Encyclopedia Thelemica:Neutral point of view

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The Five Pillars
Content policies
Article titles
Biographies of living persons
Neutral point of view
No original research
Verifiability
What Wikipedia is not

Neutral point of view (NPOV) is a fundamental Wikimedia principle and a cornerstone of Encyclopedia Thelemica. All Encyclopedia Thelemica articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view, representing fairly, proportionately, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources. This is non-negotiable and expected of all articles and all editors.

"Neutral point of view" is one of Encyclopedia Thelemica's three core content policies, along with "Verifiability" and "No original research." Jointly, these policies determine the type and quality of material that is acceptable in Encyclopedia Thelemica articles. They should not be interpreted in isolation from one another, and editors should therefore familiarize themselves with all three. The principles upon which these policies are based cannot be superseded by other policies or guidelines, or by editors' consensus.

Explanation of the neutral point of view

Template:Underdiscussion Template:Policy shortcut The neutral point of view neither sympathizes with nor disparages its subject, nor does it endorse or oppose specific viewpoints. It is not a lack of viewpoint, but is rather an editorially neutral point of view. An article and its sub-articles should clearly describe, represent, and characterize all the disputes within a topic, but should not endorse any particular point of view. It should explain who believes what, and why, and which points of view are most common. It may contain critical evaluations of particular viewpoints based on reliable sources, but even text explaining sourced criticisms of a particular view must avoid taking sides.

The neutral point of view is a means of dealing with conflicting perspectives on a particular topic. It requires that all majority views and significant minority views published by reliable sources be presented fairly, in a disinterested tone, and in rough proportion to their prevalence within the source material. Therefore, material should not be removed solely on the grounds that it is "POV", although it may be shortened and moved to a new article if it gives undue weight to a minor point of view, as explained below.

Neutrality requires views to be represented without bias. All editors and all sources have biases (in other words, all editors and all sources have a point of view)—what matters is how we combine them to create a neutral article. Unbiased writing is the fair, analytical description of all relevant sides of a debate, including the mutual perspectives and the published evidence. Editorial bias toward one particular point of view should be removed or repaired.

A simple formulation

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Assert facts, including facts about opinions—but do not assert the opinions themselves. Here we mean facts about which there is no serious dispute among reliable sources. That there is a planet called Mars is a fact. That Plato was a philosopher is a fact. No reliable source seriously disputes either of these statements, so we can simply assert them. Facts can be asserted in Encyclopedia Thelemica's voice (e.g. "Mars is a planet."), but remain subject to Encyclopedia Thelemica's policy on verifiability and may require citation.

By "opinion", on the other hand, we mean a statement which expresses a value judgement, or a statement construed as factual that does not reflect the consensus in other reliable sources. There are many propositions that very clearly express values or opinions. That stealing is wrong is a value or opinion. That The Beatles were the greatest band in history is an opinion. That the United States is the only country in the world that has used a nuclear weapon during wartime is a fact, but that the United States was right or wrong to drop the atomic bomb is a value or opinion. However, there are bound to be borderline cases where careful editorial judgment needs to be exercised – either because a statement is part way between a fact and an opinion, or because it is not clear whether there is a serious dispute – editorial consideration of undue weight will determine whether a particular disagreement between sources is significant enough to be acknowledged.

Values or opinions must not be written as if they were in Encyclopedia Thelemica's voice. When we want to present an opinion, we do so factually by attributing the opinion in the text to a person, organization, group of persons, or percentage of persons, and state as a fact that they have this opinion, citing a reliable source for the fact that the person, organization, group or percentage of persons holds the particular opinion. For instance, rather than asserting that "The Beatles were the greatest band ever", locate a source such as Rolling Stone magazine and say: "Rolling Stone said that the Beatles were the greatest band ever", and include a reference to the issue in which that statement was made. Likewise, the statement that "A 1999 survey found that 70% of people from Liverpool consider the Beatles the greatest band ever" can be made if it can be supported by references to a particular survey.

Don't misrepresent the relative prominence of opposing views. In attributing competing views, it is necessary to ensure that the attribution adequately reflects the relative levels of support for those views, and that it does not give a false impression of parity. For example, to state that "according to Simon Wiesenthal, the Holocaust was a program of extermination of the Jewish people in Germany, but David Irving disputes this analysis" would be to give apparent parity between the supermajority view and a tiny minority view by assigning each to a single activist in the field.

