Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not
|This page in a nutshell:
|Core content policies|
|Other content policies|
Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia and, as a means to that end, an online community of individuals interested in building and using a high-quality encyclopedia in a spirit of mutual respect. Therefore, there are certain things that Wikipedia is not.
- 1 Style and format
- 2 Encyclopedic content
- 2.1 Wikipedia is not a dictionary
- 2.2 Wikipedia is not a publisher of original thought
- 2.3 Wikipedia is not a soapbox or means of promotion
- 2.4 Wikipedia is not a mirror or a repository of links, images, or media files
- 2.5 Wikipedia is not a blog, web hosting service, social networking service, or memorial site
- 2.6 Wikipedia is not a directory
- 2.7 Wikipedia is not a manual, guidebook, textbook, or scientific journal
- 2.8 Wikipedia is not a crystal ball
- 2.9 Wikipedia is not a newspaper
- 2.10 Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate collection of information
- 2.11 Wikipedia is not censored
- 3 Community
- 4 And finally…
- 5 When you wonder what to do
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 External links
Style and format
Wikipedia is not a paper encyclopedia
Wikipedia is not a paper encyclopedia, but a digital encyclopedia project. Other than verifiability and the other points presented on this page, there is no practical limit to the number of topics Wikipedia can cover or the total amount of content. However, there is an important distinction between what can be done, and what should be done, which is covered under § Encyclopedic content below. Consequently, this policy is not a free pass for inclusion: articles must abide by the appropriate content policies, particularly those covered in the five pillars.
Keeping articles to a reasonable size is important for Wikipedia's accessibility, especially for dial-up and mobile browser readers, since it directly affects page download time (see Wikipedia:Article size). Splitting long articles and leaving adequate summaries is a natural part of growth for a topic (see Wikipedia:Summary style). Some topics are covered by print encyclopedias only in short, static articles, but Wikipedia can include more information, provide more external links, and update more quickly.
Information should not be included in this encyclopedia solely because it is true or useful. A Wikipedia article should not be a complete exposition of all possible details, but a summary of accepted knowledge regarding its subject. Verifiable and sourced statements should be treated with appropriate weight. Although there are debates about the encyclopedic merits of several classes of entries, consensus is that the following are good examples of what Wikipedia is not. The examples under each section are not intended to be exhaustive.
Wikipedia is not a dictionary
Wikipedia is not a dictionary, or a usage or jargon guide. Wikipedia articles are not:
- Definitions. Articles should begin with a good definition or description, but articles that contain nothing more than a definition should be expanded with additional encyclopedic content. If they cannot be expanded beyond a definition, Wikipedia is not the place for them. In some cases, the definition of a word may be an encyclopedic subject, such as the definition of planet. For a wiki that is a dictionary, visit our sister project Wiktionary. Dictionary definitions should be transwikied there.
- Dictionary entries. Encyclopedia articles are about a person, or a group, a concept, a place, a thing, an event, etc. In some cases, a word or phrase itself may be an encyclopedic subject, such as Macedonia (terminology) or truthiness. However, articles rarely, if ever, contain more than one distinct definition or usage of the article's title. Articles about the cultural or mathematical significance of individual numbers are also acceptable.
- Usage, slang, or idiom guides. Descriptive articles about languages, dialects, or types of slang (such as Klingon language, Cockney, or Leet) are desirable. Prescriptive guides for prospective speakers of such languages are not. See "Wikipedia is not a manual, guidebook, textbook, or scientific journal" below for more information. For a wiki that is a collection of textbooks, visit our sister project Wikibooks. Prescriptive guides for prospective speakers of a language should be transwikied there.
Visit Wiktionary, our sister project, if you want to help build a dictionary. They would greatly appreciate your help.
Wikipedia is not a publisher of original thought
Wikipedia is not a place to publish your own thoughts and analyses or to publish new information. Per our policy on original research, please do not use Wikipedia for any of the following:
- Primary (original) research, such as proposing theories and solutions, original ideas, defining terms, coining new words, etc. If you have completed primary research on a topic, your results should be published in other venues, such as peer-reviewed journals, other printed forms, open research, or respected online publications. Wikipedia can report your work after it is published and becomes part of accepted knowledge; however, citations of reliable sources are needed to demonstrate that material is verifiable, and not merely the editor's opinion.
