Wikipedia:Contributing to Wikipedia

Wikipedia's purpose

A short video about that "Edit" button and what it can do when you are bold! (1:06 min)

Our purpose is to create a web-based, free content encyclopedia of all branches of knowledge, in an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation. The goal of a Wikipedia article is to create a comprehensive and neutrally written summary of existing mainstream knowledge about a topic. Editors are encouraged to be bold in editing in a fair and accurate manner with a straightforward, just-the-facts style. Articles should have an encyclopedic style with a formal tone instead of essay-like, argumentative, promotional, or opinionated writing. The five pillars is a popular summary of the most pertinent Wikipedia principles.

Getting started

As a new editor, also known as a contributor, you may feel a little overwhelmed by the sheer size and scope of this project called Wikipedia. Don't worry too much if you don't understand everything at first, as it is acceptable to use common sense as you go about editing. Wikipedia not only allows you to create, revise, and edit articles, but it wants you to do so. You just need to remember that you can't break Wikipedia and although there are many protocols, perfection is not required, as Wikipedia is a work in progress. Collaborative editing means that incomplete or poorly written first drafts can evolve over time into excellent articles.

Introductions and tutorials

For a listing of introductions and tutorials by topic, see: Help:Getting started
A downloadable "Editing Wikipedia guide" in PDF form written by the staff at the Wikimedia Foundation

To achieve our goals, a wide range of how-to and information pages are made available. Aside from this page, there are some other introductions (tutorials) to the project. The module introduction is a step-by-step guide explaining what this place is all about and how to contribute. The Wikipedia Adventure is a comprehensive 7-mission interactive guided tour, which covers all the essentials about editing and the expectations and norms of the Wikipedia community. For an extensive textbook see Help: Wikipedia: The Missing Manual.

Creating an account

You do not have to log in to read Wikipedia. You do not even have to log in to edit articles on Wikipedia. Just about anyone can edit almost any article at any given time, even without logging in. However, creating an account is free of charge and has several benefits (for example, the ability to create pages, upload media and edit without one's IP address being visible to the public). To create an account in seconds, click Create account and fill out the few required fields. This will be logged, your account will be created, and you will be provided with a link back to this page.

Community protocols and conventions

Policy and Guideline: Wikipedia:Civility and Wikipedia:Etiquette
How to pages: Help:Introduction to policies and guidelines and Wikipedia:Simplified ruleset
A video that articulates the diversity and enthusiasm of the Wikipedia Community by editors like you. (4:10 min)

Wikipedia does not employ hard-and-fast rules, and there is no need to read any page before editing. However, some standards and behavioural expectations may be enforced. General social norms should be followed by all Wikipedia editors. The Wikipedia community is made up of people from different countries and cultures, with different views, perspectives, opinions, and backgrounds, sometimes varying widely. Editors should treat each other respectfully, work together collegially, and avoid behaviour that would be widely seen as unacceptable, disruptive, tendentious, or dishonest.

Policies, guidelines, and formatting norms are developed by the community to describe the best practices, to clarify principles, resolve conflicts, and otherwise further our goals. These rules are principles, not laws, on Wikipedia. To varying degrees, policies and guidelines exist as rough approximations of their underlying principles. They are not intended as inflexible, controlling statutes on any set of norms or practices under all circumstances, nor to exhaustively define all matters within their ambit. They must be understood in context, using common sense and discretion. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia and, as a means to that end, an online community of individuals interested in building and using a high-quality encyclopedia. Therefore, there are certain things that Wikipedia is not and common mistakes that should be avoided.

Discussion and consensus

Guideline page: Wikipedia:Talk page guidelines
How to pages: Help:Introduction to talk pages and Help:Using talk pages
A screencast demonstrating how to use a talk page. (2:43 min)

Behind the scenes of Wikipedia articles, there is a large community of volunteer editors working to build the encyclopedia. It is not uncommon for editors to disagree about the way forward. That is when discussion and attempts to reach consensus should take place. Every article on Wikipedia has a talk page, reached by clicking the Talk tab just above the title (for example, Talk:Evolution). There, editors can discuss improvements to the content of an article. You can participate too! If you ever make a change that gets reverted by another editor, discuss the change on the talk page! The BOLD, revert, discuss cycle is a popular method of reaching consensus and may be useful for identifying objections, keeping discussion moving forward and helping to break deadlocks. Some editors will see any reversion as a challenge, so be considerate and patient. While discussing matters, it is very important that you conduct yourself with civility and assume good faith on the part of others. Edit warring (repeatedly overriding or reimplementing contributions) is highly discouraged. There is a bright-line rule called the three-revert rule, the violation of which may lead someone to be blocked from editing to prevent further disruption. Disruptive editing is not always intentional, as new editors may simply not understand the ins and outs of Wikipedia.

