Wikipedia:Article development

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Some of Wikipedia's articles are comprehensive from their inception, but most begin as stubs and ideally grow into well-written, comprehensive articles.

This page describes the stages in the life of an article, and lists the ways in which you can help an article grow into the next stage. Skipping stages is not only allowed—it is encouraged! The following categories should give you an idea of how articles typically grow on Wikipedia.

Stages of an article

Uncreated articles

Consider using a Wizard to help you create articles. See the Article Wizard.

Thank you.

Every article starts with an idea in the mind of a contributor. You can create articles about anything, as long as they belong in Wikipedia. It is a good idea to search first, so you are sure there has not been an article on the subject; if there is, a redirect may be appropriate. If you see a red link that strikes your fancy, create an article! (If you've not created an article before, see Your First Article.)

For more suggestions on how to think of subjects to contribute on, see Wikipedia:Contributing to Wikipedia.

Before you start, it's helpful to read the guidelines and tutorials on creating new articles to get an idea of what you should consider—such matters as the scope, format, references, and NPOV in a Wikipedia article.

Good ways to find articles to create:

Stubs

If you do not have the time to write a full article, consider writing a "stub". Stubs are very short articles—generally just a few sentences. These are the "ugly ducklings" of Wikipedia. With effort, they can grow into "swans".

Good ways to find and grow stubs:

Developing articles

Once a stub has real content, it is a real article. The vast majority of articles fall into this category. They may have weaknesses, and you are encouraged to copyedit them and, where you have the knowledge or do the necessary research, to add content.

Good ways to find and improve developing articles (see below for more information):

Good articles
How to get great articles up to featured quality

Featured article

This star symbolizes the featured content on Wikipedia.

The featured articles are what we believe to be the best articles in Wikipedia. Before promotion to featured status, articles are reviewed at Wikipedia:Featured article candidates for compelling prose, accuracy, neutrality, and completeness, according to our featured article criteria. Wikipedians tend to be proud of featured articles to which they have contributed.

Once an article is certified as featured, it joins an exclusive group of featured content which is showcased across various community pages, including Portals and WikiProjects. The article could also receive the distinction of being featured on the main page. Before the article is scheduled to appear on the main page, it should receive a last review and polishing where possible.

Featured articles present our best work to people who might not know about Wikipedia. This is an excellent way to recruit new Wikipedians and obtain donations, both of which help Wikipedia immensely.

Featured articles are well polished, but there are usually small improvements that can be made. Do not ever be afraid to correct mistakes or update information when you see an opportunity; few articles are perfect, even though perfection is always our goal. We have a formal procedure for encouraging Wikipedians to review and improve featured articles: Featured Article Review.

Featured articles

What constitutes a featured article

Good ways to display our best articles:

How to develop an article

Shortcut:

Suppose you want to create a first-rate, or even perfect, Wikipedia article that deserves to be listed among our featured articles (those considered by consensus to be Wikipedia's best articles). Your goal is then to meet the featured article criteria. Here is a guide to achieving this.

Research

Once you have decided on an encyclopedic topic, use Wikipedia's search engine to find out what related material we already have. That way, you discover what already exists and can later create good links to and from other relevant articles.

Additional research is usually necessary to write a great article. A great article has to be verifiable and cite reliable sources which ideally should include books or peer reviewed journal articles. Consider visiting a university or public library to identify and study the best sources. Consider searching Wikipedias in other languages, looking at what search engines such as Google can bring up, and reading the relevant articles from other encyclopedias, to form an idea of what topics should be covered, in what depth, to achieve a comprehensive summary coverage. The following sites may help you: Encyclopedia.com (free), AllRefer Reference (free), Factmonster, Encyclopedia Britannica School & Library Site (free in most libraries).

Finding relevant articles

There are several ways to find and retrieve articles online, without having to leave home. Google Scholar is an excellent source for finding sometimes-free online peer reviewed articles; note that the free articles' entries are quickly identifiable for having a "View as HTML" link in the result page. For a host of free, searchable newspapers, see Wikipedia:Free English newspaper sources.