- Personal inventions. If you or a friend invented a drinking game, a new type of dance move, or even the word frindle, it is not notable enough to be given an article until multiple, independent, and reliable secondary sources report on it. And Wikipedia is certainly not for things made up one day.
- Personal essays that state your particular feelings about a topic (rather than the opinions of experts). Although Wikipedia is supposed to compile human knowledge, it is not a vehicle to make personal opinions become part of such knowledge. In the unusual situation where the opinions of an individual are important enough to discuss, it is preferable to let other people write about them. (Personal essays on Wikipedia-related topics are welcome in your user namespace or on the Meta-wiki.)
- Discussion forums. Please try to stay on the task of creating an encyclopedia. You can chat with people about Wikipedia-related topics on their user talk pages, and should resolve problems with articles on the relevant talk pages, but please do not take discussion into articles. In addition, bear in mind that article talk pages exist solely to discuss how to improve articles; they are not for general discussion about the subject of the article, nor are they a help desk for obtaining instructions or technical assistance. Material unsuitable for talk pages may be subject to removal per the talk page guidelines. If you wish to ask a specific question on a topic, Wikipedia has a Reference desk; questions should be asked there rather than on talk pages.
Wikipedia is not a soapbox or means of promotion
Wikipedia is not a soapbox, a battleground, or a vehicle for propaganda, advertising and showcasing. This applies to usernames, articles, draftspace, categories, files, talk page discussions, templates, and user pages. Therefore, content hosted in Wikipedia is not for:
- Advocacy, propaganda, or recruitment of any kind: commercial, political, scientific, religious, national, sports-related, or otherwise. An article can report objectively about such things, as long as an attempt is made to describe the topic from a neutral point of view. You might wish to start a blog or visit a forum if you want to convince people of the merits of your opinions.
- Opinion pieces. Although some topics, particularly those concerning current affairs and politics, may stir passions and tempt people to "climb soapboxes", Wikipedia is not the medium for this. Articles must be balanced to put entries, especially for current events, in a reasonable perspective, and represent a neutral point of view. Furthermore, Wikipedia authors should strive to write articles that will not quickly become obsolete. However, Wikipedia's sister project Wikinews allows commentaries on its articles.
- Scandal mongering, promoting things "heard through the grapevine" or gossiping. Articles and content about living people are required to meet an especially high standard, as they may otherwise be libellous or infringe the subjects' right to privacy. Articles must not be written purely to attack the reputation of another person.
- Self-promotion. It can be tempting to write about yourself or projects in which you have a strong personal involvement. However, remember that the standards for encyclopedic articles apply to such pages just like any other. This includes the requirement to maintain a neutral point of view, which can be difficult when writing about yourself or about projects close to you. Creating overly abundant links and references to autobiographical sources is unacceptable. See Wikipedia:Autobiography, Wikipedia:Notability and Wikipedia:Conflict of interest.
- Advertising, marketing or public relations. Information about companies and products must be written in an objective and unbiased style, free of puffery. All article topics must be verifiable with independent, third-party sources, so articles about very small garage bands or local companies are typically unacceptable. Wikipedia articles about a company or organization are not an extension of their website or other social media marketing efforts. External links to commercial organizations are acceptable if they identify notable organizations which are the topic of the article. Wikipedia neither endorses organizations nor runs affiliate programs. See also Wikipedia:Notability (organizations and companies) for guidelines on corporate notability. Those promoting causes or events, or issuing public service announcements, even if noncommercial, should use a forum other than Wikipedia to do so. Contributors must disclose any payments they receive for editing Wikipedia. See also Wikipedia:Conflict of interest.
Non-disruptive statements of opinion on internal Wikipedia policies and guidelines may be made on user pages and within the Wikipedia: namespace, as they are relevant to the current and future operation of the project. However, article talk pages should not be used by editors as platforms for their personal views on a subject (see Wikipedia:Talk page guidelines).
- External links or Internet directories. There is nothing wrong with adding one or more useful content-relevant links to the external links section of an article; however, excessive lists can dwarf articles and detract from the purpose of Wikipedia. On articles about topics with many fansites, for example, including a link to one major fansite may be appropriate. See Wikipedia:External links for some guidelines.
- Internal links, except for disambiguation pages when an article title is ambiguous, and for lists for browsing or to assist with article organization and navigation; for these, please follow relevant guidance at Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Lists, Wikipedia:Stand-alone lists and Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Embedded lists.
