Wikipedia:Wiki Ed/Northeastern University/Advanced Writing in the Sciences (Spring 2017)

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Course name
Advanced Writing in the Sciences
Northeastern University
Cecelia Musselman
Content Expert
Ian (Wiki Ed)
writing in the sciences
Course dates
2017-02-14 00:00:00 UTC – 2017-04-30 23:59:59 UTC
Approximate number of student editors

Undergraduate students in the sciences write lab reports, resumés, cover letters, lab reports, personal essays for grant or scholarship applications, And. More. Lab. Reports.

Working scientists, however, write a far wider, and more interesting, variety of documents, including literature reviews, guidelines for the public, reference documents, emails, TED-style talks, blogs, procedures, peer reviews, explanatory articles for public audiences, and even research report videos.* In this course, students will explore writing and composing forms used in the sciences — forms that are common in science but uncommon at the university. Because the sciences encompass a wide and growing range of disciplines, our approach to writing must allow for growth, change, and recategorization of disciplines and documents, we will begin the semester writing for a scholarly audience, then move on to write for other audiences, examining how audience influences the method and content of what we write. Students will use professional peer review practices to review each other’s drafts and examine how peer review shapes both science and writing.

Student Assigned Reviewing
Bostonian49 Muscle hypertrophy
Grilledrex De-identification
Redhood1 Neuroborreliosis
Bryochemist Nanopore sequencing
Clearglasses Linguistic Atlas of New England
Pws97 Eclectic psychotherapy
BlueBottle Association (psychology)
Lemontree96 Amparo Acker-Palmer
Maa0519 North Polar Basin (Mars), Vastitas Borealis
Remember glia Immunohistochemistry
Brainsteam Locura
GreenMacaw Cornelius Denvir
MB193 Cynthia A. Gómez
Bananabread7 Pseudocertainty effect
TealPenguinFoot Conservation in India, Hope Spots
TurquoiseOmega Phanuromyia odo
Jcolls4 Golimumab
Greysweater Methanation
Vasileios Kreouzis Neuromorality
Betaprice Coupling (physics)
Gryffinpuff Brown carbon
Rmills66 Enzyme replacement therapy
Plaidscientist Flux tube
Spongebubble94 Anita Woolfolk Hoy
Blueboombox Fluorescence polarization immunoassay (FPIA)
Geochem8 Acidalia Planitia
ThePolarBear Sleep and emotions
2spooky Retrograde tracing
Olivedesign Cognitive slippage
Purple-chameleon Academic achievement
Humanpersonfromhere2 Single-cell analysis
Nor'bro 123 Puberty blocker


Week 1

Course meetings
Friday, 17 February 2017
In class - Introduction to the Wikipedia project

Welcome to your Wikipedia project's course timeline. This page will guide you through the Wikipedia project for your course. Be sure to check with your instructor to see if there are other pages you should be following as well.

This page breaks down writing a Wikipedia article into a series of steps, or milestones. These steps include online trainings to help you get started on Wikipedia.

Your course has also been assigned a Wikipedia Content Expert. Check your Talk page for notes from them. You can also reach them through the "Get Help" button on this page.

To get started, please review the following handouts:

Week 2

Course meetings
Tuesday, 21 February 2017   |   Friday, 24 February 2017
Assignment - Practicing the basics
  • Create an account and join this course page, using the enrollment link your instructor sent you.
  • It's time to dive into Wikipedia. Below, you'll find the first set of online trainings you'll need to take. New modules will appear on this timeline as you get to new milestones. Be sure to check back and complete them! Incomplete trainings will be reflected in your grade.
  • When you finish the trainings, practice by introducing yourself to a classmate on that classmate’s Talk page.

This week, everyone should have a Wikipedia account.

Assignment - Critique an article

It's time to think critically about Wikipedia articles. You'll evaluate a Wikipedia article, and leave suggestions for improving it on the article's Talk page.

