Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/Academy/Writing a large-scope article

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Below are a few things editors have found to be useful while writing articles on large-scope topics

Creating the article[edit]


Like most things in life, the first part of building a quality article is starting with a good design. Doing otherwise often leads to an article with poor readability, considerable undue weighting, being far too large, duplication and contradictions among other problems.

There are a few general rules to consider when making a framework:

  • Adhere to the rule of seven: A large number of headings detracts from the user being able to quickly use the table of contents and facilitates article bloat. To keep things practical, keep the upper limit of the number of top (h2) headings to seven; this encourages article cohesion.
  • Be conservative with third level headings: While the main section(s) (such as "Course of the conflict" etc.) will usually require them, most other sections (background etc.) usually should not. Only use them if the section in question is describing several fairly substantial and mostly unrelated topics. Once again, keep the rule of seven in mind.
  • Do not use fourth level headings: Going into the fourth level headings is a sure sign that the content needs to be summarized and forked to a different article
Generally follow the chronology of the conflict
When designing the framework, the first thing that should be decided is if the main content of the article should be divided up by theatre/campaign (TC) or by phase (chronologically). In most cases it's better to divide by phase for several reasons:
  • Increases cohesion: Putting a conflict chronologically lets the reader understand the overall flow of the conflict much better, as opposed to having to jump from section to section.
  • The main article is the only place the chronology can be adequately handled.
    • TC's lend themselves very well to encapsulation and can or already have their own articles
    • It is far less common for daughter articles of a conflict with multiple concurrent TC's to be about the entire conflict for a certain phase. Doing so would likely require an inordinate amount of material in the "background" and "aftermath" sections (to cover each TC) and would have little cohesion since it would be covering events that are likely only very loosely connected. When to start and end each phase would almost certainly be a point of contention.
  • Reduces duplication: Usually, different TCs of the same conflict happening concurrently will exert influence, either directly or indirectly, on each other. Having them separated will mean having to mention events that influenced the course of multiple TC's several times.
  • Prevents recursive splitting: In large conflicts, TC's can often be split into sub-TC's, which can sometimes be further split into sub-sub-TC's and so on. Having an article split by TC thus increases the likely hood of undue weighting and size violations by having descriptions of the various subordinate TC's.
Getting started
It would be better to start by making a list of the major events of the conflict and the generally-recognized phases of each TC. From there, try to find trends in the overall course of the conflict which can be used as breaking points to create the phases; usually these will start or end with one of the major events. Keeping the rule of seven in mind, create the phases based on this. Make sure that everything is done on the discussion page of the article, other users can often provide immensely valuable feedback, ideas and corrections. This also helps to establish consensus and acceptance.
Generally suggested framework
The following order is suggested for most conflict-related articles
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Course of the [war/campaign/battle/conflict etc.] (the main section)
    • Phase 1
    • Phase 2
    • Phase 3 (continue as needed)
  • Aftermath
  • Impact / analysis
  • See also
  • References
  • External links


Once you have a generally accepted framework, it easiest (especially on a controversial or otherwise "hot" topics) to create a "/temp" page and do each section from the now established phases one-by-one. As you finish a section, place it on the main articles discussion page for further feedback and input. Once it's passed its trial by fire, update the temp page, and repeat until completed.

Sounds easy, but this is where all the other rules of Wikipedia (such as Wikipedia:Verifiability, Wikipedia:Reliable sources, Wikipedia:Manual of Style, Wikipedia:Citing sources etc.) come into play. A few quick guidelines:

  • Less is more: Keep your content as summarized as possible. The purpose of the main article is to give the users and understanding of the overall conflict, strive to only keep information that is absolutely needed (within reason) to explain the conflict to the users. Remember, you can have a legion of daughter articles to flesh out the details. For example:
    • Mention by name only the most important people (heads-of-state, commanding general(s), highly influential individuals etc.)
    • Keep your units at the highest possible level (i.e., if your article encompasses the actions of army groups, there should almost never be a need to mention a specific division).
    • Use only the most important, summarizing, numbers. With wide-scoped articles, using numbers (number of troops, ships etc.) can lead to far to much detail; using them in one location can lead to chain reaction of having numbers on everything, bogging the user down in details that should be on daughter articles. The only real exceptions should be "total" numbers (X casualties etc.) and numbers used in the analysis/impact section for comparison purposes; they should almost never be in the main section.
    • Use broad date ranges; this makes it easier to group like items (X attacked positions A, B, and C; Y attacked D, and Z attacked E) instead of rigidly following a timeline (X attacked A, then Y attacked D, then X attacked B, then Z attacked E...) At the overview level, a minor time difference is (usually) unimportant and better left for daughter articles to clarify.
    • Keep pictures to a minimum. Remember that pictures are to help the user, literally, visualize the content; used sparingly, they're great for maintaining reader interest. Only use pictures that exemplify the content and try to avoid those of specific individuals unless they are without peer (i.e. the uncontended leaders). It is advisable to limit to two pictures per section (or sub-section in the main section) unless the section is clearly large enough to contain a third without cluttering it. Many an article has been severely damaged with veritable walls of images.
    • Maps can be a great way of summarising events and should reduce the need to describe the relevant geography. It may often be preferable to include a map than a photograph or artwork.
    • Make generous of use of internal links, including Main articles: templates, where possible. If daughter articles are available, by all means use them.
    • Don't include quotes from individuals or documents unless they're absolutely essential. It will almost always be possible to summarise these quotes without losing any worthwhile content.
  • Within a given phase (heading 3), break up the paragraphes by theatre/campaign. Since these sections should already be fairly concise, this keeps things cohesive for the reader and still gives them the general flow of that phase.
  • Don't be afraid of including critical analysis in the article if it is an important feature in the available sources. Large-scope articles shouldn't be bland and not explaining why events occurred, etc, is a disservice to your readers. It is important that such analysis reflect the main points of view, however, so that it is consistent with the policy WP:NPOV.


