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Learning Objectives (based of the following questions)

  1. What basic editing skills do students and professors need to know to contribute to WP?
  2. What is important to know about the site (anatomy)?
  3. Where to practice Editing?
  4. What role does the WP community have in editing content?

Wikipedia-editing technical skills


Based on feedback from Ambassadors, students and professors, this section provides information on the basic skills necessary to edit Wikipedia. In most cases, these skills will need to be taught to students in your class as well. We are currently developing a WYSIWYG ("What You See Is What You Get") interface-—making editing Wikipedia much more user-friendly and less wiki-code dependent.

While there are a variety of tutorials online about how to edit Wikipedia, such as this one, it is often more effective to take your students into a computer lab and do a hands-on introduction to wiki mark-up. This allows students to see editing take place "live," and gives them a safe space to make mistakes and ask questions in real-time. Typically, such labs last an hour or two (see here for a sample plan).

If you feel comfortable enough with wiki mark-up, you can teach this lab yourself. If not, your assigned Wikipedia Campus Ambassador can present this material for you.

Tips for what to cover:

  • Bolding and italicizing text
  • How to create headers
  • How to edit subsections
  • How to create bulleted and numbered lists
  • How to create links
  • How to create references
  • How to create a sandbox
  • Distinction between article pages, talk pages and user pages
  • Use of talk pages
  • How to navigate around the site using shortcuts

It is best to have students create their user accounts before they come to the lab. This allows them to read Wikipedia's username policy and consider how anonymous they want to be on the site (and also avoids triggering the automatic limits placed on creating numerous accounts from the same location in a short time period). You might also encourage them to play around in the public sandbox. Again, your Ambassador can help you with these assignments.

Online tutorials


Text Editing: bold, italics, links, headers, sub-heads


  • This video provides some useful information on the basics of editing and shows how easy it is to edit Wikipedia.
  • Click on the following PDF link to download and copy a Wiki mark-up Cheatsheet for yourself and your students

Citing Your References


Any editor can remove unreferenced material, and unsubstantiated articles may end up getting deleted. When you or your students add information to an article, you will also want to include your reference. It is best to use inline citations so that other editors and readers can verify the information you add. Just as you do with other research projects, you will want to discuss with your students where to find an acceptable, trustworthy and authoritative source.
  • Adding an inline reference is easy:
First go to the bottom of the page and add a Notes Section. You can do this by typing ==Notes==, then adding the text {{reflist}} under your "Notes" section header.
  1. Now go back to the text you would like to cite and click just after the text you want to reference
  2. Type in <ref> tag before your reference and type </ref> after your reference. When you add <ref>'''your reference'''</ref> the wiki software will automatically add your inline reference number.
This is an example of a line of text in an article where a reference has been added and the reference number [1] has been applied automatically by the software.
NOTE: If any reader clicks on the reference you create he or she will be taken to that specific reference in the "Notes" section of the article.

Handouts for referencing and plagiarism can be printed and handed out to students

What is a Sandbox and how do you use them?


A sandbox is your own personal Wiki page(s) where you can experiment, plan out articles, or begin work before moving into "mainspace" where live articles are. This training document was originally developed using a sandbox.

Suggestions for how to use a sandbox
If your students are expanding a small articles (stubs), beginning from a sandbox is also helpful. Small articles that are expanded by a factor of five within a short period (and are well-referenced) are also eligible as "Did You Know" entries, so working in a sandbox until reaching that threshold may be a good idea.

If your students are revising existing large articles have them draft their first significant edits (e.g., a new or heavily revised section) in a sandbox to get the hang of things. Subsequent edits should be done live, discussing major edits with other editors on the article's talk page as needed. This is much more effective than fully rewriting an existing article in a sandbox and then replacing the article all at once, which may antagonize other editors.

If your students are starting new articles we encourage them to first write their article in a user sandbox named after their topic, such as User:Example/George Harold, just as they would when expanding an existing article. Then when they are ready to move it to the "Mainspace" on Wikipedia your students should go through the AFC process (see Module Three: Developing New Articles).

Getting new articles to appear on the Main Page as "Did You Know" entries (which require well-referenced starter articles with about 3-4 paragraphs of prose) is a great way to boost student motivation, interest in your students' articles, and offers a tangible sense of accomplishment. Online Ambassadors can help with that.

Finally, you could use your students' sandboxes for doing peer reviews of articles in progress, prior to formally moving them to the article main space.

