Wikipedia:Potential, not just current state

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Potential, not just current state relates to the debate on whether articles in the mainspace should be deleted, merged, or kept based on their current potential to be an encyclopedic entry, or as they are now. Wikipedia is constantly changing and evolving – omnia mutantur – and it is frequently better to think of an article's potential rather than just how it looks at present.


Many articles are created on Wikipedia every day, most of which are a good faith effort by contributors to improve the encyclopedia. Preferably the first revision of all new articles would be beefed up enough so the suitability of an article for inclusion in the encyclopedia could be assessed without needing to look at potential. In practice however due to Wikipedia's open nature of being the 'The free encyclopedia that anyone can edit', articles are and will be created which do not follow Wikipedia's policies and guidelines fully but have the potential to do so. While encouraging planning and preparation when creating articles is desirable, contributors, particularly users new to Wikipedia, cannot be expected to build an article perfectly at first attempt. Time should be given for input from multiple editors to allow improvements to be made.

The concept of potential is recognised in the Wikipedia:Notability guideline under #Articles not satisfying the notability guidelines. It suggests that if an article does not demonstrate notability, editors should make a good faith search for sources before deletion or merging.

Ways to spot article potential[edit]

There are several simple methods that can be used to help determine if an article has potential, even if it is relatively short. An article could have potential if:

  1. It gives some context to the topic it appears to be about, even if it is unreferenced.
  2. It indicates some importance to the topic, even if it is unreferenced.
  3. It indicates some uniqueness to the topic, even if it is unreferenced.
  4. It contains some kind of source, especially if it is a secondary source.
  5. Many other articles link to it.
  6. Large numbers of editors have contributed to the article.
  7. A web search engine (such as Google Search) check of relevant terms of the article bring up many sources, particularly if these sources are reliable and secondary.

Why deletion of articles with potential should be avoided[edit]

In most cases deletion of an article should be a last resort in the event that the article's topic is not notable and has no potential for its own encyclopedic entry on Wikipedia. Deletion of an article can be one step backwards in creating an encyclopedic entry for a notable topic. It is frequently a better option to do one or more of the following:

  • Mark the article as a valid stub.
  • Bring the article to the attention of the relevant WikiProject.
  • Add templates marking relevant issues with the article to readers and editors.
  • Simply delete and clean the sections of an article causing a problem, such as copyright violations.

This will allow for editors in the long-term to improve the article to address all concerns. Keeping articles with potential encourages editors, especially unregistered users, to be bold and improve the article to allow it to evolve over time. Having to re-create an article from scratch often takes a long time and can result in a long-term loss of encyclopedic information from Wikipedia.

Note however that an article should have immediate potential, as Wikipedia is not a crystal ball. In cases where an article could have potential in the future but does not now, it should be merged or redirected appropriately if possible, so it can be easily re-created when potential is gained.

Why merging of articles with potential should be avoided[edit]

Merging an article on a topic with narrow scope into an article with a larger scope can frequently be a good solution to issues of a topic not being notable or verifiable enough for its own Wikipedia article entry. However, merging an article which has potential to be successful as a standalone article in the long-run can constrain encyclopedia expansion, cause articles to specialise in one subject area, and possibly result in articles getting too long. It is frequently a better option to do one or more of the following:

  • Mark the article as a valid stub.
  • Bring the article to the attention of the relevant WikiProject.
  • Add appropriate links to and from the article if it is orphaned.
  • Categorise the article if it is uncategorised.
  • Summarise the main points of a 'child' article in its 'parent' article.

These options help navigation and allow the encyclopedia to flow, while also encouraging long-term article expansion.

Relevant Wikipedia processes[edit]

Frequently the concept can be applied when becoming involved with a variety of Wikipedia processes.

Speedy deletion nomination[edit]

If you have just created an article and it is nominated for speedy deletion, it can be sensible to state on the article's talk page that you are still working on the article. It can also help to explain your aims for the article and its potential notability. Often adding context to the article will help in the short-term to establish the potential of an encyclopedic entry on a topic.

Proposed deletion nomination[edit]

If an article is proposed for deletion and you think the article has potential to address the concerns raised, such as notability, then you can simply remove the {{Prod}} template from the article. It is polite to state (often on the article's talk page) why you think the article should be kept; such as citing sources (often those on the internet) that the article can use giving the topic notability and making deletion unnecessary. If an article is deleted by the proposed deletion process, it is possible to make a request to an administrator to undelete it, based on its potential for improvement and expansion.

Articles for deletion nomination[edit]

Articles are frequently nominated for deletion because of their current state, not their potential as an encyclopedic entry. These nominations can often result in de facto time limits of about seven days (changed from five in April 2009) for an article to either improve, or be deleted and sometimes merged. This can cause problems, as frequently editors simply do not have time to fix articles within such a short time period. In these cases it is helpful to alert the discussion that the article has potential to be made into a successful encyclopedic entry, and that more time is needed to improve the article. It can also be helpful to quickly remove content of an article which is causing problems, and to add templates to the article as necessary.

Merge suggestions[edit]

Sometimes it will be suggested that an article be merged with another article. If you are against a merge because you think the article's topic is notable enough for its own entry, it is sensible to explain why on the article's talk page. When discussing mergers it is also wise to think of the long-term, such as the possibility of an article getting too long.

See also[edit]