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Wikipedia Edit-a-thon Guide

This guide provides tips for participants in Wikipedia Edit-a-thons

Anatomy of a Wikipedia Page

Siankevans, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This three minute video provides a helpful orientation to the structure of Wikipedia pages and how to interact with them. Please watch before making your first edit.

Using the Visual Editor

There are two options for editing articles in Wikipedia: visual editing and source editing.

The visual editor lets you edit text on the screen just as it appears on a Wikipedia page, similar to a word processing application.

The source editor lets you see the underlying Wikicode, which is similar to html.

If you are a novice user, we recommend you use visual editing. You can toggle between the two using the pencil icon at the top right.

image showing the visual and source editing options on a Wikipedia page

Within the visual editor, there are many buttons that allow you to change the size or style of text, add special characters, and more. To learn more or to practice using the visual editor, check out this tutorial.

Adding citations

Once you have gathered some reliable sources on the topic you're writing on, you'll be ready to start adding citations to existing articles. Remember, Wikipedia considers things like textbooks, literature reviews, academic articles, and scholarly books to be reliable sources. Blog posts, other Wikipedia articles, and press releases may be considered unreliable.

You can use your sandbox to keep a running list of reliable sources.

If the page you are editing does not already have a References section, you'll need to add one

Steps for adding a citation:

  1. Click "edit" above the section or article you want to edit. Position your cursor where you plan to add the reference. This is usually at the end of a sentence, after any punctuation.
  2. On the Visual Editor's toolbar, you'll find a "cite" button. This button provides three different ways to add a citation.
    • Automatic: paste in a URL or other link and the visual editor will attempt to automatically populate a citation. Make sure you ensure it works properly!
    • Manual: depending on the resource type you're citing, this will open up the appropriate fields for you to enter. Fill them in accurately to ensure a full citation.
    • Reuse: if you are citing a source that is already used on the page, you can choose it from a list.
  3. After you have added your citation, click "publish changes" in the top right. You'll be prompted to add an edit summary - you should add a short description such as "added a reference" to make it clear to other editors what you've done.

Editing in the Sandbox

If you are editing an existing article, a sandbox is a useful place to work on your edits by first copying a portion of the article you wish to update or expand. Do not attempt to re-write an entire article from the sandbox.

When you're ready to make edits:

  1. Open the article you want to change in Edit mode. (References and other templates will break if you copy from Read mode.)
  2. Select the portion you want to work on — a few paragraphs at most — and copy it.
  3. Open your sandbox in Edit mode and paste the copied article content.
  4. Add an edit summary that says copied from [[article]] with the name of the original article, then save it by clicking Publish changes.
  5. Re-enter Edit mode in your sandbox, make your changes, and publish them.

Moving content Out of the Sandbox

Once you've made edits to an existing article within your Sandbox, you can merge what you wrote into the existing page.

Before you do, take a look at the articles Talk page. Do any of the discussions there relate to changes you're thinking about making? 

Considerations to make your editing process smoother:

  • Do not copy and paste your draft over the entire article. By editing small sections at a time, your changes will be more transparent to other editors.
  • Make many small edits, saving each time and leaving an edit summary. Again, this helps "show your work" to other editors.

When you're reading to move your drafted content from the sandbox back to the article:

  1. Open your sandbox in Edit mode. (References and other templates will break if you copy from Read mode.)
  2. Select the portion you want to move into the live article.
  3. Open the original article in Edit mode and add your content into the article.
  4. Add an edit summary that says it was copied from your sandbox, and click 'Publish changes'. (Include a link to your sandbox, like [[User:Your Username/sandbox]], in the edit summary.)
  5. Repeat this process for any other parts of the article you worked on.
  6. Make sure that the lead section reflects the new content you've added. And copy-edit the article to ensure your additions mesh well with the preexisting content.

What to contribute

Start small
If you are editing Wikipedia for the first time, or have less than four hours to dedicate to this task, start by adding citations or edits to existing articles.

This Wikipedia tutorial explains about editing, formatting, citing, and more.

Build gradually

If you are writing a new entry, do it in your sandbox. This will allow you to work on things gradually and keep editing before Wikipedia editors start to scrutinize your content.

The Article Wizard will guide you through creating an article.

Wikipedia has an entry to help you write your first article.

Take some training

Art + Feminism has many useful guides for how to start editing in Wikipedia, including how to navigate Wikipedia pages, basic rules of editing, user pages and the sandbox, adding citations, adding images, and creating a new article.


Content on this page is adapted from Wiki Education Dashboard by Wiki Education, licensed under CC-BY-SA.