Most other types of pages on Wikipedia also have associated talk pages, including the user page each editor is assigned once they sign up. When other editors need to contact you, they will usually do this by leaving a message on your user talk page. When someone has left you a message that way, you will see a notice the next time you log in or view a page on Wikipedia.

There are many other types of discussions that take place on Wikipedia. For example: Articles for deletion is where editors discuss whether or not an article should be deleted (or kept, merged or redirected to another article, etc.); requested moves is the launching point for debating the retitling of pages; and the village pump is a centralized area for discussion where editors debate various aspects of the encyclopedia project, such as proposals for new features, policy changes and technical issues.

The basics of contributing

Policy page: Wikipedia:Editing policy
A short video about the satisfaction editors get from contributing. (1:23 min)

Wikipedia is the product of thousands of editors' contributions, each one bringing something different to the table, whether it be: researching skills, technical expertise, writing prowess or tidbits of information, but most importantly a willingness to help. Nobody owns articles, so if you see a problem that you can fix, do so. Everyone is encouraged to copyedit articles, add content and create new articles if they have knowledge about the topic at hand or are willing to do the necessary research to improve it. Although you should use a broad vocabulary of regular, non-technical terms, do not use words or expressions that many readers may not know. If an article is written in a highly technical manner, but the material permits a more understandable explanation, then editors are strongly recommended to rewrite it.

Article development and content protocols

Articles make up the bulk of Wikipedia's mainspace. Each article is on one topic (rather than a word and its definition, which usually belong in Wikimedia's dictionary project called Wiktionary). Wikipedia does not publish original research. An encyclopedia is, by its nature, a tertiary source that provides a survey of information already the subject of publication in the wider world. Accordingly, and because Wikipedia is open to editing by anyone, we require that information be verifiable in reliable sources. Ideally, all information should be cited to reliable sources and to evidence that is verifiable. However, we only mandate citations for quotations, material whose verifiability has been challenged or is likely to be challenged and contentious material, whether negative, positive, or neutral, about living persons. Sourcing requirements are significantly stricter in such articles on living persons. Please note though that we strongly discourage people from writing about themselves, their friends, bands, websites, companies or organizations, pet projects, personal vendettas, campaigns and any other topic in which they have a conflict of interest.

A brochure in PDF form by the Wikimedia Foundation about how articles evolve, elements of good quality articles, and signs of poor quality articles.

The quality of Wikipedia articles varies widely; many are very good, but some lack depth and clarity, contain bias or are out of date. In general, high-quality articles have the following elements: a lead section that gives an easy-to-understand overview, a clear structure, balanced coverage, neutral content, and are based upon verifiable information found in reliable sources.

Wikipedia:Featured content represents the best of what Wikipedia has to offer. These are the articles, pictures, and other contributions that showcase the polished result of the collaborative efforts that drive Wikipedia. All "featured" content undergoes a thorough review process to ensure that it meets the highest standards summarized at featured article standards, and can serve as an example of our end goals. A "featured article" or "list" is indicated by the symbol ( ) in the top right corner of a page. "Good articles" are those that are considered to be of fairly high quality, having undergone a similar but less rigorous review process to meet the good article criteria. The symbol ( ) in the top right corner of a page indicates "good article" status.

Some of Wikipedia's most important topics are listed at Wikipedia:Vital articles. You can look at the table of contents on that page to choose a subject category you know about or are interested in. Choose an article, try to improve it so it matches the good article criteria or even better yet the featured article criteria, which provide models for ideal content and structure. An important way you can help is by creating requested articles.

