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Wikipedia How-To

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Wikipedia fun time! The act of actually writing on Wikipedia can be either a fun – if a bit tedious – process if you know what you’re doing. The downside is that if you’re new to the process, the experience varies between intimidating and insane. ¡No buenos, señores y señoritas! Here are some tips to make the process more intuitive.

Content

Your actual content is NOT like a traditional essay. This is very important to say first because this is the style most of us are probably accustomed to. Do NOT write in an essay form, because it won’t help you. Instead, write more on the lines of a casual blog post. Keeping it casual will make the style seem less intimidating.

That being said, your content must be purely objective. In other words, no personal opinions. Pretend you’re a journalist, having to cover all sides of an issue neutrally.

It’s important to say now that not everything needs to be cited. Just write, and worry about citation later. Citations add legitimacy, which is what you’re trying to do, not support claims with references. Remember, claims are regularly subjective, not objective, and we’re staying logical here.

The best question to ask yourself when wondering what information to add on your topic is “why does this information belong? What’s the point?” also, ask “Why does this article belong in an encyclopedia?” If you can’t find a good answer, your topic is likely to get scrutiny when published.

Format

The format of Wikipedia is highly specific. The only thing that’s written like a Wikipedia article is a Wikipedia article. The mechanics are REALLY confusing. But the fact is: you don’t need to know them. If you keep using Wikipedia, you’ll learn them.

But you will have to format some, or else your article will be deemed unacceptable by moderators. The best tactic I’ve found, since I’m still a novice myself, is this: find a topic similar to your own, and write it like an add lib of information.

For instance, let’s pretend I want to write an article about The Beatles, assuming it didn’t exist. I have all the info, but I’m not sure how to format. For guidance, I will navigate to the article for The Rolling Stones, which has already been created. The Stones are similar to The Beatles, given they’re both rock bands in the same time period. Copy+paste the Stones article in a word document, remove Stones info, and replace directly with Beatles info!

In personal example, my article was on Extra Credits, a webseries. I found a separate webseries, Zero Punctuation, copy+pasted it directly, and modified this article for my own purposes, with a similar format, but new and appropriate content. If you want to see the actual changes I made, glean both articles.

References

Remember this: references are NOT meant to support your content. You are not trying to JUSTIFY your article. You are attempting to legitimize your article. You are not asking “how is this information supported,” you are asking “what sources will qualify this information to appear in an encyclopedia?”

Quantity over quality. The more references you have, the better. However, your sources must be reliable. Wikipedia defines reliable as “verifiable.” What the crap is that, you ask?

Firstly, it means NO PRIMARY SOURCES. A primary source is something directly associated with your topic. Let’s say I’m writing about The Beatles. If the Beatles had a blog, this would be a primary source. If they had a YouTube, it would be a primary source. It doesn’t count. You can use these sources for direct quotes to support your claims, but it will NOT make your article verifiable by Wikipedia standards.

Let’s say I’m still writing about The Beatles. Let’s also pretend I found a really smart blog, where a person had an interview with John Lenon himself! It’s great, and John talks all about the band and every one of his songs in great depth. This is not a good source. This is considered an “unverifiable” source because there is no editorial staff, no matter how awesome the content is.

The references you are looking for are websites with an editorial staff. Any sort of publication is considered legitimate (except for tabloids, which are often blacklisted and not allowed on at all anyway). Good ideas for sources are newspapers, scholarly websites, and books.

_________________

And that’s that! If you have questions, leave comments! I’ll answer anything you’ve got for me. If you want a faster response, hit me up on Twitter. I check it more often.

The following content does not apply to our drafts. But read if you’re interested or have nothing better to do!
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Mechanics

Note that for our drafts, we probably don’t have to worry about the mechanics, so feel free to skip this part for now. But when we begin imputing the info into Wikipedia, this will be helpful.

Then there are the mechanics. These are more difficult to discuss, because they are HIGHLY complex. The way I learned the mechanics was again, to see how other articles are laid out. Go to any wikipedia page. Near the top right of the article, you’ll see a button that says: “edit.” Open a new tab or window to this link. It’ll show you the format page.

This is where you actually construct your article when you’re uploading it. If you’ve done as directed, you’ll see the same article, but with lots of freaky looking markings and symbols. It should look REALLY confusing. Don’t panic.

Glance back and forth between these pages. Look on the real article, find a few lines of text, and compare with the edit page. You’ll see the same text wrapped around strange symbols, like this: ==text==

This is specific coding for Wikipedia. There are lots of rules to it, and it’s only used on Wikipedia. You don’t need to learn this, just deal with it for now. If you’re doing an add lib as mentioned, simply replace the material on this edit page with your own material. This way, the format has already been laid out, and you’re applying a new set of wallpaper. Easy peasy!

The one mechanic you should learn is in-linking. These are links that direct to other Wiki articles. They are symbolized by a double-bracket on both sides of the word. For instance, If I wanted to link to The Beatles page, I would type: [[The Beatles]]. This will create a clickable blue link in your final product. Sometimes, you’ll end up with a red link. This is a link that doesn’t lead anywhere. Don’t worry about this – another editor will probably fix this for you.

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Written by Chris Fox

19 October, 2011 at 10:14

Posted in Superfluous

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