|This page in a nutshell: Present all justifications for a change at one time (not incrementally).|
Policy shopping is the attempt to force a change in Wikipedia content by attempting to incrementally apply different policies to effect the same net result (i.e., if this attempt fails, find another way to try to force the same change). When presenting a proposed change, it is always best to present all of the reasons for that change at one time. Policy shopping may be indicative of an ulterior motive and associated with the advancement of a particular agenda.
This is not to say, however, that policy shoppers are always incorrect. It is important to assume good faith with all editors (absent evidence to the contrary). It is quite possible that a policy-shopping editor may, after several incorrect attempts to apply policy, find a policy that does mandate a change. However, usually when an editor attempts to find different ways to force a change, he or she has a vested interest in the issue – if the real reason for change were valid, there would be no need to continue to try and find a different avenue to force the change.
Why is policy shopping bad?
...the problem is not necessarily that somebody is constantly coming up with new reasons why they should be right, but that they keep jumping from policy to policy hoping they'll land on something that in some way supports what they are trying to do. It's like they're just pushing button after button hoping they'll finally find the one that opens the door (or in this case, presenting policy after policy until one of them finally mentions something of relevance).
It is a best practice to present all valid arguments for the change of content at once, for several reasons:
- Brevity – By only stating one policy or guideline at a time, editors are repeatedly asked to reevaluate the same situation. This causes lengthy discussions and multiple postings from (likely) the same editors over and over, which blankets talk pages with unnecessary back-and-forth.
- Opportunity – By giving editors all the reasons for a change at once, they have the opportunity to address only the concerns that might be valid. There is no need to argue about neutral point of view if the information isn't attributed to a reliable source.
- Good faith – When an editor repeatedly objects to (or insists upon) a certain change by incrementally trying different policies it can give the impression that the editor is trying to force the change using whatever means necessary (whether his points are valid or not). While we require editors to assume good faith, when an editor exhibits a repeated pattern of "if this way fails I'll try another way" it can increase frustration levels and may give the impression of blanket policy shopping.
By presenting all valid reasons for a change at once, time is saved, discussions are considerably more brief, and there is less of a chance that other editors may feel that good faith is being abused.
However, avoid redundantly citing more policy pages than are necessary to make the same point; browbeating with policy and guideline verbiage is anti-brevity, and can backfire – it provides an opportunity for long-winded wikilawyering about interpretational details.
Recognizing policy shopping
Usually it starts off as a violation of maintaining a neutral point of view. You source the statements proving it isn't a violation, and suddenly it's a violation of WP:Reliable sources. You double check your sources, find additional sources, and ensure they are all within WP:RS, and suddenly it's a violation of WP:WEASEL, WP:NOT, or something as ridiculous as a WikiProject's style guides. If all else fails, the user making the objection resorts to simple WP:IDONTLIKEIT arguments.
Evaluating policy shopping is tricky business, since it is necessarily addressing an editor's motives instead of the content of his or her argument. Doing so may violate the assumption of good faith. Always address the content of the argument instead of the motives of the editor. Labeling arguments as policy shopping has a negative connotation, and should only be reserved for cases in which the offending activity is prolonged and easily identifiable.
Handling policy shopping
Many new editors rely on nuanced policy interpretations (especially the neutral point of view and original research policies) to support their proposed changes. When an editor continually attempts to find a different policy or guideline to argue for the same change, carefully consider each point he makes. The mere existence of policy shopping does not make an editor's argument any less valid. However, if an editor continually exhibits a pattern of trying to use any policy or guideline he or she can think of to insist upon the same change, it is best to suggest that the editor simply reevaluate his or her position, present all justifications for the change at one time, and then abide by the consensus reached on the talk page.