Wikipedia:Contributing to Wikipedia

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A downloadable "Editing Wikipedia guide" in PDF form written by the staff at the Wikimedia Foundation

This page provides information and the resources needed to comprehend, comment on, and contribute to Wikipedia. If you came to this page with the intent to "donate" to the Wikimedia Foundation; the organization that runs Wikipedia, please see Ways to Give. If you just want help on searching and browsing the encyclopedia, see Help:Navigation.

Our goal here at Wikipedia is to create a web-based, free content encyclopedia on all branches of knowledge, in an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation. Don't be afraid to contribute as you are encouraged to be bold in editing in a fair and accurate manner. We're glad you wish to help develop Wikipedia, and we hope you enjoy participating in this virtual community. To experiment with editing, anyone can use the sandbox. The Wikipedia:Community portal lists tasks that you can help with. Articles of the most pressing importance can be found at Wikipedia:Backlog.

Getting started

A short video about that "Edit" button and what it can do when you are bold! (1:06 min)
A short video about people like you who edit Wikipedia. (1:26 min)
Related pages: Welcome to Wikipedia and Help:Getting started

As a new contributor, you may feel a little overwhelmed by the sheer size and scope of this project called Wikipedia. Don't worry too much if you don't understand everything at first, as it is acceptable to use common sense as you go about editing. Wikipedia not only allows you to create, revise, and edit articles, but it wants you to do it. You just need to remember that you can't break Wikipedia and although there are many protocols, perfection is not required as Wikipedia is a work in progress. Collaborative editing means that incomplete or poorly written first drafts can evolve over time into excellent articles.

Learning the ropes

Related page: Wikipedia:Introduction

Aside from this page there are some other introductions to the project. The Wikipedia tutorial (comprehensive) and Newcomers training (basic), are step-by-step guides explaining what this place is all about and how to contribute. The Wikipedia Adventure is a comprehensive and fun 7-mission interactive guided tour, which covers all the essentials about editing and the expectations and norms of the Wikipedia community.

Creating an account

You do not have to log in to read Wikipedia. You do not have to log in even to edit articles on Wikipedia. Just about anyone can edit almost any article at any given time, even without logging in. However, creating an account is free and has several benefits (for example, the ability to create pages, upload media and edit without one's IP address being visible to the public). To create an account in seconds, click the "Create an account now" link below and fill out the few required fields. This will be logged, your account will be created, and you will be provided with a link back to this page.

Create an account now

The Wikipedia community, standards and principles

Policy: Wikipedia:Policies and guidelines
How to pages: Help:Introduction to policies and guidelines and Wikipedia:Simplified ruleset
A video that articulates the diversity and enthusiasm of the Wikipedia Community by editors like you. (4:10 min)

Wikipedia does not employ hard-and-fast rules and there is no need to read any page before editing. However, some standards and behavioural expectations may be enforced. General social norms should be followed by all Wikipedia editors. The Wikipedia community is made up of people from different countries and cultures, with different views, perspectives, opinions, and backgrounds, sometimes varying widely. Editors should treat each other respectfully, work together collegiately, and avoid behaviour that would be widely seen as unacceptable, disruptive, tendentious, or dishonest.

Policies, guidelines, and formatting norms are developed by the community to describe the best practices, to clarify principles, resolve conflicts, and otherwise further our goals. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia and, as a means to that end, an online community of individuals interested in building and using a high-quality encyclopedia. Therefore, there are certain things that Wikipedia is not and common mistakes that should be avoided. The five pillars is a popular summary of the most pertinent Wikipedia principles.

Discussion and consensus

Guideline page: Wikipedia:Talk page guidelines
How to pages: Help:Introduction to talk pages and Help:Using talk pages
A screencast demonstrating how to use a talk page. (2:43 min)

Behind the scenes of Wikipedia articles, there is a large community of volunteer editors working to build the encyclopedia. It is not uncommon for editors to disagree about the way forward. That is when discussion and an attempt at reaching consensus should take place. Every article on Wikipedia has a talk page, reached by clicking the Talk tab just above the title (for example, Talk:Alexander the Great). There, editors can discuss improvements to the content of an article. You can participate too! If you ever make a change that gets reverted by another editor, discuss the change on the talk page! The BOLD, revert, discuss cycle is a popular method of reaching consensus, and may be useful for identifying objections, keeping discussion moving forward and helping to break deadlocks. Some editors will see any reversion as a challenge, so be considerate and patient. While discussing matters, it is very important that you conduct yourself with civility and assume good faith on the part of others.