- Public domain or other source material such as entire books or source code, original historical documents, letters, laws, proclamations, and other source material that are useful only when presented with their original, unmodified wording. Complete copies of primary sources may go into Wikisource, but not on Wikipedia. Public domain resources such as the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica may be used to add content to an article (see Plagiarism guideline: Public-domain sources for guidelines on doing so). See also Wikipedia:Do not include the full text of lengthy primary sources and Wikisource's inclusion policy.
- Photographs or media files with no accompanying text. If you are interested in presenting a picture, please provide an encyclopedic context, or consider adding it to Wikimedia Commons. If a picture comes from a public domain source on a website, then consider adding it to Wikipedia:Images with missing articles or Wikipedia:Public domain image resources.
Wikipedia is not a social networking service like Facebook or Twitter. You may not host your own website, blog, wiki, résumé, or cloud on Wikipedia. Wikipedia pages, including those in user space, are not:
- Personal web pages. Wikipedians have individual user pages, but they should be used primarily to present information relevant to work on the encyclopedia. Limited autobiographical information is allowed, but user pages do not serve as personal webpages, blogs, or repositories for large amounts of material irrelevant to collaborating on Wikipedia. If you want to post your résumé or make a personal webpage, please use one of the many free providers on the Internet or any hosting included with your Internet service provider. The focus of user pages should not be social networking or amusement, but rather providing a foundation for effective collaboration. Humorous pages that refer to Wikipedia in some way may be created in an appropriate namespace. Personal web pages are often speedily deleted. Wikipedia articles use formal English and are not written in Internet posting style.
- File storage areas. Please upload only files that are used (or will be used) in encyclopedia articles or project pages; anything else will be deleted. If you have extra relevant images, consider uploading them to the Wikimedia Commons, where they can be linked from Wikipedia.
- Dating services. Wikipedia is not an appropriate place to pursue relationships or sexual encounters. User pages that move beyond broad expressions of sexual orientation are unacceptable. However, you very well may form new friendships as you go about improving the encyclopedia.
- Memorials. Subjects of encyclopedia articles must satisfy Wikipedia's notability requirements. Wikipedia is not the place to memorialize deceased friends, relatives, acquaintances, or others who do not meet such requirements. (WP:RIP is excluded from this rule.)
- Content for projects unrelated to Wikipedia. Do not store material unrelated to Wikipedia, including in userspace. Please see WP:UPNOT for examples of what may not be included.
If you are interested in using the wiki technology for a collaborative effort on something else, even just a single page, many free and commercial sites provide wiki hosting. You can also install wiki software on your server. See the installation guide at MediaWiki.org for information on doing this. See also Wikipedia:Alternative outlets.
Your user page is not yours. It is a part of Wikipedia, and exists to make collaboration among Wikipedians easier, not for self-promotion. See Wikipedia:User pages for current consensus guidelines on user pages.
Wikipedia is not a directory
Wikipedia encompasses many lists of links to articles within Wikipedia that are used for internal organization or to describe a notable subject. In that sense, Wikipedia functions as an index or directory of its own content. However, Wikipedia is not a directory of everything in the universe that exists or has existed. Please see Wikipedia:Alternative outlets for alternatives. Wikipedia articles are not:
- Lists or repositories of loosely associated topics such as (but not limited to) quotations, aphorisms, or persons (real or fictional). If you want to enter lists of quotations, put them into our sister project Wikiquote. Of course, there is nothing wrong with having lists if their entries are relevant because they are associated with or significantly contribute to the list topic. Wikipedia also includes reference tables and tabular information for quick reference. Merged groups of small articles based on a core topic are permitted. (See Wikipedia:Stand-alone lists § Appropriate topics for lists for clarification.)
- Genealogical entries. Family histories should be presented only where appropriate to support the reader's understanding of a notable topic.
- The White or Yellow Pages. Contact information such as phone numbers, fax numbers and e-mail addresses is not encyclopedic. Likewise, disambiguation pages (such as John Smith) are not intended to be complete listings of every person named John Smith—just the notable ones.
- Directories, directory entries, electronic program guides, or resources for conducting business. For example, an article on a broadcaster should not list upcoming events, current promotions, current schedules, format clocks, etc., although mention of major events, promotions or historically significant program lists and schedules may be acceptable. Likewise an article on a business should not contain a list of all the company's patent filings. Furthermore, the Talk pages associated with an article are for talking about the article, not for conducting the business of the topic of the article.
