MEpedia:Referencing for beginners
Welcome to Referencing for beginners! We'll have you going in no time.
Why do we need references?
As anyone may edit MEpedia, there is no way for readers to know who added any given piece of information or what that person's credentials are. Therefore readers cannot--and should not--assume that everything on MEpedia is objectively true. Instead, when MEpedia editors add information to the project (unless it is common knowledge), they should include a reference to their source for the information. This way readers as well as other editors have the option of checking the information and making their own evaluation of its quality.
This approach to information quality control is sometimes called verifiability.
The two elements of referencing
Referencing information on MEpedia consists of two main tasks:
- Selecting a reliable source to verify information you are adding to an entry.
- Adding a reference to that source.
How to select a source
Summarizing knowledge on ME presents special challenges in selecting sources because the field lacks authoritative textbooks and, in most cases, review studies (overview studies that formally survey and evaluate the different findings in individual studies on a given topic).
To deal with this, MEpedia recognizes while different sources will have different amounts of reliability, weaker evidence does not mean the evidence has no value: it only means that you must make clear to the reader what the quality of source is. You should strive to reference claims to the best available evidence and then give the reader context on the reliability of that source. If you are drawing information from a peer-reviewed study, mention whether it was a case study of one patient or a clinical trial that enrolled 500 patients. If you are referring to anecdotes from a discussion among patients on a forum, say so.
If you cannot give reliable information about the quality of the source, you should not cite it as a reference. This means you should not cite Wikipedia, which, like MEpedia, is available for anyone to edit in any manner they want; the fact that someone added information to it does not make that information true. Instead, check whether a claim on Wikipedia is cited to a reliable source--making sure to read the source to see whether it does in fact verify the claim in the Wikipedia text. If it does, use that source as your reference in MEpedia.
How to insert a reference
This page is modeled after Wikipedia's Referencing for beginners