Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/News/March 2011/Editorials
Reviewing FACs and ACRs – Dank and friends
We're happy to see more articles showing up at our A-class review and as featured article candidates, but more articles means we need more reviewers! This month, we asked some frequent writers and reviewers of Featured Articles: "Is there anything that new reviewers could do at FAC that you would find particularly helpful?" Much of this advice applies to A-class review as well.
From Sturmvogel 66:
- No technical qualifications are needed; you don't need to know the MOS inside and out. Just read the article and see if it reads well, etc. If you do know the MOS that's a plus, but hardly necessary.
From HJ Mitchell:
- The basic checks like dabs, dead links, image licenses (NFCC compliance if they know their way around the filespace), typos etc. That saves time for other reviewers. Prose isn't difficult to check, either, and the simpler parts of the MoS can be got to grips with easily.
- Anyone who gets good at spotting even one of the points mentioned at the Milhist A-class checklist will be helping out the copy editors a lot. If you are supporting only part of the article, please say that; many of the articles I review have typos and other obvious problems that other reviewers could have fixed themselves, but didn't. (More about that in next month's column.)
From Malleus Fatuorum:
- There are loads of simple things, like checking whether all of the cited sources either do or don't have a location specified, but by far the most useful thing any reviewer can do is to read the article – all of it – and try to understand it. I not infrequently oppose articles because of their prose, but only when in my opinion it compromises the reader's experience.
- I've not had much FAC experience [but tons of A-class experience! –Editor], but one suggestion I have is before jumping in with a review, a new reviewer should probably read a couple of old reviews first. This will help give them a "feel" for the process and see what they could look at, e.g. either a single aspect (MOS, images, copyright, etc.) or the whole article (comprehensiveness, readability, etc.).
From The ed17:
- Personally, as a new reviewer, I found it easy to step into FAC and/or A-class reviews by just reading through the articles and remarking on what sounded weird to me. That's still my most common review I do. The more complex reviews, like reference reviews, can be picked up after observing others do them. I picked up the tricks of reference reviewing from watching Ealdgyth (talk · contribs) at 'my' articles' and others' FACs.
- In short: focus on the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the content and quality of the writing and references. FACs often end up with, in my view, an excessive amount of attention being placed on MOS issues (though this situation has gotten better in the last year), and this is discouraging for both new reviewers and editors considering nominating an article for a FAC. There's no need for FA reviewers to be MOS experts - all that's needed is attention to detail.
- A couple of [Sandy's] points in particular might be good to emphasize, mainly those about not needing to do the whole thing. That's a main reason I don't touch FA reviews very often; most are easily 30kb+ of prose, and I don't feel right only reviewing part and stopping (i'm a guy who has to read an article all at once). I'm sure others have that same irk, so if they know it's entirely fine to just touch on what they know/what they can read/what they got through with their time then it could help bring in more readers/reviewers. Every little bit helps.
- If you don't feel up to the task of reviewing an entire article, you can just review sections/content you want. Don't be afraid to point out something you feel is a problem; just be ready to defend your perspective just like the nominator has to (or you can explain your reason upfront if you feel it will be contentious). Usually pointing something out isn't an issue, but sometimes it can be. If you don't know about the subject, try reading all/most of the article first. You should definitely check for copyright violations.
- Well, it'd be helpful for someone to do spotchecks for copyvio/plagiarism and to do image licensing checks, but those are both things that newer reviewers tend not to be comfortable with (or, in most cases, good at). Personally, I started at FAC with two main reviewing tasks: dab/deadlink checking (using the tools at the top of the FAC page, takes only a couple minutes to do and isn't too daunting) and offering random comments on stuff I didn't understand in the article. The latter of these is particularly helpful now because it (usually) represents non-specialist review and a clarity check, and it can flag an article for review by a more experienced prose reviewer.
- Don't be too worried about (or intimidated by) all the talk about the MOS. Those (few) parts of the MOS which are genuinely important, someone else will be looking out for. Read the article top-to-bottom; if there's anything that doesn't make sense to you, anything that seems to be missing, or anything that seems inappropriate, point it out. Nominators are (obviously) familiar with the topic, and often omit important but basic information which is so obvious to people working in the field that it's never mentioned in textbooks, but which casual readers won't know. (The people who write articles on animals are no doubt sick to death of me asking "What do they eat?" at FAC.) If you're going to oppose on stylistic issues (dashes, images, formatting, infoboxes, reference style…), make sure you're familiar with the relevant policies—and it never hurts to double check, since style guidelines change quite often—since there's a reasonable chance the article is intentionally formatted in that way for good reason and opposition will just annoy people—but if you're confident that the article is misformatted, don't be afraid to point that out.
From Ian Rose:
- When the subject of reciprocity in FAC (or ACR/PR/GAN) comes up, people often say they agree that one should review others' entries when they've put up an article for review, but they're not confident about it, or those on offer are not their line of country, content-wise. I've also heard old hands say they're unsure about "letting loose" less experienced reviewers in the system. We need to try and break this dual-edged syndrome. If you have the confidence to put up "your" article up for review, you should know enough about the assessment criteria to do some reviewing. It doesn't matter what the content of an article is, you can still check and comment upon the following:
- consistency in formatting (dates, abbreviations, citations, etc),
- citations for every statement or at least at the end of every paragraph,
- appropriate licensing for each image, and
- depending on your skill level in English, prose (readability, grammar, logic of expression, etc)
- All of the above need to be reviewed for each article under assessment, and this covers a large chunk of FA criteria. If a new reviewer has to leave coverage and accuracy to others, that's okay, at least they've contributed something useful.
- Shorten reviews ... if they have a lot of nit-picks, put them on the article talk page. FAC is for determining if an article meets WIAFA, not where articles should be substantially rewritten in a peer review. FAC should be Oppose with short examples, Support with explanation of extent of review, or brief commentary of things that may need attention.
- State exactly what their background and involvement is with the article.
- Be aware that ill-conceived commentary can be offensive to nominators-- if you're unsure of something, say so. Keep it brief so you don't doom the FAC with lengthy debate.
- Review anything you can ... if you can't review enough to enter a support, state exactly what you have reviewed ... that could be images, sources, we particularly need some plagiarism, close paraphrasing spot checks, MOS, prose ... anything.
- We particularly need reviewers not familiar with a topic to review them for jargon, readability, context ... if you don't know a topic, feel free to review it for readabilty, but try to avoid entering stupid commentary on subjects you may not be familiar with ... just say, reads well, or jargon thick.
- Scan the entire page to see where your input might be most helpful. If there's a FAC dragging at the bottom of the FAC page, see if it's mired in debate or just lacking review. If it's lacking review, anything you can add may help. If it's mired in debate, enter an opinion only if you have a well informed opinion ... hot air doesn't help the delegates. If you see a FAC that has a lot of support after six days that may be maturing to promotion, scan it for anything that might need attention prior to promotion-- MOS, prose, anything-- even if you don't enter a support or oppose, enter a comment telling the delegates what you've looked at, because if nobuddy looks at everything, the overworked delegates end up with more work in their lap. It's MOST helpful for all FAC regulars to sit down and read the entire page periodically to see the view from this vantage point :)