Due to the need to keep the article's length down the best sources will probably be those which provide a concise and high-level account of the events. These references will provide you with examples of how you can summarise the same material and will probably highlight the key trends which the article should cover. As the article should only cover major events these high-level references will generally prove sufficient to verify all material. In addition, readers will generally find it easier to access these references than more specialised ones.

Other issues to be considered when selecting sources include:

  • As a rule of thumb more recent high-level sources are generally better than older ones as they should have taken the all specialised works published up to the date they were published into account.
  • Take care when using 'popular' accounts, and especially those which weren't written by specialists. These often 'dumb down' events and may not reflect recent scholarship.

Encountered problems (both during and after the creation)[edit]


Almost certainly the most prominent issue you'll be facing is quibbling over the infobox; usually about combatants. The main problem is that the infobox can only contain very limited text; it thus appear definitive since qualifiers can't really be used. Please note that in no way the use of infobox is being condemned; it is a vital part of most significant military history articles. With that said, here are a few tips:

Move the infobox
If the infobox becomes a source of constant edit warring, the first step should be to move the infobox to its own page. This has the following benefits:
  • It significantly reduces the number of "drive-by" edits done by casual users who have not been following the discussions and are not familiar with any consensus.
  • It keeps discussion pertaining to the infobox (which is likely to be over half the content of the articles talk page) segregated, tightly focused, more referenceable and more maintainable in terms archiving.
  • It makes it easier to monitor article activity (changes on the main vs. changes on the infobox) since otherwise the latter will overwhelm the former. Likewise, it makes checking back on the history of the article much more practical.
  • Should the need arise, the infobox and the main article can be given separate levels of protection.
Request sources
Many quibblers will just have a viewpoint, without any facts to back it up. Sources are generally a legitimate request though for things such defining major/minor belligerents, not always tenable.
If there's legitimate quibbling about issues, generalize them if possible. Use military units/faction names instead of nationalities in mixed forces, use date ranges ("Start date: early 1800s" etc.) and so on.
As a last resort, put it to polling. While not binding, it can show a general trend. If one side is clearly higher then the other, the article should reflect that, though discussion can continue. Be sure to notify the military history WikiProject, it can bring uninvolved but subject-familiar users into the discussion.


Fringe theories occasionally crop up, but these are pretty easily dealt with by removing them and requesting the user get consensus on the discussion page before putting them back on. A reasonable request is almost certain to nip it in the bud.


Much more potent then fringers, and in someways even quibblers (though the two overlap considerably), are the one-siders. These are users who, usually due to a shared affiliation (nationality, religion etc.) are fanatically in support of one side and fanatically against the other. They will argue that defeats were victories, that the other side is/was evil and 100% in the wrong, gloss over or attempt to validate their own sides questionable actions etc. These are not easily dealt with, as many of them can pull sources from like-minded authors.

The primary defense is to keep the bulk of the article as neutral as possible and stick to the facts. No amount of arguing can (usually) try to change that X event happened on Y date. Fortunately, this is also where the analysis section really comes into play; by having an outlet for their views, the one-siders can actually benefit the article (so long as their views are sourced) by writing things like "According to [some historian/professor], event X was the most important..." and so on. Just keep an eye that it doesn't spiral out of control.


Editors who dip into an article and fiddle with text which has been carefully written and endorsed by the editors who focus on the article should be treated with respect. If it is necessary to revert their changes it's good practice to leave a message on their talk page explaining that the article is unusually complex and inviting them to discuss their changes on the article's talk page. In almost all cases these editors are acting in good faith and if they raise the issue on the talk page will go along with the consensus of other editors.

Examples of successful large-scope articles[edit]

Examples of highly-rated large-scope articles are available in the Military History Wikiproject's showcase. Some examples are: