Wikipedia:Independent sources

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Identifying and using independent sources (also called third-party sources) helps editors build non-promotional articles that fairly portray the subject, without

a directory listing
or the contents of a sales brochure.

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

  • Is this source self-published or not? (For this question, see
    Wikipedia:Identifying and using self-published sources
  • Is this source independent or third-party, or is it closely affiliated with the subject?
  • Is this source primary or not? (For this question, see
    Wikipedia:Identifying and using primary and secondary sources

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 they 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

a directory listing
or the contents of a sales brochure.

Articles that don't reference independent sources should be tagged with {{



Wikipedia strives to be of the highest standard possible, and to avoid writing on topics from a

vanity pieces
, although it is becoming increasingly hard to differentiate this within certain topic areas.

If Wikipedia is, as defined by the three key content policies, an encyclopaedia which summarises viewpoints rather than a repository for viewpoints, to achieve this goal, articles must demonstrate that the topic they are covering has been mentioned in reliable sources independent of the topic itself. These sources should be independent of both the topic and of Wikipedia, and should be of the standard described in



In the case of a Wikipedia article about a website, for example, independent sources would include an article in a newspaper which describes the site, but a reference to the site itself would lack independence (and would instead be considered a


Examples of independent and non-independent sources for some common subjects
You're writing about... Potentially independent Non-independent
a business News media, government agency Owner, employees, corporate website or press release, sales brochure, competitor's website
a person News media, popular or scholarly book Person, family members, friends, employer, employees
a city National media, textbook, encyclopedias, other reference works Mayor's website, local booster clubs, local chamber of commerce website
a book, music recording, movie, video game Newspaper or magazine review, book (or chapter) Production company website, publishing company website, website for the book/album/movie, instruction manuals published by the video game's maker, album sleeve notes, book jacket copy, autobiography by the musician, actor, etc.
online content News media Host website, creator's social media

These simple examples need to be interpreted with all the facts and circumstances in mind. For example, a newspaper that depends on advertising revenue might not be truly independent in their coverage of the local businesses that advertise in the paper. As well, a newspaper owned by person X might not be truly independent in its coverage of person X and their business activities.

Every article on Wikipedia must be

reliable sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy. A third-party source is one that is entirely independent of the subject being covered, e.g., a newspaper reporter covering a story that they are not involved in except in their capacity as a reporter. The opposite of a third-party source is a first-party or non-independent source.[1] A first-party, non-independent source about the president of an environmental lobby group would be a report published by that lobby group's communications branch. A third-party source is not affiliated with the event, not paid by the people who are involved, and not otherwise likely to have a conflict of interest
related to the material.

This concept is contrasted with the unrelated concept of a secondary source, which is one where the material presented is based on some other original material, e.g., a non-fiction book analyzing original material such as news reports, and with a primary source, where the source is the wellspring of the original material, e.g., an autobiography or a politician's speech about their own campaign goals.

Secondary does not mean third-party
, and primary does not mean non-independent or affiliated with the subject. Secondary sources are often third-party or independent sources, but they are not always third-party sources.

Although there is technically

a small distinction
between a third-party source and an independent one, most of Wikipedia's policies and guidelines use the terms interchangeably, and most sources that are third-party also happen to be independent. Note that a third party is not necessarily independent. For example, if famous filmmaker Y has a protege who runs a film review website ("Fully Independent"), and if filmmaker Y instructs "Independent Critic" to praise or attack film Q, then filmmaker Y and Fully Independent might not be independent, even though they are not related by ownership, contract or any legal means.

Why independent sources are required

Independent sources are a necessary foundation for any article. Although

conflict of interest
and a threat to a neutral encyclopedia.

Arguably, an independent and reliable source is not always objective enough or knowledgeable to evaluate a subject. There are many instances of biased coverage by journalists, academics, and critics. Even with peer review and fact-checking, there are instances where otherwise reliable publications report complete falsehoods. But

Wikipedia does not allow editors to improve an article with their own criticisms or corrections. Rather, if a generally reliable source makes a false or biased statement, the hope is that another reliable source can be found to refute that statement and restore balance. (In severe cases, a group of editors will agree to remove the verified but false statement
, but without adding any original commentary in its place.)