Most other types of pages on Wikipedia also have associated talk pages, including the User page each editor is assigned once they sign up. When other editors need to contact you, they will usually do this by leaving a message on your talk page. When someone has left you a message that way, you will see a notice the next time you log in or view a page on Wikipedia.

There are many other types of discussions that take place on Wikipedia. For example: Articles for deletion is where editors discuss whether or not an article should be deleted; requested moves is the launching point for debating the retitling of pages; and the village pump is a centralized area for discussion where editors debate various aspects of the encyclopedia project, such as proposals for new features and policy changes.

The basics of contributing

A short video about the satisfaction editors get from contributing. (1:23 min)
Policy page: Wikipedia:Editing policy

Wikipedia is the product of thousands of editors' contributions, each one bringing something different to the table, whether it be: researching skills, technical expertise, writing prowess or tidbits of information, but most importantly a willingness to help. Nobody owns articles, so if you see a problem that you can fix, do so. Everyone is encouraged to copyedit articles, add content and create new articles if they have knowledge about the topic at hand or are willing to do the necessary research to improve it. Writing in an encyclopedic style with a formal tone is important when adding content and creating new articles. Instead of essay-like, argumentative, or opinionated writing, Wikipedia articles should have a straightforward, just-the-facts style.

Article development and content protocols

Short video explaining the concepts of "Verifiability" and "Neutral point of view". (2:10 min)

Articles make up the bulk of Wikipedia's mainspace. Each article is on one topic (rather than a word and its definition, which belong, if at all, in Wikimedia's dictionary project called Wiktionary). The goal of a Wikipedia article is to create a comprehensive and neutrally-written summary of existing mainstream knowledge about a topic. Accordingly, Wikipedia does not publish original research. An encyclopedia is, by its nature, a tertiary source that provides a survey of information already the subject of publication in the wider world. Accordingly, and because Wikipedia is open to editing by anyone, we require that information be verifiable in reliable sources. Ideally all information should be actually cited to reliable sources to evidence it is verifiable. However, we only mandate citations for quotations, and any material whose verifiability has been challenged or is likely to be challenged. Sourcing requirements are significantly stricter in articles on living persons. Please note though that we strongly discourage people from writing about themselves, their friends, bands, websites, companies or organizations, pet projects, personal vendettas, campaigns and any other topic in which they have a conflict of interest.

The quality of Wikipedia articles varies widely; many are very good, but some lack depth and clarity, contain bias, or are out of date. In general, high-quality articles have these elements: a lead section that gives an easy-to-understand overview, a clear structure, balanced coverage, neutral content, and are based upon and verifiable in reliable sources.

Wikipedia:Featured content represents the best of what Wikipedia has to offer. These are the articles, pictures, and other contributions that showcase the polished result of the collaborative efforts that drive Wikipedia. All "featured" content undergoes a thorough review process to ensure that it meets the highest standards summarized at featured article standards, and can serve as an example of our end goals. A "featured article" or "list" is indicated by the symbol (Featured article) in the top right corner of a page. "Good articles" are those that are considered to be of fairly high quality, having undergone a similar but less rigorous review process to meet the good article criteria. The symbol (Good article) in the top right corner of a page indicates "good article" status.

Some of Wikipedia's most important topics are listed at Wikipedia:Vital articles. You can look at the table of contents on that page to choose a subject category you know about or are interested in. Choose an article, try to improve it so it matches the good article criteria or even better yet the featured article criteria, which provide models for ideal content and structure. An important way you can help is by creating requested articles.

