCreators for more information or to have your page written and posted for you.