How to evaluate a Wikipedia
UC Davis Library and
Wikipedia is a useful source… but not all 4.5
million Wikipedia articles are equal quality!
How is Wikipedia built?
• By volunteers, working over time
• Anyone can contribute (including you!)
• There are lots of guidelines for writing good
• But every article is in progress…
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
Everything’s in progress
• Some articles have been worked on by
volunteers for a long time, and are good
• Some articles are just getting started, or don’t
yet follow Wikipedia guidelines, and are not
• How do you tell the difference?
This article is featured: note the star. This
means Wikipedia editors think it is high quality.
But how would you evaluate it?
First look at the article introduction. Does it
summarize the article and topic?
Next look at the table of contents. Is the article well-
structured? Are any important aspects missing?
Scroll down and look at the text. Is the writing clear?
Are important facts and statements sourced to
references? Is the article well-illustrated?
Keep scrolling down and look at the reference section.
Are there several references? What is being cited:
webpages and newspaper articles, or scholarly books
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?
Next, scroll up to the top of the article and click on the
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
Next, click “article” to get back to the article, and then
click the “view history” link
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”?
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.
Date of edit
Edit summary: what they changed
Add it all up
Is the article…
• Sourced to reputable sources?
• Are there any current disputes, ongoing
vandalism or other problems?
Let’s look at another article, about a
different species of toad
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.
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).
There are not many references, and two of them are to
newspaper articles. (For one of these, the link provided
does not work!)
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?
You can help!
• You can help fix problems you find by becoming a Wikipedia
editor: get started at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Tutorial
• 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.