How to edit

How to page: Help:Editing
Editing tutorial for Wikipedia using classic wiki markup. (3:07 min)

Editing most Wikipedia pages is easy. Wikipedia uses two methods of editing: classic editing through wiki markup (wikitext) and through a new VisualEditor (VE). The explanations and video directions on this page deal with wikitext editing (the method most used). For instructions on using the VisualEditor, see the VisualEditor user guide. The VisualEditor software is intended as a user-friendly, "What You See Is What You Get" (WYSIWYG) editing aid allowing one to edit pages without the need to learn wikitext markup. It is only available to registered logged-in users through an opt-in available through personal preferences. (VisualEditor is in the beta testing stages, does not currently work with Internet Explorer, and has a number of known bugs and limitations.)

Normally editing is chosen by clicking the Edit tab at the top of a Wikipedia page (or on a section-edit link). This will take you to a new page with a text box containing the editable text of the page you were viewing. In this box, you can type in the text that you want to add, using wiki markup to format the text and add other elements like images and tables. You then should press the Show preview button to review your contributions for any errors. When you have finished editing, you should write a short edit summary in the small field below the edit-box describing your changes before you press the Save page button. This will help others to understand the intention of your edit. To avoid accidentally leaving edit summaries blank, you can select "Prompt me when entering a blank edit summary" on the Editing tab of your personal preferences.

Edit summary (Briefly describe the changes you have made)

 

This is a minor edit Watch this page

By clicking the "Save page" button, you agree to the Terms of Use and you irrevocably agree to release your contribution under the CC BY-SA 3.0 License and the GFDL with the understanding that a hyperlink or URL is sufficient for CC BY-SA 3.0 attribution.

Save page Show preview Show changes Cancel

Some pages are protected from editing. These pages have a View source tab instead of an Edit tab. You can still edit these pages indirectly, by submitting an "edit request" – a user with the ability to edit the protected page will respond to your request. You can submit a request by clicking on the View source tab on that page and using the "Submit an edit request" link at the bottom right.

Documenting sources

Guideline page: Wikipedia:Citing sources
How to pages: Wikipedia:Referencing for beginners and Help:Introduction to referencing
A screencast that walks through the essentials needed in citing your sources. (2:01 min)

This is an encyclopedia, so remember its a good practice to include references listing websites, newspapers, articles, books and other sources you have used to write or expand articles. Please understand that these sources should verify the information but you must not copy and paste text you find anywhere, except for short quotations, marked as such with quote marks and carefully cited to the source the quote was taken from. New articles and statements added to existing articles may be deleted by others if unreferenced or referenced poorly or if they are copyright violations.

Generally sources are added directly after the fact they support at the end of the sentence after any punctuation. Wikipedia permits editors to use any citation system that allows the reader to understand where the information came from, and strongly encourages use of inline citations to do so. Common methods of placing inline citations include footnotes, shortened footnotes and parenthetical references.

Inline citations are usually placed by inserting a reference between <ref> ... </ref> tags, directly in the text of an article. When one saves, that will display in the text as a footnote (e.g.[1][2]), and the source you keyed in will appear on the page in a collated, numbered list corresponding to the footnote numbers in the text, wherever a {{Reflist}} template or <references /> tag is present, usually in a section titled "References" or "Notes". If you are creating a brand new page, or adding references to a page that didn't previously have any, don't forget to add a references section.

A screencast that walks through how to use the various features of RefTools. (5:03 min)

There are a number of tools available to help with citation placement and formatting, some of which are internal tools and scripts and other are available from external sites. For an example of the former, RefToolbar is a JavaScript toolbar displayed above the edit box that provides the ability to automatically fill out various citation templates and insert them in the text already formatting inside <ref> tags. For an example of the latter, the Wikipedia citation tool for Google Books converts a Google Books URL into a filled-out {{cite book}} template ready to be pasted into an article. See Help:Citation tools for many others.

Markup, formatting and layout

Guideline page: Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Layout
How to pages: Help:Wiki markup, Help:Cheatsheet and Help:HTML in wikitext

Complicated articles may be best modeled on the layout of an existing article of appropriate structure and topic. Wiki markup is the syntax and keywords used by the MediaWiki software to format a page. Wiki markup is used extensively throughout Wikipedia for such things as hyperlinks, tables and columns, footnotes, inline citation, special characters and so on. An "edit toolbar" (as pictured below) is provided just above the edit box, which will allow logged in users (by selecting the option in personal preferences) to automatically place and format various aspects of wiki code. Many HTML tags can be used in wiki markup. You can check your HTML by using markup validation.

