Welcome to my Userpage.
I am a long time student, teacher, and scholar of China who has published books, reviews, and articles in the field, as well as articles in some half dozen encyclopedias, including Encylopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia of Asian-American History, Encyclopedia of Modern China (Scribners), and Berkshire Encyclopedia of China. I have lived in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan and traveled widely in mainland China and Asia. My graduate school training was in Modern China, but I have taught at universities in the United States and East Asia on topics covering the range of East Asian history, including Chinese and Japanese film.
The experiences which inspire me the most, however, are teaching undergraduates, working with secondary school teachers, and giving talks to the public. When I work on a Wikipedia article, I try to make it accessible to people like these rather than impressive to other professionals, who can look at the deeper references themselves. In any case, one great feature of Wikipedia is the nested or branched structure which encourages more and more detailed information in linked articles.
Many academic colleagues do not respect or trust Wikipedia, and I have to sympathize with them. Too many articles are rambling, unbalanced, unruly, or sourced with strange items.
The excitement is the smart and dedicated editors who spend care and vast energy. I enthusiastically support the Wikipedia spirit that gives no preference to "authorities." On the Internet, Nobody Knows That I'm a Dog -- or a senior in high school or a PhD. You have to prove your case. Often there is a challenging discussion in which I try to make my views known and convince people. If I can't, it's probably because: 1) I'm wrong. 2) I haven't thought through my points clearly enough to explain them convincingly, or 3) I need to give my fellow editors a little more time.
Although I have started a number of articles, most of my work has been to edit and develop existing articles One set of articles and edits deals with Americans who lived in China , scholars who wrote about China , and books about China. Another interest is Chinese literature, which intrigues me more and more.
- No Original Research is neglected when we use online resources such as Google Search to find newspaper or magazine articles from the time of the original event rather than using up-to-date and verifiable English language secondary sources. I have the impression that too often an editor finds a striking piece of information or an out of the way source, and then looks for a home for it rather than looking at an article and trying to see what it needs. On the other hand, the Internet has rich resources which we would be foolish to neglect. We do not want to limit our pool of editors to people who can use university libraries.
- Why We Can't Use Primary Sources: Wikipedia: No original research is a policy article which says "rely mainly on published reliable secondary sources and, to a lesser extent, on tertiary sources. The article on identifying reliable source is an excellent short explanation. I wish I had written it. I especially admire the section Reliable source, which says "Articles should rely on secondary sources whenever possible."All interpretive claims, analyses, or synthetic claims about primary sources must be referenced to a secondary source, rather than original analysis of the primary-source material by Wikipedia editors." Wikipedia:Identifying reliable sources#Primary, secondary, and tertiary sources explains the differences, but in a nutshell, a Primary Source is an eye-witness account or document from the time. It is frustrating but entirely justifiable that Wikipedia policy does not allow us to use eye-witness missionaries or diplomats.
- Why is this a good policy? Some will say that using eye-witnesses or Primary Sources is common sense -- isn't an eyewitness or a report from the time the event took place more reliable than something written years or even centuries later? Well, no, or at least not reliably. Eye witnesses often conflict, have a built in bias, misrepresent what they saw, or are recorded after the fact. Primary sources often are incomplete, scattered, hidden, or difficult to interpret.
- Why It's a Good Policy to Avoid Relying on Tertiary Sources: "Tertiary Sources" means general textbooks, encyclopedias, and books which synthesize secondary sources. Tertiary sources can be good if the author is familiar with the primary sources and research in the field. The aim is to get sources based on an expert's evaluation and synthesis of primary sources. A reliable source will also be one which is published in a place where it is aimed at specialists who will tear it to pieces if it's wrong. No source is infallible, but some are less fallible than others.
- How do we find good secondary sources? In a a field like Chinese history or culture, as opposed to science or popular music, for instance, it's going to be some work. Wikipedia:Identifying_reliable_sources#Scholarship talks about what they are. I'm afraid the bad news is that we can't just search Google Books, though this is a terrific resource which we should all take advantage of. But the place to begin is a good public or college library. Locate solid works from reputable academic or scholarly presses. Another wonderful tool is WorldCat, which often will give a link to a Google book. The best source may not have a Preview, and in that case it might be possible to get the book from a local library, perhaps through inter-library loan. In many cases if you are going to work on a particular set of topics, you can buy good sources in paperback. They may be available second hand from a local store or online at AbeBooks, Alibris, or Bookfinder.
- A trickier challenge is to preserve NPOV, proportion, and balance. Our writing does not need to be bland or evasive: NPOV means "Neutral Point of View," not "No Point of View." The state of the field must be represented, including minority and dissenting views, but we do not have to give equal representation to Flat Earthers or outliers.
- Edit count = 17,000+ (but who's counting?)
- 100 edits in the Mainspace namespace by CWH. Courtesy of XI's Tools.
Ten or more substantive edits (* = articles created)