Wikipedia:Research help/Scholars and experts
How should experts engage with Wikipedia?
Subject-matter experts are well-equipped to help articles achieve a truly neutral point of view by identifying gaps in articles where important ideas are not discussed, or places where ideas are over- or underemphasized, and to identify optimal and recent sources in their fields. (See Wikipedia:Reliable sources and Wikipedia:Identifying reliable sources (medicine)).
You already have other avenues for publishing your writing professionally, and plenty of demands on your time. Why should you take the extra time to write for Wikipedia as well?
- Public service. Part of being a scholar is communicating to the public, and Wikipedia is a great way of writing about research in a way that can be found and read by the public. By surfacing research on Wikipedia, it becomes the starting point for many more future researcher.
- Give and take. Are you a researcher who discovered citations or ideas in articles written by the Wikipedia community? Why not reciprocate and help improve the existing articles by sharing your knowledge?
- Righting wrongs. You've probably already found some important topics that you know about from your research that are missing from Wikipedia, or worse, described incorrectly. Who better than someone who knows about these topics professionally to repair the damage?
- Collect a literature review. Wikipedia articles are like narrative literature reviews, they highlight the key pieces of information and expert opinions about a topic... ideally, in a well organized narrative. For many experts who contribute to Wikipedia, Wikipedia articles act as their literature reviews: allowing them to collect sources for both their own research and to jumpstart the research of others.
- Practice. To write well on Wikipedia, you have to pay more attention to matters of public readability than you might when writing for your peers. Practicing public writing in this way improves your ability to communicate your profession, and professional interests.
- Broaden your knowledge. When you write about a topic, you learn about it yourself; you may well find the topics you write about useful later in your own research. Also, when you carefully survey a topic, you are likely to find out about what is not known as well as what is known, and this could help you find future research projects.
You see that "edit" tab at the top right of an article page, near the search box? Click on it and you should get to a text editor. You can change almost any article (save for a few that have been "protected" for various reasons), but please only change them in positive ways. When you're done editing, put an appropriate description of what you've done in the "edit summary" box at the bottom of the screen, then use the "preview" button to make sure you haven't messed something up. Only after previewing should you use the "save page" button.
If you find the editing experience challenging or have more questions, we recommend the game-like tutorial The Wikipedia Adventure, which provides a thorough overview of Wikipedia editing and policies, and WP:Teahouse, a space for new users to ask questions about contributing to Wikipedia.
What do I need to pay attention to?
- Experts can identify themselves on their user page and list any credentials and experience they wish to publicly divulge as it may help fellow Wikipedians who seek advice or expertise. However, that does not mean your expertise will give you additional authority when writing Wikipedia content: we have our own community of practice, which favors demonstrated good faith contributions to Wikipedia over expertise, because claims to expertise can be fabricated in an anonymous community like Wikipedia.
- Editing an article in Wikipedia is not like writing an original research article for an academic journal, nor it is like writing an analytical literature review article where you synthesize a story from original research papers; instead, it should be more like an objective summary or annotated bibliography of the subject, which provides summaries of the most substantial published opinions and information about a topic. Wikipedia is not a place to publish original research, nor your own synthesis of the research literature, even if it reflects accepted, but undocumented, knowledge. The genre here is "encyclopedia" - each articles is meant to provide "a summary of accepted knowledge regarding its subject". (see WP:NOT)
- Expert editors can join the WikiProjects concerning their areas of expertise. WikiProjects help articles on related subjects to be coordinated and edited by a group of identified interested parties. All editors are free to join any WikiProject in which they are interested, regardless of expertise.
- Expert editors should be mindful of the potential conflict of interest that may arise if editing articles which concern an expert's own research, writings, or discoveries. New, as yet not widely adopted, opinions to a field often don't get significant coverage in our articles. Remember, Wikipedia like any other encyclopedia, is supposed to summarize the established knowledge about a field for public consumption. For example, see an analysis of an expert attempt to contribute "new" findings to Haymarket Affair article, by academic and Wikipedia editor Andrew Lih at his blog.
- Neutral point-of-view. When experts differ, Wikipedia records the differences, giving due weight to the various opinions. Fringe viewpoints may be given little or no coverage.
What else could I do?
As an academic, you may not have time or energy to edit Wikipedia directly, but that doesn't mean you can't support others doing so:
- One of the best ways to engage Wikipedia, is to use the energy and work of your students to fill in gaps in your content area of expertise, while also teaching them about Wikipedia literacy. For more information, see our help page.
- Consider engaging your research support network, such as professional societies, librarians, archivists, museum professionals and volunteers, to strengthen coverage of topics of interest to those communities. For more information, see our portal for Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums.
- Do research about the coverage of your field on Wikipedia: many experts make comments about the quality of Wikipedia, but without good understanding of the scale, impact or variability of Wikipedia's content. Doing research about the coverage of the field, starts the conversation about public access, and helps guide changes in your fields relationship to Wikipedia. To learn more about Wikipedia research, see the community's research newsletter.