Reasons to use sandboxes:

  • Lower pressure, "shielded" from larger Wikipedia editor community, students feel safer
  • No risk of having work changed/deleted unexpectedly

Reasons to edit live (in the mainspace):

  • Exciting for the students, immediate changes to Wikipedia
  • Collaborative editing, feedback from larger Wikipedian editing community
  • In the past, many students have felt more comfortable creating or editing an entire article in the sandbox. Come the end of the term, when the assignment was due, they then posted into the mainspace area. If any part of the article violates copyright or policy issues, an administrator may delete all of the hard work and research the student has put into the article. If you are ready to grade the assignment, this can cause significant challenges in determining what work the student created and whether it was relevant to the assignment.

How to create a sandbox

  1. Make sure you're logged in on Wikipedia
  2. Go to your user page and click "Edit"
  3. Write [[User:<your user name>/Sandbox]].
(You do not have to call it "sandbox." You will likely have multiple sandboxes for various things you are working on. For example, you could call your new sandbox: User:<your user name>/MySandbox1; User:<your user name>/MySandbox2; or even User:<your user name>/MyPracticeSpace. You decide.)
  1. Click on "Save Page"
  2. Click on the link you just created

Congratulations you are now in your sandbox!

Try writing something. Anything. This is your place to experiment. Play around. Don’t forget to click on "Save Page" 
when you’re done editing.

Note: Your sandbox is public! While other editors can view it, the accepted norm is that other editors will not contribute to or editor your sandbox unless you ask them to.

Wikipedia site anatomy


Although many people have read Wikipedia for years, they may not have fully explored the interface. Over the past two years, we have had very fruitful conversations with professors regarding how the various Tabs works and how they could use them for teaching media literacy, information fluency, writing skills and the construction of knowledge. As you go through the following topics, please keep in mind that each of the tabs may be used in your Wikipedia assignment to help you meet your learning objectives.

The following links will provide you with information on various features of Wikipedia that can help you teach your class. The features include "Recent Changes," "Watchlists," "Discuss" and "History" Tabs.

More about your Watchlist and how can you use it


  • Adding your students articles to your watchlist will allow you to see when they make changes to their articles, and if they add edit summaries, you will also see a summary of the changes they made.
  • You may also want to add a list of links to their articles on your User Page or in your own sandbox.

Communicating on-wiki


Talk pages (Discussion Tab)—How to use them to discuss article content and creation, or to communicate with other editors using their Talk Page.

You can get more details by clicking on Using Talk Pages'

Who edits Wikipedia and why?


While many people are familiar with the encyclopedia portion of Wikipedia, most are unfamiliar with the community behind it. Wikipedia is both a reference work and a community of volunteers dedicated to making free information available. The community is an essential part of Wikipedia. Think of it this way: if all of the articles suddenly disappeared from Wikipedia tomorrow, the community could recreate them, but if all of the volunteers disappeared, the articles would slowly atrophy, be taken over by vandals, and no more information would be added. When thinking about how to design an assignment for Wikipedia, taking the community into account is always important.

Since students and professors will interact with the Wikipedia community, it is essential that we provide an overview of the community, culture and the motivations of Wikipedians. Obviously, this is done on a high-level and more content will need to be added to this section. Wikipedia Videos:

Interacting with the Wikipedia community
Collaborating with the Wikipedia community is key to your students fully benefiting from Wikipedia assignments. But how do you do that? Wikipedians interact and communicate with each other in a variety of ways. There are basic interactions, content discussions, consensus and simple guidelines for common etiquette.

Basic Interactions
Wikipedians interact by writing messages to each other on article talk pages or user talk pages. If another user wants to communicate with you, s/he will most likely leave a message directly on your user talk page. Thus, it is a good idea to monitor it and respond to these messages. Wikipedians sometimes email each other, but this is less common.

When making changes to Wikipedia articles, it is expected that editors will explain their changes briefly in an edit summary. By filling in the small box in the edit window with a phrase such as "copyediting" or "adding a reference", others will be able to follow the history of the article when they click on the "View history" tab.

All Wikipedia interaction assumes good faith. That is, until it can be demonstrated otherwise, we assume that other editors are here to help improve the encyclopedia. Therefore, all editors should be treated with respect.

To keep track of all the pages to which you are contributing, you can look at your personal watchlist, which shows you the changes to those pages. It is helpful for monitoring conversations to which you are contributing as well as articles you are developing.

In general, there is a "talk page culture" on Wikipedia. A lot of discussion takes place on user talk pages and article talk pages and Wikipedians will want you to respond to messages left in these locations.

