Memo for Wikipedia editors who are starting

by Issa Rice

Substantive revision 2017-02-10


This page gives information that is likely to be useful to new editors of Wikipedia Timelines Wiki working for Vipul.1


Using reliable sources

Wikipedia can be strict about what belongs on the site, and some editors on the site may try to delete your page as being not notable. The two rough stances regarding inclusion are “deletionism” (adhering to strict rules about what belongs on Wikipedia) and “inclusionism” (being more permissive about what belongs), with many editors in between. Vipul and I are inclusionists. This means that often, content we would like to add to Wikipedia will try to be removed by other editors. To guard against deletion, we must use lots of reliable sources.

Appearances matter a lot with Wikipedia editing, and publishing a page that, on first glance to a casual editor, looks like it is supported by a wide array of sources, is critical to increasing the odds of survival in the Wikipedia world. Of course, the page should also actually be backed by good evidence, but we want to avoid putting people on the path of suspicion.

Here are some tips on finding and using reliable sources:

Citing sources

It’s important to cite at least one source for each claim. In the source editor markup, the way to do this is:

<ref>{{cite web |url= |title= |author= |date= |publisher= |accessdate=}}</ref>

where each of the empty fields is filled with information about the source. Note that accessdate isn’t actually about the source, but rather the date on which you accessed the source.

If you would like the accessdate field to automatically be filled with the current date, you can instead use:

{{safesubst:#tag:ref|{{cite web |url= |title= |author= |date= |publisher= |accessdate={{subst:Today (mdy)}}}}}}

If you are curious, you can read about the details here.

If citations appear near punctuation marks, they should appear immediately after the punctuation mark. In particular, there should not be a space between the citation and the punctuation mark.

A common question is whether it’s okay to cite the same source more than once. This is completely fine! However, in order to prevent the same source from appearing more than once in the references section (thus cluttering it up), you must define a name for such sources. Suppose the name for a source is some_source. Then for the first citation, you would write

<ref name="some_source">...</ref>

and for all the others you can write just

<ref name="some_source" />

If the source you are citing is in print or a PDF, please include the page numbers in your citations. There are various ways to do this, but I recommend the {{rp}} template. You can use it in the source editor like this:

<ref name="some_source">...</ref>{{rp|3}}

or if there are multiple citations for the same source:

<ref name="some_source" />{{rp|3}}

Both citations indicate that the information is from page 3.


ETA: The situation here is now more complicated since the copied content doesn’t stay inside Wikipedia.

Since content on Wikipedia is licensed under a ShareAlike license, it’s okay to copy content from another Wikipedia article onto your own as long as you provide proper attribution to the original article. Here, “proper attribution” usually means linking back to the original article in your edit summary; see “Copying within Wikipedia” for details.

In fact, I often like doing this and starting from a paragraph (or more) from another article rather than from scratch. (I will even say that the first step in writing a new page is to scour Wikipedia for similar articles or articles that mention your topic.)

However, be careful about trying to copy content from outside of Wikipedia. Wikipedia is fairly strict about copyright issues, so unless the content is licensed under a Wikipedia-friendly license, it’s generally not okay to copy things verbatim.

I should be clear that there is not necessarily a moral issue with plagiarism (which is something that school often cares about). The issue can be made sense of in purely practical terms: we want more Wikipedia pages, and Wikipedia pages with non-permissive copyrighted content are more likely to be deleted (or have large parts of them removed), so we want to avoid such content in the first place.

An article template

ETA: For timelines, this template can be used instead.

The following is a bare-bones template you could use for a new article:

'''Page title''' is ...

==See also==



A couple things to note:

For most articles, there will be similar articles that you can borrow the structure from. For instance, we’ve written a lot of tax forms pages, which all have a similar structure.


In article titles and section headings, only the first word is capitalized, unless a word is a proper noun. You can verify that this is the case in the Timeline of global health. Notice how “global health” is not capitalized in the title, and how “picture” is not capitalized in “Big picture”.



  1. For context, see the EA Forum post and the later Facebook post.