Wikipedia Project

The goal of this assignment is for groups of students to choose an underdeveloped or missing article on Wikipedia, related to the literature of labor (see below for candidates), and improve it to Good Article status over the course of the rest of the semester.

Wikipedia candidates:

William Attaway – – Blood on the Forge

Dagoberto Gilb – – The Magic of Blood

Barbara Neely – – Blanche on the Lam

Proletarian Poetry

Philip Levine, What Work Is

Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron Mills


The assignment

Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, is an encyclopedia that can be edited by anyone. It has many millions (!) of editors (Wikipedians), many of whom are students like you. The vast majority of them are volunteers who find editing this site to be an enjoyable experience, even a hobby. I hope you’ll enjoy this project! After all, there are not many exercises that tell you to do something that over a million people think is ‘fun’. ūüôā

Your goal in this assignment is to create or edit an Wikipedia page to be nominated for Good Article status.  (Recall the examples we used as models for our Jack London pages: author and novel.)  You will work in groups.  You must nominate your article for Good Article status by November 15 (see below).

Working with Wikipedia

Wikipedia:Tutorial is the best place to start your adventure with this wiki. Please familiarize yourself with instructions for students and if you have any questions, check the Help:Contents and if you cannot find what you are looking for, ask the friendly people at Wikipedia:Help desk – or just contact me.

Before making any major edits, it is recommended that you create an account. You definitely need to have an account before attempting to do any wiki-related coursework (otherwise we will be unable to confirm if you have completed the exercise). After you create an account, if you know your group already, add your name to the relevant section of this page.

Remember that Wikipedia is not a project limited only to our university. We are guests here and we should all behave accordingly. Please make sure you read Wikipedia:Wikiquette. Please try to think what impression you want other Wikipedians to have of our university ‚ÄĒ and of yourselves.

You should expect that the professor, ¬†other students, your friends, and even (or especially) other Wikipedia editors (not affiliated with our course) will leave you various messages on your¬†talk pages. When working on the exercises below, you should log in to Wikipedia and check your messages as often as you check your email (I strongly recommend you read ‘as often’ as ‘at least daily’). Whenever you have a new message and are logged to Wikipedia, you will see a large orange message, ‘You have new messages’, on every Wikipedia page you access. To make this message disappear, you should click on it and read the message. Note that it is customary to leave new messages at the bottom of the talk/discussion pages, and to reply to somebody’s messages on their talk pages. If you want to leave somebody a message, make sure you are editing their talk page, not their user page. Remember to sign your talk and discussion messages.

Some other useful tips: whenever you are done with an edit and want to save a page, fill out the edit summary box and view a preview of the page after your edit to make sure it looks as you actually want it to look. Only then click the “Save Page” button. You may find the page history tool and watchlist tools to be very useful when you want to check what changes by other editors have been made to the article(s) you are working on.

Please direct any questions to my talk page. You are welcome to send emails, or drop by to see me during our office hours, and ask about Wikipedia how-to; but please try to find the answer first on the Help:Contents.

Stages and Deadlines

On Thursday, September 29, we’ll introduce this assignment.

Start.  Get familiar with wikipedia.  Make some trial edits, however minor.

Demystify the process РРhaving worked on our Democratic Vistas site will help a lot here.  As wikipedia puts it, learn to be bold.  Learn basic editing skills.

By Thursday, October 6, everyone should have created a Wikipedia account, finished the Wikipedia tutorial (including and edit in the Wikipedia Tutorial Sandbox), made at least one constructive edit to Wikipedia (outside the sandbox), and joined a group.  You should sign up for a group by adding your name below our candidate list on my wikipedia talk page.  Be sure to include your name and your Wikipedia username under the author or text that you want to work on. (You can always use the three tildas (~~~) to sign your user name.  This will be helpful as it will create a direct link to your user pages.)

Plan. ¬†Minor edits won’t get us much closer towards Good Article status. ¬†We need to have a sense of what more needs to be done, and an overall plan for the article. ¬†Look at models and guidelines (e.g. Manual of Style or the Guide for nominating good articles). ¬†What sections are required? ¬†What will be the article structure? What information is needed? Who in your group will write what?

By Thursday, October 13, each group should have a plan (who will read what, who will work on what aspects of the article) in place. ¬†You should post your plan to my talk page. ¬†Your plan should include a “to-do” list on your article talk page, explaining who will do what. ¬†If the article doesn’t exist, start a stub.

Share. ¬†You will need to divide up the tasks you’ve identified in the planning stages. ¬†Who is going to do what and when? ¬†Use your article’s Talk/Discussion page to lay out this plan.

Research. ¬†This is crucial. ¬†A wikipedia article isn’t worth much unless it comprises verified research, appropriately referenced. ¬†This will entail library visits, as well as surfing the internet.

Assemble and copy-edit. ¬†As the referenced research is added to an article, we need to make sure that it doesn’t become baggy and disorganized.

By Tuesday, October 27, each of your members should look at an article being developed by others, review it on the articles’ talk page, and write a summary for your own group (on your own article’s talk page) saying whether anything that group has done is valuable for you. ¬†Try to review different articles.

Good article nomination.  By Tuesday, November 15, you should nominate your page for Good Article status.

Your article may be mostly finished. ¬†But, that doesn’t mean that your work is done. ¬†You are responsible for keeping daily track of comments by reviewers (which might include me), answering them and addressing them. ¬†Here are some sample Good Article reviews and related discussions: example 1, example 2, example 3.