How to edit

Introductions: Editing with VisualEditor and Editing with wiki markup
Editing tutorial for Wikipedia using classic wiki markup. (3:07 min)

Editing most Wikipedia pages is relatively simple. Wikipedia uses two methods of editing: classic editing through wiki markup (wikitext) and through a newer VisualEditor (VE). Wiki markup editing is chosen by clicking the Edit tab at the top of a Wikipedia page (or on a section-edit link – if these links are missing, click the Edit tab and remove the code __NOEDITSECTION__). This will take you to a new page with a text box containing the editable text of the page you were viewing. In this box, you can type in the text that you want to add, using wiki markup to format the text and add other elements like images and tables. You should then press the Show preview button to review your contributions for any errors. When you have finished editing, you should write a short edit summary in the small field below the edit box describing your changes before you press the Publish changes button. This will help others to understand the intention of your edit. To avoid accidentally leaving edit summaries blank, you can select "Prompt me when entering a blank edit summary" on the Editing tab of your personal preferences.

The VisualEditor option is intended as a user-friendly, "What You See Is What You Get" (WYSIWYG) editor, allowing one to edit pages without the need to learn wikitext markup. Logged-in users can opt in through personal preferences, see the VisualEditor user guide for more information. Anonymous editors get the classic editor by default, but can switch.

Some pages are protected from direct editing, at differing levels of restriction. The three chief types, in order from most to least common, are:

  • Semi-protected pages, which cannot be edited directly by unregistered users (IP addresses), as well as accounts that are not autoconfirmed (accounts that are at least four days old and have made at least ten edits to Wikipedia), or that are not confirmed. This is normal for pages which would otherwise be vandalized particularly frequently.
  • Extended confirmed-protected pages, also known as 30/500 protection, which only allows direct edits by editors with the extended confirmed user access level, granted automatically to registered users with at least 30 days tenure and 500 edits. Articles about major, contentious events are likely to get this protection level for a short period.
  • Fully-protected pages, which can only be edited directly by administrators. It is very unusual for an article to need this level of protection, but you can see it on key internal pages like the citation system.

When you are subject to any of these three levels of protection, you will see a View source tab instead of an Edit tab. You can still seek changes to these pages by submitting an "edit request" – a user with the ability to edit the protected page will respond to your request. You can submit a request by clicking on the View source tab on that page and using the "Submit an edit request" link at the bottom right. See Help:Protection for more information.

Documenting sources

Guideline pages: Wikipedia:Citing sources and Wikipedia:References dos and don'ts
Introductions: Help:Introduction to referencing (wiki markup) and Help:Introduction to referencing (VisualEditor)
How to pages: Help:Footnotes and Help:Find sources
A screencast that walks through the essentials needed in citing your sources. (2:01 min)

This is an encyclopedia, so remember that it's a necessity to include references listing reliable websites, newspapers, articles, books and other sources you have used to write or expand articles. Please understand that these sources should verify the information but you must not copy and paste text you find anywhere, except for short quotations, marked as such with quote marks and carefully cited to the source the quote was taken from. New articles and statements added to existing articles may be deleted by others if unreferenced or referenced poorly or if they are copyright violations.

Generally, sources are added directly after the facts they support at the end of the sentence and after any punctuation. Wikipedia permits editors to use any citation system that allows the reader to understand where the information came from, and strongly encourages use of inline citations to do so. Common methods of placing inline citations include footnotes, shortened footnotes and parenthetical references.

Inline citations are most commonly placed by inserting a reference between <ref> ... </ref> tags, directly in the text of an article. After publishing changes, it will display in the article as a footnote (e.g.[1] [2]), and the source you keyed in will appear on the page in a collated, numbered list corresponding to the footnote numbers in the text, wherever a {{Reflist}} template or <references /> tag is present, usually in a section titled "References" or "Notes". If you are creating a new page or adding references to a page that didn't previously have any, don't forget to add a references section with this display markup.

A screencast that walks through how to use the various features of RefTools. (5:03 min)

There are a number of tools available to help with citation placement and formatting, some of which are internal tools and scripts, while others are available from external sites. For an example of the former, RefToolbar is a JavaScript toolbar displayed above the edit box that provides the ability to automatically fill out various citation templates and insert them in the text already formatting inside <ref> ... </ref> tags. For an example of the latter, the Citer converts a digital object identifier (DOI) or Google Books address (URL) into a filled-out {{cite journal}} or {{cite book}} template ready to be pasted into an article. See Help:Citation tools for many others.

