Help:Wikipedia editing for non-academic experts

Subject experts have a lot to contribute to Wikipedia. Experts include people skilled in a trade, people who've worked in a field for decades, and passionate hobbyists and autodidacts. Editing Wikipedia is itself a skilled job, and while you can just learn as you go, a bit of training might help you get started.


Why should you use your valuable time and hard-won expertise to edit Wikipedia?

  • Public service. You may wish that people understood your field better. Wikipedia is a great way of writing about your field in a way that can be found and read by the public.
  • Give and take. As a Wikipedia reader, you are benefiting from a vast collection of articles written by the Wikipedia community. Why not reciprocate and help improve the existing articles by sharing your knowledge?
  • Righting wrongs. You've probably already found some important topics that you know about are missing from Wikipedia, or worse, described incorrectly. Since people who have an academic education are more likely to edit Wikipedia, there are systematic gaps in Wikipedia's content. Experts from other backgrounds can help fill these gaps.
  • Free skills training. To write well on Wikipedia, you have to learn some extremely useful general skills, such as expressing yourself clearly to non-experts. These skills may help you in your professional and personal life.
  • Broaden your knowledge. When you write about a topic, you learn about it yourself; you may well find this knowledge useful in your off-wiki work. Also, when you carefully survey a topic, you are likely to find out about what is not known as well as what is known, and this could help you get to know your field even better.
  • Community. You can work with other editors from around the world who share your interests. Even in the unlikely even that you learn nothing from one another, you may find working together on Wikipedia pleasant.
  • It looks good on your vita. If you've written excellent Wikipedia content in your field, it attests to your expertise. In most cases the fact that you've contributed to an article is invisible to most readers, so it's not going to do much for making you more famous, or win you custom, but it may earn you respect in your field.

Do not go into Wikipedia for the purpose of boosting its coverage of your business, or yourself as a person. It is almost never OK to create or edit an article about yourself. If you develop a reputation as a self-promoter, you are likely to get yourself blocked as an editor and your contributions undone or deleted. For more on this topic, see Wikipedia:Conflict of interest.

Experts are not expected to have no opinions in their area of expertise, but they are expected to write from a neutral point of view.

How to get started editingEdit

If you intend to edit Wikipedia more than once or twice, and especially if you ever intend to create new articles, there are good reasons to create an account.

There are two ways to edit: the new Visual Editor (like writing a letter) and wiki markup (like writing html for a website: cheatsheet of common markup). Click the "Edit" tab, top right; if you are not logged in to an account, a popup will offer the choice. If you have logged in, you can set your editing mode at Special:Preferences.

There are also extensive tutorials on editing. The general style of Wikipedia articles is laid out in Wikipedia:Manual of Style.

Social connectionsEdit

Newcomers may expect help from established members of the community. You can ask for help at the Wikipedia:Teahouse and a variety of other places. You can even apprentice yourself to an experienced user.

Many cities have face-to-face Wikipedia meetups and Edit-a-thons. These are club meetings for local editors. There is a global annual editor's meeting called Wikimania.

One way to stay connected to the greater Wikipedia community is through subject-specific Wikiprojects. A Wikiproject is a community of editors interested in a single topic area. The discussion pages for these projects are a good place to ask about the details of writing articles for that topic area, for finding other editors to help fix problems you've found, and to find out about articles in need of work. For longer lists of WikiProjects that might be relevant to your interests, see the Wikiproject directory, or search.

When you create or make significant changes to an article, you may want to put it on your watchlist.

Sourcing, verifiability, and notabilityEdit

You may be accustomed to learning from your own experience, or from more experienced experts in your own field. Sadly, "X, who is the world's leading authority on Y, told me so, in person" is not sufficient backing for including a statement in Wikipedia. Nor can you cite your own experience, no matter how extensive. You need to cite a reliable source. This prevents he-said-she-said arguments.

Citations are crucial in Wikipedia writing. Citations are used for:

  • Verifiability. A reader with some level of layman's knowledge but without your specialized training should be able to tell whether what you wrote is true by comparing it against the sources you cite.
  • Notability. A topic generally cannot be included in Wikipedia unless the topic is the subject of multiple published works that are independent of each other. By providing published sources about the topic, you can convince other Wikipedia editors that it's an important enough topic to include in the encyclopedia, and forestall them from trying to delete your content.

Everything in Wikipedia should have a source, an external publication that says the same thing as what you've written. In very short articles, you may be able to get away with leaving all the sources for a separate reference section at the end; for longer articles, the text of the article should have inline footnotes that refer to the list of references at the end.

Ideally, every paragraph of a Wikipedia article (outside of the initial summary paragraph) should have at least one footnote or other source, and in many cases every sentence will have its own source. See Wikipedia:Citation guidelines for more guidance on what does and doesn't need a source, and Wikipedia:Identifying reliable sources for more on selecting sources.