A careful selection of reliable sources is also critical for producing articles with a neutral point of view. Reliable sources can determine whether "a matter is subject to dispute" when there are opposing views. When discussing the facts on which a point of view is based, it is important to also include the facts on which competing opinions are based since this helps a reader evaluate the credibility of the competing viewpoints. This should be done without implying that any one of the opinions is correct. It is also important to make it clear who holds these opinions. It is often best to cite a prominent representative of the view.

Achieving neutrality

See Encyclopedia Thelemica:NPOV tutorial and Encyclopedia Thelemica:Neutral point of view/Examples

Article naming

Main policy page: Encyclopedia Thelemica:Article titles
File:Encyclopedia Thelemica scale of justice.png
Encyclopedia Thelemica is governed by the principle of impartiality.

A Encyclopedia Thelemica article must have one definitive name.[1] The general restriction against POV forks applies to article names as well. If a genuine naming controversy exists, and is relevant to the subject matter of the article, the controversy should be covered in the article text and substantiated with reliable sources. Otherwise, alternative article names should not be used as means of settling POV disputes among Encyclopedia Thelemica contributors. Article names including alternatives are discouraged, examples of such names are: Derry/Londonderry, Aluminium/Aluminum, and Flat Earth (Round Earth).[2]

A neutral article title is very important because it ensures that the article topic is placed in the proper context. Therefore, encyclopedic article titles are expected to exhibit the highest degree of neutrality. The article might cover the same material but with less emotive words, or might cover broader material which helps ensure a neutral view (for example, renaming "Criticisms of drugs" to "Societal views on drugs"). Neutral titles encourage multiple viewpoints and responsible article writing.

Where proper nouns such as names are concerned, disputes may arise over whether a particular name should be used. Encyclopedia Thelemica takes a descriptive rather than prescriptive approach in such cases, by using the common English language name as found in verifiable reliable sources; proper names for people or events which incorporate non-neutral terms - e.g. Boston massacre, Tea Pot Dome scandal, Edward the Confessor, Jack the Ripper - are legitimate article titles when they are used by a consensus of the sources.

Article structure

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See the guideline Encyclopedia Thelemica:Manual of Style for clarification on the issues raised in this section.

Sometimes the internal structure of an article may require additional attention, to protect neutrality, and to avoid problems like POV forking and undue weight. Although specific article structures are not, as a rule, prohibited, in some cases the article structure may need attention. Care must be taken to ensure that the overall presentation is broadly neutral.

Segregation of text or other content into different regions or subsections, based solely on the apparent POV of the content itself, may result in an unencyclopedic structure, such as a back-and-forth dialogue between proponents and opponents.[3] It may also create an apparent hierarchy of fact: details in the main passage appear "true" and "undisputed", whereas other, segregated material is deemed "controversial", and therefore more likely to be false — an implication that may not be appropriate. A more neutral approach can result from folding debates into the narrative, rather than distilling them into separate sections that ignore each other.

Be alert for arrangements of formatting, headers, footnotes, or other elements that may unduly favor one particular point of view, and for structural or stylistic aspects that make it difficult for a neutral reader to fairly and equally assess the credibility of all relevant and related viewpoints.[4]

Due and undue weight

Template:Policy shortcut Neutrality requires that each article or other page in the mainspace fairly represents all significant viewpoints that have been published by reliable sources, in proportion to the prominence of each viewpoint, giving them "due weight". It is important to clarify that articles should not give minority views as much or as detailed a description as more widely held views; generally, the views of tiny minorities should not be included at all. For example, the article on the Earth does not mention modern support for the Flat Earth concept, the view of a distinct minority; to do so would give "undue weight" to the Flat Earth theory.

In articles specifically about a minority viewpoint, the views may receive more attention and space. However, such pages should make appropriate reference to the majority viewpoint wherever relevant, and must not reflect an attempt to rewrite content strictly from the perspective of the minority view. Specifically, it should always be clear which parts of the text describe the minority view, and that it is in fact a minority view. The majority view should be explained in sufficient detail that the reader may understand how the minority view differs from it, and controversies regarding parts of the minority view should be clearly identified and explained. How much detail is required depends on the subject: For instance, articles on historical views such as flat earth, with few or no modern proponents, may be able to briefly state the modern position, and then go on to discuss the history of the idea in great detail, neutrally presenting the history of a now-discredited belief. Other minority views may require much more extensive description of the majority view in order to avoid misleading the reader. Encyclopedia Thelemica:Fringe theories and the NPOV F.A.Q. provide additional advice on these points.