Advanced toolbar of vector skin.png

Article creation and notability

How to page: Wikipedia:Simple guide to creating your first article
A screencast demonstrating how to create a Wikipedia article manually. (7:50 min )

Before starting a new article please understand Wikipedia's notability requirements. In short, the topic of an article must have already been the subject of publication in reliable sources, such as books published by major publishing houses, newspapers, magazines, peer-reviewed scholarly journals and websites that meet the same requirements as reputable print-based sources. Information on Wikipedia must be verifiable; if no reliable third-party sources can be found on a topic, then it should not have a separate article. Wikipedia's concept of notability applies this basic standard to avoid indiscriminate inclusion of topics.

An Article Wizard is available to help you create articles — it is not required but will help you construct better articles. Only registered users may create articles directly, though people editing by their IP addresses can submit a proposed article through the Articles for Creation process, where it will be reviewed and considered for publication. Before creating an article, please search Wikipedia first to make sure that an article does not already exist on the subject, and please also review the article titling policy for guidance of what to name the article. Further information is provided at Wikipedia:Your first article and Wikipedia:How to write a great article, and please consider taking a tour through the Wikipedia:Tutorial so that you know how to properly format the article's content before creation.

Renaming and page deletion

The move option in the Vector skin appears when you move your mouse cursor over the small drop-down menu, shown here.

Wikipedia pages can be renamed by moving the page to a new title. This is done by clicking on the Move tab at the top of the page (you need to be registered and an 'autoconfirmed' user to be able to do this). Before you do so, please carefully review this checklist of things to consider before a page move. The main principles for choosing an article title are described at Wikipedia:Article titles. Do not move or rename a page by copying and pasting its content to a different title. Doing so fragments the edit history and Wikipedia's copyright licenses requires attribution of all contributors. You may not always be able to move a page yourself, and should refrain from doing so even if there is no technical impediment, where the rename would be considered controversial and thus should be discussed first. Technical limitations restricting direct moves include where the page is move protected, the target page is at a title protected from creation, or already exists and cannot be moved over a redirect. In such cases, and to list potentially controversial moves for discussion, please see Wikipedia:Requested moves for more information.

While almost anyone can edit and move articles, to keep things manageable, only administrators can delete them. Note that removing all text from a page does not delete it, it just leaves a blank page, which is discouraged as it is confusing to readers. For all the gritty details, see the deletion policy and how to delete a page. Please remember that the deletion process is about the appropriateness of the article for inclusion in Wikipedia. Therefore, please do not take it personally if an article you've contributed to or created is currently nominated for deletion or is already deleted. For the reasons why and the options available for retrieving data from deleted articles, see why was the page I created deleted? If the page is in your own user space (for example, starts with "User:YourName/" or "User talk:YourName/"), then you can request immediate deletion of the page at any time. Simply edit the page while logged in and put the template {{db-u1}} at the top of the page. An administrator will see that you added the template and that its a page in your user namespace and will delete it in most cases.

Images, sounds and videos

How to pages: Wikipedia:Media help, Help:Uploading images and Wikipedia:Picture tutorial
Dachshund puppies

To produce a thumbnail like this, use:
[[File:FILENAME|thumb |Example caption]]
A screencast that walks through how to upload files to Wikimedia Commons and add them to Wikipedia articles. (3:00 min)

Images, sounds and videos enhance articles greatly. A file that is already hosted on Wikipedia or the Wikimedia Commons can be inserted with the basic code "[[File:FILENAME|thumb|DESCRIPTION]]". ("Image:" can be substituted for "File:" with no change in effect; the choice between the two is purely a matter of editorial preference.) Using "thumb" generates a thumbnail of an image (the most common placement option), which is typically sized differently from the original image. Several options can affect a thumbnail's placement and size, and there are other methods for placing images not in a thumbnail format, such as in a frame, table or "infobox", which this summary page does not delve into.

