This is a project to work towards guidelines for History-related articles equivalent to those about reliable sources for medical articles.
History articles should always comply with the major content policies: Wikipedia:Verifiability, Wikipedia:No original research, and Wikipedia:Neutral point of view. It may be helpful to consult the essay Wikipedia:Reliable source examples#History and the B-Class criteria of WikiProject History, which are also used by the Wikipedia Military History Manual of Style.
Articles that deal with current events, or events occurring entirely in the previous one or two years are not regarded as historical articles, since they have not been studied by historians. When historians first begin to write about an event, then it should be regarded as a historical article. Sources that were previously satisfactory, such as reports in the mainstream press, should be replaced by sources from historical scholarship.
Scholarly historians ensure their work is worthy through a disciplinary practice called historiography. This may include methodology, jargon and theory. An article on such scholarly discipline is a history article, but, may also be relevant to other scholarly fields or knowledge communities. For example, exegesis is jargon primarily used in theology but also used in historiography.
Historians carry out original research, often using primary sources. Historians often have a PhD or advanced academic training in historiography, but may have an advanced degree in a related social science field or a domain specific field; other scholars and reliable sources will typically use the descriptive label historian to refer to an historian. See also "objective historian".
Historical scholarship is a group process by a community of experts on a specialized topic of historiography, who read and critique each other's work. Material submitted for scholarly publication is vetted by editors and outside advisers. Scholarly books typically have a page or more of acknowledgments naming the people who assisted in finding, and evaluating sources, and helping the author avoid mistakes. Editors give a high priority to ensuring that the authors have dealt with the current standard scholarly historiography on the topic. A submitted paper or manuscript that is unaware of major relevant scholarship will be sent back for revision, or rejected. Scholarly books are reviewed in the history journals, with the goal of evaluating the originality and contribution, and pointing out misinterpretations or mistakes.
The results of the scholarly process appear in numerous forms:
Historical scholarship may include:
Historical scholarship is generally not:
Historians produce material after the fact. Recent scholarship is scholarship which displays the currently acceptable methodological practices, and that refers to other recent material. This constitutes a shifting window of "recentness" that depends on the area of historical studies, and changes in historical scholarship. The only way to judge this is by becoming aware of the higher order debates within a field of history, this can be done by reading the reviews.
The main driver for new ideas is the opening of new primary sources, such as archives. Also new historiographical models come into use. They are usually added to old models, but sometimes older models are rejected or abandoned.
In many historical topics, scholarship is divided, so several scholarly positions should be relied upon. Some people masquerading as scholars actually present fringe views outside of the accepted practice, and these should not be used.
To determine scholarly opinions about a historical topic, consult the following sources in order:
Surveying these documents should provide you with an understanding of the current scholarly consensus, or the multiple scholarly consensuses held. Views lying outside of these discussions should be considered as non-scholarly opinions and weighted as such; they should generally be relegated to sections titled "Popular reactions to..." or the like. In the case that the views are fringe and that the fringe views are not a central item of historiographical debate, the fringe content should be relegated to its own article entirely, discussing the dismissal of the views as fringe views by the scholarly public.
Most academic papers have a thesis — the point of the paper; not all theses are correct, or even survive to become significant points of view. If a paper argues hotly for a thesis, and no later source accepts or mentions it, it may be best to take at most the supporting facts and leave the case being argued aside.
The most desirable source for an individual claim is the scholarly work that gives weight to discussing the claim in the first place. Works of historical scholarship usually both historicise and provide a narrative. By historicising a topic, the scholar makes the claim weighty to the discussion of the history. By narrativising a topic, the historian demonstrates their history and narrative through close reference to events and analysis. If a scholar has attached particular weight to an incident, then this section of their work is an appropriate place to locate specific claims, such as "who, when, where, what, how?" If a scholar has paid attention to a debate about causation or causal structures, then this section of the work is the appropriate place to locate specific claims about "why?" In general, however, causation is a more contested issue among historians and other scholars and particular attention should be paid to the historiography around causes.
Using multiple scholarly works and considering how all recent works of scholarship portray the encyclopaedic subject is important. Different scholars will draw attention to different features of the past, even when they agree on weight or causation. Similarly, different scholars may have different views on the causes of things.
Where scholarship draws particular attention to an incident, but individual claims of encyclopaedic interest are missing editors should consider:
This is perhaps the area requiring the most judgement on the part of an editor, and such sources should generally be used to add encyclopaedic colour to events or to expand on areas which scholars considered important but do not discuss at depth. Often this problem can come about because subjects that are encyclopaedically notable are not the focus of the best scholarly works on a topic. A major event may be discussed primarily for its contributions to other phenomena; a battle may be mentioned frequently in passing, but nowhere in detail.
A fact qualifies for illustration when a major scholarly text explicitly demonstrates a point by reference to a primary source, or quotes a primary source in demonstration of a major (as weighted) fact. In these circumstances, it may be legitimate to use the primary source noted, or an equivalent primary source, to illustrate the fact. First demonstrate the fact to the reader, citing the scholarly reliable source, then provide an attributed quote from the primary source in a break-out box or blockquote. For example, "According to Scholar, Jane ran down the road with a vigor that surprised her community (Scholar, 1990). Scholar quotes Quimby, the mayor of Imaginary Town, who stated: "This was the most earnest running seen in a long time; never was such road running seen in Imaginary Town" (Quimby, as quoted in Scholar, 1990)." The primary source is not used to prove the fact, but to illustrate the proof of the fact with the unique voice of that era.
This ensures that your use of the primary source is not original research or original research by synthesis:
Finally, the use of primary sources should be considered in terms of the policy regarding the use of images. There should not be too many, and they are not required.
This essay doesn't mean to imply that reliable non-scholarly sources are inappropriate or insufficient just because scholarly sources are available or potentially available. Finding and using scholarly sources is a best practice, not a requirement.