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Neutral point of view is a fundamental Wikipedia principle. NPOV is absolute and non-negotiable.

All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view (NPOV), representing fairly and, as much as possible, without bias all significant views (that have been published by reliable sources). This is non-negotiable and expected on all articles, and of all article editors. For guidance on how to make an article conform to the neutral point of view, see the NPOV tutorial; For examples and explanations that illustrate key aspects of this policy, see Wikipedia:Neutral point of view/FAQ.

Wikipedia:Neutral point of view is one of Wikipedia's three content policies. The other two are Wikipedia:Verifiability and Wikipedia:No original research. Jointly, these policies determine the type and quality of material that is acceptable in Wikipedia articles. Because the policies are complementary, they should not be interpreted in isolation from one another, and editors should try to familiarize themselves with all three. The principles upon which these policies are based are non-negotiable and cannot be superseded by other policies or guidelines, or by editors' consensus. Their policy pages may be edited only to improve the application and explanation of the principles.

Explanation of the neutral point of viewEdit

The neutral point of viewEdit

The neutral point of view is a means of dealing with conflicting verifiable perspectives on a topic as evidenced by reliable sources. The policy requires that where multiple or conflicting perspectives exist within a topic each should be presented fairly. None of the views should be given undue weight or asserted as being judged as "the truth", in order that the various significant published viewpoints are made accessible to the reader, not just the most popular one. It should also not be asserted that the most popular view, or some sort of intermediate view among the different views, is the correct one to the extent that other views are mentioned only pejoratively. Readers should be allowed to form their own opinions.

Shortcut:
WP:NOPOV

As the name suggests, the neutral point of view is a point of view, not the absence or elimination of viewpoints. The neutral point of view policy is often misunderstood. The acronym NPOV does not mean "no points of view". The elimination of article content cannot be justified under this policy by simply labeling it "POV". The neutral point of view is a point of view that is neutral, that is neither sympathetic nor in opposition to its subject. Debates within topics are described, represented and characterized, but not engaged in. Background is provided on who believes what and why, and which view is more popular. Detailed articles might also contain the mutual evaluations of each viewpoint, but studiously refrain from asserting which is better. One can think of unbiased writing as the fair, analytical description of all relevant sides of a debate, including the mutual perspectives and the published evidence. When editorial bias toward one particular point of view can be detected, the article needs to be fixed.[1]

BiasEdit

NPOV requires views to be represented without bias. All editors and all sources have biases - what matters, is how we combine them to a neutral article.

A simple formulationEdit

Shortcut:
WP:ASF

Assert facts, including facts about opinions—but do not assert the opinions themselves. By "fact" we mean "a piece of information about which there is no serious dispute." For example, that a survey produced a certain published result would be a fact. That there is a planet called Mars is a fact. That Plato was a philosopher is a fact. No one seriously disputes any of these things. So we can feel free to assert as many of them as we can.

By value or opinion, on the other hand, we mean "a matter which is subject to dispute." There are bound to be borderline cases where it is not clear if a particular dispute should be taken seriously and included.[2] However, 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 a value or opinion. That the United States is the only country in the world that has used a nuclear weapon for military purposes (and has done so twice) are both facts. That the United States was right or wrong to drop the atomic bomb over Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a value or opinion.

Wikipedia is devoted to stating facts in the sense described above. Therefore, where we want to discuss an opinion, we attribute the opinion to someone and discuss the fact that they have this opinion. For example, rather than asserting, "The Beatles were the greatest band," we can say: "Most people from Liverpool believe that the Beatles were the greatest band," which can be supported by references to a particular survey; or "The Beatles had many songs that made the Billboard Hot 100," which is also verifiable as fact. In the first instance we assert a personal opinion; in the second and third instances we assert the fact that an opinion exists, by attributing it to reliable sources.

It is not sufficient to discuss an opinion as fact merely by stating "some people believe..." as is common in political debates.[3] A reliable source supporting that a group holds an opinion must accurately describe how large this group is. In addition, this source should be written by named authors who are considered reliable.

Moreover, there are usually disagreements about how opinions should be properly stated. To fairly represent all the leading views in a dispute it is sometimes necessary to qualify the description of an opinion, or to present several formulations of this opinion and attribute them to specific groups.

