Using Wikipedia as a teaching tool in higher education (Bookshelf)/Week 5

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Evaluate the student outlines[edit]

Note that you've never asked students to create an outline yet. Is this the same as the bibliography? We should explicitly reference somewhere that you need to assign students to create an outline, and give them time to complete the assignment as well (is a week enough time to create a bibliography and an outline, especially if there's a lot of other course reading required?). --Ldavis

Consider the length of time needed to adequately cover all of the changes proposed in the outline. Will the student be able to accomplish it in relation to the rest of the course requirements? Do a quick survey of articles on similar topics (for example, if the student's topic is a court case, see other court case articles to see how they are structured). Ensure that all important facets are covered, and that the article outline is structured so as to meet the Neutral Point of View policy, giving weight appropriately.

It's important at this stage also to assess the availability of scientific literature and give the students feedback about their proposed bibliographies. Wikipedia policy identifies what reliable sources are. Ensure that your students are using the best sources for the project, and that the sources they are using are neutral.

Give your feedback on both the outline and the bibliography on the talk page where the student has posted his or her work. Doing so allows other Wikipedia editors to make suggestions as well and gives the students the chance to make additions and changes to their bibliographies in ways that are visible and transparent to everyone.

Last steps before your students start to work online[edit]

  • New articles vs. existing articles
    • If students are creating a new article, be sure they set up the article in their individual sandbox so they can get the formatting right before moving it over to an article page on Wikipedia. New articles should be cross-linked to existing articles and categorized in existing categories.
    • If students are editing existing articles, be sure they add the "Educational Assignment" template to the existing article's talk page. This template will alert the Wikipedia community that a student is working on the article for class.
  • Hints
    • Encourage your students to copy-edit each others' work and review each others' articles. Doing so will increase their understanding of collaborative work and improve the outcome of the articles. Students will receive an introduction to the peer editing process though this project, and it's important to encourage them to both give and receive edits.

Review the basics of how to avoid having a new article deleted[edit]

This applies to students writing new articles. If students are working on existing articles, this can be omitted.

At this point, students are ready to begin writing content for their articles, and soon after that, moving their work from their personal sandboxes to Wikipedia proper. To avoid confusion and heartbreak, you should review the key standards for Wikipedia articles that will keep their work from being summarily deleted by the community before they have a chance to develop it further. In particular:

  • Articles should make the significance of the topic clear in the very first sentence, which usually takes the form of a broad definition of the topic.
  • Articles should be backed by references to appropriate sources. Inline citations should connect information in the text of the article to the sources from which the information came.
  • Articles should refrain from "original research", opinion or advocacy, instead serving as a neutral summary of what others have said about the topic.

Wikipedia has many more rules and guidelines, but articles that define their topics and make the significance clear, include citations to reliable sources, and stick to summarizing other sources will generally stick around long enough to be improved later.

Ask students to begin writing or outlining in their sandboxes[edit]

Students writing new articles should begin by using what they've learned in their research so far to draft a 3-4 paragraph overview version of their article, citing sources and following Wikipedia standards as much as possible. The first major goal will be for students to submit their articles as Did you know (DYK) entries, which appear for a time on Wikipedia's main page and often attract new collaborators. Articles should remain in students' sandboxes until they are ready for nomination, since only new articles (created or moved out of sandboxes within the last 5 days) are eligible for DYK.

Students working on existing articles should instead begin constructing, in their sandbox, a detailed outline for their article reflecting how they plan to improve it.