At the moment, there are over 515,062 articles that have statements that need citations. The tool Citation Hunt makes referencing those statements easier by suggesting random articles which you can work on. Practice adding references to Wikipedia by helping us solve a "Citation needed":

Markup, formatting, and layout

Guideline pages: Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Layout and Wikipedia:Styletips
How to pages: Help:Wiki markup, Help:Cheatsheet and Help:HTML in wikitext

Complicated articles may be best modeled on the layout of an existing article of appropriate structure and topic. Wiki markup is the syntax and keywords used by the MediaWiki software to format a page. Wiki markup is used extensively throughout Wikipedia for such things as hyperlinks, tables and columns, footnotes, inline citation, special characters and so on. An "edit toolbar" (as pictured below) is provided just above the edit box, which will allow logged in users (by selecting the option in personal preferences) to automatically place and format various aspects of wiki code. Many HTML tags can be used in wiki markup. You can check your HTML by using markup validation.


Article creation and notability

A screencast demonstrating how to create a Wikipedia article manually. (7:50 min )

Before starting a new article, please read and try to understand Wikipedia's notability requirements. In short, the topic of an article must have already been the subject of publication in reliable sources, such as books published by major publishing houses, newspapers, magazines, peer-reviewed scholarly journals and websites that meet the same requirements as reputable print-based sources. Information on Wikipedia must be verifiable; if no reliable third-party sources can be found on a topic, then it should not have a separate article. Wikipedia's concept of notability applies this basic standard to avoid indiscriminate inclusion of topics.

An Article Wizard is available to help you create articles — it is not required but will help you construct better articles. The ability to create articles directly in mainspace is now restricted to autoconfirmed users , though non-confirmed can submit a proposed article through the Articles for Creation process, where it will be reviewed and considered for publication. Before creating an article, please search Wikipedia first to make sure that an article does not already exist on the subject, and please also review the article titling policy for guidance of what to name the article. Further information is provided at Wikipedia:Your first article and Wikipedia:How to write a great article, and please consider taking a tour through the Wikipedia:Tutorial so that you know how to properly format the article's content before creation.

Renaming and page deletion

The move option in the Vector skin appears when you move your mouse cursor over the small drop-down menu, shown here.

Wikipedia pages can be renamed by moving the page to a new title. This is done by clicking on the Move tab at the top of the page (you need to be registered and an 'autoconfirmed' user to be able to do this). Before you do so, please carefully review this checklist of things to consider before a page move. The main principles for choosing an article title are described at Wikipedia:Article titles. Do not move or rename a page by copying and pasting its content to a different title. Doing so fragments the edit history and Wikipedia's copyright licenses requires attribution of all contributors. You may not always be able to move a page yourself and should refrain from doing so even if there is no technical impediment, where the rename would be considered controversial and thus should be discussed first. Technical limitations restricting direct moves include where the page is move protected, the target page is at a title protected from creation, or already exists and cannot be moved over a redirect. In such cases, and to list potentially controversial moves for discussion, please see Wikipedia:Requested moves for more information.

While almost anyone can edit and move articles, to keep things manageable, only administrators can delete them. Note that removing all text from a page does not delete it, it just leaves a blank page, which is discouraged as it is confusing to readers. For all the gritty details, see the deletion policy and how to delete a page. Please remember that the deletion process is about the appropriateness of the article for inclusion in Wikipedia. Therefore, please do not take it personally if an article you've contributed to or created is currently nominated for deletion or is already deleted. For the reasons why and the options available for retrieving data from deleted articles, see why was the page I created deleted? If the page is in your own user space (for example, starts with "User:YourName/" or "User talk:YourName/"), then you can request immediate deletion of the page at any time. Simply edit the page while logged in and put the template {{db-u1}} at the top of the page. An administrator will see that you added the template to a page in your user or user talk namespace and will delete it in most cases.

