Wikipedia:Bare notability

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Is coverage in that local newspaper going to be enough to satisfy the deletionists?

Bare notability, that can also be referred to as Semi-notability, refers to when an article seemingly just minimally meets Wikipedia's notability standards. This may be the case when:

  1. The article is presented with very few references and few can be found;
  2. The article has plenty of references, but the references do not support the subject itself but rather pertain only trivially to the subject, or
  3. The "references" provided are not considered valid sources for establishing notability (e.g., they are Facebook pages, blog pages, or promotional websites).

Articles that fit one or more of these descriptions may be in danger of deletion. Though the creator or a major contributor may feel they did a good enough job of writing the article and providing sources, others may feel differently. Wikipedia's policies collectively are quite complicated, and therefore, can be interpreted in a variety of ways. So a subject being barely notable leaves more room for the deletionists' actions.

Any registered user has the right to propose an article for deletion using the deletion process, and even a non-registered user can place a PROD tag on an unprotected article. It only takes one person to propose an article for deletion. One who is capable of giving good arguments in favor of an article's deletion can be responsible for getting an article deleted, even if the creator feels it should be kept on the basis of the sources provided.

Improving an article with bare notability

The best ways to prevent an article on a subject with bare notability is to improve it so its notability seems more obvious. A good approach would be to ask yourself, why would anyone want to read about this subject? Or what makes this subject important enough to be included in an encyclopedia? Notability must be asserted bluntly and definitively. The best way to accomplish this is to back up your assertions with reliable sources:

  1. Search the web for more sources on the subject: If a plain Google search, Bing search, Yahoo! search, or DuckDuckGo search does not seem to provide enough websites that meet Wikipedia's reliable sources criteria, try using other forms of searching, such as Google Books, Google Scholar, Google News, or Yahoo! News. It can be exhausting trying to search through hundreds of thousands of results for something that may meet these criteria, but narrowing your search can help. For example, if you are looking for references for an article on jazz saxophones from the 1930s, Google, Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo will find more targeted websites if you search for "jazz saxophone" +"swing era" or "jazz saxophone" +"big band" (in each case, use both sets of terms in quotes). If you are searching and not finding enough hits, try changing to a variant term for your search. For example, if you are looking for references for an article on bluegrass double bass, but you are not finding any good sources, if you use variant search terms like "bluegrass upright bass" OR "bluegrass bass fiddle", you might get different results. The Wikipedia Library could also be helpful for eligible users.
  2. Look off the web: Using books you already own or visiting your local library can produce additional information. A library might hold useful books or periodicals, or be staffed by professionals willing to assist in researching subjects. Many local libraries provide access to online resources such as JSTOR and Project MUSE which require a paid-for licence and so would otherwise be unavailable to users at home. Sources found on the web are often more easily verifiable because they are accessible to anyone with access to the internet, so when an off-web source is used, use references that provide as much bibliographical information as possible.
  3. Look for an expert: Place the {{expert}} tag on top of the page. This helps in the search for someone who can provide more reliable sources.

Significance of coverage

The stumbling block in this scheme, then, is the precise definition of "significant coverage". How much coverage does a topic need, and in how many sources, before this coverage reaches the level of "significant"? Here, too, we may consider the needs of a potential article: if we must create an article using the material extracted from this "significant coverage", then we may define "significant" as "sufficient to serve as the basis for a good encyclopedic article". In this way, the concept of notability becomes entirely a practical one: we include topics on which we can create legitimate articles, and exclude topics on which we cannot.


Not all topics need an article of their own, however. Suppose that we have some topic, X, which has a small amount of reliable secondary coverage; we can, for example, extract only three sentences of usable material from it. Should X have an article? Probably not; an article that remains a three-sentence stub forever is not a particularly good idea. Should X be omitted from Wikipedia entirely? Perhaps not; we do have some legitimate material about it, after all. A neater solution would be to include mention of X in some broader article or list; if all we want to write about X is three sentences, then a source which only allows for that is perfectly suitable for our purposes.

