Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2008-02-18/Tutorial

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Tutorial: Getting an article to featured article status

By Yannismarou, February 18, 2008

What is a featured article?

A featured article is considered to be one of the best articles in Wikipedia. Featured status is determined by Wikipedia's editors, who review articles nominated at Wikipedia:Featured article candidates (WP:FAC) for prose quality, accuracy, neutrality, completeness, stability and style according to Wikipedia's featured article criteria. A small bronze star (This star symbolizes the featured content on Wikipedia.) on the top right corner of an article's page indicates that the article is featured.

As of February 18, there were 1,899 featured articles, of a total (as of today) of 4,569,188 articles on Wikipedia. Thus, only about one in 1,050 articles at Wikipedia have been assessed as meeting featured article criteria. From that you might conclude that it is very difficult to write a FA. No, it isn't! Just focus on your efforts, do not be disappointed by any (temporary) setbacks, do not be discouraged by the many myths that surround FAs, and read the following advice!

Is it worth writing a FA?

Why should any Wikipedian strive to create FAs? Is it worth writing a FA? The answer is definitely yes, because in this way Wikipedia is enriched with more articles of high quality that every person around the planet can read for free. It is not an exaggeration to say that by writing FAs you spread your knowledge, and you thus make the world a better place!

How do you write an FA?

First, you must commit yourself to the goal! Hopefully, you'll find the following advice to be helpful. The ten steps that follow will guide you from the beginning of your effort (what subject are you going to choose?) until the successful (what should you do after you nominate the article?) closing of your nomination by the FA Director or his delegates.

Before you nominate the article

1.Choose the right article. Choose an article that you'd really like to improve and its subject excites you so much that researching it becomes pleasurable. A non-controversial article is better to avoid frustration, as well as distractions from other editors with a strong (and different) point of view.
2. Conduct thorough research. Gather some basic sources before you start editing. While writing the article, never stop researching! Look on the Web, in Google, Google Book Search and Google Scholar, in the local library and in your own library! Look everywhere! Printed sources are highly desirable. Compared to online sources, they're more stable and often more credible. Whenever you do an edit, always add a citation so it's clear where the information came from, and so that other editors can also help if they have access to the references you list.
3. Cite everything. A list of references at the bottom of an article is not good enough for a FA anymore; inline citations have now become one of the basic FA criteria. There is no specific rule about how many citations each paragraph should contain. According to the Military History Project, for example, "an article should have copious inline citations." At minimum, you should have at least one citation per paragraph. If you cite everything sentence, you'll avoid the annoying {{citationneeded}} template, and you'll demonstrate to everyone the high level of your research. Assertions, assessments, direct quotes, and hard data absolutely should have definitive cites. Try for a large number of sources, and cite them in such a way that that it doesn't look like you're using one or two sources for everything.
4. Make your prose "compelling, even brilliant". For many contributors, this is the most problematic aspect of preparing a FA candidate (FAC). When you are writing, you should try to make articles tell a story, with clear, logical reasons for why each section comes where it does. The prose shouldn't be too dense or poorly written. If you are not a native English speaker don't be discouraged. These are some things you can do:
  • Network with other Wikipedians who are interested in the topic and who are skilled at editing prose, and request input from them (before nomination).
  • Politely ask a highly experienced copy-editor to go through your article. You can always try the League of Copyeditors.
  • Ask for one or more peer reviews within appropriate Wikiprojects, in order to network with native English speakers who can help you.
  • Improve your article in direct response to the comments of FAC reviewers (after FAC nomination).
  • Improve your own writing/editing skills (before and after FAC nomination and continually).
Some further prose suggestions:
  • If you're stumped or your writing isn't flowing well, take a break and do something else with your free time for a day or so.
  • Make sure your article is not POV.
  • Avoid peacock and weasel words. Be precise and give a reference.
  • The prose can be sentimental but not unencyclopedic or POV. Sentimentalism is a great weapon, if you know how to use it. If you don't know this "art", don't try it!
5. Layout and style. Various things you should check:
  • Carefully read and follow the instructions of WP:MoS.
  • Concerning the use of quotations, italics and the way titles of works should be mentioned, check MOS:ITALICS.
  • Concerning citations, adopt a consistent and cohesive style of citing. Check some helpful templates, such as Template:cite web, Template:cite news, Template:cite book, Template:cite journal and Template:cite encyclopedia.
  • The lead needs to summarize the article; it must be neither too long or too short. Two to three paragraphs are usually OK for an article over 30Kb.
  • The whole article must not be too lengthy. Try to keep its size under 100 Kbs with not more than half of it being prose (that is, not more than about 50 to 55 kbs of text in the main body of the article). If the article is getting too long, a nice solution is to create sub-articles, which you'll summarize in the sections of your article (read carefully WP:Summary style).
  • Find or create pictures and maps with an acceptable copyright status (check carefully when the use of copyrighted material is acceptable). Place the pictures properly so that they do not overwhelm the screen or squeeze the text, and try to have informative captions.
  • Quotes and inboxes sometimes offer the "human element". But, again, don't overdo it! Have in mind that the article should not look like Wikiquote and that huge quotes interrupt its flow.
6. Submit for more than one peer review. The peer review is the last but not least step before nomination! The obvious choice is Wikipedia:Peer review. But you'll find peer-review procedures in a number of WikiProjects; these are usually better than the general peer-review forum, because the reviewers there are more experienced and check the peer-reviews more systematically. Try to address the concerns of the reviewers and then elaborate on your improvements in the peer-review page of the article. Don't be indifferent and don't give the impression that you are indifferent to the reviewers' suggestions.
7. Prepare yourself for the FAC nomination. After the peer-reviews are over, take some time to prepare yourself for the usually tough FAC process. Take a look at the WP:FAC page to see what criticisms FACs normally face and what changes reviewers usually suggest or ask about.

After you nominate the article

8. Be there, active. After you nominate the article, devote some time to the nomination; show the reviewers that you are ready to address any concerns they may have. FAC nominations are often demanding; as a nominator, you should follow discussions closely, so that you don't miss something.
9. Be polite and avoid fighting with the FA reviewers. Always be polite. Don't forget to thank the reviewers for their comments, even if they are negative. They have given their time to your reviewing your article and they deserve some praise for that. Believe me: A polite attitude can bring more support. Assume that the comments or criticism that comes from the FA candidate reviewers are being made in good faith. Respond constructively and try to correct whatever they point out. If what they point out seems absurd to you, remain polite. Just explain thoroughly why you think the comments of the reviewer are not on point. Have in mind that if a review unreasonably objects to something, another reviewer will usually come to your defense. In any case, avoid any personal attacks, insults or emotional outbursts. If you are provoked, do not respond.
10. Don't be disappointed. If the nomination fails, do not give up. Keep improving the article. Success will eventually come!

In closing

Remember you are not here for thanks and praise; you are here to share and spread your knowledge. So, when you efforts are crowned with success, remain humble and go for your second FA! Good luck!

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