Images, sounds, and videos

Overview: Wikipedia:Image dos and don'ts
How to pages: Wikipedia:Media help and Wikipedia:Picture tutorial
Introductions: Help:Introduction uploading images and Help:Introduction to images (VisualEditor)
See also: Help:Visual file markup
A screencast that walks through how to upload files to Wikimedia Commons and add them to Wikipedia articles. (3:00 min)
A Wikimedia Foundation brochure in PDF form that introduces newcomers to Wikimedia Commons and how they can contribute to it.

Images, sounds, and videos enhance articles greatly. A file that is already hosted on Wikipedia or the Wikimedia Commons can be inserted with the basic code "[[File:FILENAME|thumb|DESCRIPTION]]". ("Image:" can be substituted for "File:" with no change in effect; the choice between the two is purely a matter of editorial preference.) Using "thumb" generates a thumbnail of an image (the most common placement option), which is typically sized differently from the original image. Several options can affect a thumbnail's placement and size, and there are other methods for placing images not in a thumbnail format, such as in a frame, table or "infobox", which this summary page does not delve into.

Only logged in users can upload files under an appropriate title. The first step in uploading a file is to determine its copyright status. If a file is in the public domain, or bears a type of free copyright license compatible with the non-restrictive licenses we require for free reuse, then it can and should be uploaded to the Commons rather than locally to Wikipedia, so that all Wikimedia sites, including Wikipedias in other languages, have access to it. If the image is non-free then it cannot be uploaded to the Commons, but you may be able to upload it directly here at Wikipedia, if it meets our stringent standards for a claim of fair use in a particular article. Please ensure that the copyright status of any file you upload has been specified and we are allowed to use it on Wikipedia.

The Wikimedia Commons' File Upload Wizard and Wikipedia's File Upload Wizard, will guide you through the process of submitting media. All files uploaded are mirrored between Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons, and searchable from either one. There are various file formats available. For images, SVG, PNG, JPEG, XCF, GIF and TIFF formats are recognized (other image formats may be as well). For audio, use MIDI, or Ogg with FLAC, Speex, or Vorbis codecs. For video, use Ogg with the Theora video codec.

Wikipedia has a Graphics Lab, which aims to improve graphical content already stored on Wikimedia Commons and English Wikipedia. There is also Wikipedia:Requested pictures – a collection of wanted images. High-quality images may be submitted for consideration as featured pictures if they meet the featured picture criteria. To help with sounds, go to Wikipedia:Requested recordings and see if you can fulfill any of the requests while trying to meet the featured sound criteria. There is also spoken Wikipedia project, which aims to produce recordings of Wikipedia articles being read aloud.

Lists, tables, and templates

Guideline page: Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Lists
How to pages: Help:List, Introduction to tables and Help:Template

Lists are essential to the organization and presentation of content on Wikipedia. Lists in articles and stand-alone lists are subject to Wikipedia's content policies and guidelines if they contain any of the four kinds of material absolutely required to have citations. Outlines on Wikipedia are a specific type of stand-alone lists designed to help a reader learn about a subject quickly, by showing what topics it includes, and how those topics are related to each other.

Tables on Wikipedia are a commonly-used way of displaying information, particularly in articles that contain data. Tables are also subject to Wikipedia's policies of verifiability and established facts. The simplest way to insert a table is with the editing toolbar. Although HTML table syntax also works, special wikicode can be used as a shortcut to create a table. The pipe (vertical bar) codes function exactly the same as HTML table markup, so a knowledge of HTML table code helps in understanding pipe code.

A basic overview of how templates work (8:00 min)

Templates are used throughout Wikipedia pages to promote consistency, display enriched content with ease, and avoid the necessity of duplicating material that is used over and over across numerous articles and pages. At its most basic, a template is a Wikipedia page created to be included in other pages. Common uses include to display notices, infoboxes, navigational boxes, standard warnings, special text formatting, unit conversions, calculations and many other purposes. The most common method of inclusion is called transclusion, where the wikitext of the target page contains a reference to the template, using the {{Template name}} syntax.

To help improve Wikipedia's lists, first find one that interests you at Portal:Contents/Lists of topics or Portal:Contents/Outlines and then help it match the featured list criteria. Ideas for creating a list may be explored at Wikipedia:Requested lists. See Wikipedia:Lists article alerts for details of ongoing tasks and talks about lists. To help with templates see Wikipedia:Template standardisation.

