Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/News/July 2010/Editorials
Opportunities for new military history articles, by Nick-D
A common explanation for the decreasing number of new articles being created is that most of the obvious topics have now been taken. While it is certainly true that articles on all the major military history topics have been started (in most cases several years ago), that doesn't mean that there are no further opportunities for article creation. The following article outlines my experiences in finding new topics for military history articles in the last few years and areas where I think fairly easy opportunities for article creation remain. I've focused on World War II in the examples only as this is the area I'm most familiar with; similar opportunities exist for many other military history related topics.
- Article worthiness
The main determinant of whether something is 'article worthy' is if it meets the criteria set out in the guideline Wikipedia:Notability and the various subsidiary guidelines (of which Wikipedia:Notability (people) and Wikipedia:Notability (organizations and companies) are most relevant for military history topics). In short, these guidelines require the existence of "significant coverage in reliable secondary sources" before an article can be created and for the topic to not violate any of the categories at WP:NOT. However, there are no hard and fast rules of what 'significant coverage' means, and the general inclination of most editors participating in article for deletion discussions is to err on the side of keeping the article if it is sourced, neutral and written on a fairly sensible topic. As a result, there's plenty of leeway to create articles on interesting topics.
General guidance on indicators of notability for military history-related topics is available at Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/Notability guide. My suggestions for the minimum level of sourcing which is required to support an article are as follows:
- Several pages on the topic in more than one book (the number of pages needed to support a good-quality article can be surprisingly small if the 'density' of the information is high)
- An article focused on the topic in an academic journal or good-quality magazine
- Several non-related news stories in different major media outlets about a person, organisation or event over time
- Current gaps
Taking the above into account, what are some opportunities for new articles? My suggestions are as follows:
- Under-represented topics - We have surprisingly few articles on many important topics. For example, there are few articles on the role women have played in the military and I've got no doubt that the distribution of articles in the English-language Wikipedia is slanted towards topics which have involved English-speaking people (for instance, the coverage of ships and notable military units from non-English speaking countries is patchy)
- Thematic topics - Wikipedia still has few cross-cutting articles that discuss a particular theme rather than a specific event or thing. Articles such as Horses in World War I and Battleships in World War II show just how much potential there is.
- The evolution of things - Structural history of the Roman military is an excellent example of an article tracing how something changed over time. Similar articles could be developed for many long-standing military organisations and there is a large literature on this topic.
- Sub-articles - While these are generally split from larger articles to provide more detailed coverage, they offer an interesting opportunity for new articles. Early life and military career of John McCain and Wehrmacht forces for the Ardennes Offensive are good examples of articles on an important part of a larger topic. There's also lots of scope to create articles on notable variants of various important weapons systems - General Dynamics/Grumman F-111B is an example.
- Articles on forgotten topics - Wikipedia provides a good opportunity to highlight topics which have historically been under-emphasised. For example, as most accounts of the Pacific War emphasise the ferocity of the combat I'd always assumed that few Japanese soldiers had surrendered. When I looked into the topic it turned out that as many as 50,000 surrendered during the war, leading me to create the Japanese prisoners of war in World War II article. Most of the African civil wars of the twentieth century and before are horrendously undercovered, eg First Congo War, Second Congo War.
- Second-level battles - Sure, we've had an article on the Battle of Kursk since June 2002. However, many other significant but less important battles of the war on the Eastern Front are article-worthy thanks to the massive, and often very detailed, literature on this war. The same applies to many other wars.
- 'Routine' battles - Many 'routine' wartime events such as contested convoys and major air raids have received considerable coverage in specialised sources which can easily be used to support articles.
- Logistics - There's a massive amount of literature on how military units have been supplied across history, but few Wikipedia articles on the topic. It would be easy to write an article on a topic such as British logistical support for the Burma campaign, for instance, and these are topics of genuine importance.
- Military exercises and operations not involving combat - For obvious reasons these are often covered in detail in military journals and are important topics. Landing on Emirau is a very good example of a high-quality article on a major military operation which involved almost no combat.
- Military historians and books - There's a large and interesting body of literature on military historiography and many military history books are extensively reviewed in major newspapers and academic journals (thereby meeting the requirements of WP:NBOOK), yet there aren't many articles on these topics.
- Missing major topics - Yes they still do exist. For instance, coverage of the battles fought in the last 12 months of the Pacific War is surprisingly limited.
- Strategies for finding new topics
Some strategies which I've used to find new article topics are:
- Read detailed accounts of topics and specialised military publications - These often provide enough detail on lesser-known topics to support an article. Official histories and the professional journals most western militaries now publicly publish are particularly useful in this regards.
- Look for red links - While not as common as they used to be, there are still lots of red links around.
- Follow up on to-do lists - Many Wikiprojects and some Military History project task forces have central 'to-do' lists; Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific military history task force#To-do is one example.
- Random selection - I've created articles on topics I've picked at random from the Oxford Companion to Australian Military History and books taken from the shelves in libraries.
- Photos - If you see a bit of military hardware drive, fly or sail past, or walk by a military installation, take its photo and then find out what it is and if there's an article on it. If there isn't and the topic is notable, the photo will give you a head start with creating an interesting article. Museums and exhibitions are a great source of photogenic material (one tip is to photograph the item of interest and then the item's display/information card as well - it makes identifying and researching the subject much easier).
- Personal interest - Think of any questions you'd like answered, and see if Wikipedia has an article which provides the answer. If not, you can research the topic and start the article.
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