A balanced selection of sources is also critical for producing articles with a neutral point of view. For example, 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.

See also Wikipedia:Describing points of view, an essay on the topic.

Achieving neutralityEdit

Main article: Wikipedia:NPOV tutorial

Article namingEdit

Main article: Wikipedia:Naming conflict

A Wikipedia article must have one definitive name.[4] 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 Wikipedia contributors. Also disfavored are double or "segmented" article names, in the form of: Flat Earth/Round Earth; or Flat Earth (Round Earth).[5] Even if a synthesis can be found, like Shape of the Earth, or Earth (Debated shapes), it may not be appropriate, especially if it is a novel usage coined specifically to resolve a POV fork.

Sometimes the article title itself may be a source of contention and polarization. This is especially true for titles that suggest a viewpoint either "for" or "against" any given issue. 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. Wikipedia takes a descriptive rather than prescriptive approach in such cases, describing corporate entities such as cities and states by the names by which they describe themselves (or by the English-language equivalent). Where inanimate entities such as geographical features are concerned, the most common name used in English-language publications is generally used. See Wikipedia:Naming conflict for further guidance.

Article structureEdit

Main article: Wikipedia:Manual of Style

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

Examples that may warrant attention include:

  • "Segregation" of text or other content into different regions or subsections, based solely on the apparent POV of the content itself;[6]
  • Arrangements of formatting, headers, footnotes or other elements that appear to unduly favor a particular "side" of an issue;[7] or
  • Other 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.[8]

Undue weightEdit

Shortcut:
WP:DUE
WP:UNDUE
WP:NPOV#Undue weight
WP:Undue weight
WP:WEIGHT

NPOV says that the article should fairly represent all significant viewpoints that have been published by a reliable source, and should do so in proportion to the prominence of each. Now an important qualification: Articles that compare views should not give minority views as much or as detailed a description as more popular views, and may not include tiny-minority views at all. For example, the article on the Earth doesn't mention modern support for the Flat Earth concept, a view of a distinct minority.

We should not attempt to represent a dispute as if a view held by a small minority deserved as much attention as a 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 a significant-minority view, or to include a tiny-minority view, might be misleading as to the shape of the dispute. Wikipedia aims to present competing views in proportion to their representation among experts on the subject, or among the concerned parties. This applies not only to article text, but to images, external links, categories, and all other material as well.

Undue weight applies to more than just viewpoints. Just as giving undue weight to a viewpoint is not neutral, so is giving undue weight to other verifiable and sourced statements. 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. 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.

Minority views can receive attention on pages specifically devoted to them—Wikipedia is not a paper encyclopedia. But on such pages, though a view may be spelled out in great detail, it must make appropriate reference to the majority viewpoint, and must not reflect an attempt to rewrite majority-view content strictly from the perspective of the minority view.

From Jimbo Wales, paraphrased from this post from September 2003 on the 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 Wikipedia (except perhaps in some ancillary article) regardless of whether it is true or not; and regardless of whether you can prove it or not.

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

A vital component: good researchEdit

Disagreements over whether something is approached neutrally can usually be avoided through the practice of good and unbiased research, based upon the best and most reputable authoritative sources available. Try the library for reputable books and journal articles, and look for the most reliable online resources. A little ground work can save a lot of time justifying a point later.

BalanceEdit

When reputable sources contradict one another, the core of the NPOV policy is to let competing approaches exist on the same page: work for balance, that is: describe the opposing viewpoints according to reputability of the sources, and give precedence to those sources that have been the most successful in presenting facts in an equally balanced manner.

Fairness of toneEdit

If we are going to characterize disputes neutrally, we should present competing views with a consistently fair and sensitive tone. Many articles end up as partisan commentary even while presenting both points of view. Even when a topic is presented in terms of facts rather than opinion, an article can still radiate an implied stance through either selection of which facts to present, or more subtly their organization.

We should write articles with the tone that all positions presented are at least worthy of unbiased representation, bearing in mind the important qualification about extreme minority views. We should present all significant, competing views impartially.

Characterizing opinions of people's workEdit

A special case is the expression of aesthetic opinions. Wikipedia 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 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 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 Wikipedia contributors, however, do not.

