This page is currently a draft.
Material may not yet be complete, information may presently be omitted, and certain parts of the content may be subject to radical, rapid alteration. More information pertaining to this may be available on the talk page.

Learning Objectives (based of the following questions)

  1. What are WP core policies and guidelines?
  2. How is copyright and Plagiarism handled on WP?

Wikipedia's Core Policies


This module is intended to provide an overview of Wikipedia—-how it is being used in classrooms today, the potential impact your students can have on a global audience, the technical skills needed to contribute successfully and an understanding of the Wikipedian community.

We have designed this module primarily for professors/instructors that are either new to Wikipedia or have limited exposure to the Wikipedia community. In either case, you will want to review each topic, asking yourself:

  • Which assignment in my current course syllabus could I make as a Wikipedia assignment and why?
  • How can I fully take advantage of the help being offered by Wikimedia's Global Education group and their Ambassador program.
  • How does this program fit into my course and its learning objectives?
  • What does a student need to know to start editing?

Let's begin...

Core Wikipedia policies


Most new editors, including professors and students, do not understand that although anyone can edit Wikipedia, article development is not a chaotic, random process; Wikipedia has many guiding principles as well as a governance structure that shape the content development process. This section discusses some of the core Wikipedia policies and guidelines, starting with Wikipedia's Five Pillars.

Five pillars
Let's start with a few key concepts that provide a foundation for everything on Wikipedia: the "five pillars." These five guiding principles are key to how Wikipedia works and serve as a foundation for you and your students, just as they do for experienced Wikipedia editors ("Wikipedians").
  Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia. It incorporates elements of general and specialized encyclopedias, almanacs, and gazetteers. Wikipedia is not a soapbox, an advertising platform, a vanity press, an experiment in anarchy or democracy, an indiscriminate collection of information, or a web directory. It is not a dictionary, newspaper, or a collection of source documents; that kind of content should be contributed instead to the Wikimedia sister projects.
  Wikipedia has a neutral point of view. We strive for articles that advocate no single point of view. Sometimes this requires representing multiple points of view, presenting each point of view accurately and in context, and not presenting any point of view as "the truth" or "the best view." All articles must strive for verifiable accuracy: unreferenced material may be removed, so please provide references. Editors' personal experiences, interpretations, or opinions do not belong here. That means citing verifiable, authoritative sources, especially on controversial topics and when the subject is a living person. When conflict arises over neutrality, discuss details on the talk page, and follow dispute resolution.
  Wikipedia is free content that anyone can edit and distribute. Respect copyright laws, and avoid plagiarizing your sources. Since all your contributions are freely licensed to the public, no editor owns any article; all of your contributions can and will be mercilessly edited and redistributed.
  Wikipedians should interact in a respectful and civil manner. Respect and be polite to your fellow Wikipedians, even when you disagree. Apply Wikipedia etiquette, and avoid personal attacks. Find consensus, avoid edit wars, and remember that there are 7,155 articles on the English Wikipedia to work on and discuss. Act in good faith, never disrupt Wikipedia to illustrate a point, and assume good faith on the part of others. Be open and welcoming.
  Wikipedia does not have firm rules. Rules on Wikipedia are not fixed in stone, and the spirit of the rule trumps the letter of the rule. Be bold in updating articles and do not worry about making mistakes. Your efforts do not need to be perfect; prior versions are saved, so no damage is irreparable.

Additional important concepts to consider when contributing to Wikipedia are:
File:Verifiability and Neutral point of view (Common Craft)-600px-en.ogv
Video explaining the concepts of "Neutral point of view" and "Verifiability" (2 minutes 10 seconds, 11 MB).
  • Verifiable — Since Wikipedia is the online encyclopedia that anyone can edit, for content to remain in Wikipedia it must be verifiable with its source from a reputable source.
  • No original research — Many do not fully understand that Wikipedia is a tertiary source of information--based on a collection of secondary sources writing about a primary source. Simply put, Wikipedia is not a place to write about original research, but rather is a summary of what has been written about the original topic or research (think: Literature Review).
  • Notability — Before students prepare to write about a new topic, they need to consider if the subject of their article is notable enough for an encyclopedia. This guideline helps to clarify the notability question; however, whether an article topic is notable can be somewhat subjective. In some cases, students may need to justify to other Wikipedians why the article topic is notable for an encyclopedia and should remain in Wikipedia, and this discussion takes place on the article's Talk Page.

Although the importance of copyright and plagiarism issues may vary by country, Wikipedians working on the English Wikipedia take copyright issues very seriously. Based on our experience working with students in India and U.S. on the English Wikipedia, we decided to include an overview on copyright and plagiarism. This section underscores the seriousness of copyright and plagiarism issues and how the Wikipedia community works tirelessly to keep Wikipedia free of both.
As you and your students work on the English Wikipedia please keep in mind that:
  • Paragraph-sized quotes from copyrighted sources are frowned upon
  • Even in a sandbox, a paragraph or two from another source is a violation of the English Wikipedia's copyright policy and may result in your entire sandbox (even parts that were your own writing) being blanked.
PLEASE NOTE: The following information on copyright and plagiarism is provided as only an overview in an effort to help you and your students comply with Wikipedia's copyright policies. It is not intended to provide or imply legal advice. If you have questions or concerns regarding potential copyright issues, please consult a licensed attorney in your area.

Want to know more about Wikipedia's policies and guidelines?


  1. Module One: Global Education Program Overview
  2. Module Two: About Wikipedia
  3. Module Three: Editing Wikipedia
  4. Module Four: Using Wikipedia in the Classroom