Encyclopedia Thelemica should not present a dispute as if a view held by a small minority deserved as much attention overall as the majority view. Views that are held by a tiny minority should not be represented except in articles devoted to those views. To give undue weight to the view of a significant minority, or to include that of a tiny minority, might be misleading as to the shape of the dispute. Encyclopedia Thelemica aims to present competing views in proportion to their representation in reliable sources on the subject. This applies not only to article text, but to images, wikilinks, external links, categories, and all other material as well.

Undue weight applies to more than just viewpoints. An article should not give undue weight to any aspects of the subject but should strive to treat each aspect with a weight appropriate to its significance to the subject. For example, discussion of isolated events, criticisms, or news reports about a subject may be verifiable and neutral, but still be disproportionate to their overall significance to the article topic. This is a concern especially in relation to recent events that may be in the news. Note that undue weight can be given in several ways, including, but not limited to, depth of detail, quantity of text, prominence of placement, and juxtaposition of statements.

From Jimbo Wales, paraphrased from Thelemica.org/pipermail/wikien-l/2003-September/006715.html this post from September 2003 on the WikiEN-l mailing list:
  • If a viewpoint is in the majority, then it should be easy to substantiate it with reference to commonly accepted reference texts;
  • If a viewpoint is held by a significant minority, then it should be easy to name prominent adherents;
  • If a viewpoint is held by an extremely small (or vastly limited) minority, it does not belong in Encyclopedia Thelemica regardless of whether it is true or not and regardless of whether you can prove it or not, except perhaps in some ancillary article.

Keep in mind that, in determining proper weight, we consider a viewpoint's prevalence in reliable sources, not its prevalence among Encyclopedia Thelemica editors or the general public.

If you are able to prove something that few or none currently believe, Encyclopedia Thelemica is not the place to première such a proof. Once a proof has been presented and discussed elsewhere, however, it may be referenced. See: Encyclopedia Thelemica:No original research and Encyclopedia Thelemica:Verifiability.

Giving "equal validity"

Template:Policy shortcut The Encyclopedia Thelemica neutrality policy does not state, or imply, that we must "give equal validity" to minority views such as pseudoscience, the claim that the Earth is flat, or the claim that the Apollo moon landings never occurred. If that were the case, the result would be to legitimize and even promote such claims. Policy states that we must not take a stand on these issues as encyclopedia writers; but that does not stop us from describing the majority views as such; from fairly explaining the strong arguments against the pseudoscientific theory; from describing the strong moral repugnance that many people feel toward some morally repugnant views; and so forth.

A vital component: good research

Good and unbiased research, based upon the best and most reputable authoritative sources available, helps prevent NPOV disagreements. Try the library for reputable books and journal articles, and look for the most reliable online resources.

Balance

Neutrality weights viewpoints in proportion to their prominence. However, when reputable sources contradict one another and are relatively equal in prominence, describe both approaches and work for balance. This involves describing the opposing views clearly, drawing on secondary or tertiary sources that describe the disagreement from a disinterested viewpoint.

Impartial tone

Encyclopedia Thelemica describes disputes. Encyclopedia Thelemica does not engage in disputes. A neutral characterization of disputes requires presenting viewpoints with a consistently impartial tone, otherwise articles end up as partisan commentaries even while presenting all relevant points of view. Even where a topic is presented in terms of facts rather than opinions, inappropriate tone can be introduced through the way in which facts are selected, presented, or organized. Neutral articles are written with a tone that provides an unbiased, accurate, and proportionate representation of all positions included in the article.

The tone of Encyclopedia Thelemica articles should be impartial, neither endorsing nor rejecting a particular point of view. Try not to quote directly from participants engaged in a heated dispute; instead, summarize and present the arguments in an impartial tone.

Characterizing opinions of people's work

A special case is the expression of aesthetic opinions. Some Encyclopedia Thelemica articles about art, artists, and other creative topics (e.g. musicians, actors, books, etc.) have tended toward the effusive. This is out of place in an encyclopedia; we might not be able to agree that so-and-so is the greatest guitar player in history. But it is important indeed to note how some artist or some work has been received by the general public or by prominent experts. Providing an overview of the common interpretations of a creative work, preferably with citations or references to notable individuals holding that interpretation, is appropriate. For instance, that Shakespeare is widely considered one of the greatest authors of the English language is a bit of knowledge that one should learn from an encyclopedia. Public and scholarly critique of an artist or work, when well-researched and verifiable, helps to put the work into context and enhances the credibility of the article; idiosyncratic opinions of individual Encyclopedia Thelemica contributors, however, do not.

