What do you mean I can ‘edit’ Wikipedia?

Here at Wiki Education, we believe in the power of a crowd sourced Wikipedia article. With each iterative change to important topics from behavioral ecology to women’s history, Wikipedia becomes a better, more well referenced resource for the world. Wiki Education exists to enable as many people to improve Wikipedia as possible. Part of that role is helping newcomers understand the process for making those changes.

Does someone approve my comment?

Is there an editor who will review my work before it goes live?

Who approves this stuff?

Well finally, some answers!

That pesky “edit”

An editor adds a citation to an article.

In academia, an editor is generally someone who reviews a publication before it gets approved. But on Wikipedia, an editor is anyone who comes to the site, clicks edit, makes a change (like adding a citation, for example), and saves their work. Thus, “editing” means something pretty different on Wikipedia.

Because there is no official process for approving work on the site, Wiki Education doesn’t approve student work before it goes live. However, our Wikipedia Experts are available to give feedback and support to both students and instructors as they complete the process. Other experienced Wikipedia editors on the site may also provide feedback, as they expect students to follow the policies set by the community (just as they would expect from any other editor). Students become familiar with those policies and are prepared to make quality edits by completing our training modules.

The students and scholars we support all become Wikipedia editors, helping grow the world’s largest free information resource with every well-referenced click of the save button. Rather, students contribute to articles and other devoted Wikipedia editors with an interest in the same topic often provide feedback or build off of their work.

What’s an article anyway?

In a newspaper or magazine, an article usually represents a summary or discussion of a specific topic. Journalistic articles often include primary sources like interviews, as well as a review of secondary information. On Wikipedia, in a broad sense, an article is the same: a Wikipedia article is a summary of the secondary literature around a specific topic. Along with article in reference to a specific subject covered on Wikipedia, others might also say Wikipedia page or Wikipedia topic – phrases possibly taken from our encyclopedic roots, when one might flip to a specific page or topic in an actual encyclopedia. (While a page on Wikipedia has it’s own URL, it is not a distinct webpage.)

You’ll find that our resources, including the new “Article Finder” Dashboard feature use the term article.

You’re playing in a Sandbox?

Another common confusion is about how and where work is drafted that eventually goes on Wikipedia. For example, many don’t know that users on Wikipedia, including all students, scholars, and scientists that we support, draft their work in their Wikipedia sandbox. This is a personal place on Wikipedia specifically allocated for practice, where users can format their work properly, add citations, and prepare their contributions until they are ready to be moved live. Every logged in user has one!

A sandbox is just one of a series of user sub-pages that exist on Wikipedia – including your userpage, your sandbox, and your user talk page. We know these terms can be confusing for new users, so we actually drafted a specific training series about Sandboxes, Talk Pages, and Watchlists.

Have more questions about incorporating a Wikipedia assignment into your course? Reach out to contact@wikiedu.org with your questions!


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