Wikipedia:Notability vs. prominence
This page is an essay on the relationship between the policy words "notability" and "prominence".
|This page in a nutshell: A subject is notable if there are enough independent, reliable sources to justify an article. Wikipedia strives to include information about an individual idea in rough proportion to how prominent the idea is in the sum total of reliable, secondary sources. Notability affects existence of articles; prominence, a.k.a. due weight, affects inclusion of content inside articles.|
In Wikipedia there are two concepts which are often confused in general discussion and thus deserve clarification. In discussing what content to include in articles, editors will often discuss the notability and the prominence of the proposed content. This essay seeks to explain the differences and the similarities between these two concepts with the hope that Wikipedians will refer to the correct policy and guideline pages when constructing their arguments about these topics.
Notability guidelines have their origin in discussions surrounding questions of whether certain new articles should be deleted or not. In the early, rough-and-tumble days of Wikipedia, editors would make new pages at a rapid pace and sometimes dozens or even hundreds of articles in a particular subject area would be created in a short amount of time. The criteria for deletion provided that if a subject was too obscure, it was appropriate to delete it. To that end, a number of guidelines were agreed upon to decide whether a particular article was notable enough for inclusion in Wikipedia and now we have a general notability guideline (GNG) as well as notability guidelines for particular subject areas.
At Wikipedia, notability is a threshold measure. Either a subject is notable or it is not. If the community agrees that a subject is notable, then an article on the subject is generally kept. If the community decides that a subject is not-notable, usually due to a lack of independent, reliable sources, then the article is deleted, and the editing history is only visible to administrators unless it becomes restored following a successful review. Or in some cases such a topic is merged to another, related, article on a topic that is notable, with an appropriate redirect left behind.
Sometimes, Wikipedians arguing on talkpages will indicate that a particular fact or section of an article is not "notable" enough for inclusion. While this wording is fine colloquially, it should be kept in mind that notability at Wikipedia technically does not apply to singular facts but rather to article-worthy subjects. Some editors will go as far as to say that because a subject is not "notable" that it should only be discussed in an off-handed or extremely summative way. Such arguments are actually conflations of notability with the undue weight portion of our neutral point of view policy, discussed below.
The sourcing criteria for establishing notability are substantial coverage of the subject in multiple reliable sources that are independent of the subject.
Sometimes editors will request the inclusion of a fact, sentence, or entire section that represents a tiny perspective with respect to the notoriety of the article's subject itself. If other editors think that the amount of prose or the placement of the prose in the article is unwarranted in light of the lack of prominence of the proposed content, the opposition is effectively arguing that the undue weight clause of the neutral point of view policy at Wikipedia is being violated by the proposal. Judging the prominence of a factoid or alternative perspective requires an editorial judgment related to the idea's reliability, verifiability, and general acceptance. Once the editors have determined the proportion of the article that should be devoted to the proposed inclusion along with the placement of the material, the rough prominence of the idea has been determined. Note that the prominence of an idea is a continuum that can range from something that is utterly unprominent (and thus deserving of no inclusion at all in the article) to highly prominent (and thus deserving of considerable attention and prominent placement within an article).
Factors to consider when trying to determine the prominence of proposed content at an article include which sources discuss the idea and how much space or intellectual energy they devote to seriously considering it, whether the idea is a fringe theory or not, and whether the average Wikipedia reader would be able to read the article without being misled.
The sourcing criterion for gauging prominence (and consequent due weight) is primarily depth of coverage of the idea or fact in reliable sources, principally secondary ones.