If multiple reliable publications have discussed a topic, or better still debated a topic, then that improves the topic's probability of being covered in Wikipedia. First, multiple sources that have debated a subject will reliably demonstrate that the subject is worthy of notice. Second, and equally important, these reliable sources will allow editors to verify certain facts about the subject that make it significant, and write an encyclopedic article that meets our policies and guidelines.

Non-independent sources

The Bippledorp 9000's man­u­fac­turer calls it "a landmark in the history of music and the most leg­end­ary pedal in rock"; an in­de­pend­ent magazine review may call it "a meh".

Non-independent sources may be used to source content for articles, but the connection of the source to the topic must be clearly identified. For example, "Organization X said 10,000 people showed up to protest" is OK when using material published by the organization, but "10,000 people showed up to protest" is not. Similarly, it is undesirable to say "Pax-Luv is the top tranquilizer" (without attribution) instead of "Pax-Luv's manufacturer, Umbrella Cor., says Pax-Luv is the top tranquilizer".

Non-independent sources should never be used to support claims of notability, but can with caution be used to fill in noncontroversial details.

Press releases


spin doctor). Press releases commonly show up in Google News and DuckDuckGo searches and other searches that editors commonly use to locate reliable sources. Usually, but not always, a press release will be identified as such. Many less reputable news sources will write an article based almost exclusively on a press release, making only minor modifications. When using news sources whose editorial integrity you are uncertain of, and an article reads like a press release, it is crucial to check to see that the source is not simply recycling a press release (a practice called "churnalism
"). Sometimes, but not always, it is possible to locate the original press release used to generate the article.

In general, press releases have effusive praise, rather than factual statements. A press release about the Bippledorp 9000

effect pedal
by its manufacturer might call it the "greatest invention in the history of electric guitar"; in contrast, an independent review in Guitar Player magazine may simply make factual statements about its features and call it an "incremental tweak to existing pedal features".

Press releases cannot be used to support claims of notability and should be used cautiously for other assertions.

Syndicated stories

There are companies that generate television segments and sell them to broadcasters – this is broadcast syndication. This also happens in printed media and across websites. A syndication company may offer the same story in multiple formats, such as a long and short news article, or the same story with an alternate lead, or a video and a written article. Whatever the length or format, they usually contain the same claims and are written or edited by the same person or team.

Syndicated news pieces may be independent of the subject matter, but they are not independent of one another. When considering notability or

due weight within an article, all of the related articles by the same publishing syndicate, no matter how widely they were sold, are treated as the same single source. (See also: Wikipedia:Notability#cite ref-3

Conflicts of interest

Any publication put out by an organization is clearly not independent of any topic that organization has an interest in promoting. In some cases, the conflict of interest is easy to see. For example, suppose Foo Petrochemicals Inc. wrote an article about a chemical spill caused by Foo Petrochemicals Inc.. This is not an independent source on the spill, nor on how green, nature-loving and environment-saving Foo is. If the source is written by a public relations firm hired by Foo, it's the same as if it were written by Foo, itself. Foo and the hired PR firm both have a conflict of interest between a) being accurate and b) favouring Foo.

However, less direct interests can be harder to see and more subjective to establish. Caution must be used in accepting sources as independent. Suppose a non-profit organization named "Grassroots Reach-out Accountability Sustainability ("GRASS") writes a press release calling Foo Petrochemicals "the No. 1 savior of the environment and the planet". Does GRASS have a conflict of interest? Well, the website says GRASS is 100% independent and community-based. However, closer research may reveal that GRASS was

Covert ads
are illegal or restricted in many jurisdictions.