Only logged in users can upload files under an appropriate title. The first step in uploading a file is to determine its copyright status. If a file is in the public domain, or bears a type of free copyright license compatible with the non-restrictive licenses we require for free reuse, then it can and should be uploaded to the Commons rather than locally to Wikipedia, so that all Wikimedia sites, including Wikipedias in other languages, have access to it. If the image is non-free then it cannot be uploaded to the Commons, but you may be able to upload it directly here at Wikipedia, if it meets our stringent standards for a claim of fair use in a particular article. Please ensure that the copyright status of any file you upload has been specified and we are allowed to use it on Wikipedia.

The Wikimedia Commons' File Upload Wizard and Wikipedia's File Upload Wizard, will guide you through the process of submitting media. All files uploaded are mirrored between Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons, and searchable from either one. There are various file formats available. For images, SVG, PNG, JPEG, XCF, GIF and TIFF formats are recognized (other image formats may be as well). For audio, use MIDI, or Ogg with FLAC, Speex, or Vorbis codecs. For video, use Ogg with the Theora video codec.

Wikipedia has a Graphics Lab, which aims to improve graphical content already stored on Wikimedia Commons and English Wikipedia. There is also Wikipedia:Requested pictures – a collection of wanted images. High quality images may be submitted for consideration as featured pictures if they meet the featured picture criteria. To help with sounds, go to Wikipedia:Requested recordings and see if you can fulfill any of the requests, while trying to meet the featured sound criteria. There is also spoken Wikipedia project, which aims to produce recordings of Wikipedia articles being read aloud.

Lists, tables and templates

Guideline page: Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Lists
How to pages: Help:List, Introduction to tables and Help:Template

Lists are essential to the organization and presentation of content on Wikipedia. Lists in articles and stand-alone lists are subject to Wikipedia's content policies and guidelines if they contain any of the four kinds of material absolutely required to have citations. Outlines on Wikipedia are a specific type of stand-alone lists designed to help a reader learn about a subject quickly, by showing what topics it includes, and how those topics are related to each other.

Tables on Wikipedia are a commonly-used way of displaying information, particularly in articles that contain data. Tables are also subject to Wikipedia's policies of verifiability and established facts. The simplest way to insert a table is with the editing toolbar. Although HTML table syntax also works, special wikicode can be used as a shortcut to create a table. The pipe (vertical bar) codes function exactly the same as HTML table markup, so a knowledge of HTML table code helps in understanding pipe code.

Templates are used throughout Wikipedia pages to promote consistency, display enriched content with ease, and avoid the necessity of duplicating material that is used over and over across numerous articles and pages. At its most basic, a template is a Wikipedia page created to be included in other pages. Common uses include to display notices, infoboxes, navigational boxes, standard warnings, special text formatting, unit conversions, calculations and many other purposes. The most common method of inclusion is called transclusion, where the wikitext of the target page contains a reference to the template, using the {{Template name}} syntax.

To help improve Wikipedia's lists, first find one that interests you at Portal:Contents/Lists of topics or Portal:Contents/Outlines and then help it match the featured list criteria. Ideas for creating a list may be explored at Wikipedia:Requested lists. See Wikipedia:Lists article alerts for details of ongoing tasks and talks about lists. To help with templates see Wikipedia:Template standardisation.

Portals and topics

Main page: Wikipedia:Portal

A Wikipedia portal helps users find a gathering point for a certain topic or related topics, so they can more easily find and navigate relevant information. Portals are subject to Wikipedia's core content policies. To help improve portals, first go to Portal:Contents/Portals and find a portal of interest. Then see if you can improve it to meet the featured portal criteria. A topic is a set of interrelated articles. With some hard work and dedication, you can help earn Wikipedia another featured topic. To see the criteria that need to be met for a featured topic, go to Wikipedia:Featured topic criteria.

