Evaluating Wikipedia article quality (Bookshelf)


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[Brochure title:] Evaluating Wikipedia article quality [Wikipedia logo]


Wikipedia is the biggest encyclopedia ever created. It exists in hundreds of languages.

Unlike a traditional encyclopedia, however, Wikipedia uses an open editing model. Anyone may contribute by writing or editing articles directly, which means articles can be of varying quality. It is important for readers like you to recognize whether an article is a good or poor.

After reading Evaluating Wikipedia article quality, you will be able to:

  • Understand how Wikipedia's articles evolve
  • Evaluate the quality of an article

What is Wikipedia?Edit

Wikipedia is not a primary source, like a direct interview, or a secondary source, like an academic paper or a news story. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. It is a collection of information from primary and secondary sources, assembled into articles that provide a general overview. Like all encyclopedias, Wikipedia should be used as a starting point. It can provide a broad overview of a subject and help you find high-quality primary and secondary sources.

Wikipedia can help you to:

  • Get an overview of a subject
  • Get a list of recommended works about a subject
  • Discover related topics

How are Wikipedia articles created?Edit

Wikipedia's articles are not created all at once. They grow, edit by edit, often by many different users in collaboration. One contributor may start the article, another may add more text, and yet another may reorganize it to make it easier to read. No one person "owns" the article, but many people care deeply about articles in which they have invested lots of time.

You can look at how each article evolved by clicking the View history link at the top. Every previous version of the article can be found there.


On the View history page, each row represents one version of the article. Click on the date to see that version. You can see that each version is associated with the user who made that edit.

You can also compare two versions of the article by choosing the radio buttons that correspond to the versions you want to compare and clicking "Compare selected revisions." You will see two columns: The left is the earlier version and the right is the more recent. Any differences are shown in red. You can use this feature to determine what has happened — what information was added or removed in the time between the two versions.


[Caption: The previous version is presented to the left. Any changes are highlighted in red to the right (the newer version).]

Production notes

  • These two screenshots will need to be replaced with better looking versions. The images should be based on history pages of real articles on English Wikipedia, preferably without vandalism or edit wars. Also, avoid version where there are templates or other strange code.
  • The two images should have as little text information as possible on them. I removed for example the text above the "Compare selected versions" button.
  • It may be worthwhile to include edit summaries with both black and grey text, and explain the difference.

Another way to see the evolution of an article is to look at its talk page. At the top of each article is a link labeled "Talk". Click on it and you will see how much deliberation has gone into creating the article. Maybe a concern you have about the article has already been discussed.

[Tip icon:] If you have doubts about the quality of an article and cannot improve it yourself, write your questions on the discussion page, and revisit the page to see if one of the article's editors responds.

What are the elements of a high-quality article?Edit

In general, high-quality articles have five elements: a lead section that gives an easy-to-understand overview, a clear structure, balanced coverage, neutral content, and reliable sources.

  The lead section is understandable and summarizes the article's key points. The lead in a biography should, for instance, mention why the person is known where she lived, but need not cover details about her childhood that may be more appropriate to a subsequent section.

  The structure is clear. There are several headings and subheadings, images and diagrams at appropriate places, and appendices and footnotes at the end. For most articles, the content is chronological or arranged by theme.

  The various aspects of the topic are balanced well. No aspect takes over the article, and all aspects are covered. More important viewpoints receive more space in the article. For example, an article about a cat breed that contains a long description about the breed's temperament, but little or no information about its physical characteristics, is not well balanced.

  Coverage is neutral. Articles must be written without bias; where there is disagreement among scholars of the subject, the different views should be covered with appropriate balance. Both positive and negative should may be included, in proportion to their coverage in reliable sources. Good articles also use neutral language and emphasize facts.

  References to reliable sources are important. Good articles have plenty of footnotes at the bottom. If you see numerous links to authoritative publications, that's a good sign that you're reading a high-quality article. The article about the moon should have links to NASA's website, but not to an amateur astronomer's blog.

[Tip icon]: If the upper right corner of the article displays a gold or bronze star, or a green circle with a "+" sign, that means that it has gone through nomination and peer review process and been selected as one of Wikipedia's finest articles. [Show examples of these icons]

What are the elements of a low quality article?Edit

If an article has more than two of these signs, you should find better sources. (Then come back and improve the Wikipedia article with those sources!)

  The article has a warning banner at the top. Most warning signs are only information or requests, such as asking you to help expand the article if it is very short. But warning signs can also represent an unresolved dispute about the article's neutrality or the quality of its sources.

  Several language problems are in the lead section of the article. Problems in the lead usually indicate problems with the whole article. A very short lead section may indicate an article that has grown up piece-by-piece, without much attention to the overall work.

  The language contains unsourced opinions and value statements, which are not neutral and should be removed. For example, instead of saying: "She was the best singer," the text should say: "She had 14 number one hits, more than any other singer."

  The article refers to "some", "many", or other unnamed groups of people. These statements are too general and should be replaced with facts.

  There seem to be aspects of the topic that are missing from the table of contents and the article. For instance, a biography that skips an entire period of that its subject's life suggests it may be missing important facts.

  Some sections seem overly long in proportion to their importance. For example, a big "criticism" section in an otherwise short article about a company suggests that the article is biased against the company.

  The article has very few references, or substantial parts of the article lack footnotes. If an article is based on too few sources, it may have been written without complete information about the subject.

  The discussion page is filled with hostile dialogue. If the editors working on the article are not finding common ground, the article may be heavily biased in one direction, or may reflect too much detail about one the controversial aspect of its subject without sufficient attention to less controversial aspects.

Try it!

What do all good articles contain? Select the correct answers:

  Headings and footnotes
  Warning signs
  Biased content
  Balanced content

[Tip icon] If you have the time or the knowledge, please consider correcting the problems yourself by clicking Edit at the top of the article, changing the text, and clicking "Save page."


Now that you have read this brochure, you are able to:

  • Understand how Wikipedia's articles evolve
  • Evaluate the quality of an article

Answer key to Try it! [Inner side of the back cover]Edit

What does all good articles contain?

  Headers and footnotes
  Balanced content

This educational content is brought to you by the Wikimedia Bookshelf project. To download an electronic copy of Evaluating Wikipedia article quality and other Bookshelf materials, visit:


This location also houses source files that allow you to translate, customize, and reuse Bookshelf materials.

[Back Cover]Edit

Can you trust the accuracy of Wikipedia?

As a reader, you value reliability. For many, using Wikipedia has become more or less standard, but how can you make sure you get quality information?

Evaluating Wikipedia article quality is a reference guide to help readers see characteristics of good and poor quality articles.

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The Wikimedia Foundation is a non-profit charitable organization that runs Wikipedia and other freely licenced websites.