  • Complete the "Evaluating Articles and Sources" training (linked below).
  • Choose an article, and consider some questions (but don't feel limited to these):
    • Is each fact referenced with an appropriate, reliable reference?
    • Is everything in the article relevant to the article topic? Is there anything that distracted you?
    • Is the article neutral? Are there any claims, or frames, that appear heavily biased toward a particular position?
    • Where does the information come from? Are these neutral sources? If biased, is that bias noted?
    • Are there viewpoints that are overrepresented, or underrepresented?
    • Check a few citations. Do the links work? Is there any close paraphrasing or plagiarism in the article?
    • Is any information out of date? Is anything missing that could be added?
  • Choose at least 2 questions relevant to the article you're evaluating. Leave your evaluation on the article's Talk page. Be sure to sign your feedback with four tildes — ~~~~.

Week 3

Course meetings
Tuesday, 28 February 2017   |   Friday, 3 March 2017
Assignment - Original analytical paper (literature review)
  • Our Project 2: Literature Review asks you to critically synthesize and summarize what we know on a particular, narrow topic in your field and to identify what we do not yet know. Project 2 is written for your fellow scholars. The leap from this dense, scholarly, argumentative and evaluative language to the neutral point of view and verifiability of a Wikipedia article is a big step. We will compare related lit reviews and Wikipedia articles side by side to map a path for our own Wikipedia contributions. 
In class - Discussion
What's a content gap?

Now that you're thinking about what makes a "good" Wikipedia article, consider some additional questions.

  • Wikipedians often talk about "content gaps." What do you think a content gap is, and what are some possible ways to identify them?
  • What are some reasons a content gap might arise? What are some ways to remedy them?
  • Does it matter who writes Wikipedia?
  • What does it mean to be "unbiased" on Wikipedia? How is that different, or similar, to your own definition of "bias"?
Assignment - Add to an article

Familiarize yourself with editing Wikipedia by adding a citation to an article. There are two ways you can do this:

  • Add 1-2 sentences to a course-related article, and cite that statement to a reliable source, as you learned in the online training.
  • The Citation Hunt tool shows unreferenced statements from articles. First, evaluate whether the statement in question is true! An uncited statement could just be lacking a reference or it could be inaccurate or misleading. Reliable sources on the subject will help you choose whether to add it or correct the statement.

Week 4

Course meetings
Tuesday, 14 March 2017   |   Friday, 17 March 2017
In class - Discussion
Thinking about sources and plagiarism
  • Blog posts and press releases are considered poor sources of reliable information. Why?
  • What are some reasons you might not want to use a company's website as the main source of information about that company?
  • What is the difference between a copyright violation and plagiarism?
  • What are some good techniques to avoid close paraphrasing and plagiarism?
Assignment - Review the rules for medical topics

Review Wikipedia's rules for topics related to medicine, human health, and psychology.

Assignment - Choose possible topics
  • Review page 6 of your Editing Wikipedia guidebook.
  • Choose 3–5 potential articles that you can tackle, and post links to them on your Wikipedia user page. For articles that already exist, check the Talk page to see what other Wikipedians might be doing. Finally, present your choices to your instructor for feedback.

Week 5

Course meetings
Tuesday, 21 March 2017   |   Friday, 24 March 2017
Assignment - Finalize your topic / Find your sources
  • On the Students tab, assign your chosen topic to yourself.
  • In your sandbox, write a few sentences about what you plan to contribute to the selected article.
    • Think back to when you did an article critique. What can you add? Post some of your ideas to the article's talk page, too.
    • Compile a list of relevant, reliable books, journal articles, or other sources. Post that bibliography to the talk page of the article you'll be working on, and in your sandbox. Make sure to check in on the Talk page to see if anyone has advice on your bibliography.
Assignment - Draft your article

You've picked a topic and found your sources. Now it's time to start writing.

Creating a new article?

  • Write an outline of that topic in the form of a standard Wikipedia article's "lead section." Write it in your sandbox.
    • A "lead" section is not a traditional introduction. It should summarize, very briefly, what the rest of the article will say in detail. The first paragraph should include important, broad facts about the subject. A good example is Ada Lovelace. See Editing Wikipedia page 9 for more ideas.

Improving an existing article?

  • Identify what's missing from the current form of the article. Think back to the skills you learned while critiquing an article. Make notes for improvement in your sandbox.

Keep reading your sources, too, as you prepare to write the body of the article.

Resources: Editing Wikipedia pages 7–9


Everyone has begun writing their article drafts.