For articles about living people, the rules for citing are much stricter: articles without citations and controversial unsourced statements within an article will both be quickly deleted, to avoid the risk of libel.

Citing offline sources, such as print handbooks, professional guidelines, and manuals, is entirely OK.

Hard-to-source contentEdit

You may find that there is a lack of reliable sources for your field. Some valuable human knowledge, which really ought to be included in Wikipedia, may not have the sources to meet the notability and verifiability requirements. There are several ways to remedy this.

First, you can encourage third-party publications like trade, hobby, and specialist magazines to publish articles containing the information. You might even write something for them yourself. Limited citation of things you wrote is allowed. You can always post about your publications on the talk page of the article, and ask other editors to judge if they should be used as sources in the article talk page (this avoids accusations of self-promotion; Wikipedia tries to exclude advertising). You can also interview publication-acknowledged experts in your field, and write up or publish the interviews on third-party-reviewed sites.

Beware; copying or closely paraphrasing your own words, if they were published elsewhere and you no longer own the copyright, may not be allowed. Ask the publisher.

You probably won't be able to just put something up on your blog and cite that. If you have already published on the subject, and are widely acknowledged by reliable publications to be an expert in the field, others may be able to cite your blog; WP:SELFCITE and WP:SELFPROMO still apply.

You may be able to use self-published notes and web pages in Further reading and External links sections, even if you can't use them as sources.

If you can take photographs or draw diagrams to convey your expert knowledge, please do, and then upload them to Commons so they can be used to illustrate articles. Good technical photos of objects, techniques, methods, and processes are very useful.

You can write a Wikibook based on your own knowledge and experience, without the need for citations, although you cannot cite your book on Wikipedia.

Citation formattingEdit

See also Wikipedia:Citing sources

Citations must provide enough information that others can figure out what source was used, and look it up to read it themselves. Wikipedia is not too fussy about citation formats. Any functional format can be used.

You can take one of the two short "Referencing" tutorials. In summary, when using Visual Editor, citation information is entered by pressing the "Cite" button; in wiki markup, citation information is put between <ref>...</ref> tags.

It is rarely necessary to type in the full citation information. Entering only the URL to the publication will usually be enough to let Visual Editor or a robot complete your citation. Failing that, another human editor can tidy your citations, as long as they are comprehensible.


Wikipedia has rules around when and how you can copy information. Some of them are based on giving credit where credit is due; these are Wikipedia's plagiarism rules. Others are based on a legal need for Wikipedia-compatible copyright. Violations of these copying rules are called copyvio. Copying and pasting from other Wikipedia articles may be ok (but you should state where you've copied it from in the edit summary).

Copying (with accreditation) from open access texts licensed under CC-BY and CC-BY-SA is allowed, even if they are not your own work. However, licenses prohibiting commercial use or derivative works are not compatible with Wikipedia (Wikipedia is used commercially, and is itself a derivative work). Attributed short quotes of copyright materials may be fair use. Copyright assistance is available to editors.

Giving and getting feedbackEdit

If you disagree with someone's edits, the proper way to resolve the conflict is to discuss it on the article's discussion page. Wikipedia cannot check editors' credentials, and thus does not give higher status or authority to anyone claiming them; you have to win respect by demonstrating superior knowledge. Telling other editors that you are an expert isn't going to help. To win a dispute over the content of an article, you need to back up your opinion with reliable sources, published material in magazines, books, newspapers, etc., that says what you want the article to say. Knowing a lot about the topic will help you find sources and convince others.

Unlike some other sites, Wikipedia does not permit any one editor to take control of an article and vet changes by others. Instead, disputes over the content of an article are handled by consensus of all the editors who are interested in the subject (and by some complicated bureaucracy if that fails). So in particular, some of the changes you make are likely to be undone by other people, who may well know less than you about the subject. You need to be prepared for this, and avoid getting into a fight when it happens.

The review process on Wikipedia can be harsh. Your edits may be reverted by automated tools designed to rapidly remove large volumes of vandalism. The editors using these tools may not be willing to take the time to fix problems in your edit, as they ideally ought to do. Seek more constructive reviews from other editors. Remember that removed content can be put back with almost no effort (but avoid edit warring). Study of editor trends shows that, sadly, a lot of good would-be contributors disengage rather than discuss when their contributions are rejected.

Communication on Wikipedia is by text only. It's easy for editors to mistake one another's meaning, and even easier to hear a friendly comment as hostile; tone of voice is invisible. To avoid needless conflict, WP:Assume good faith, and make your friendly intentions unmistakable. Wikipedia has a fair number of editors with high-functioning autism and Asperger's, who are often very helpful with getting details (like reference formatting) right, but may communicate very literally and find social interactions difficult to understand. Conscientious effort to communicate without ambiguity helps prevent misunderstandings.

See alsoEdit