I’ll do the final assessment of your work on Tuesday, December 6

Important tips

Create an account and sign in every time you edit
Whenever you edit, make sure that you are signed in (if in the top right corner of the screen you see “log in” button, you are not signed in!). If you are not signed in, I will not be able to verify that you were the person who made the edit and give you points for it.
Talk pages
Whenever editing a talk page, add four tildes ~~~~ to the end of all comments you make on talk pages. This will let people know who is talking. You can also just press the signature button.

What kind of an article are we writing?
We are not doing any original research. You will not be collecting data, analyzing it, or writing about your experiences. We will not be writing an essay with personal opinions or judgments. Instead, we will be writing an encyclopedic article, summarizing an existing, verifiable state of knowledge from a sociology related area. See Wikipedia in brief for a short list of what an encyclopedic article we will be writing here is.

Getting the article assessed as a GA
At the top of this page you will find a “how to” for nomination. There is also a dedicated guide for nominating good articles. If you can nominate it sooner than the deadline, the better for you – every day gives you more time to read comments by the reviewers and address them. The assignment does not with the nomination, you will likely have to fix various issues pointed out by the reviewer. If the reviewer posts useful comments, you should do your best to address them; of course this mean you may disagree with him if you think you know better (reviewers are not perfect).

We don’t own the articles
Wikipedia is a project with millions of editors, who collaborate on all articles. We don’t own the articles we work on. Don’t be surprised if you receive comments from editors who are not part of the course, or if they do edit your article. All editors are here to help; don’t hesitate to get extra help – Wikipedia has ton of places you can do so.

Expect to interact (politely) with others
It is likely that over the course of the project, you will receive messages from editors outside our course, and that they will make edits to your article. Be polite in replying, and don’t hesitate to ask them to explain something.
Work on Wikipedia
A. Don’t work on a draft in Microsoft Word. Work on a draft in the article on Wikipedia. This way your colleagues (and instructor) will be aware of what you are doing the instant you do so, and can comment on it sooner.

B. Don’t exchange comments by email. Exchange comments by using article’s talk pages, for the same reasons as above (unless you are certain that your discussion have to stay private). If you like to receive email notifications, you can monitor the article’s talk pages (and your own userpage talk page) by subscribing to that page RSS feed (see Wikipedia:Syndication).

Remember: gaining experience with wiki software may be more important to your future career than detailed knowledge of globalization. Three years ago, Technorati‘s chief technologist states that in five years “knowledge of wikis will be a required job skill”. Do the math.

Plagiarism and copyright warning
Plagiarism is not only against university’s and course policies, it is also against Wikipedia policies (see WP:PLAGIARISM). And attributing somebody doesn’t mean cut and paste jobs are allowed (WP:COPYVIO). Violations of plagiarism/copyvio policies will result in lower grade and other sanctions (per university’s policy). Please note that the course instructor is not the only person checking constantly for plagiarism and copyright violations; the Good Article reviewer will do so as well, and Wikipedia has a specialized group of volunteers specializing in checking new contributions for those very problems (you don’t want your work to appear here or here!). For more info see: Wikipedia:Copy-paste, Wikipedia:Quotations, Wikipedia:Close paraphrasing, a guide from Purdue University.

Getting extra help
You can always ask me for help. You should not hesitate to ask your fellow students from other groups for help, for example if you see they have mastered some editing trick you have yet to learn. We are here to collaborate, not compete. If you can lobby and get help/assistance/advice from other editors to improve your work (for example by using Wikipedia:New contributors’ help page, Wikipedia:Peer review, Wikipedia:Help desk or Wikipedia:Reference desk), I am perfectly fine with it. Be bold and show initiative, it usually helps.

Advice from past assignments
This is the first time I am running this assignment for my students – – but I am following the lead of my Canadian colleague – – Piotr Konieczny. Based on his past experiences, here are common mistakes that tend to lower your grade:

  • read the “getting extra help” tip above
  • try to complete the extra credit assignments outlined here
  • complete WP:TUTORIAL and edit some Wikipedia articles “for fun” early on; experience gained will be very helpful
  • work on a draft on Wikipedia, in the article; don’t work in Microsoft Word or such
  • keep an eye on your userpage discussion page, and on article’s discussion page, where other group members and other Wikipedia editors – and the instructor – may leave you tips, advice and other comment
  • remember its a collaborative assignments. Work with your colleagues from the first day on a single wiki-draft. Groups whose members work alone and try to combine their parts a day or so before the final submission don’t do very well.
  • don’t focus solely on your own sections. Help your teammates by proofreading their section, see if they have troubles with things you’ve figured out.
  • image questions? See Wikipedia:Images, and in particular, the Wikipedia:Finding images tutorial and the Wikipedia:Picture tutorial. Try to avoid looking for images on “the web”, focus on the Wikipedia’s sister project, Wikimedia Commons, which has millions of images that can be used on Wikipedia without any restrictions.
  • reference questions? See here on how to add footnotes and proper references to your article

Style guides

To get past the stumbling blocks of GA, articles will have to conform to the Wikipedia style guides. The three largest barriers are:

Secondary style guide are specific to different projects. Articles must conform to these also. Conflict between any of these is inevitable and troublesome; editors simply have to work out conflicts through consensus.

The simplest way to understand the various style guides is to examine articles that have passed GA or FA. You can see Wikipedia Good Articles from the section “Social science and society”here. Good sociology related ones include Social class in the United States, Anti-nuclear movement in Australia, African American culture, On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog. Other good examples include Featured articles from the section “Culture and society”, for example: Society of the Song Dynasty, Max Weber, Fairy tale.


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