We may thus define our terms as follows:

A topic is "non-notable" if there is no usable coverage of it in reliable secondary sources that are independent of the subject.
A topic is "semi-notable" if there is some usable coverage of it in reliable secondary sources that are independent of the subject, but not a sufficient amount to write a good encyclopedic article.
A topic is "notable" if there is enough usable coverage of it in reliable secondary sources that are independent of the subject to write a good encyclopedic article.

In this system, notable topics would get their own articles, semi-notable ones would be mentioned in other articles, and non-notable ones wouldn't be mentioned at all.

Our "notability guideline" would then become:

Why notability?

The notability guideline is among the more contentious ones in Wikipedia:

But what is the purpose of turning to the concept of notability in the first place? Notability is not a goal in and of itself; rather, it's a shorthand term that covers the availability of sources for an article on a topic. If a topic has no coverage in "reliable secondary sources that are independent of the subject", it will be virtually impossible to write an encyclopedic article regarding it, since it is the material from such sources which must form the core of any article.

An alternative view: Don't be cautious with creating articles that are borderline notable

There is no practical difference between "bare notability" and other cases.

An article that satisfies Wikipedia's notability requirement simply is notable, even if the level of coverage does not exceed the minimum level required. Such an article cannot be validly deleted on the grounds that it is not notable due to lack of coverage (because deleting a notable topic for non-notability would be a paradox). Such an article is in possible danger of being deleted unless editors ignore the actual notability rules (in which case the grounds for deletion would be Wikipedia:Ignore all rules, not non-notability; and any editor proposing deletion on such grounds should expect to meet some resistance). Regardless, notability needs to be satisfied for an article to be retained.

An article does not need to assert the notability of its subject. Wikipedia:NEXIST says that notability depends on the existence of sources, not their immediate citation. It is, of course, desirable for an article to indicate why its subject is notable, but failure to do so is not a grounds for deletion. However, the notability of an article may be tested if an article is at deletion discussion. The "assertion of notability" thing is a misunderstanding: an article of a certain kind may be speedily deleted if it does not provide an indication of importance, also known as a credible claim of significance; this is a lower standard than notability, and only provides surety against speedy deletion, not examination at WP:Articles for deletion. This criterion only applies to an article about a real person, individual animal, organization, Web content, or organized event. It does not mean "insert a sentence stating 'This subject is important and significant because ...". It means write and source the article in a way that makes it clear why this is an encyclopedia-worthy topic. (For tips on how to do this, see WP:I wouldn't know him from a hole in the ground.)

Since editors are encouraged to be bold, and since such articles are generally harmless, there is no reason, except possible later deletion, to generally be cautious about creating topics that seem to be on the borderline of notability or that seem arguably notable (Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons may be an exception, see below). A possible approach is not to refrain from creating an article unless you are sure it will be kept, but, rather, to go ahead and create it unless you are sure it should not be kept. Generally, self-censorship is unhelpful as you are depriving the community of the opportunity to decide whether they want to keep the article; but on the other hand, creating an article that later gets deleted results in burdening editors with wasted time and effort in an Wikipedia:Article for deletion.

Biographies of living persons

Some editors are of the opinion that barely notable is still notable for most topics, but that Wikipedia's policy on living persons indicates that increased caution should be exercised when dealing with living or recently deceased persons. Barely notable living persons present an issue with sourcing, especially with self-published sources, either by others (which is to be avoided) or by the topic themself. Barely notable living persons are rarely if ever public figures, and therefore secondary sources are of the essence, something such persons might lack. They might also be notable for only one event, in which case Wikipedia should not have an article on them. Although this is not a valid argument in of itself, articles on such persons might also not be watched or maintained very often, allowing policy violations to creep in with lower chance of detection and violating the spirit of BLP. There is a policy that administrators may (but need not) delete an article on a relatively unknown living person when the person requests the article's deletion and there's no firm consensus against it.

See also