Students are often told that Wikipedia is not a reputable source. Though some professors may frown upon students citing the encyclopedia in their papers, they have been increasingly incorporating it into their curriculum since Wikipedia launched in 2001. Academic approaches vary, from asking students to copyedit articles to prompting them to create their own articles based on course content. By contributing to Wikipedia, students can improve their own writing while also engaging in the large community of editors.
Creating an Account
Wikipedia is the sixth most popular website in the world. Unless you want your real name attached to all of your edits and popping up in Google searches, it’s best to choose an anonymous username (you can always change your username later, if you want). To create an account:
- Click create account in the top right corner.
- Choose a username and secure password.
- Click create account at the bottom.
The talk page (find the talk tab at the top of each article) is where people can post about any concerns they have with information in the respective article, or respond to others’. Each contribution is marked with the author and time it was posted. There are sections for each issue, so to contribute a new concern, find Click here to start a new topic near the top of the page. To reply to someone who has already posted something, click edit at the far left of the respective topic heading. It is a good idea to check the talk page before you begin making any edits to an article. You can also use this space to explain the reasoning behind your edits, if you feel it necessary.
Every edit is saved in Wikipedia, so you never have to worry about accidentally deleting information or making a bad edit. You can revert back to any version of the page at any time. Find the View history tab at the top right corner of each article. Here you will see each edit by the second, along with the author and reason for editing. This is valuable if you make a mistake and want to revert back to a previous edit. To view a specific edit, click on the revision date.
Navigating the Site
Your sandbox (find the Sandbox link at the top right of the screen) is your own page where you can freely practice your editing. Think of it as a dummy article. You can navigate between the Read, Edit, and View History tabs at the top of the page. The Edit tab directs you to a blank text box where you can make all of your edits (just like you would for a real article). After you type in your contribution or revision, give a brief reason for your edit under Edit Summary, like “added new section” or “fixed link,” the same way you would when editing a real page. All of your edits are saved, so you can go into View History to see them or revert back to a previous version of the page.
References and Reliable Sources
Since Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia, and perused daily by millions, it is vital that all articles cite reliable, secondary sources as references. Every source must be recorded and added under the References heading at the bottom of each article. It’s important to pull from trustworthy sources so that readers can easily verify information. To quote Wikipedia, “Ideally, all non-obvious facts in an article should be supported by a reference.” Additionally, all photos must be public domain.
If you have further questions about referencing, or want to make sure your source is reliable, consult Wikipedia’s reliable sources wizard.