Wikipedia:Identifying and using independent sources

Identifying and using independent sources (also called third-party sources) helps editors build non-promotional articles that fairly portray the subject, without undue attention to the subject's own views. Using independent sources helps protect the project from people using Wikipedia for self-promotion, personal financial benefit, and other abuses. Reliance on independent sources ensures that an article can be written from a balanced, disinterested viewpoint rather than from the subject's own viewpoint or from the viewpoint of people with an axe to grind. Emphasizing the views of disinterested sources is necessary to achieve a neutral point of view in an article. It also ensures articles can catalog a topic's worth and its role and achievements within society, rather than offering a directory listing or the contents of a sales brochure.

In determining the type of source, there are three separate, basic characteristics to identify:

Every possible combination of these three traits has been seen in sources on Wikipedia. Any combination of these three traits can produce a source that is usable for some purpose in a Wikipedia article. Identifying these characteristics will help you determine how you can use these sources.

This page deals primarily with the second question: identifying and using independent and non-independent sources.

Identifying independent sources

An independent source is a source that has no vested interest in a given Wikipedia topic and therefore is commonly expected to cover the topic from a disinterested perspective. Independent sources have editorial independence (advertisers do not dictate content) and no conflicts of interest (there is no potential for personal, financial, or political gain to be made from the existence of the publication).

Interest in a topic becomes vested when the source (the author, the publisher, etc.) develops any financial or legal relationship to the topic. An interest in this sense may be either positive or negative. An example of a positive interest is writing about yourself, your family, or a product that is made or sold by your company or employer; an example of a negative interest is owning or working for a company that represents a competing product's article. These conflicts of interest make Wikipedia editors suspect that sources from these people will give more importance to advancing their own interests (personal, financial, legal, etc.) in the topic than to advancing knowledge about the topic. Sources by involved family members, employees, and officers of organizations are not independent.

Independence does not imply even-handedness. An independent source may hold a strongly positive or negative view of a topic or an idea. For example, a scholar might write about literacy in developing countries, and he may personally strongly favor teaching all children how to read, regardless of gender or socioeconomic status. Yet if the author gains no personal benefit from the education of these children, then the publication is an independent source on the topic.

Material available from sources that are self-published, primary sources, or biased because of a conflict of interest can play a role in writing an article, but it must be possible to source the information that establishes the subject's real-world notability to independent, third-party sources. Reliance on independent sources ensures that an article can be written from a balanced, disinterested viewpoint rather than from the person's own viewpoint. It also ensures articles can catalogue a topic's worth, its role and achievements within society, rather than offering a directory listing or the contents of a sales brochure.

Articles that don't reference independent sources should be tagged with {{ third-party}}, and if no substantive coverage in independent reliable secondary sources can be identified then the article should be nominated for deletion. If the article's content is strictly promotional, it should even be made a candidate for speedy deletion under criterion WP:CSD G11.

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