Collaboration groups

A short video about people like you who edit Wikipedia. (1:26 min)

WikiProjects are social groups of contributors (anyone may join them), who work together as a team to improve Wikipedia. These groups often focus on a specific topic area (for example, women's history) or a specific kind of task (for example, checking newly created pages). WikiProjects function as a central hub for editor collaboration and the organization of specific topics. Many large WikiProjects have collected some advice about how to apply Wikipedia's policies, guidelines, and essays to their specific subject area (for example, military history notability guide). The English Wikipedia currently has over 2,000 WikiProjects and they all have a variety of tasks to get done (for example, Canadian articles to improve).

Maintenance tasks, news, and discussions

The community portal is a central location to find (and list) collaborations, tasks, and news about the English Wikipedia. The Wikipedia Signpost is a monthly, community-written and edited newspaper that covers stories, events, and reports related to Wikipedia. Contribute your opinions to WP:noticeboards in order to have a say in decisions and help come to consensus on certain issues. Posting a message to a noticeboard can also be an appropriate early step in resolving disputes on Wikipedia. For a listing of ongoing discussions, see the Wikipedia:Dashboard.

Helpful editorial maintenance tasks include reviewing new pages, creating requested articles, responding to edit requests and assisting with translation requests. Other maintenance tasks include fixing unreferenced statements, fixing original research, fixing vandalism, welcoming newcomers, link recovery, categorization, fixing spelling and grammar errors, and numerous behind the scenes tasks like moving free images to Wikimedia Commons and helping others. See Wikipedia:Maintenance for maintenance and related collaboration resources, and the Task Center for a newcomer-friendly list of tasks.

Editing aids

In addition to the previously mentioned editing aids and edit toolbar, there are many other "Gadgets", "Tools", "Scripts" and "Bots" intended to simplify, make more efficient, or provide additional functionality to Wikipedians. "Wikipedia Gadgets" are JavaScript and/or a CSS snippets that can be enabled by checking an option in your preferences. Many of the "Wikipedia Tools" are hosted on external sites and perform a variety of task such as reFill, that edits references by adding basic information to bare URLs in citations. "Wikipedia User scripts" is a collection of JavaScript tools that, after installation in a user's common.js file, allow users to change Wikipedia's interface beyond the options available in preferences. "Wikipedia Bots" are automated or semi-automated programs that perform repetitive and/or mundane tasks; they require approval before they may operate.

Help resources and interactive assistance

The help resource system of Wikipedia consists of a wide variety of how-to and information pages, written to differing levels of technical expertise and in widely varying styles. This variety, however, has its flaws: it is easy to navigate to a page that regurgitates the same information, contains concepts that have not already been covered, or is overly complicated for one's needs. In short, the effects can be quite frustrating at times. To browse help related pages see the help menu or help directory. Or you can use the search box at Help:contents (accessed at any time by clicking "Help" displayed on the left side of all pages). As mentioned above there is also a copy of a comprehensive published book, at Wikipedia: The Missing Manual.

Don't worry if you do get stuck, witness disruptive editing or are involved in a dispute; there are volunteers available to assist you. There are a number of help forums and services which allow users to ask questions, seek assistance, ask for administrative intervention and similar matters. For general matters related to using and editing Wikipedia, forums include the help desk, the Teahouse, posting the template {{help me}} to your talk page or to an article's talk page, as well as a live assistance IRC channel at #wikipedia-en-help. More specific help forums include Wikipedia:Media copyright questions, Wikipedia:Requested templates, and requests for translation. To seek administrative assistance, Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents is for reporting serious incidents requiring administrative assistance and Wikipedia:Administrator intervention against vandalism is for reporting continuing simple vandalism, after appropriate warnings have been given without the conduct stopping. Finally, general knowledge questions (i.e., those unrelated to Wikipedia) are welcome at the various sections of the reference desk. See Wikipedia:Requests for a listing of services and assistance that can be requested on Wikipedia.

See also

Editing related
Community related
Other ways to help
Directories and indexes
Information and resources by the Wikimedia Foundation
  • The Bookshelf - A vast collection of high-quality, freely licensed, user-generated informational material about Wikipedia.