- Sales catalogues. An article should not include product pricing or availability information unless there is an independent source and a justified reason for the mention. Encyclopedic significance may be indicated if mainstream media sources (not just product reviews) provide commentary on these details instead of just passing mention. Prices and product availability can vary widely from place to place and over time. Wikipedia is not a price comparison service to compare the prices of competing products, or the prices and availability of a single product from different vendors or retailers.
- Non-encyclopedic cross-categorizations, such as "people from ethnic / cultural / religious group X employed by organization Y" or "restaurants specializing in food type X in city Y". Cross-categories such as these are not considered a sufficient basis for creating an article, unless the intersection of those categories is in some way a culturally significant phenomenon. See also Wikipedia:Overcategorization for this issue in categories.
- Simple listings without context information. Examples include, but are not limited to: listings of business alliances, clients, competitors, employees (except CEOs, supervisory directors and similar top functionaries), equipment, estates, offices, store locations, products and services, sponsors, subdivisions and tourist attractions. Information about relevant single entries with encyclopedic information should be added as sourced prose. Lists of creative works in a wider context are permitted.
Wikipedia is not a manual, guidebook, textbook, or scientific journal
Wikipedia is an encyclopedic reference, not an instruction manual, guidebook, or textbook. Wikipedia articles should not read like:
- Instruction manuals. While Wikipedia has descriptions of people, places and things, an article should not read like a "how-to" style owner's manual, cookbook, advice column (legal, medical or otherwise) or suggestion box. This includes tutorials, instruction manuals, game guides, and recipes. Describing to the reader how people or things use or do something is encyclopedic; instructing the reader in the imperative mood about how to use or do something is not. Such guides may be welcome at Wikibooks instead.
- Travel guides. An article on Paris should mention landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, but not the telephone number or street address of the "best" restaurants, nor the current price of a café au lait on the Champs-Élysées. Wikipedia is not the place to recreate content more suited to entries in hotel or culinary guides, travelogues, and the like. Notable locations may meet the inclusion criteria, but the resulting articles need not include every tourist attraction, restaurant, hotel or venue, etc. While travel guides for a city will often mention distant attractions, a Wikipedia article for a city should list only those that are actually in the city. If you do wish to help write a travel guide, your contributions would be welcome at our sister project, Wikivoyage.
- Video game guides. An article about a video game should briefly summarize the story and the main actions the player performs in the game; however, avoid lists of gameplay weapons, items, or concepts, unless these are notable as discussed in secondary sources in their own right in gaming context (such as the BFG9000 from the Doom series). Walk-throughs or detailed coverage of specific point values, achievements, time-limits, levels, types of enemies, character moves, character weight classes, and so on are also considered inappropriate. A concise summary is appropriate if it is essential to understanding the game or its significance in the industry. See also WP:VGSCOPE.
- Internet guides. Wikipedia articles should not exist only to describe the nature, appearance or services a website offers, but should also describe the site in an encyclopedic manner, offering detail on a website's achievements, impact or historical significance, which can be kept significantly more up-to-date than most reference sources, since editors can incorporate new developments and facts as they are made known. See the Current events portal for examples.
- FAQs. Wikipedia articles should not list frequently asked questions (FAQs). Instead, format the information as neutral prose within the appropriate article(s).
- Textbooks and annotated texts. Wikipedia is an encyclopedic reference, not a textbook. The purpose of Wikipedia is to present facts, not to teach subject matter. It is not appropriate to create or edit articles that read as textbooks, with leading questions and systematic problem solutions as examples. These belong on our sister projects, such as Wikibooks, Wikisource, and Wikiversity. Some kinds of examples, specifically those intended to inform rather than to instruct, may be appropriate for inclusion in a Wikipedia article.
- Scientific journals. A Wikipedia article should not be presented on the assumption that the reader is well-versed in the topic's field. Introductory language in the lead (and sometimes the initial sections) of the article should be written in plain terms and concepts that can be understood by any literate reader of Wikipedia without any knowledge in the given field before advancing to more detailed explanations of the topic. While wikilinks should be provided for advanced terms and concepts in that field, articles should be written on the assumption that the reader will not or cannot follow these links, instead attempting to infer their meaning from the text. See Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Linking.
