Wikipedia:The End

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You've finally reached it!

There's a good chance you've arrived at this page because you feel like you can never find the end of Wikipedia's policies and you'll never reach the point where you can actually get started. If so, congratulations, you've finally reached it! You can get started right now. You may notice this page has no blue links in the main article text; that is to save you from thinking you have to click on everything before you feel you know anything. We want to teach you to be bold. This page is designed to help get you going, tell you the most useful things, and stop you getting dazed by the procedures.

How can I contribute without getting bogged down by rules?[edit]

Just remember a few of the most important principles, do your best to follow them, and learn from your mistakes. We've all been there.

Nature of Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a community encyclopedia, and works by collaboration and consensus. If something becomes too much work for you, try to network with others to get the job done. Dive in, have fun, and don't be afraid to ask for help. You can also get involved in one of the various "projects" if you have a special area of interest (see the link at the bottom of the article).

Core behavioural policies and guidelines

These make life easier, and are not designed to give people reasons to criticize you.

  • BE BOLD!!!: This is one of the most important guidelines on Wikipedia. Without it, no one would have ever taken their first step. Don't hesitate. If you make a mistake, someone will come along and undo it. If you get a complaint on your talk page (a message board specifically for you), don't worry. Read it, try to understand the person's point of view, and if you still don't understand, ask for more help (see below). Remember, if they are rude to you, and do not try to see your point of view, they are in the wrong. People who are persistently rude will get a warning, and can be blocked.
  • Please do not bite the newcomers: If you are new to Wikipedia, this one is for your benefit. We want you to stay, and enjoy your time here.
  • There is no ownership of articles: No one owns a Wikipedia article, no matter how much time they have spent on it. People are free to edit, although if they have put work into an article, it is usually a good idea to try to work with them.
  • Be civil: This is fairly self-explanatory. It is basically the essence of most of the behavioural rules. In summary, be nice to people, and all will be well.

Core content policies

  • Neutral point of view (NPOV): Wikipedia articles strive for neutrality. It can be complex trying to apply this in certain circumstances, especially when the topic is controversial, but people will usually be able to negotiate the situation.
  • Verifiability (V): Content must be verifiable, which means, ideally, referenced to a scholarly source in a peer-reviewed journal. You do not have to reference anything that is obvious, or common knowledge, but if it is likely to be challenged, you should try to find a suitable reference. If you know something to be true, you can ask for help finding a reference. Although you need references, don't worry about the precise formatting of references and footnotes when you are getting started. Someone else can fix them for the time being, so learn as you go.
  • No Original Research: You cannot put anything that constitutes an original synthesis, even if all the facts quoted are verifiable. As always, it is hard to apply, but any new theory on the causes of some event would be unacceptable, even if all the facts were well referenced.

User Interface[edit]

The user interface can seem a bit tricky. Try looking at the code in other articles to get a good example for how to do what you want to do. A great article with lots of different types of formatting is the article for the United States. You'll see examples of pictures, tables, quotes, shortcuts, info-boxes, references and citations, and many other examples on how to format your article. Try copy-pasting the formatting you'd like and tweak it to your uses. You can even play with these in what we call our "sandbox" (see link below). The sandbox allows you to play with all the code you like without anyone in the community getting upset at what you do.

Your first article[edit]

A lot of folks find it frustrating when trying to create their first article. It takes a lot of research and development before an article can be put in the spotlight. You'll learn more about the process from working on other articles first than by rushing into your own one. You'll have the best experience if you avoid controversial topics until you have more experience. Avoid topics like abortion, cold fusion, eastern Europe, Scientology, and other areas where you may find opposition. Give it time and you'll be ready to go head to head with the best of us.

How to solve problems[edit]

Example
An editor has proposed an article you just created about a band for speedy deletion because it "doesn't assert significance". You know you explained that the band won a major state competition. You go to the editor's talk page and respectfully explain that the subject is important because the state competition was highly covered in the media and that the article should not be speedy deleted.

The editor admits they missed that sentence, but still feels the article subject should not be on Wikipedia. However, instead of speedy deletion, they will propose the article go through deletion discussion instead where you will get the chance to explain why the competition gives the band notability.

On Wikipedia, when two editors have a disagreement or problem we call it a "dispute". There are several ways to solve disputes but first and foremost you need to keep calm, be patient, and assume that everyone is here for the same goal. Often there are accusations, or actual cases, of point of view pushing, vandalism, rudeness, and bias. Throwing out those accusations yourself is not going to help at all, as it will annoy them further. If you have a disagreement with someone, the best first step is to politely and respectfully address the issue with them on their talk page. If they don't immediately agree with you, that is okay. Keep trying to talk to them and maybe you two can work something out.

