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The following are based upon a supermajority of Ref Desk volunteers.

Certain Wikipedia policies, but not all, apply to the Reference Desk. The Ref Desk is not an article, and is not subject to any policies specific to articles. In general, the rules for talk pages apply at the Ref desk, although we strive to provide a level of quality matching that of Wikipedia articles. Since the Ref Desk is unique, some Ref Desk interpretations of Wikipedia policies are unique, as well.

Reference Desk Guidelines[edit]

  • Are answers with references outside of Wikipedia allowed ? Yes.
  • Are references required for all statements of fact ? Required, no. Encouraged, yes.
  • Are responses which don't directly answer the question allowed ? See below:
  • If still related to the topic ? Yes, within reason.
  • If totally unrelated ? Yes, within reason (as long as the unrelated conversation is not disruptive).
  • Are opinions allowed ? See below:
  • Questions which contain an opinion ? Yes.
  • Questions which solicit an opinion ? Yes.
  • In responses to factual question ? Yes, but opinions should be identified as such, i.e., with "I think..." or "I believe...".
  • Is original research allowed: Yes, but it should be clearly identified as such, i.e., "I've found that...".
  • Can we address another responder ? Yes, but any admonishments should go on the editor's talk page.
  • Are poorly worded questions allowed ? Yes, bearing in mind that many questions may be asked by children or those with limited English skills. As long as you can possibly form a reasonable question out of it, you should answer it. If you can't, then ask politely for clarifications.
  • Is humor allowed ? Yes, in moderation, but only after at least one serious answer has been given.
  • Is sexual content allowed ? Yes, but not prurient sexual content, and only in response to a sexual question.
  • Are signatures required ? Yes.
  • May we edit the posts of others ? See below:
  • The title ? Yes, but only add to the title, as the original title may be used as a search keyword.
  • The original question ? Yes, but for format only, not to add links or fix spelling.
  • The responses ? Yes, but for format only, not to add links or fix spelling.
  • Should responses be edited for content? No, but they may be deleted (see section below).
  • Is "just Google it" a good response ? No, you should do the search yourself, verify that it provides useful results, and provide a link to those search results, instead.
  • May the same people post both questions and answers ? Yes.
  • May we use abbreviations like "OP" and neologisms like "suitly emphazi" ? No, only use language that new users will understand.


Unnecessary escalation is both rude and nonproductive. The proper procedure should be followed:

  1. First, mention the post on the author's talk page, politely list your objection, and request that they remove it.
  2. If they refuse, and if the comment is so outrageous as to warrant further action, then bring it up at Wikipedia_talk:Reference_desk, again politely.
  3. If a consensus is reached there to remove it, then the author can again be given the opportunity to remove the comment. At this, point, however, once community consensus exists that it should be removed, other members of the community may delete the comment, if the author refuses.
  4. If, and only if, the author replaces the comment four times, should an Admin be summoned, via a WP:3RR violation complaint.

There are also grounds for a "speedy deletion" by anyone, such as death threats, etc., but only the most severe cases of disruption warrant such actions (see WP:DIS). And, even in these cases, the author should still be notified of the deletion (on their talk page) and the reason (policy violations) given. An exception exists for anonymous I/P users, where notification is not required.

We should also discuss the reasons to do things according to the above procedure:

a) To be polite. Politeness goes a long way.
b) To avoid "revert wars". (If a comment is removed without consensus having been reached to do so, then the author is entirely justified to disagree with the opinion of the person who removed it and restore the comment.)
c) To avoid a POV bias in the removals. For example, a politically liberal editor might tend to delete any slightly off topic politically conservative comments, and vice-versa, even though they would leave such comments in if they were more in line with their political ideology. This could escalate to having all liberal statements removed by conservatives, and vice-versa, even if entirely on-topic.
d) To avoid personal vendettas in the removals. That is "you removed my post, so I'll remove yours". If a consensus is required for such removals, this type of petty behavior is unlikely.