The peer-review process does not guarantee independence of a source. Journal policies on conflicts of interest vary. Caution is needed on topics with large commercial interests at stake, where controversy may be manufactured, and genuinely controversial topics where there may be a great deal of honest debate and dissent. Much scientific research is funded by companies with an interest in the outcome of the experiments, and such research makes its way into peer-reviewed journals. For example, pharmaceutical companies may fund research on their new medication Pax-Luv. If you are a scientist doing research funded by the manufacturer of Pax-Luv, you may be tempted (or pressured) into downplaying adverse information about the drug. Resistance may cause you to lose your funding. Journals can also have conflicts of interest due to their funding sources. Some profit from

predatory journals have no real peer-review. See conflicts of interest in academic publishing

Independent studies, if available, are preferred. It may be best to include a source with a potential conflict of interest. In this case, it's important to identify the connection between the source and topic: "A study by X found that Y."

In sectors where conflicts of interests are rampant, it may be preferable to assume that a publication is affected by a conflict of interest unless proven otherwise. Stronger transparency and disclosure practices can provide confidence in a publication. For instance, ICMJE recommendations exists for required disclosures on medical journals, but nearly 90% of the biggest medical journals fail to report potential conflicts of interests of their editors, leading to scarce confidence on the correct handling of conflicts of interests in the contents they publish.[2]

No guarantee of reliability

Independence alone is not a guarantee that the source is accurate or reliable for a given purpose. Independent sources may be outdated, self-published, mistaken, or not have a reputation for fact-checking.

Relationship to notability

Non-independent sources may not be used to establish

notability. The core policy Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not
requires that it be possible to verify a subject in independent sources, or else the subject may not have a separate article in Wikipedia. There is no requirement that every article currently contain citations to such sources, although it is highly desirable.

Indiscriminate sources

Some sources, while apparently independent, are indiscriminate sources. For example, a travel guide might attempt to provide a review for every single

garage band
playing for the first time or a major touring group. Sometimes, WP editors think that because a reliable source mentions a certain band, book, film or other topic, this confers notability on the book, film or other topic. Not necessarily. The New York Times may state that Foo Barkeley was onstage at a rock concert ("Foo Barkeley was one of the opening acts who performed on May 1, 2017 at the venue". This is arguably a "bare mention"; yes the NYT says that Foo performed, but they don't say whether the concert was good or noteworthy).

Indiscriminate but independent sources may be reliable – for example, an online travel guide may provide accurate information for every single hotel and restaurant in a town – but the existence of this information should be considered skeptically when determining

due weight and whether each of the mentioned locations qualifies for a separate, standalone article
. If a subject, such as a local business, is only mentioned in indiscriminate independent sources, then it does not qualify for a separate article on Wikipedia, but may be mentioned briefly in related articles (e.g., the local business may be mentioned in the article about the town where it is located).

Articles without third-party sources

An article that currently is without third-party sources should not always be deleted. The article may merely be in an

imperfect state, and someone may only need to find the appropriate sources to verify the subject's importance. Consider asking for help with sources at the article's talk page, or at the relevant WikiProject. Also consider tagging the article with an appropriate template, such as {{Third-party}} or {{unreferenced

If no amount of searching will remedy this lack of sources, then it may still be possible to

undue weight, the subject may first need to be summarized appropriately. Consider starting a merge discussion, using the template {{merge

Otherwise, if deleting:

Some articles do not belong on Wikipedia, but fit one of the Wikimedia sister projects. They may be copied there using transwiki functionality before considering their merger or deletion. If an article to be deleted is likely to be re-created under the same name, it may be turned into a soft redirect to a more appropriate sister project's article.

Related concepts

Relationship to primary and secondary sources

This concept is contrasted with the unrelated concept of a

Secondary does not mean independent
, and primary does not mean non-independent or affiliated with the subject. Secondary sources are often third-party or independent sources, but not always.

Relationship to self-published sources

This concept is unrelated to

whether a source is self-published
. A self-published source is made available to the public ("published") by or at the direction of the person or entity that created it. Blog posts by consumers about their personal experiences with a product are completely independent, self-published sources. A peer-reviewed article in an reputable academic journal by researchers at a pharmaceutical company about one of their products is a non-independent, non-self-published source.