- Academic language. Texts should be written for everyday readers, not just for academics. Article titles should reflect common usage, not academic terminology, whenever possible.
- Case studies. Many topics are based on the relationship of factor X to factor Y, resulting in one or more full articles. For example, this could refer to situation X in location Y, or version X of item Y. This is perfectly acceptable when the two variables put together represent some culturally significant phenomenon or some otherwise notable interest. Often, separate articles are needed for a subject within a range of different countries, due to substantial differences across international borders; articles such as "Slate industry in Wales" and "Island fox" are fitting examples. Writing about "Oak trees in North Carolina" or "Blue trucks", however, would likely constitute a POV fork or original research, and would certainly not result in an encyclopedic article.
Wikipedia is not a crystal ball
Wikipedia is not a collection of unverifiable speculation or presumptions. Wikipedia does not predict the future. All articles about anticipated events must be verifiable, and the subject matter must be of sufficiently wide interest that it would merit an article if the event had already occurred. It is appropriate to report discussion and arguments about the prospects for success of future proposals and projects or whether some development will occur, if discussion is properly referenced. It is not appropriate for editors to insert their own opinions or analyses. Predictions, speculation, forecasts and theories stated by reliable, expert sources or recognized entities in a field may be included, though editors should be aware of creating undue bias to any specific point-of-view. In forward-looking articles about unreleased products, such as films and games, take special care to avoid advertising and unverified claims (for films, see WP:NFF). In particular:
- Individual scheduled or expected future events should be included only if the event is notable and almost certain to take place. Dates are not definite until the event actually takes place. If preparation for the event is not already in progress, speculation about it must be well documented. Examples of appropriate topics include the 2020 U.S. presidential election and 2024 Summer Olympics. By comparison, the 2032 U.S. presidential election and 2040 Summer Olympics or events surrounding the 250th anniversary of the United States of America in 2026 are not appropriate article topics if nothing can be said about them that is verifiable and not original research. Avoid predicted sports team line-ups, which are inherently unverifiable and speculative. A schedule of future events may be appropriate if it can be verified. As an exception, even highly speculative articles about events that may or may not occur far in the future might be appropriate, where coverage in reliable sources is sufficient. For example, Ultimate fate of the universe is an acceptable topic.
- Individual items from a predetermined list or a systematic pattern of names, pre-assigned to future events or discoveries, are not suitable article topics, if only generic information is known about the item. Lists of tropical cyclone names is encyclopedic; "Tropical Storm Arthur (2020)" is not, even though it is virtually certain that such a storm will occur. Similarly, articles about words formed on a predictable numeric system (such as "septenquinquagintillion") are not encyclopedic unless they are defined on good authority, or genuinely in use. Certain scientific extrapolations are considered to be encyclopedic, such as chemical elements documented by IUPAC before isolation in the laboratory, provided that scientists have made significant non-trivial predictions of their properties.
- Articles that present original research in the form of extrapolation, speculation, and "future history" are inappropriate. Although scientific and cultural norms continually evolve, we must wait for this evolution to happen, rather than try to predict it. Of course, we do and should have articles about notable artistic works, essays, or credible research that embody predictions. An article on weapons in Star Trek is appropriate; an article on "Weapons to be used in World War III" is not.
- Although currently accepted scientific paradigms may later be rejected, and hypotheses previously held to be controversial or incorrect sometimes become accepted by the scientific community, it is not the place of Wikipedia to venture such projections.
- Wikipedia is not a collection of product announcements and rumors. Although Wikipedia includes up-to-date knowledge about newly revealed products, short articles that consist of only product announcement information are not appropriate. Until such time that more encyclopedic knowledge about the product can be verified, product announcements should be merged to a larger topic (such as an article about the creator(s), a series of products, or a previous product) if applicable. Speculation and rumor, even from reliable sources, are not appropriate encyclopedic content.
Wikipedia is not a newspaper
Editors are encouraged to include current and up-to-date information within its coverage, and to develop stand-alone articles on significant current events. However, not all verifiable events are suitable for inclusion in Wikipedia. Ensure that Wikipedia articles are not:
- Original reporting. Wikipedia should not offer first-hand news reports on breaking stories. Wikipedia does not constitute a primary source. However, our sister projects Wikisource and Wikinews do exactly that, and are intended to be primary sources. Wikipedia does have many encyclopedia articles on topics of historical significance that are currently in the news, and can be updated with recently verified information.