Maintenance and programming

As well as editing content and media, many people at Wikipedia are involved in maintenance tasks. Most of these tasks can be done by any user and are vital to maintaining the encyclopaedia. These tasks include, fixing vandalism, welcoming newcomers, correcting wikilinks, link recovery, categorization, fixing common mistakes, and numerous behind the scenes projects like moving free images to Wikimedia Commons. Programming skills are especially valuable, to help write useful standalone scripts, or to improve the software that runs Wikipedia; see Wikipedia:Village pump (technical) and Wikipedia:Developers for more information.

Collaboration groups

WikiProjects are social groups of contributors (anyone may join them), who work together as a team to improve Wikipedia. These groups often focus on a specific topic area (for example, women's history) or a specific kind of task (for example, checking newly created pages). WikiProjects function as a central hub for editor collaboration and the organization of specific topics. Many large WikiProjects have collected some advice about how to apply Wikipedia's policies, guidelines, and essays to their specific subject area (for example, military history notability guide). The English Wikipedia currently has over 2,000 WikiProjects and they all have a variety of tasks to get done (for example, Canadian articles to improve).

Outstanding tasks and news

There are a multitude of specific and categorized tasks that anyone can help with, including: expanding short articles, checking and adding references, fixing original research, adding images, updating content, joining conversations, assisting with translation and correcting spelling and grammar errors. The community portal is a central location to find (and list) collaborations, tasks, and news about the English Wikipedia. The Wikipedia Signpost is a weekly, community-written and edited newspaper that covers stories, events, and reports related to Wikipedia.

Editing tools, gadgets and scripts

In addition to the previously mentioned editing aids, there are many other "Gadgets", "Tools", "Scripts" and "Bots" intended to simplify, make more efficient, or provide additional functionality to Wikipedians. "Wikipedia Gadgets" are JavaScript and/or a CSS snippets that can be enabled by checking an option in your preferences. Many of the "Wikipedia Tools" are hosted on external sites and perform a variety of task such as Reflinks, that edits references by adding basic information to bare URLs in citations. "Wikipedia User scripts" is a collection of JavaScript tools that, after installation in a user's common.js file, allow users to change Wikipedia's interface beyond the options available in preferences. "Wikipedia Bots" are automated or semi-automated programs that perform repetitive and/or mundane tasks; they require approval before they may operate.

Help resources and interactive assistance

The help resource system of Wikipedia consists of a wide variety of pages, written to differing levels of technical expertise and in widely varying styles. This variety however has its flaws: it is easy to navigate to a page that regurgitates the same information, contains concepts that have not already been covered, or is overly complicated for one's needs. In short, the effects can be quite frustrating at times. To browse help related pages see the help menu or help directory. Or you can use the search box at Help:contents (accessed at any time by clicking Help displayed on the left side of all pages). This search box is duplicated to the right for your convince. There is also a copy of a comprehensive published book, at Wikipedia: The Missing Manual.

Don't worry if you do get stuck, witness disruptive editing or are involved in a dispute; there are volunteers available to assist you. There are a number of help forums and services which allow users to ask questions, seek assistance, ask for administrative intervention and similar matters. For general matters related to using and editing Wikipedia, forums include: the help desk; the Teahouse; posting the template {{help me}} to your talk page or to an article's talk page, as well as a live assistance IRC channel at #wikipedia-en-help. More specific help forums include: Wikipedia:Media copyright questions, Wikipedia:Requested templates and requests for translation. To seek administrative assistance, Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents is for reporting serious incidents requiring administrative assistance and Wikipedia:Administrator intervention against vandalism is for reporting continuing simple vandalism, after appropriate warnings have been given without the conduct stopping. Finally, general knowledge questions (i.e., those unrelated to Wikipedia) are welcome at the various sections of the reference desk. See Wikipedia:Requests for a listing of services and assistance that can be requested on Wikipedia.

Further reading

Prominent related Wikipedia articles

Other contributing overviews
Editing related
Community related
Other ways to help
Encrypted connection(s)

External links

Informative and instructional publications
Note: books below may contain out-of-date information or images.
Information and resources by the Wikimedia Foundation
Informative and instructional websites

Listing of related articles

The blue bars below are navigation boxes listing related Wikipedia articles. Click "show" on the right to expand them.