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How to evaluate a Wikipedia article



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A practical overview of how to evaluate a Wikipedia article, using two articles as examples. builds on this brochure:

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How to evaluate a Wikipedia article

  1. 1. How to evaluate a Wikipedia article Phoebe Ayers UC Davis Library and Wikimedia Foundation May 2014
  2. 2. Wikipedia is a useful source… but not all 4.5 million Wikipedia articles are equal quality!
  3. 3. How is Wikipedia built? • By volunteers, working over time • Anyone can contribute (including you!) • There are lots of guidelines for writing good articles • But every article is in progress…
  4. 4. Core Wikipedia guidelines • Neutrality: articles should be neutral, they shouldn’t take a point of view • Verifiability: articles should have good outside sources to verify facts • No original research: Wikipedia isn’t a place to publish new theories • Style: clear writing and structure
  5. 5. Everything’s in progress • Some articles have been worked on by volunteers for a long time, and are good quality • Some articles are just getting started, or don’t yet follow Wikipedia guidelines, and are not good quality • How do you tell the difference?
  6. 6. Let’s look at a high quality article
  7. 7. This article is featured: note the star. This means Wikipedia editors think it is high quality. But how would you evaluate it?
  8. 8. First look at the article introduction. Does it summarize the article and topic?
  9. 9. Next look at the table of contents. Is the article well- structured? Are any important aspects missing?
  10. 10. Scroll down and look at the text. Is the writing clear? Are important facts and statements sourced to references? Is the article well-illustrated?
  11. 11. Keep scrolling down and look at the reference section. Are there several references? What is being cited: webpages and newspaper articles, or scholarly books and articles?
  12. 12. At the very bottom of the article, is there an “external links” or “further reading” section (or both)? Do these sections direct you to other useful resources to learn more about the topic?
  13. 13. Next, scroll up to the top of the article and click on the “talk” link
  14. 14. This will take you to the “talk” page, where editors discuss the article, as well as rate its quality. Are there disputes between editors? Comments about inaccuracies?
  15. 15. Next, click “article” to get back to the article, and then click the “view history” link
  16. 16. This takes you to the article history, which shows you every change that has been made to the article. Scan it: are there lots of authors or only a few? Is there lots of vandalism or controversial edits that get “reverted”?
  17. 17. This is a single line from the revision history: it shows who made a particular edit and when, and what they did. Click “cur” or “prev” to compare this version of the article to the current or the previous version. compare Date of edit editor Edit summary: what they changed
  18. 18. Add it all up Is the article… • Comprehensive? • Well-written? • Sourced to reputable sources? • Are there any current disputes, ongoing vandalism or other problems?
  19. 19. Let’s look at another article, about a different species of toad
  20. 20. Lots of articles have warning messages at the top, like this one. These messages are left by Wikipedia editors, and are a good clue that there may be quality problems. The message can be removed when the problem is fixed.
  21. 21. This article has a much shorter introduction, and does not have sources for all facts and statements in the text. It is also missing sections (such as behavior).
  22. 22. There are not many references, and two of them are to newspaper articles. (For one of these, the link provided does not work!)
  23. 23. Check out the talk page. Other editors have rated this article “start” class. (The usual rating scale is: featured – A class – good article – B class – C class – start – stub, where “featured” is the highest quality and “stub” is just getting started). Do you agree with this rating? What would you add or change to make the article better?
  24. 24. You can help! • You can help fix problems you find by becoming a Wikipedia editor: get started at • Learn more about evaluation with this handout: • Learn more about article ratings here: • Learn more about Wikipedia at: • Learn more about teaching Wikipedia skills at: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License: reuse and adapt it freely! Credit: Phoebe Ayers.