Many libraries have agreements with database providers under which library users with current library cards can connect free to the databases from their home computers—that is, the users do not need to be physically present in the library. Check with your local public or academic library to find out to which databases it subscribes, and whether they have a mechanism in place for remote access. Some high-end databases (like InfoTrac and ProQuest) even carry scanned versions of articles as they were originally printed.

Examples of comprehensive general interest databases that may be available through your local library are:

  • EBSCO – Full academic version (Academic Search Premier) has full text of millions of articles from over 4,600 sources. Full public library version (MasterFILE Premier) has full text coverage of about 2,100 sources.
  • Infotrac – OneFile database has full text of about 90 million articles from 1980 to the present. Widely available at academic and public libraries throughout North America. Operated by Thomson Gale (formerly Gale Group), a subsidiary of the Thomson Corporation.
  • JSTOR – Has complete text of articles from several hundred scholarly journals from their beginning to approximately five years ago. Operated by a consortium of universities. They include most of the "high prestige" journals in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences.
  • LexisNexis – Full version (mostly accessed by lawyers and journalists) has millions of full-text articles (from magazines, journals, and newspapers), court opinions, statutes, treatises, transcripts, public records, and more. Academic version (available at many universities) offers large subsets of the legal and news databases.
  • ProQuest – Full version (ProQuest 5000) has full text of millions of articles from 7,400 sources as far back as 1971. The ProQuest Historical Newspapers database has images in PDF format of all issues of the New York Times published between 1851 and 2001. Most libraries offer access to only part of the huge ProQuest database, through account types like eLibrary, Platinum, Silver, Gold, or Discovery.
  • Questia Online Library allows full-text search and reading access to all 64,000+ books and 1,000,000+ journal, magazine, and newspaper articles in their collection. Their strength is full text of recent academic books by major publishers such as Oxford University Press, University of North Carolina Press, and Greenwood Press, along with thousands of older academic books that are available only in larger university libraries. Unlike most other online services, they offer short-term individual subscriptions for students and researchers.

Academic libraries often subscribe to special interest databases with in-depth coverage, of which there are far too many to list here.

  • Factiva – Provides multiple language interfaces and multilingual content covering nearly 9,000 sources.

Finding relevant books

If you are doing in-depth research on a complex or controversial subject, you should obtain relevant books in addition to articles. If the subject is of historical interest, you may have to visit a library to obtain articles that were published before 1980, since few online databases contain such old articles.

To find books or periodicals stored as bound volumes, the best place to start is with the catalog of your local public library. If you have searched the catalogs of several local libraries without success, try searching library "union" catalogs. With one search in a union catalog, it is possible to determine which books are available on a subject in an entire county, state, province, or country. The largest union catalog is OCLC WorldCat, which claims to have worldwide coverage, though most of its member libraries are in North America.

Only by citing the best sources in a field can a Wikipedia article be taken seriously by its critics. For more on this issue, see Wikipedia:Verifiability.

If you are creating a brand-new article (see Wikipedia:Your first article), there are a couple of naming conventions that you should follow.

Writing

Start your article with a concise lead section or introduction defining the topic at hand and mentioning the most important points. The reader should be able to get a good overview by only reading the lead, which should be between one and four paragraphs long, depending on the length of the article. See Wikipedia:Manual of Style (lead section).

Remember that, although you will be familiar with the subject you are writing about, readers of Wikipedia may not be, so it is important to establish the context of your article's subject early on. For instance, if you are writing an article about a sports event you should mention the sport and, if relevant, any national details: rather than

The Red Cup was a domestic league competition that ran between 1994 and 1996

it would be more helpful to write

The Red Cup was a domestic rugby league competition in New Caledonia that ran between 1994 and 1996

Again, rather than

Bobby the Salmon is a goalkeeper who joined the club in 2006

say

Bobby the Salmon is a football goalkeeper who joined Fulchester United in 2006

See our editing help for the format we use to produce links, emphasize text, lists, headlines etc. Make sure to link to other relevant Wikipedia articles. In addition, where appropriate, add links in other articles back to your article.

