Wikipedia:Featured article advice
Featured articles are examples of our best work, selected by the featured article candidates process. Unfortunately, the featured article criteria are often misunderstood by contributors who aren't familiar with the process; as a result, many nominations fall short of the criteria.
Critera 1a, 1b, 1c, 2a, and 3 (listed below) are the Featured article criteria that cause the most problems in the FAC process. These FAC hotspots are discussed below, including explanations of what the criteria mean and what standards are expected of featured articles. This advice is based on experience of reading and reviewing candidate articles, and involvement in discussions on the criteria. It is intended to assist the writers of potential featured articles to avoid common mistakes, to avoid surprises, and to make the process as quick and painless as possible.
- 1a: It is well written. The goal is not merely to provide information, but to do so in a way that is compelling and engaging to non-specialist readers, while also being succinct and encyclopedic. Beyond grammar issues, one of the most common deficiencies in articles that are created on Wikipedia is that they have short, one- and two-sentence paragraphs, or sections that are little better than lists. These break up the prose, interrupt the reader's flow, and result in a fragmented visual appearance. They typically involve areas that should either be expanded into full ideas, merged smoothly with other paragraphs, or transferred to separate articles and summarised. It often helps to peer review an article before it is nominated, or to ask other people to copyedit and suggest improvements.
- 1b: It is comprehensive. A featured article should cover all facets of the topic in relation to their importance to the overall topic. No one sub-topic should dominate the article unless it is clearly the most important part of the topic. In accordance with summary style, excessive details beyond what carefully prioritized balancing would call for should be moved off to sub-articles and only summaries should be left in the main article. More important subtopics warrant longer and more detailed summaries, while less important ones should have shorter summaries. This is the part of being comprehensive and NPOV that is most commonly missed. It involves repeatedly prioritizing what information is most important, and leaving the rest to other articles.
- 1c: It is factually accurate. For an article to be considered comprehensive and factually accurate, it needs references; but merely listing references to meet the requirement is not enough. Research is necessary to ensure the inclusion of all topics that should be covered to fully define the subject and be comprehensive and factually accurate. A substantial number of the highest quality reliable sources available on the subject should be consulted thoroughly. For most subjects, that requires consulting sources such as textbooks and/or journal articles. It should be obvious from the number and quality of references that sufficient research has been done. The advantage of good up-front research from high-quality sources is that it nearly eliminates POV battles, and allows more time to be spent on improving the article. Evidence to support particularly significant or possibly contentious points should be cited directly to the most reliable source available. There is no single agreed style for inline citations, so following any of the recommendations in Wikipedia:Cite sources (either Harvard referencing, for example (Hawking 1999, pg 23), or footnotes) is fine.
- 2a: It has a concise lead section. A common problem in articles nominated to be featured is the lead section. Since articles are rarely considered comprehensive if they are less than 15kb or so of text, almost all featured articles should have a lead section of 2–4 full paragraphs, but no longer. An ideal lead section should summarize all of the most important facets of the topic at hand and establish why the topic is important. That means the lead section should concisely cover what impact, use, or effect the topic has had, whether that impact is large or limited, citing its sources as necessary. The lead section should, of course, be detailed and substantiated with evidence and citations later in the article.
- 3: It has images where appropriate. Where possible, a featured article should have images that appropriately illustrate or represent the material. Images properly licensed under the GFDL or an appropriate creative commons license are preferred; for any fair use images, the fair use rationale should be clearly specified. In all cases, properly noting the image license is required. The source website or book of the image must be noted too, so others can confirm the license you typed out. Captions should be concise and well written, and note the significance of the image. Where appropriate, such as in a language article, sound samples in .ogg format also enhance an article.
Spend some time looking through the other featured articles on related topics to get an idea of their basic quality, and the choices they have made in coverage and style. This should give you an idea of any major deficiencies in quality of the article you are looking to nominate. Keep in mind that featured article standards have been rising, so being better than a poorer quality FA or one that has degraded since nomination does not mean the article you are working on is a shoo-in or somehow deserves to be featured.
Some may consider the criteria and these standards overly strict, but Wikipedia is past the point where we need articles that just contain any information. We need high quality, accurate articles. If more articles already met the above criteria before being nominated, we could spend more time working on the final polishing and free up time to nominate and promote more articles. That makes this advice particularly important in the peer review process, so please point editors here for what their article needs before being nominated at WP:FAC.