Words to watch

Template:See also There are no forbidden words or expressions on Encyclopedia Thelemica, but certain expressions should be used with care, because they may introduce bias. For example, the word claim can imply that a statement is incorrect, such as John claimed he had not eaten the pie. Using loaded words such as these may make an article appear to favor one position over another. Try to state the facts more simply without using these words: for example John said, "I did not eat the pie". Strive to eliminate expressions that are flattering, disparaging, vague, or clichéd, or that endorse a particular point of view (unless those expressions are part of a quote from a note worthy source).

Neutrality disputes and handling

Attributing and specifying biased statements

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A biased statement violates this policy when it is presented as a fact or the truth. It does not violate this policy when it is presented as an identifiable point of view. It is therefore important to verify it and make every effort possible to add an appropriate citation.

For instance, "John Doe is the best baseball player" expresses an opinion; it cannot be included in Encyclopedia Thelemica as if it were a fact. One way to make it suitable for Encyclopedia Thelemica is to change it into a statement about someone whose opinion it is: "John Doe's baseball skills have been praised by baseball insiders such as Al Kaline and Joe Torre," as long as those statements are correct and can be verified. The goal here is to attribute the opinion to some subject-matter expert, rather than to merely state it as true.

A different approach is to specify the statement, by giving those details that actually are factual. For example: "John Doe had the highest batting average in the major leagues from 2003 through 2006." People may still argue over whether he was the best baseball player. But they will not argue over this.

There is a temptation to rephrase biased or opinion statements with weasel words: "Many people think John Doe is the best baseball player." But statements of this form are subject to obvious attacks: "Yes, many people think so, but only ignorant people"; and "Just how many is 'many'? I think it's only 'a few' who think that!" By attributing the claim to a known authority, or substantiating the facts behind it, you can avoid these problems.

Article spinouts and point of view forks

See the guideline Encyclopedia Thelemica:Content forking for clarification on the issues raised in this section.

A point of view fork is an attempt to evade the neutrality policy by creating a new article about a certain subject that is already treated in an article, often to avoid or highlight negative or positive viewpoints or facts. POV forks are not permitted in Encyclopedia Thelemica. The accepted policy is that all facts and major points of view on a given subject are treated in one article except in the case of an article spinout.

Encyclopedia Thelemica is an encyclopedia and as such should cover the entire range of notable discussions on a topic. Some topics are so large, however, that one article cannot reasonably cover all facets of the topic. For example, Evolution, Evolution as theory and fact, Creationism, and Creationism-evolution controversy are all in separate articles. This type of article split is permissible only if written from a neutral point of view, and must not be an attempt to evade the consensus process at another article.

Making necessary assumptions

Template:Policy shortcut When writing any of a long series of articles on some general subject, there can be cases where we must make some potentially controversial assumptions. For example, in writing about evolution, it's not helpful to hash out the evolution-vs.-creationism debate on every page. There are virtually no topics that could proceed without making some assumptions that someone would find controversial. This is true not only in evolutionary biology, but also in philosophy, history, physics, etc.

It is difficult to draw up general principles on which to rule in specific cases, but the following might help: there is probably not a good reason to discuss some assumption on a given page, if an assumption is best discussed in depth on some other page. Some brief, unobtrusive pointer might be appropriate, however.

Pseudoscience and related fringe theories

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WP:PSCI

Pseudoscientific theories are presented by proponents as science, but fail to adhere to scientific standards and methods. Conversely, scientific consensus is by its very nature the majority viewpoint of scientists towards a topic. Thus, when talking about pseudoscientific topics, we should not describe these two opposing viewpoints as being equal to each other. While pseudoscience may in some cases be significant to an article, it should not obfuscate the description of the mainstream views of the scientific community. Any inclusion of pseudoscientific views should be proportionate, and the scientific view and the pseudoscientific view should be clearly described as such. An explanation of how scientists have received pseudoscientific theories should be prominently included. This helps us to describe differing views fairly. This also applies to other fringe subjects, for instance, forms of historical revisionism that are considered by more reliable sources to either lack evidence or actively ignore evidence, such as Holocaust denial, or claims the Apollo moon landing was faked.

See Encyclopedia Thelemica:Fringe theories#Pseudoscience for Encyclopedia Thelemica's established guidelines to help with deciding whether something is appropriately classified as pseudoscience.

Religion

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WP:RNPOV

In the case of human beliefs and practices, Encyclopedia Thelemica content should not only encompass what motivates individuals who hold these beliefs and practices, but also account for how such beliefs and practices developed. Encyclopedia Thelemica articles on history and religion draw from a religion's sacred texts as well as from modern archaeological, historical, and scientific sources.