Content discussion
One of the unique elements of a Wikipedia assignment is interacting with the Wikipedia community and Wikipedia readers. Encouraging your students to join this vibrant group of people dedicated to producing a high-quality online reference work will make your assignment exciting and dynamic. Students can:

  • Comment on articles: Commenting on article talk pages engages students with the writers and readers of articles. This mini-community negotiates the content of an article and frequently fascinating conversations emerge about the best way to present material on, for example, the definition of "black people".
  • Contribute to or solicit a structured peer review: Wikipedia has an internal peer review process. Editors place articles here because they are looking for constructive criticism. Students can choose one of these articles to review and discuss improvements with writers who are looking for help or put their own contributions up for review.

Wikipedians are eager to help those interested in the same topics they are:

  • WikiProjects: There are hundreds of "WikiProjects" on Wikipedia dedicated to everything from Military history to Novels to Video Games. These projects have good resources for your students, including everything from guides on how to write for Wikipedia to lists of resources on the topic. Some are more active than others, however. Current Wikipedians can provide advice on which projects would be most helpful to your students.
  • Online Ambassadors: There are Online Ambassadors who can serve as Wikipedia mentors to your students.


When an edit is made, other editors have these options: accept the edit, change the edit, or revert the edit. These options may be discussed if necessary.

Decisions are made by "consensus" on Wikipedia. Consensus is a normal and usually implicit and invisible process on Wikipedia. Any edit that is not disputed or reverted by another editor can be assumed to have consensus. Should that edit later be revised by another editor without dispute, it can be assumed that a new consensus has been reached. In this way the encyclopedia is gradually added to and improved over time without special effort. Even where there is a dispute, often all that is required is a rewording of the edit to make it more neutral or incorporate the other editor's concerns. Clear communication in edit summaries can make this process easier.

When reverting an edit you disagree with, it helps to state the actual disagreement. This provides greater transparency for all concerned, and likewise acts as a guide so that consensus can be determined through continued editing.

When there is a more serious dispute over an edit, the consensus process becomes more explicit. Editors open a section on the article's talk page and try to work out the dispute through discussion. Consensus discussions have a particular form: editors try to persuade others, using reasons based in policy, sources, and common sense. The goal of a consensus discussion is to reach an agreement about article content, one which may not satisfy anyone completely but which all editors involved recognize as a reasonable exposition of the topic. It is useful to remember that consensus is an ongoing process on Wikipedia. It is often better to accept a less-than-perfect compromise - with the understanding that the article is gradually improving - than to try to fight to implement a particular "perfect" version immediately.

When editors have a particularly difficult time reaching a consensus, there are a number of processes available for consensus-building. Your Ambassador can assist you through these processes.

Like any community, Wikipedia has an etiquette. These few simple guidelines will help you get along with Wikipedians:

  • Assume good faith: Assume other editors are trying to improve the project. Try to understand their point of view. Discuss. Negotiate.
  • Be polite and remember that it is more difficult to read sarcasm and irony in text than in verbal form.
  • Always sign your posts on talk pages using four tildas so that others can follow who is saying what (~~~~).
  • Discuss changes you are making to the encyclopedia on article talk pages.
  • Discuss article content, not editors. Do not make personal attacks

Wikipedia's Top Editors by Number of Edits:
You may be surprised to know that many Wikipedia editors have made thousands of edits.

Wikipedia Community Summary:
In this video Steven Walling sums up the Wikipedia community in a fun and amusing way: Why Wikipedians are the Weirdest People on the Internet

Writing Wikipedia articles


This topic section is part of the "Writing skills development" learning objective and focuses on writing for an encyclopedia. It also covers some motivational incentives for students as well as technical information for submitting their articles for DYK.

  • What makes a perfect article
  • How does a Wikipedia article differ from an analytical essay?
  • How do you write an encyclopedia article?
  • FA/GA/DYK and why these aren't good requirements but are good motivators

Where can I get some help with my Wikipedia Assignment?


The Wikipedia Education Program has simplified where you and your students can get the support you need, when you need it.

If YOU have issues or questions about:

  • How you or your students work with Online Ambassadors
    • Contact your Campus Ambassador(s)
  • How you or your students work with Campus Ambassadors
    • Contact your Campus Ambassador directly, or his/her Regional Ambassador or Wikimedia Education Program staff
  • Writing Articles (i.e. technical, research, writing, community)

If YOUR STUDENTS have questions about:

  • Article writing (i.e. technical, research, writing, community)
  • Conflict with other Wikipedia editors
    • Ask your Campus or Online Ambassador
  • Class specific questions only
    • You, teaching assistant, classmates, etc.


  1. Module One: Global Education Program Overview
  2. Module Two: About Wikipedia
  3. Modules Three: Editing Wikipedia
  4. Module Four: Using Wikipedia in the Classroom