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"I obviously don't know what i am talking about"

"the project can take on all kinds of people, including critics, finicky people, sloppy people, university students, high school students, experts, gnomes and clueless enthusiasts. Some of us need to learn what comments to ignore, and what actually should have some kind of response."

Teaching chemistry through Wikipedia[edit]

Thinking about using Wikipedia as part of your chemistry course? Doing so gives students experience integrating chemical knowledge and in copy-editing, both relevant to their professional development. In terms of implementation, here are my observations based on several years of experience.

  • The most important step is the selection of topics that allow students to contribute new content. The instructor should make sure that good general sources exist on the assigned topics, preferably reviews and textbooks. A major part of the learning experience comes from students re-describing or summarizing what they read from these broad sources.
  • Learning Wikipedia techniques is almost irrelevant to the educating students. To this end, it can be useful for the instructor to set up new articles with examples of linking and reference format. Students can then readily add to this article, even without registering as a user.
  • Students should be graded on the quality of their content, not the quantity.
  • Peer review (by fellow students) is a joke, how can a fellow student critique an article on topics that they barely fathom, not to mention dealing with conflict of interest in grading their friends?
  • Steer away from toxicity, environmental, or safety aspects. Tons of content on such topics are readily Google-able. Students learn little from parroting this material and can be poor judges of quality sources. Teach them chemistry - mechanisms, (bio)synthesis, structure, bonding, spectroscopy, reactivity, ... Help them sort notable from non-notable aspects.
  • Bear in mind that editors at Wikipedia are not supposed to serve babysitters or graders for your class. Instructors need to be involved, but they could expect good cooperation from established editors.

WP:SECONDARY for technical editing: three reasons to follow this guideline[edit]

For technical articles, an important editing guideline is WP:SECONDARY. All editors cite primary sources, but conscientious editors rely more heavily on general sources. Why? Three reasons. 1) Unless you are a real expert on the area you are editing, it is presumptuous to cite primary reference. Why that one paper in lieu of hundreds or thousands of others? Citing primary references risks violating WP:UNDUE, i.e. overemphasis on a narrow result that distorts the big picture and WP:RECENTISM ('I dont know the background, but I found this nifty article today ...'). 2) Second, Wikipedia recommends reliance on secondary sources, because Wikipeidia is a bloodly encyclopedia - we are not a journal! Start your own blog. 3) Excessive reliance on primary sources is uncool. Primary citations are often the hallmark of vanity editors (ya gotta read my paper), kids (dont know any better), and wanna-be scholars, who think that citing primary citations establishes their credentials as players, when it does the opposite. The goal of referencing is to help readers, not the editor, by guiding reader to digested sources of information that offer broad perspective.

Again most technical editors in Wikipedia are inexpert in the topics we edit. We demonstrate our good taste by selecting broad sources.

WP:COI (Conflict of Interest): Avoid citing yourself, your family, your friends, and your colleagues[edit]

Many (or most!) new or infrequent editors come to the Chemistry part of Wikipedia not to help the readership, but to cite papers by themselves, their family, or their friends. Such citations can show bad taste and potentially present a conflict of interest. Wikipedia is not the way to establish a scientific reputation - do that the old fashioned way - publish great papers in real refereed journals! If you want to help people understand chemistry and its role in our world, then Wikipedia is the place for you.

Editors, often infrequent, who only cite one researcher: Hall of CoI[edit]

The phenotype: infrequent editor, cites work from one small group of authors, cites recent papers often in narrow journals, have no user page.

About me[edit]

I mainly edit pages describing chemical compounds, especially inorganic, organometallic, and organic species. My favorites contain sulfur. I am a highly imperfect copy editor, so I am not bothered by having my English polished and especially welcome having my chemistry corrected. Are you qualified?

My continuing focus remains on industrially significant compounds and boring topics (boring for who?, who decides what is boring?, is this spreading knowledge, imposing your own subjective opinions about one particular topic? like laundry detergents and waxes and related goopy stuff. Such themes are often overlooked since most editors are more familiar with academic topics, whereas our society and environment are more strongly influenced by the industrial-scale applications, for good or for worse. Much of my content comes from Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, which appears to be authoritative and objective. Another interest is specialty reagents, with an eye toward increasing the value of Wikipedia for the synthetic chemist.

I am professionally associated with technical journals and book series, many of which are cited in my editing, but these relationships result in no financial rewards (unfortunately) to me. If editors have concerns that my edits "cross the line," please say so. Only rarely have I cited my own work or work by colleagues and friends.

Useful links[edit]

What readers are reading[edit]

Templates that I use[edit]


What Wikipedia is and is not, and related comments[edit]

From Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not: "Wikipedia is an encyclopedic reference, not an instruction manual, guidebook or textbook.... a Wikipedia article should not read like a how-to style manual of instructions, advice (legal, medical, or otherwise) or suggestions..."

Citing primary literature: Wikipedia is not Chemical Reviews[edit]

Citations to the primary literature are generally not sought by Wikipedia. See WP:secondary source. Like other encyclopedias, Wikipedia seeks digested sources (reviews, monographs, texts). Chemical Abstracts Service (; abstracts many tens of thousands of papers annually. So citing the primary literature is almost impossible in a neutral manner and citing them all would ruin Wikipedia. Citations to the primary literature also invite problems with self-promotion. In the absence of more general sources, however, primary literature is a practical placeholder. I do replace primary references with broader sources, when I have the time.


Perhaps no element brings out stronger feelings than poor old fluorine. Water fluoridation is a theme of anxiety to small but vocal fringe groups and conspiracy theorists. A variety of articles have been created on this area, often to appease this constituency:

Government mandated iodization of salt does not bring out strong feelings.


Symbol opinion vote.svg Comment: text here  

Small/simple form[edit]

To use, simply copy and paste the left column into the document, filling in whatever you can, or type {{subst:Chembox subst small}} and press save:

| ImageFile = 
| ImageSize = 
| ImageAlt = 
| IUPACName = 
| OtherNames = 
|Section1={{Chembox Identifiers
| CASNo = 
| PubChem = 
| SMILES = }}
|Section2={{Chembox Properties
| Formula = 
| MolarMass =
| Appearance = 
| Density = 
| MeltingPt = 
| BoilingPt = 
| Solubility = }}
|Section3={{Chembox Hazards
| MainHazards = 
| FlashPt = 
| AutoignitionPt = }}

Useful reminders[edit]

{{globalize|article|the United States|date=??}} WP:SELFCITE