Do not simply copy-and-paste from one of the external resources mentioned above. See Copyrights for the details.

It is often a good idea to separate the major sections of your articles with section headlines. For many topics, a history section is very appropriate, outlining how thinking about the concept evolved over time.

If different people have different opinions about your topic, characterize that debate from the Neutral point of view.

Try to get your spelling right. Wikipedia does not yet contain a spell checker, but you can write and spell-check your article first in a word processor or text editor (which is a lot more comfortable than the Wikipedia text-box anyway) and then paste it into said text-box. Another option is an extension (such as ieSpell for Internet Explorer or SpellBound for Mozilla and old versions of Firefox – Firefox 2 and up feature built-in spell checking) that can be installed on your web browser and used as a spell checker in text boxes.

Keep the article in an encyclopedic style: add etymology or provenance (when available), look for analogies and eventual comparisons to propose. Be objective: avoid personal comments (or turn them into general statements, but only when they coincide), do not use personal forms (I found that...). The Wikipedia Manual of Style can help you with your English. You can post questions about English grammar and usage at the Wikipedia language and grammar desk.

Try to avoid using euphemisms, such as "passed away" for "died", or "made love" for "had sexual intercourse".

At the end, you should list the references you used and the best available external links about the topic. These references are what will allow Wikipedia to be the most trusted, reliable resource it can be.

Finishing touches

Finish the article with a good relevant image or graphic. See Graphics tutorials for practical help on drawing diagrams and modifying images, or make a request on the Graphic Lab. Many copyright-free image sources are listed at our public domain image resources. Please do not link to images on other servers; instead use the upload page. The sizing of images and other issues concerning images in articles are set out in the Manual of Style.

One way to get a good article is to bounce it back and forth between several Wikipedians. Use the Talk pages to refine the topic, ask for their confirmations, note their doubts: it is usually interesting to discover that, perhaps from the other side of the planet, after a while, some other contributors can check other sources, or propose different interpretations. The composition of a commonly agreed interpretation is the most important ingredient of a serious Wikipedia article.

It may also be useful to look up your subject in one of the foreign-language Wikipedias, such as the German or French editions. While the English-language Wikipedia is the biggest one in terms of the total number of articles it contains, you may find that other Wikipedias sometimes contain more in-depth articles, especially if the subject is of local importance. Even if your foreign language skills are not particularly developed, you may still glean important information from those articles, like birth dates, statistics, bibliographies, or the names of persons that are linked on the page. If you have incorporated the additional information, please also make the appropriate Interwiki links at the end of your article.

Do not neglect the External links and References sections. The most useful and accurate material that you have found with your Internet research might make good links for a reader, too. In addition, sometimes a standard work is mentioned repeatedly in connection with your topic. Mention it, with its author and publication date. Even better, obtain a copy and use it to check the material in the article.

In addition, remember to create links to your article from related articles and subjects. This includes any redirects your article may need, for instance redirects for other capitalizations of your article title, abbreviations, plural versions, alternative spellings or common misspellings. This helps people find your article and may even help you find a related, already-written article. You can also create redirects from related subjects or subtopics which do not yet have their own articles (redirects with possibilities).

Peer review

You are encouraged to ask for feedback about the quality of an article at any time. Ask your fellow editors for their opinions, list outstanding issues and areas to improve on article talk pages, get other editors involved. Networking to identify like-minded Wikipedians is one of the most important (and enjoyable) aspects of the project. It is best to have a reasonably well-developed article before you do this, so that those giving feedback have something substantial to analyze. Wikipedia:Peer review is the normal route for evaluating articles.

See also

Related information