- News reports. Wikipedia considers the enduring notability of persons and events. While news coverage can be useful source material for encyclopedic topics, most newsworthy events do not qualify for inclusion. For example, routine news reporting of announcements, sports, or celebrities is not a sufficient basis for inclusion in the encyclopedia. While including information on recent developments is sometimes appropriate, breaking news should not be emphasized or otherwise treated differently from other information. Timely news subjects not suitable for Wikipedia may be suitable for our sister project Wikinews. Wikipedia is also not written in news style.
- Who's who. Even when an event is notable, individuals involved in it may not be. Unless news coverage of an individual goes beyond the context of a single event, our coverage of that individual should be limited to the article about that event, in proportion to their importance to the overall topic. (See Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons for more details.)
- A diary. Even when an individual is notable, not all events they are involved in are. For example, news reporting about celebrities and sports figures can be very frequent and cover a lot of trivia, but using all these sources would lead to over-detailed articles that look like a diary. Not every match played or goal scored is significant enough to be included in the biography of a person.
Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate collection of information
To provide encyclopedic value, data should be put in context with explanations referenced to independent sources. As explained in § Encyclopedic content above, merely being true, or even verifiable, does not automatically make something suitable for inclusion in the encyclopedia. Wikipedia articles should not be:
- Summary-only descriptions of works. Wikipedia treats creative works (including, for example, works of art or fiction, video games, documentaries, research books or papers, and religious texts) in an encyclopedic manner, discussing the development, design, reception, significance, and influence of works in addition to concise summaries of those works. For more information regarding summaries, see Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Writing about fiction § Contextual presentation.
- Lyrics databases. An article about a song should provide information about authorship, date of publication, social impact, and so on. Quotations from a song should be kept to a reasonable length relative to the rest of the article, and used to facilitate discussion, or to illustrate the style; the full text can be put on Wikisource and linked to from the article. Most song lyrics published after 1923 are protected by copyright; any quotation of them must be kept to a minimum, and used for direct commentary or to illustrate some aspect of style. Never link to the lyrics of copyrighted songs unless the linked-to site clearly has the right to distribute the work. See Wikipedia:Do not include the full text of lengthy primary sources for full discussion.
- Excessive listings of unexplained statistics. Statistics that lack context or explanation can reduce readability and may be confusing; accordingly, statistics should be placed in tables to enhance readability, and articles with statistics should include explanatory text providing context. Where statistics are so lengthy as to impede the readability of the article, the statistics can be split into a separate article and summarized in the main article. (e.g., statistics from the main article United States presidential election, 2012 have been moved to a related article Nationwide opinion polling for the United States presidential election, 2012). Wikipedia:Notability#Stand-alone lists offers more guidance on what kind of lists are acceptable, and Wikipedia:Stand-alone lists#Selection criteria offers guidance on what entries should be included.
- Exhaustive logs of software updates. Use reliable third-party (not self-published or official) sources in articles dealing with software updates to describe the versions listed or discussed in the article. Common sense must be applied with regard to the level of detail to be included.
Wikipedia is not censored
|“||The University is not engaged in making ideas safe for students. It is engaged in making students safe for ideas. Thus it permits the freest expression of views before students, trusting to their good sense in passing judgment on these views.||”|
|— University of California President Clark Kerr (1961)|
Wikipedia may contain content that some readers consider objectionable or offensive—even exceedingly so. Attempting to ensure that articles and images will be acceptable to all readers, or will adhere to general social or religious norms, is incompatible with the purposes of an encyclopedia.
Content will be removed if it is judged to violate Wikipedia policies (especially those on biographies of living persons and neutral point of view) or the laws of the United States (where Wikipedia is hosted). However, because most edits are displayed immediately, inappropriate material may be visible to readers, for a time, before being detected and removed.
Some articles may include images, text, or links which are relevant to the topic but that some people find objectionable. Discussion of potentially objectionable content should usually focus not on its potential offensiveness but on whether it is an appropriate image, text, or link. Beyond that, "being objectionable" is generally not sufficient grounds for the removal of content. The Wikipedia:Offensive material guideline can help assess appropriate actions to take in the case of content that may be considered offensive.