Some adherents of a religion might object to a critical historical treatment of their own faith because in their view such analysis discriminates against their religious beliefs. Their point of view must be mentioned if it can be documented by notable, reliable sources, yet note that there is no contradiction. NPOV policy means that Encyclopedia Thelemica editors ought to try to write sentences like this: "Certain adherents of this faith (say which) believe X, and also believe that they have always believed X; however, due to the findings (say which) of modern historians and archaeologists (say which), other adherents (say which) of this faith now believe Z."

Several words that have very specific meanings in studies of religion have different meanings in less formal contexts, e.g. fundamentalism and mythology. Encyclopedia Thelemica articles about religious topics should take care to use these words only in their formal senses to avoid causing unnecessary offense or misleading the reader. Conversely, editors should not avoid using terminology that has been established by the majority of the current reliable and notable sources on a topic out of sympathy for a particular point of view, or concern that readers may confuse the formal and informal meanings. Details about particular terms can be found at words to avoid.

History of NPOV

NPOV is one of the oldest policies on Wikipedia.

Common objections and clarifications

See Encyclopedia Thelemica:Neutral point of view/FAQ for answers and clarifications on the issues raised in this section.

Common objections or concerns raised to Encyclopedia Thelemica's Neutral point of view policy include the following.

Being neutral
  • A simple formulation – what does it mean?
    The section of this policy called A simple formulation is about the different ways in which we present facts (uncontroversial statements) versus opinions (value judgement or disputed views). What Encyclopedia Thelemica states directly is facts and only facts. Opinions can be reported too, but they cannot be stated directly – they need to be converted into facts by attributing them in the text to some person or group.
Balancing different views
  • Writing for the "enemy"
    I'm not convinced by what you say about "writing for the enemy." I don't want to write for the enemy. Most of them rely on stating as fact many things which are demonstrably false. Are you saying that, to be neutral in writing an article, I must lie, in order to represent the view I disagree with?
  • Morally offensive views
    What about views that are morally offensive to most readers, such as sexism and Holocaust denial, that some people actually hold? Surely we are not to be neutral about them?
Editorship disputes
  • Dealing with biased contributors
    I agree with the non-bias policy but there are some here who seem completely, irremediably biased. I have to go around and clean up after them. What do I do?
Other
  • Anglo-American focus
    Encyclopedia Thelemica seems to have an Anglo-American focus. Is this contrary to the neutral point of view?

Since the neutral-point-of-view policy is often unfamiliar to newcomers—and is so central to Encyclopedia Thelemica's approach—many issues surrounding the neutrality policy have been covered before very extensively. If you have some new contribution to make to the debate, you could try Talk:Neutral point of view, or bring it up on the Encyclopedia Thelemica-l mailing list. Before asking it, please review the links below.

Notes

  1. ^ Note, however, that redirects may be used to address this technical limitation in situations where non-controversial synonyms and variations in word morphology exist.
  2. ^ See also: Choosing geographic names.
  3. ^ Article sections devoted solely to criticism, and "pro and con" sections within articles, are two commonly cited examples. There are varying views on whether and to what extent such structures are appropriate; see Encyclopedia Thelemica:Avoid thread mode, Encyclopedia Thelemica:Criticism, Encyclopedia Thelemica:Pro and con lists, and Template:Criticism-section.
  4. ^ Commonly cited examples include articles that read too much like a "debate", and content structured like a "resume". See also: Encyclopedia Thelemica:Guide to layout, Formatting criticism, Encyclopedia Thelemica:Edit war, WP cleanup templates, and Template:Lopsided.

Other resources

Policies

Guidelines

Essays

Articles

Templates

  • General NPOV templates:
    • {{POV}} or {{Bias}}—message used to warn of problems
    • {{POV-check}}—message used to request that an article be checked for neutrality
    • {{POV-section}}—tags only a single section as disputed
    • {{POV-intro}}—when the article's introduction is questionable
    • {{POV-title}}—when the article's title is questionable
    • {{POV-statement}}—when only one sentence is questionable
    • {{NPOV language}}—message used when the neutrality of the style of writing is questioned
    • {{article issues}}—when an article or section fails to abide by multiple Encyclopedia Thelemica content policies
    • {{ASF}}—when a sentence may or may not require in-text attribution (e.g. so-and-so says)
  • Undue weight templates:
    • {{undue}}—message used to warn that a part of an article lends undue weight to certain ideas relative to the article as a whole
    • {{undue-inline}}—same as above but to tag a sentence or paragraph only

Wikiproject

External links

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