Biased sources

It doesn't matter if you love it or hate it. If you aren't selling it, you're probably an independent source about it.

A source can be biased without compromising its independence. When a source strongly approves or disapproves of something, but it has no connection to the subject and does not stand to benefit directly from promoting that view, then the source is still independent.

In particular, many academic journals are sometimes said to be "biased", but the fact that education journals are in favor of education, pharmaceutical journals are in favor of pharmaceutical drugs, journals about specific regions write about the people and places in that region, etc., does not mean that these sources are non-independent, or even biased. What matters for independence is whether they stand to gain from it. For example, a drug company publishing about their own products in a pharmaceutical journal is a non-independent source. The same type of article, written by a government researcher, would be an independent source.

Third-party versus independent

There is technically

a small distinction between a third-party source and an independent one. An "independent" source is one that has no vested interest in the subject. For example, the independent source will not earn any extra money by convincing readers of its viewpoint. A "third-party" source is one that is not directly involved in any transaction related to the subject, but may still have a financial or other vested interest in the outcome. For example, if a lawsuit between two people may result in one person's insurance company paying a claim, then that insurance company is a third party
but is not financially independent.

However, most of Wikipedia's policies and guidelines use the terms interchangeably, and most published sources that are third-party also happen to be independent. Except when directly specified otherwise in the policy or guideline, it is sufficient for a source to be either independent or third-party, and it is ideal to rely on sources that are both.

Wikipedia's requirements

Policies and guidelines requiring third-party sources

The necessity of reliable, third-party sources is cemented in several of Wikipedia's policies and guidelines:

  • Wikipedia's policy on What Wikipedia is not states that "All article topics must be verifiable with independent, third-party sources".
  • Wikipedia's policies on both Verifiability and No original research state that "If no reliable, third-party sources can be found for an article topic, Wikipedia should not have an article on it."
  • Wikipedia's policy on Verifiability states that "Articles should be based upon reliable, third-party published sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy."
  • Wikipedia's guideline on Reliable sources states that "Articles should be based on reliable, independent, published sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy."
  • Wikipedia's guideline on Notability states that "If a topic has received significant coverage in reliable sources that are independent of the subject, it is presumed to satisfy the inclusion criteria for a stand-alone article."

How to meet the requirement

An article must be based upon reliable third-party sources, and meets this requirement if:

  • Reliable: A third-party source is reliable if it has standards of peer review and fact-checking. In general, the more people engaged in checking facts, the more reliable the publication.
  • Third-party: A third-party source is independent and unaffiliated with the subject, thus excluding first-party sources such as self-published material by the subject, autobiographies, and promotional materials.
  • Sources: At least two third-party sources should cover the subject, to avoid idiosyncratic articles based upon a single perspective.
  • Based upon: These reliable third-party sources should
    verify enough facts to write a non-stub
    article about the subject, including a statement explaining its significance.

Once an article meets this minimal standard, additional content can be

reliable source

See also

Relevant encyclopedia articles

  • Editorial independence: The ability of a journalist to accurately report news regardless of commercial considerations like pleasing advertisers
  • Independent sources: Whether journalistic sources are repeating each other, or have separately come to the same conclusions

Related Wikipedia pages

  • onesource
  • Wikipedia:Conflict of interest – a Wikipedia behavioral guideline regarding advancing outside interests
  • Wikipedia:Identifying reliable sources
    – a non-independent source is sometimes still reliable.
  • Wikipedia:Party and person – "Secondary" does not mean "independent"; "third party" does not mean "secondary" (or "tertiary").

Relevant templates

  • {{
    }}, to mark sentences needing an independent or third-party source
  • {{Third-party}}, to tag pages that contain zero independent or third-party sources
  1. ^ Are you wondering what happened to the "second party"? That's a nearly archaic term for the defendant in a civil lawsuit. In sourcing terms, there's only first-party and third-party.
  2. PMID 31340971