Some organizations' rules or traditions call for secrecy with regard to certain information about them. Such restrictions do not apply to Wikipedia, because Wikipedia is not a member of those organizations; thus Wikipedia will not remove such information from articles if it is otherwise encyclopedic.
The above policies are about Wikipedia's content. The following relate to Wikipedia's governance and processes.
Wikipedia is not an anarchy or forum for free speech
Wikipedia is free and open, but restricts both freedom and openness where they interfere with creating an encyclopedia. Accordingly, Wikipedia is not a forum for unregulated free speech. The fact that Wikipedia is an open, self-governing project does not mean that any part of its purpose is to explore the viability of anarchist communities. Our purpose is to build an encyclopedia, not to test the limits of anarchism.
Wikipedia is not a democracy
Wikipedia is political system. Its primary (though not exclusive) means of decision making and conflict resolution is editing and discussion leading to consensus—not voting (voting is used for certain matters such as electing the Arbitration Committee). Straw polls are sometimes used to test for consensus, but polls or surveys can impede, rather than foster, discussion and should be used with caution.or any other
Wikipedia is not a bureaucracy
While Wikipedia has many elements of a bureaucracy, it is not governed by statute: it is not a quasi-judicial body, and rules are not the purpose of the community. Although some rules may be enforced, the written rules themselves do not set accepted practice. Rather, they document already existing community consensus regarding what should be accepted and what should be rejected.
While Wikipedia's written policies and guidelines should be taken seriously, they can be misused. Do not follow an overly strict interpretation of the letter of policies without consideration for their principles. If the rules truly prevent you from improving the encyclopedia, ignore them. Disagreements are resolved through consensus-based discussion, not by tightly sticking to rules and procedures. Furthermore, policies and guidelines themselves may be changed to reflect evolving consensus.
A procedural error made in a proposal or request is not grounds for rejecting that proposal or request.
A procedural, coding, or grammatical error in a new contribution is not grounds for reverting it, unless the error cannot easily be fixed.
Wikipedia is not a laboratory
Research about Wikipedia's content, processes, and the people involved can provide valuable insights and understanding that benefit public knowledge, scholarship, and the Wikipedia community, but Wikipedia is not a public laboratory. Research that analyzes articles, talk pages, or other content on Wikipedia is not typically controversial, since all of Wikipedia is open and freely usable. However, research projects that are disruptive to the community or which negatively affect articles—even temporarily—are not allowed and can result in loss of editing privileges. Before starting a potentially controversial project, researchers should open discussion at the Village Pump to ensure it will not interfere with Wikipedia's mission. Regardless of the type of project, researchers are advised to be as transparent as possible on their user pages, disclosing information such as institutional connections and intentions.
Some editors explicitly request to not be subjects in research and experiments. Please respect the wish of editors to opt-out of research.
Wikipedia is not a battleground
Wikipedia is not a place to hold grudges, import personal conflicts, carry on ideological battles, or nurture prejudice, hatred, or fear. Making personal battles out of Wikipedia discussions goes directly against our policies and goals. In addition to avoiding battles in discussions, do not try to advance your position in disagreements by making unilateral changes to policies. Do not disrupt Wikipedia to illustrate a point.
Every user is expected to interact with others civilly, calmly, and in a spirit of cooperation. Do not insult, harass, or intimidate those with whom you have a disagreement. Rather, approach the matter intelligently and engage in polite discussion. If another user behaves in an uncivil, uncooperative, or insulting manner, or even tries to harass or intimidate you, this does not give you an excuse to respond in kind. Address only the factual points brought forward, ignoring the inappropriate comments, or disregard that user entirely. If necessary, point out gently that you think the comments might be considered uncivil, and make it clear that you want to move on and focus on the content issue. If a conflict continues to bother you, take advantage of Wikipedia's dispute resolution process. There are always users willing to mediate and arbitrate disputes between others.
In large disputes, resist the urge to turn Wikipedia into a battleground between factions. Assume good faith that every editor and group is here to improve Wikipedia—especially if they hold a point of view with which you disagree. Work with whomever you like, but do not organize a faction that disrupts (or aims to disrupt) Wikipedia's fundamental decision-making process, which is based on building a consensus. Editors in large disputes should work in good faith to find broad principles of agreement between different viewpoints.
