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A root page is a Wikipedia article that introduces a subject that has several branches requiring further explanation. It is especially well suited to large topics that can easily be said to 'include' many pages that cover more detailed aspects, and can use 'Hub pages' to create a three-tier listing.
It is quite different from a Disambiguation page, which is used to separate alternative meanings of the subject word or phrase. It also differs significantly from Wikipedia:Summary style, and Wikipedia:Series templates, (see talk).
Implementation involves only the use of Wikipedia:Branchlist templates, which are a compact form of the Wikipedia:Navigational templates incorporating three-level nesting. On any given page, the link for that page on the template list appears bold and black, aiding understanding of the concept.
- Use a Wikipedia:Branchlist template to designate a root page (as in the example below).
- See Category:Wikipedia root page for current root pages.
- See Category:Branchlist for current branchlists.
Although several other schemes have been tried, including the use of a 'backlink' and a list of branch pages at the end of an article, these met with considerable objection (see talk). It is now recommended that the only way in which a root page is designated should be by the appearance of a Navigational template in the style (or styles) shown above, where the first page on the first line indicates the root page, and the second, where appropriate, will be referred to as a 'hub page'. In the example shown below, Electronics is the 'Root page', and Digital electronics is a 'Hub page'. By using a set of what are in fact Navigational templates in this way, it is possible to provide for rapid navigation around 100 pages using ten templates each listing just ten pages. It is the hierarchical form of the template, with Root and Hub shown on the first line, which distinguishes the Root page concept from the basic Navigational templates idea, allowing small templates to replace what would otherwise be very large confusing templates, and allowing for easy and rapid navigation forward or backwards through the grouped pages.
Nominating a page as a Root page establishes it at the centre of the subject; the place to refer back to from more specialised pages, either for an explanatory introduction or as a starting point for finding and exploring all associated pages. Though of help to Wikipedia users generally, a Root page is even more useful to editors, providing a 'base camp' where they can check out all associated pages, refine a common introduction, and hold a common discussion (on its Talk page). It assists the process of adopting a Centralised style that may have advantages over Summary style (see Talk).
It is anticipated that in future the process of linking will be automated, so that it is only necessary when creating a new page to specify a template at the top of a page, naming the Root page and Hub page (if appropriate) as parameters. This will automatically add the page to the Branchlist template of the chosen root page, or create a new template if necessary. (If you can help with this automation please volunteer here at the Talk page).
Guidelines for applying the Root page concept
- Introduction - The Root page should begin with a broad but clear introduction to the subject, explaining the overall scope and concepts which editors of associated pages can then take as understood. This avoids repeated attempts by editors to explain the same thing again, when they could be refining the root page.
- Nomination - A Root page is nominated as such by the creation of a Branchlist template (see example below in 'see also') in which it appears as the first entry of the first line.
- Applying templates - Once a page is nominated as a Root page, editors of associated branch pages know where the common introduction is to be found. They have only to add the appropriate navigational template to their page, and update it to include the new page. The updated template, appearing on other pages, will automatically 'advertise' their page to users and editors, without the need to laboriously create numerous links.
- Creating templates - The best way to create new templates is to go to one of the existing templates, Template:Branchlist/Root, or Template:Branchlist/Root/Hub (depending whether it is for a Root page or a Hub page), chose 'edit this page' and then copy the text to clipboard. Then enter your new template name (eg Template:Branchlist/Newroot/Newbranch) into the search box, and, assuming it does not already exist, create a duplicate template by copying from clipboard. Then modify the entries as required for the new template, starting with the Root and (where appropriate) Hub, at the top, being careful to retain the existing format. Note that the format for the template title format, using / as a separater has been chosen with automation in mind. The entries in the title should be exactly as for the page titles, and not abbreviated (again with automated conversion to parametric form in mind).
- Editing templates - To edit enter 'template:branchlist/Rootpage/Hubpage' into the search box, using the appropriate names for Rootpage and Hubpage and being careful to use capitals at the start of each (as per the rule for topic names). Edit the page in the normal way, which will usually involve just changing names or adding lines being careful not to alter the existing format. Alphabetic listing is recommended.
- Template placement - The branchlist template should normally be placed in the 'see also' section so that it occupies the space to the RHS of the 'see also' listing, which is normally empty. Note that the 'see also' list should contain only 'long range' links, as there is already a rule that precludes the inclusion in 'see also' of links already present in Wikified text form. Exceptionally the template might be placed at the top of the page on the RHS if agreed. Though such placement allows faster navigation, it is generally regarded as too intrusive, especially where it upsets or pushes down the arrangement of images.
- Only one Root page for any article - A Root page can branch to Hub pages, or just to Branch pages, or to a mixture of both. It cannot itself have a Root page though, as this has been found to create insurmountable problems.
- Only three levels - Root, Hub, Branch - Three levels of nested lists allows small templates on topics with many pages. More levels gets confusing. Do not attempt to backlink indefinitely. Electricity as a root page for Electronics is not a good idea. Electronics is a core topic on its own, and its relationship to Electricity is obvious.
- Do not assume page hierarchy - Beware of assuming that encyclopedia articles are hierarchical - they have many relationships depending on the chosen criterion. Decide what the core topic of the associated pages is and build them around a Root page with the core topic as title. Do not use the Root page concept unless the core topic seems to warrant it - many editors like the independent nature of Wikipedia articles, and resent attempts to make one page 'own' another. The way in which articles are grouped must always be to some extent arbitrary, but this need not matter (see talk). The intention is to associate articles in a way that assists 'coordinated editing' of the whole topic, allowing an easy overview by editors. It also assists users wanting to study an entire subject. Put 'long-range' links in place under a 'See also' listing to improve connectivity (see Talk and six degrees of Wikipedia).