Blog Post

Reviewing featured articles on Wikipedia: contributing to the best articles on the site

Reviewing featured articles on Wikipedia: contributing to the best articles on the site

One of the most useful functions that academics can perform on Wikipedia is reviewing articles. Reviewing an article is much like commenting on the draft of a paper - except all of the people submitting their articles for review really do want your feedback and will instantly incorporate it! Wikipedians who ask for feedback through the various review processes are a self-selecting group who are eager to listen and learn. Reviewing articles on Wikipedia can be one of the most rewarding experiences on the site. In this blog post, I will discuss the “Featured article candidates” (FAC). On Wikipedia, there are about 4,000 featured articles (out of the over 4 million articles on the site). These articles go through a rigorous review process and have to meet a strict set of criteria (Wikipedians are fond of saying that these articles are Britannica-level or better and, indeed, many of them are).

 

A featured article on Wikipedia must be:

  • well-written:  its prose is engaging, even brilliant, and of a professional standard;

  • comprehensive: it neglects no major facts or details and places the subject in context;

  • well-researched:  it is a thorough and representative survey of the relevant literature. Claims are verifiable against high-quality reliable sources and are supported by inline citations where appropriate;

  • neutral: it presents views fairly and without bias;

  • stable: it is not subject to ongoing edit wars and its content does not change significantly from day to day, except in response to the featured article process;

  • style and structure: it adheres to Wikipedia’s style guidelines and includes a concise lead, an appropriate and hierarchical structure, and consistent citation;

  • media: it has images and other media, where appropriate, with succinct captions, and acceptable copyright status. Images included follow the image use policy. Non-free images or media must satisfy the criteria for inclusion of non-free content and be labeled accordingly;

  • length: it stays focused on the main topic without going into unnecessary detail and uses summary style.

 

Reviewing for all of these criteria is time-intensive and exhausting, so most reviewers focus on one or two items, such as prose, images, or comprehensiveness. Academics can be particularly useful in helping Wikipedia editors determine if an article is comprehensive or well-researched because generally those writing the articles are not experts. But one does not even have to be an expert to see omissions. For example, let’s look at “Talk that Talk (Rihanna song)”. I am certainly no expert in contemporary popular music, but in reading through this article, it was clear to me that a feminist analysis of the song (famous as it was) must have been done. I could either point out this omission in the review or email some friends more familiar with the scholarship and reviews of rap music and gather some sources to recommend to the writer (the better avenue).

 

Reviews are submitted in one of three ways at Featured Article Candidacy:

  • Support: This means you believe the article meets the above criteria. You must state your reasons why (this is very important - empty supports are not given any weight). Alternatively, you can support based on some of the criteria, explaining, for example, you only read the article for the quality of its prose. This allows other reviewers to come along and fill in the gaps.

  • Oppose: This means you believe the article does not meet one or more of the criteria above. You must explain which criteria it does not meet and why. Editors should have a chance to rectify the problems and you should reconsider your “oppose” when they do. Keep in mind that many articles at FAC have been works in progress for months or years, so casually dismissing them is unhelpful and demeaning.

  • Comment: You have suggestions for improvement but no view on whether the article should be featured for any number of reasons. For example, you have only looked at the copyright status of the images or haven’t had time to read the entire article.

 

Feminists can bring an important perspective to these reviews because feminist viewpoints and scholarship are often left out of articles; editors are either unaware of important sources or lack access to those sources. On more controversial articles, such as Rape during the Bangladesh Liberation War, it is imperative that there are feminist voices in the conversation. In this discussion, there are extensive claims about how many rapes took place, who was responsible for them, and the like. It is essential that feminists who are informed on this event participate in reviews like these, as otherwise one or two determined editors can sabotage the writing of an excellent article.

 

Start reviewing! (If you don't have a Wikipedia account yet, it is best to register. Comments from registered accounts are taken more seriously.)

63

No comments