Neutrality disputes and handlingEdit

Neutrality and verifiabilityEdit

A common type of dispute is when an editor asserts that a fact is both verifiable and cited, and should therefore be included.

In these types of disputes, it is important to note that verifiability lives alongside neutrality, it does not override it. A matter that is both verifiable and supported by reliable sources might nonetheless be proposed to make a point or cited selectively; painted by words more favorably or negatively than is appropriate; made to look more important or more dubious than a neutral view would present; marginalized or given undue standing; described in slanted terms which favor or weaken it; or subject to other factors suggestive of bias.

Verifiability is only one content criterion. Neutral point of view is a core policy of Wikipedia, mandatory, non-negotiable, and to be followed in all articles. Concerns related to undue weight, non-neutral fact selection and wording, and advancing a personal view, are not addressed even slightly by asserting that the matter is verifiable and cited. The two are different questions, and both must be considered in full, in deciding how the matter should be presented in an article.

POV forksEdit

Main article: Wikipedia:Content forking

A POV fork is an attempt to evade NPOV 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. This is generally considered unacceptable. The generally accepted policy is that all facts and major Points of View on a certain subject are treated in one article.

Let the facts speak for themselvesEdit

Karada offered the following advice in the context of the Saddam Hussein article:

You won't even need to say he was evil. That is why the article on Hitler does not start with "Hitler was a bad man"—we don't need to, his deeds convict him a thousand times over. We just list the facts of the Holocaust dispassionately, and the voices of the dead cry out afresh in a way that makes name-calling both pointless and unnecessary. Please do the same: list Saddam's crimes, and cite your sources.

Remember that readers will probably not take kindly to moralizing. If you do not allow the facts to speak for themselves you may alienate readers and turn them against your position.

Attributing and substantiating biased statementsEdit

Sometimes, a potentially biased statement can be reframed into an NPOV statement by attributing or substantiating it.

For instance, "John Doe is the best baseball player" is, by itself, merely an expression of opinion. One way to make it suitable for Wikipedia 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 substantiate the statement, by giving factual details that back it up: "John Doe had the highest batting average in the major leagues from 2003 through 2006." Instead of using the vague word "best," this statement spells out a particular way in which Doe excels.

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.[9]

History and rationaleEdit

History of NPOVEdit

NPOV is one of the oldest policies on Wikipedia.

Reasoning behind NPOVEdit

Wikipedia is a general encyclopedia, which means it is a representation of human knowledge at some level of generality. But human beings disagree about specific cases; for any topic on which there are competing views, each view represents a different idea of what the truth is, and insofar as that view contradicts other views, its adherents believe that the other views are false and therefore not knowledge. Where there is disagreement about what is true, there is disagreement about what constitutes knowledge. Wikipedia works because it is a collaborative effort; but, while collaborating, how can we solve the problem of endless "edit wars" in which one person asserts that p, whereupon the next person changes the text so that it asserts not-p?

A solution is that we accept, for the purposes of working on Wikipedia, that "human knowledge" includes all different significant theories on all different topics. We are committed to the goal of representing human knowledge in that sense, surely a well-established meaning of the word "knowledge". What is "known" changes constantly with the passage of time, and so when we use the word "know," we often enclose it in so-called scare quotes. Europeans in the Middle Ages "knew" that demons caused diseases; we now "know" otherwise.

We could sum up human knowledge (in this sense) in a biased way: we could state a series of theories about topic T and then claim that the truth about T is such-and-such. But then again, consider that Wikipedia is an international collaborative project, and that nearly every view on every subject will be found among our authors and readers. To avoid endless edit wars, we can agree to present each of the significant views fairly and not assert any one of them as correct. That is what makes an article "unbiased" or "neutral" in the sense presented here. To write from a neutral point of view, one presents controversial views without asserting them; to do that, it generally suffices to present competing views in a way that is more or less acceptable to their adherents, and also to attribute the views to their adherents. Disputes are characterized in Wikipedia; they are not re-enacted.

To sum up the primary reason for this policy: Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, a compilation of human knowledge. But because Wikipedia is a community-built, international resource, we cannot expect collaborators to agree in all cases, or even in many cases, on what constitutes knowledge in a strict sense. We can therefore adopt the looser sense of "human knowledge" according to which a wide variety of conflicting theories constitute what we call "knowledge." We should, both individually and collectively, make an effort to present these conflicting views fairly, without advocating any one of them—with the qualification that views held only by a tiny minority of people should not be represented as though they are significant minority views and perhaps should not be represented at all.

