Blog Post

Beyond categorization on Wikipedia

There are 508 articles in the category “English women writers” and 30 in the subcategory “English women dramatists and playwrights”. Is that how many writers there actually are? Absolutely not. Am I concerned that not every Wikipedia article is properly tagged? Not really. Why?

Because many articles have not been created that should have been, such as “Mary Cooper (publisher)”, who was one of the first publishers of children’s books in England and many of the articles in those categories have abysmal articles. Let’s take a case in point: Charlotte Lennox. This is a typical biography of a woman writer - it has an unreferenced “Life” section and a “Works” section that consists only of a list. While the article does - surprisingly for Wikipedia - describe the relationship between Lennox’s economic status and how she made her way as a woman writer with some detail, it does not explore the themes and styles of her works at all - a reader will not come away from this article understanding what kind of writer Lennox was. Also, much of Lennox’s life and works are discussed in terms of male writers. While their role is important in her life, Lennox’s own life almost disappears in this article. This article is a good first step for a biography on Wikipedia, but it cannot be left in this incomplete state.

So, what can you do to improve articles like this on authors on Wikipedia?

  • Create a list of reliable sources that can be used to write a good encyclopedia entry and put it on the talk page of the article (you can get to the talk page by clicking on the word “talk” in the top left of the wikipedia window - this is where editors go to discuss what information will be in an article)

  • Add sections to an article to help give it structure

  • Add paragraphs with relevant material (with citations to reliable sources)

  • Draw up an outline of what an ideal article would look like and put it on the talk page (for examples of well-written and well-structured author articles, see Mary Shelley, Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson)

  • Add images (images must be your own, public domain, or CC-by-SA)

  • Add a complete list of the author’s works

  • Remove spurious information

  • Reorganize information so that it is more coherent

  • Copyedit


Categories are one way we structure knowledge and are important, but the knowledge has to be there to be structured first. Help us shape the world’s knowledge - join Wikipedia! You can start today. Women around the world are making efforts to counter Wikipedia’s systemic bias by writing global women into Wikipedia!


1 comment

This wonderful article on Mary Cooper has been produced by a phenomenal Wikipedian in a matter of hours! Thank you!