Wikipedia essentials

Before we get started creating and improving EdTech articles, there are a few need-to-know Wikipedia essentials to go over.

Visual Editor makes life a lot easier.

Wikipedia’s new WYSIWYG Visual Editor interface is very intuitive to use but it’s not enabled by default. You should enable it in Preferences before going any further.  Once enabled, you can practice with the Visual Editor mini tutorial.

Be bold

Suggestions for edtech pages to create/improve are provided on the next page but you should be bold and edit any page on Wikipedia you wish to… as long as you are responsible and backing up any statements with a citation from high quality reliable published source.

“5 Pillars of Wikipedia” flickr photo by giulia.forsythe shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Wikipedia has 5 guiding principles (or pillars)

  1. Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia.
  2. Write with a neutral point of view. (avoid using peacock terms and weasel words)
  3. Every page is licensed as free content that anyone can use, edit and distribute. Therefore use only Creative Commons open-licensed images and write in your own words as close paraphrasing is still copyright violation.
  4. Be respectful and civil when discussing an article on Wikipedia’s Talk pages.
  5. There are no firm rules. Lots of norms, conventions and guidelines but exceptions to the rule can also be argued.


What is a reliable source?

Wikipedia is a tertiary resource based on reliable, published secondary sources with a reputation for fact-checking & accuracy. It is these sources backing up every statement that should be cited not Wikipedia itself. Hence:

  • Academic and peer-reviewed scholarly material is often used (barring the no original research distinction)
  • High quality mainstream publications inc. books from respected publishing houses, university level textbooks.
  • Internet blogs are not considered reliable as they tend to be more opinion-based and less fact-checked.
  • News sites tend to be thought of as reliable; broadsheet news sites rather than tabloid news sites (avoid).
  • Secondary sources tend to be used more than primary sources as they offer greater objectivity.
  • No original research – while knowledge is created everyday, until it is published by a reliable secondary source, it should not be on Wikipedia. We are after verifiability not truth. Therefore, however well-researched, someone’s personal interpretation is not to be included.
  • If no reliable sources can be found on a topic then Wikipedia should not have an article on it….yet.
  • Here is guidance specific to reliable resources in medicine

Are you the right person to edit a page?

Many people are not aware that Wikipedia has a strict Conflict of Interest policy. To help protect the project’s integrity editors are asked to take the trust test: would others trust you to be impartial in your editing if they knew how close you were to the subject you were writing about? Therefore, you should avoid editing Wikipedia page where your impartiality could be called into question e.g. pages about yourself, your friends, close work colleagues, family members, employers etc. Paid editing is particularly frowned upon and institutions have been banned from editing their own Wikipedia pages until 2020 when it has been discovered their staff have edited the page without disclosing their conflict of interest (COI). If in doubt, always disclose on your userpage any potential COI and leave a message on a Talk page to discuss COI issues.

Transparency is key

Transparency is key on Wikipedia. Every edit is recorded on the View History tab of a page with a short edit summary describing recent changes. Every entry on the View History tab is a permanent link so every edit can be checked, challenged and corrected. If need be a page can reverted to its last good state. Bots do this automatically for predicable vandalism of pages. Ultimately, Wikipedia is still a human-curated encyclopedia so more eyes on a page tends to help improve the quality and coverage of that subject. After all, Wikipedia is only ever as good as the editors who engage with it. That’s why we need you.

Talk pages are important

Wikipedia is an academic encyclopaedia first and foremost… but there is an element of social media to it as every article has a Talk page behind it. This is where each article’s creation can be discussed with other Wikipedia editors. Writing an article accurately and neutrally often takes some negotiation to arrive at a common consensus after all. That’s why engaging in Talk page discussions is important and also why Wikipedia has, as one of its central tenets, that users should be respectful and civil to one another as some articles will need more debate than others.

Talk pages also detail which WikiProjects are ‘looking after’ each article. There are some 2000+ Wikiprojects on Wikipedia and these are behind-the-scenes places where editors with certain areas of interest/expertise come together to focus on improving Wikipedia’s coverage of a particular subject area e.g. WikiProject Military History, WikiProject Medicine, WikiProject Women In Red, WikiProject Novels etc etc.

Talk pages are also where you can ask for help and guidance; both on the article’s own Talk page and/or a WikiProject’s Talk page. There is also the Helpdesk and the Teahouse for new editors to ask questions.

Let’s get this editathon started on the next page.

Further reading