If not, the next logical step is to ask for someone else to weigh in. Try asking another editor you might know to give their opinion. Maybe they can talk to the user you are in a conflict, or dispute, with and get them to see your point of view. Or perhaps they can help you see the other point of view. If that doesn't work out, stay calm and stay respectful. The next place you want to go is to dispute resolution. You can find dispute resolution by typing "WP:DRN" without the quotes into the Wikipedia search box (make sure it isn't the search box on your browser though). At dispute resolution, continue to be positive and respectful and avoid making personal remarks. Explain your side of the situation and try to also explain the other side honestly. Use evidence to support your position and explain why you feel it is correct. Other editors will get involved and hopefully it can get worked out.

In the meantime, treat it all as a learning process. Perhaps down the road, the situation might change and your position might be accepted. Hopefully, either way, you've grown as a Wikipedian.

What is "notability"?[edit]

Unfortunately, Wikipedia cannot contain every line of thought that has ever crossed anyone's mind. The intention is to cover topics that are historically significant. To this end, we have developed several guidelines that relate to "notability". Generally, a topic must have been noted by someone not connected to the topic, and must have facts published about it in reliable sources about the topic. If what you want to write about has been in the news a lot or some books have been written about it, then we should cover it. That is a grey line but a good starting point.

Why are policies circular?[edit]

Sometimes it might feel like Wikipedia policies are exponential. There really is a finite number of essays and policies.

Lots of Wikipedia policies refer back to one another or forward to others. It may seem like you need to follow each blue link as you read to understand the context of our policies, but this isn't necessary. While it is true that you will understand the context better, you aren’t required to keep reading. Those blue links are there if you need them; you don't have to click on them.

Many of Wikipedia's policies are circular because they have been developed in consultation with lots of editors, with no one person controlling everything. So they can link all over the place. Learn them incrementally; don't try to absorb them all at once. This page tells you all the basics.

Why do policies sometimes contradict each other?[edit]

Wikipedia policies are meant to improve the encyclopedia, but they are not the law of the land. They were developed by many different editors, so they often didn't realize the disagreement. If confused, adopt a moderate approach, and work in consultation with others. When all else fails, you can "Ignore all rules" (see the link at the bottom if you really need to know).

Ask for help[edit]

Ask!

If you need help, ask. There are a lot of places to ask for help. You can ask on the administrator's noticeboard. You can ask on the talk page of any editors you happen to come across. You can even add a help me template on your own talk page to draw attention to your question.

To do the last suggestion, simply follow these steps.

  1. Click "My Talk" at the top right of your screen
  2. Click "New Section" or the "+" right below where you found "My Talk"
  3. Type your question
  4. Above your question, copy and paste the following: {{help me}}
  5. Click "Save page"

Someone will be along shortly. Alternatively, you can even ask the help desk (link below). The help desk is your one stop shop for any Wikipedia-related questions.

Have patience[edit]

Shortcuts:

And finally, please have patience with us. We understand your frustration, we've been there. Stay with us, and we will get you up to speed.

See also[edit]

These are some of the best pages to help you write at Wikipedia. You don't need to read them all (or the things they link to and so on!) to get started. But take a look, if this little essay didn't do it all for you.

Tools to use often
  • The help desk – Go here when you are confused. It is very well staffed by kind volunteers. Not all parts of Wikipedia are, but this one is!
  • The sandbox – Make any edit just to see how it comes out.
Policies and philosophies
  • Wikipedia:The answer to life, the universe, and everything, a concise "in-a-nutshell" explanation of Wikipedia's core policies regarding article content.
  • Notability – Do not write about your favorite aunt, high school teacher, pet, or garage band.
  • Verifiability – Since anybody can edit Wikipedia, the only way to make our articles trustworthy is to connect everything back to real books, academic journals, newspapers, etc.
  • Identifying reliable sources – The practical guide to finding all the books and journals and such to make Verifiability work.
  • Be bold! – The official policy on boldness, including when not to be bold (basically high view pages).
  • Ignore all rules – A philosophy to stop Wikipedia becoming so bogged down with rules that we don't do what is needed to help our readers.
Getting involved
  • WikiProjects – If you have a particular area of interest, you can join a WikiProject. There is a huge variety of them on Wikipedia, all of them devoted to working on articles related to a favourite hobby, sport or academic field. The WikiProject directory has a comprehensive list of all projects on Wikipedia.
Creating articles
  • Wikipedia:Your first article – It is highly recommended that you read this guide - or at the very least, the lead section which concisely summarizes WP's prerquisites for articles - and use the wizard linked below, before creating your first article.
  • Wikipedia:Article wizard – Guides you step-by-step through the article creation process. Also helps in determining whether or not the subject for which you intend to create an article adequately meets Wikipedia's notability guidelines at the present time, or if it would be better to wait and/or seek guidance from experienced editors before proceeding.