A guide to the Good Article Review Process
Can you review an article against the GA criteria while flying an aircraft? Perhaps not, but the former is certainly easier!
A Good article is one that has been determined to be "well written, factually accurate and verifiable; broad in coverage, neutral in point of view, and stable; and illustrated, where possible, by relevant images with suitable copyright licenses." There are currently over 10,000 such articles on Wikipedia. All of these articles have been reviewed by at least one Wikipedian, and often more. The quality of the Good Article program relies on a body of reviewers who decide whether these articles are good enough to be listed. This article is about becoming one of those vital reviewers.
Anyone who has been involved in creating an article that they think meets the good article criteria can nominate it at the good articles nomination page. Here, editors are able to see which articles have been nominated for good article status, and choose one to review.
Over the past few months, a backlog has developed at the list of nominations, and regularly more than 300 articles are on the list waiting to be reviewed. This week, The Signpost encourages editors to enhance the quality of content at Wikipedia by doing good article reviews. Below is a guide explaining how to effectively review good article nominations, and giving reasons why editors might consider reducing the backlog of nominations.
Articles submitted to the good article process must satisfy six points in order to become categorized as a good article: it must be (1) well-written, (2) factually accurate and verifiable, (3) broad in its coverage, (4) neutral, (5) stable, and (6) illustrated if possible. Reviewers compare the article to the criteria, and then either pass the article; put it on hold until issues are resolved; or fail it because it does not meet the criteria. Sometimes, reviewers might also seek a second opinion before making a decision.
Each of the six points is reviewed in its own way. To see if an article is well-written, you just need to read the article and make sure it makes sense. If you can't understand what a significant part of the article is trying to say, it likely fails this criteria. Beyond that, check for spelling errors, punctuation issues, paragraph structure, and similar possible problems. Minor copyediting problems can be fixed by the reviewer, though if you wish not to touch the article at all and note every issue on the GA review page, that is also acceptable. To see if it's factually accurate, make sure any controversial note is sourced; if something sounds odd, and it's unsourced, ask for source, and also make sure no original research is present by using the same method. The sources that are used also need to be checked to make sure they're appropriate. A book by a major author or article from the BBC would be an acceptable reference in an article, for example, while a random forum posting or blog entry would be an invalid source.
Whether the article is broad in coverage is harder to gauge unless you know the subject. Take a quick look around the web; if the subject is very important or influential, then expect a longer article, and if it's rather short, note that. For example, if the article on Abraham Lincoln was only about 1,000 words, the article would fail the broadness guideline. Conversely, if the article was 15,000 words, then that would be far too much detail for an individual article, and the article would need to be condensed (possibly by splitting off daughter articles with much of the detail).
An article's neutrality can be evaluated while reading for prose (point 1). For a biography, if it's obvious that the article is hiding good or bad points of the person, then that's a problem. The use of some adjectives can create neutrality problems. If you see "outstanding", "impressive", "terrible", and the like in the article, then those need to be removed, as they are meant to sway the reader.
To check for stability, simply glance at the edit history to make sure several users are not fighting back and forth, and make sure that the article doesn't keep drastically changing each week. If an article was written from November 3-15 and nominated on the 15th, then the article is stable, even though it was edited that day.
Images are not required for GA status, but if they are in the article, make sure that the file is in the public domain or tagged with an appropriate free license. If it's not, then make sure the fair use rationale listed is convincing as to why the image should be in the article. If there isn't a fair use rationale, ask for one.
While the above may seem daunting, this is all you need to do when reviewing a GA, and as such it is not an onerous process. If you need help with the above, there is a GA List template that can help you. Also, you can always get help on the GAN talk page, where experienced reviewers regularly make suggestions, and will respond to your questions.
In the past few months, the GA process has become mostly automated, making it much easier to nominate and review articles. Articles are placed automatically at the GAN page when the nomination template is placed on the article's talk page. The only manual work is changing the template when the article is passed or failed, and adding the name of the article to the main good article page.
Why does the Good Article review process matter? First, this is generally one of the stepping stones to getting a Featured Article, and a great review at this stage can make the FA process go much more smoothly, or even be the difference between the article passing or failing an FA review. The GA review process also greatly increases reader awareness of what constitutes quality information in Wikipedia: each good article has a green plus sign on the upper right corner, symbolizing that it's one of our better articles, and showing that it has undergone an independent review. Lastly, the GA review process improves our public reputation by showing we do quality assurance and actually check on articles.
As for you, the (potential) reviewer, helping improve articles to GA status means that you get to read some of Wikipedia's most interesting and detailed content before it becomes officially recognized as such.