Wikipedia:Lists in Wikipedia
Lists in Wikipedia was developed in response to concerns that such lists are sometimes used as subterfuges to bypass the Wikipedia content policies of No original research, Neutral point of view, Verifiability or What Wikipedia is not.
This is an essay.
It contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. This page is not an encyclopedia article, nor is it one of Wikipedia's policies or guidelines, as it has not been thoroughly vetted by the community. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.
The usefulness of lists in Wikipedia is very clear as they often provide the starting point for readers to research a particular subject. For example, when researching Typesetting, the List of type designers and List of typefaces are excellent resources from which to begin exploring the subject.
On the other hand, lists, when applied to controversial subjects or to living people, could be misused to assert a specific point of view. This essay has been drafted to provide some general best practices as it pertains to the creation and maintenance of lists in the article namespace.
Lists are not a place to make value judgements of people or organizations
Avoid creating lists based on a value judgement of people or organizations. For example, a "List of obnoxious people" is clearly not acceptable, but more subtle examples could be a "List of demagogues", or "List of exploitative companies", or a "List of authoritarian leaders", as each one of these are based on value judgements even if these can pass the test of verifiability. However, it is inevitable that certain objective characterizations of things, or especially persons, will be considered either praise or condemnation by some readers. An editor need not (and cannot) generally find criteria about which no one makes a value judgement, but criteria, or inclusions/exclusions, should be done without regard to such value judgements.
Avoid using the name of the list as a way to assert a certain POV. For example, "List of bad actors" is probably POV, whilst "List of Bad Acting Award Winners" is less so, as long as all entries are referenced.
List membership criteria
Always include criteria
To avoid problems with lists, the criteria for inclusion must comply with Wikipedia:Verifiability. That is, if someone is listed as an X, that person must have been identified as an X by a reliable published source. Also be aware of original research when selecting the criteria for inclusion: use a criterion that is widely agreed upon rather than inventing new criteria that cannot be verified as notable or that is not widely accepted.
Lists should always include unambiguous statements of membership criteria based on definitions made by reputable sources, especially in difficult or contentious topics. Beware of those cases in which the definitions themselves are disputed. Many lists on Wikipedia have been created without any membership criteria, and editors are left to guess about what or whom should be included only from the name of the list. Even if it might "seem obvious" what qualifies for membership in a list, explicit is better than implicit.
Set clear, neutral, and unambiguous criteria
Ensure that the criteria for inclusion in the list are neutral and based on widely accepted definitions of terms. Both clear criteria and adherence to these criteria must take priority over any praise or condemnation an editor may feel is implied by membership. Some lists cover characterizations that can be considered negative. Such lists, if not carefully maintained can be used to promote a certain POV. Opponents of a subject may try to include it in the list despite it not meeting the list criteria. Supporters may try to remove it despite it meeting the list criteria.
Many identitarian lists, those lists related to religious affiliation, sexual identity, political affiliation, etc., seem to attract POV editing. Especially when editing a List of people like me, one should be sure to follow WP:NPOV, WP:OR and WP:V.
Lists should generally only represent consensus opinion
The principle of Neutral Point of View declares that we have to describe competing views without asserting any one in particular and that minority points of view should not be presented as if they were the majority point of view. When dealing with lists, this can become a challenge. If you include leader XYZ in List of dictators on the basis of a mention of XYZ being a dictator by one source, be sure to confirm that this is a widely held opinion, otherwise you will be in disregard of NPOV. Wikipedia:Reliable sources applies equally to a list of like things as it does for the content article on each individual thing listed.
For purposes of list inclusion, the most reliable source is the long-standing consensus of editors on the content article of the thing listed; the failure of a content article to support list inclusion criteria should be treated as prima facie evidence against its inclusion in the list. Transient or widely disputed characterizations on a content article should be treated with suspicion by list editors. List editors should also consider whether a characterization within a content article, even if long-standing, is presented as consensus opinion or as the position of a specific named external source; in the latter case, the citation to an external source is only as good as the external source is.
Think of the reader
When creating new lists, think of the reader: Does the list add value? Is the list's criteria so open-ended as to welcome infinite results or abuse? Is there a category in Wikipedia already for the same subject? If so, could the list add something the category can't? Is there a reason for creating the list other than "it would be cool" or "just for the hell of it"? Lists should enhance the encyclopedic value of content rather than diminish it.
Explore the alternatives
Categories are self-maintaining. If you aim primarily to collect all the articles on foo, consider adding them to category:foo; project infoboxes can automatically add articles to categories (and bots can be written which automatically collect from categories and present lists sorted by other criteria; Mathbot is one such). Lists that consist solely of external, off-Wikipedia links and nothing else are liable to speedy deletion under criterion A3. If you have a short list of people related to a given subject, it may be simpler just to include it in the main article.
Don't wikilink every item on the list, without making sure every link goes to an appropriate article – not a disambiguation page, and especially not a different topic with the same name. A reader clicking such a misdirected link might take a long time to realize it's a dead end with no information on the topic he wants. Also, it interferes with WikiProject Disambiguation.
- Wikipedia:Categorization of people
- Wikipedia:Not all sources are created equal
- Wikipedia:Neutral point of view
- Wikipedia:No original research
- Wikipedia:Ownership of articles
- Wikipedia:No personal attacks
- Wikipedia:Resolving disputes
- Wikipedia:Reliable sources
- Wikipedia:Write the Article First
- Wikipedia:Centralized discussion/Lists by religion-ethnicity and profession.