A Concise Guide to Editing Wikipedia
Wikipedia has been around for more than a decade, and has grown into one of the premier destinations on the Internet for millions of visitors and registered users. Its pages consistently top lists of search results in Google and other popular search engines. Its free and open-source nature comes with a downside, of course, in the form of sometimes questionable accuracy. Maybe you’ve been irked by a persistent piece of misinformation on a page pertaining to your line of work. Wikipedia bills itself as “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit” – so why not you?
While Wikipedia is a huge source of information, it is also a community, with its own rules for governance and members who share the responsibility of enforcing them. Should you choose to participate in this community, we have compiled some step-by-step instructions for signing up, as well as suggestions for making the best use of your time on Wikipedia.
Table of Contents
Creating an Account
To join the community, you’ll first need to start an account. Here’s how:
- Click “Create Account” in upper right corner of a page (it’s in the corner of almost all pages on the site)
- Fill out the following fields:
- Pick a user name. Do note:
- User names can be changed later, but changes are logged, and the logs are public.
- A user name that is your legal name, or close to it, may be used to personally identify you. Some people prefer to keep their Wikipedia edits anonymous by editing under a pseudonym.
- Editing a page without creating a user account (or editing without first logging into your account) will cause your computer’s IP address to be logged and displayed in the edited page’s history. Since IP addresses can contain information about your location and ISP, editing with a user account can actually preserve your anonymity better than doing so without one.
- Pick a password
- Confirm the password
- Enter an email address (this is optional)
- Pick a user name. Do note:
- Click “Create Your Account”
Creating a User Page
Before you dive into editing a page, you will need to create a User Page, the main indicator of your membership in Wikipedia. It’s not hard, and you can put as much or as little information and effort into it as you like.
- Make sure you are logged in to your Wikipedia account.
- Click your user name, displayed as a link in the upper right corner of the page. This will take you to the User: [username] page, where [username] is the user name you chose when creating your account. For example, if you picked the user name “ScienceIsReal,” the link would read “ScienceIsReal.”
- Click the “Start the User:ScienceIsReal page” link. This will open a page dominated by a large text field with simple editing tools across the top of the field. Hover over the tool icons for more information on their functions.
- You may write anything you want in this page – most Wikipedia users write a little about themselves and their interests
- When done, click the “Save page” button at the bottom of the page.
Now that you have a User Page, you can start editing actual content pages. Here’s the quick-start method.
- Sign in to your Wikipedia account.
- Navigate to the page you wish to edit.
- Click the “Edit” tab at the top right corner of the page. The page will open in editing mode, with content displayed in a large text field with simple editing tools, just as when you opened your User Page for editing. You are now able to add or delete text or images on the page. For the most part this works as it does in any typical word processing program.
- When you’re finished, click the “Save page” button at the bottom of the page. This will return the page to its normal view, reflecting whatever changes you just made.
If you’re worried about potentially messing things up, don’t be—every edit is logged in the page’s edit history, accessible via the “View history” tab at the top right corner of the page, and any edit can be undone. There’s also a way to practice editing in your own private area, a sub-page of your User Page called a “sandbox,” which is not displayed to regular Wikipedia users. You can create your own sandbox and access it from your User Page.
Click here for more step-by-step information on editing pages in Wikipedia.
Adding citations to pages
On Wikipedia, citing the sources of information is a bedrock principle. Almost any page of significant size is sprinkled with at least a few of these— — placed by users to indicate an assertion that requires backing up with a reliable source, ideally available online. What constitutes a reliable source can be a subject of debate, but being able to follow a link and judge for oneself is preferable to no citation at all.
To insert a citation:
- With the page in Edit mode, place your cursor directly following the statement to be cited
- Type or copy and paste the citation. Wikipedia does not maintain a house citation style; try to remain consistent with the majority of citations existing on the page.
- At the beginning of the citation, type <ref>. At the end, type </ref>. For example:
<ref> Stephen M. Goldfeld and Daniel E. Sichel, 1990. “The Demand for Money,” in ‘’Handbook of Monetary Economics’’, v. 1, pp. 299-356. Elsevier. </ref>
Surrounding the citation with these <ref> tags automatically adds the citation as a numbered footnote in the page’s References section. (Remember, those double apostrophes around Handbook of Monetary Economics will render as italics once the page is saved.)
4. Once you’ve finished, just click the “Save page” button at the bottom of the page. The place where you inserted the citation will be marked with a footnote number; the corresponding number in the References section of the page will now display your full citation, in this case:
Stephen M. Goldfeld and Daniel E. Sichel, 1990. “The Demand for Money,” in Handbook of Monetary Economics, v. 1, pp. 299-356. Elsevier.
- Follow steps 1 – 3 above. Then, put the source’s url in brackets along with the text you would like to link, separated by a space. For example:
<ref>Stephen M. Goldfeld and Daniel E. Sichel, 1990. “The Demand for Money,” in ”Handbook of Monetary Economics”, v. 1, pp. 299-356. [Outline.] Elsevier. </ref>
Now, when you save the page, the word “Outline” in the citation will appear as an active link, which will lead to the book’s landing page on ScienceDirect.
- Once you’ve finished, click the “Save page” button at the bottom of the page.
Click here for more step-by-step information on entering citations on Wikipedia pages.
Where to Begin
Try looking up Wikipedia pages about subjects you study or have written about. For example, if you contributed a chapter to a book on lithium-ion battery technology, you might try reviewing Wikipedia’s page on lithium ion batteries.
Wikipedia encourages citations for all assertions of fact in its articles. However, it is not hard to find such assertions that have not yet been cited to a source. An easy way to find these is to simply search a page for the phrase “citation needed” by hitting Control-F on your keyboard. If you see any such information on the page that can be backed up by a source you’re familiar with, you can enter the citation (see Adding citations to pages, above). Just remember that if you cite your own work, you should make clear on your User Page that you are the author of that work.
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