Week 6

Course meetings
Tuesday, 28 March 2017   |   Friday, 31 March 2017
In class - Discussion
Thinking about Wikipedia
  • What do you think of Wikipedia's definition of "neutrality"?
  • What are the impacts and limits of Wikipedia as a source of information?
  • On Wikipedia, all material must be attributable to reliable, published sources. What kinds of sources does this exclude? Can you think of any problems that might create?
  • If Wikipedia was written 100 years ago, how might its content (and contributors) be different? What about 100 years from now?
Assignment - Expand your draft
  • Keep working on transforming your article into a complete first draft. Get draft ready for peer-review.
  • If you'd like a Content Expert to review your draft, now is the time! Click the "Get Help" button in your sandbox to request notes.
Assignment - Peer review and copy edit
  • First, take the "Peer Review" online training.
  • Select two classmates’ articles that you will peer review and copyedit. On the Articles tab, find the articles that you want to review, and then assign them to yourself in the Review column.
  • Peer review your classmates' drafts. Leave suggestions on on the Talk page of the article, or sandbox, that your fellow student is working on. Other editors may be reviewing your work, so look for their comments! Be sure to acknowledge feedback from other Wikipedians.
  • As you review, make spelling, grammar, and other adjustments. Pay attention to the tone of the article. Is it encyclopedic?

Every student has finished reviewing their assigned articles, making sure that every article has been reviewed.

Assignment - Respond to your peer review

You probably have some feedback from other students and possibly other Wikipedians. It's time to work with that feedback to improve your article!

  • Read Editing Wikipedia pages 12 and 14.
  • Return to your draft or article and think about the suggestions. Decide which ones to start implementing. Reach out to your instructor or your Content Expert if you have any questions.

Week 7

Course meetings
Tuesday, 4 April 2017   |   Friday, 7 April 2017
Assignment - Begin moving your work to Wikipedia

Once you've made improvements to your article based on peer review feedback, it's time to move your work to Wikipedia proper - the "mainspace."

Editing an existing article?

  • NEVER copy and paste your draft of an article over the entire article. Instead, edit small sections at a time.
  • Copy your edits into the article. Make many small edits, saving each time, and leaving an edit summary. Never replace more than one to two sentences without saving!

Creating a new article?

  • Read Editing Wikipedia page 13, and follow those steps to move your article from your Sandbox to Mainspace.
  • You can also review the [[../../../training/students/sandboxes|Sandboxes and Mainspace]] online training.

Week 8

Course meetings
Tuesday, 11 April 2017   |   Friday, 14 April 2017
Assignment - Continue improving your article

Do additional research and writing to make further improvements to your article, based on suggestions and your own critique.

  • Read Editing Wikipedia page 12 to see how to create links from your article to others, and from other articles to your own. Try to link to 3–5 articles, and link to your article from 2–3 other articles.
Assignment - Polish your work

Continue to expand and improve your work, and format your article to match Wikipedia's tone and standards. Remember to contact your Content Expert at any time if you need further help!

Week 9

Course meetings
Tuesday, 18 April 2017   |   Friday, 21 April 2017
Assignment - Final article

It's the final week to develop your article.

  • Read Editing Wikipedia page 15 to review a final check-list before completing your assignment.
  • Don't forget that you can ask for help from your Content Expert at any time!
Assignment - Reflective essay

Write a reflective essay (2–5 pages) on your Wikipedia contributions.

Consider the following questions as you reflect on your Wikipedia assignment:

  • Critiquing articles: What did you learn about Wikipedia during the article evaluation? How did you approach critiquing the article you selected for this assignment? How did you decide what to add to your chosen article?
  • Summarizing your contributions: include a summary of your edits and why you felt they were a valuable addition to the article. How does your article compare to earlier versions?
  • Peer Review: If your class did peer review, include information about the peer review process. What did you contribute in your review of your peers article? What did your peers recommend you change on your article?
  • Feedback: Did you receive feedback from other Wikipedia editors, and if so, how did you respond to and handle that feedback?
  • Wikipedia generally: What did you learn from contributing to Wikipedia? How does a Wikipedia assignment compare to other assignments you've done in the past? How can Wikipedia be used to improve public understanding of our field/your topic? Why is this important?

Everyone should have finished all of the work they'll do on Wikipedia, and be ready for grading.