Do not use Wikipedia to make legal or other threats against Wikipedia, Wikipedians, or the Wikimedia Foundation—other means already exist to communicate legal problems. Threats are not tolerated and may result in a ban.
Wikipedia is not compulsory
Wikipedia is a volunteer community and does not require the Wikipedians to give any more time and effort than they wish. Focus on improving the encyclopedia itself, rather than demanding more from other Wikipedians. Editors are free to take a break or leave Wikipedia at any time.
Wikipedia is not any of a very long list of terrible ideas. We cannot anticipate every bad idea that someone might have. Almost everything on this page made it here because somebody managed to come up with some new bad idea that had not been anticipated. (See WP:BEANS—it is, in fact, strongly discouraged to anticipate them.) In general, "that is a terrible idea" is always sufficient grounds to avoid doing something, provided there is a good reason that the idea is terrible.
When you wonder what to do
When you wonder what should or should not be in an article, ask yourself what a reader would expect to find under the same heading in an encyclopedia.
When you wonder whether the rules given above are being violated, consider:
- Modifying the content of an article (normal editing).
- Turning the page into a redirect, preserving the page history.
- Nominating the page for deletion if it meets grounds for such action under the Deletion policy page. To develop an understanding of what kinds of contributions are in danger of being deleted, you have to regularly follow discussions there.
- Changing the rules on this page after a consensus has been reached following appropriate discussion with other Wikipedians via the Talk page. When adding new options, please be as clear as possible and provide counter-examples of similar, but permitted, subjects.
Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Common outcomes is not official policy, but can be referred to as a record of what has and has not been considered encyclopedic in the past.
- Wikipedia:Template messages/Cleanup § Style of writing—a list of templates that can be used to tag potentially inappropriate content when you can't fix the problem immediately yourself
- wmf:Resolution:Controversial content
- Texts titled "Wikipedia is ..." and "Wikipedia is not ..."
- Wikipedia:Avoiding common mistakes
- Wikipedia:Alternative outlets
- Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Common outcomes
- Wikipedia:Here to build an encyclopedia
- Wikipedia:Why was the page I created deleted?
- Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not/Outtakes for a more humorous version.
- See Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Rex071404 § Final decision, which suggested a similar principle in November 2004.
- Wikipedia article pages (and various navigational pages: categories, navboxes, disambiguation pages, etc.) are off limits for any advocacy. Talk pages, user space pages and essays are venues where you can advocate your opinions provided that they are directly related to the improvement of Wikipedia and are not disruptive.
- The English Wikipedia incorporates many images and some text which are considered "fair use" into its free content articles. (Other language Wikipedias often do not.) See also Wikipedia:Copyrights.
- The how-to restriction does not apply to the project namespace, where "how-to"s relevant to editing Wikipedia itself are appropriate, such as Wikipedia:How to draw a diagram with Dia.
- Joseph Michael Reagle, Jr.; Lawrence Lessig (2010). Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia. MIT Press. pp. 90–91. ISBN 9780262014472.
- See list of academic studies of Wikipedia, Research resources at Wikimedia Meta, the Meta research newsletter, and the Wikimedia Foundation research blog.
- "Projects that are "potentially controversial" include, but are not limited to, any project that involves directly changing article content (contributors are expected to have as their primary motivation the betterment of the encyclopedia, without a competing motivation such as research objectives), any project that involves contacting a very large number of editors, and any project that involves asking sensitive questions about their real-life identities.
- See also Researching Wikipedia, Ethically researching Wikipedia, as well as the conflict of interest guideline and paid-contribution disclosure policy (if researchers editing Wikipedia are being paid under grants to do so, this is paid editing that must be disclosed).
- If you believe that your legal rights are being violated, you may discuss this with other users involved, take the matter to the appropriate mailing list, contact the Wikimedia Foundation, or in cases of copyright violations notify us at Wikipedia:Contact us/Article problem/Copyright.
- Similar official policies on sister projects
- Wikibooks:What is Wikibooks
- Wikimedia Commons: What Commons is not
- Wikinews:What Wikinews is not
- Wikisource:What is Wikisource?
- Wikispecies: What Wikispecies is not
- Wiktionary:What Wiktionary is not
- Wikiquote:What Wikiquote is not
- Wikiversity:What Wikiversity is not
- Wikivoyage:Goals and non-goals
- Meta-Wiki:What Meta is not