Wikipedia:Oversimplification

Simple fairy tales have an important role in teaching messages to children, but Wikipedia is not a children's encyclopedia. Editors should not oversimplify material to try to make it easier to understand.

Oversimplification is prohibited by the policy called WP:OVERSIMPLIFY, which reads:

It is important not to oversimplify material in the effort to make it more understandable. Encyclopedia articles should not "tell lies to children" in the sense of giving readers an easy path to the feeling that they understand something when what they then understand is wrong.

Oversimplification seems to be a significant problem for Wikipedia. It seems to be worst in the lead sections of articles, especially where they include definitions, and in articles on broad topics. This kind of content seems to be particularly likely to contain inaccurate or misleading generalisations. In such cases, oversimplification may result from the difficulty of producing a summary of a large body of text that is both concise and accurate.

Oversimplification may result from a failure to write from a neutral point of view (presenting one point of view as if it was the only one that existed),[1] from the inclusion of original research (particularly misrepresentation of the content of sources)[2] or from the use of unreliable sources, such as using general dictionaries for the definitions of terms of art.

Oversimplification also includes completely omitting a topic within an article merely because it is felt that it is inherently incapable of being explained in a way that a person of average intelligence or education would understand, or omitting subject matter that is necessary for a complete understanding of the whole of the topic of which it is part,[3] merely because it is felt that the subject matter will only be of interest to academics or "specialists".[4]

Oversimplified Wikipedia content should be rewritten so that it is accurate and does not mislead. It might, however, be eligible for inclusion in Wikiversity. A further corollary of the policy is that Wikipedia is not a children's encyclopedia.

Notes[]

  1. ^ This would include, for example, presenting one of a number of proposed definitions of a technical term as the definition. It would also include an approach that assumes that, just because a topic is well known to the public at large, it must be simple, and it must not be counter-intuitive, and therefore academic sources that say otherwise are to be ignored.
  2. ^ Or a failure to check one's assumptions with sources, such as, for example, assuming that the moon orbits the Earth, just because one may have heard that somewhere, when, in fact, both actually orbit their common centre of gravity.
  3. ^ You don't understand a topic if you only understand part of it.
  4. ^ Such assumptions about what "ordinary" people are interested in will, in any event, always prove to be mistaken, as such persons are not all anti-intellectuals.