There is another reason to commit ourselves to this policy, that when it is clear to readers that we do not expect them to adopt any particular opinion, this leaves them free to make up their minds for themselves, thus encouraging intellectual independence. Totalitarian governments and dogmatic institutions everywhere might find reason to oppose Wikipedia, if we succeed in adhering to our non-bias policy: the presentation of many competing theories on a wide variety of subjects suggests that we, the editors of Wikipedia, trust readers to form their own opinions. Texts that present multiple viewpoints fairly, without demanding that the reader accept any particular one of them, are liberating. Neutrality subverts dogmatism. Nearly everyone working on Wikipedia can agree this is a good thing.

Example: AbortionEdit

It might help to consider an example of how Wikipedians have improved a biased text.

On the abortion page, early in 2001, some advocates had used the page to exchange barbs, being unable to agree about what arguments should be on the page and how the competing positions should be represented. What was needed—and what was added—was an in-depth discussion of the different positions about the moral and legal aspects of abortion at different times. This discussion of the positions was carefully crafted so as not to favor any one of the positions outlined. This made it easier to organize and understand the arguments surrounding the topic of abortion, which were then presented impartially, each with its strengths and weaknesses.

There are numerous other success stories of articles that began life as virtual partisan screeds but were nicely cleaned up by people who concerned themselves with representing all views clearly and impartially.

Common objections and clarificationsEdit

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

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

Being neutral
  • Making necessary assumptions
    What about the case where, in order to write any of a long series of articles on some general subject, we must make some controversial assumptions? That's the case, e.g., in writing about evolution. Surely we won't have to hash out the evolution-vs.-creationism debate on every such page?
Balancing different views
  • Giving "equal validity"
    I find the optimism about science vs. pseudoscience to be baseless. History has shown that pseudoscience can beat out facts, as those who rely on pseudoscience use lies, slander, innuendo and numerical majorities of followers to force their views on anyone they can. If this project gives equal validity to those who literally claim that the Earth is flat, or those who claim that the Holocaust never occurred, the result is that it will (inadvertently) legitimize and help promote that which only can be termed evil.
  • 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?
  • Religion
    Disrespecting my religion or treating it like a human invention of some kind is religious discrimination, inaccurate, or wrong. And what about beliefs I feel are wrong, or against my religion, or outdated, or non-scientific?
  • Morally offensive views
    What about views that are morally offensive to most Westerners, such as racism, 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
    Wikipedia 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 Wikipedia'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 Wikipedia-l mailing list. Before asking it, please review the links below.

NotesEdit

  1. Balancing detectable bias is also covered in this policy under: Undue Weight
  2. See also "undue weight" in this policy.
  3. This is often referred to as "mass attribution". (See e.g., Wikipedia:Avoid peacock terms, Wikipedia:Avoid weasel words)
  4. Note, however, that redirects may be used to address this technical limitation in situations where non-controversial synonyms and variations in word morphology exist.
  5. (See also: Choosing among controversial names, Choosing geographic names, Wikipedia:Naming conflict, Wikipedia:Naming conventions).
  6. Article sections devoted solely to criticism, or "pro and con" sections within articles are two commonly cited examples. There are varying views on whether and to what extent such kinds of article structure are appropriate. (See e.g., Wikipedia:Words_to_avoid#Article_structure, Wikipedia:Avoid thread mode, Wikipedia:Pro_&_con_lists, Wikipedia_talk:Pro_&_con_lists, Template:Criticism-section).
  7. For example, some contributors advise against article sections devoted entirely to "criticism," although some assert that such sections are not always inappropriate. For more on this issue, see Formatting criticism.
  8. (Commonly cited examples include articles that read too much like a "debate", and content structured like a "resume". See also, Wikipedia:Guide to layout, Wikipedia:Edit war, WP Cleanup Templates, Template:Lopsided).
  9. (See also, Wikipedia:Avoid weasel words, Wikipedia:Avoid peacock terms).

Other resourcesEdit

External linksEdit

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