INLS 200: Wikipedia article

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This assignment spans the entire semester: Write an article in Wikipedia that aspires to featured article status, on a topic of your choice.

You will work in pairs. The pair will select a topic of shared interest. This topic should arise out of your actual interests: another course that you both are taking this semester, a student organization you both are in, a shared hobby, etc. This topic must also be sufficiently complex to support an entire semester's working on it.

You will review and evaluate information sources relevant to your topic, and decide which to use as References or External links in your Wikipedia article. Finally, you will critique all information sources that you review and evaluate in the discussion forums.

This assignment is broken up into several deliverables, due throughout the semester:

Topic statement

The topic statement is a brief (1-2 paragraph) description of your topic. Near the start of the semester one of the pair will post your topic statement to the course site. Everyone will individually comment on at least one other pair's topic statement. You may find that my and your fellow students' comments give you ideas for revising and refining your topic. Feel free to do so. I anticipate that your topic will evolve over the course of the semester.

Give your post the category Topic Statement.

How to select a topic

See this handout from Wikipedia on how to choose an article to work on.

One way to select a topic might be to create one of Wikipedia's Requested articles.

You may select a topic for which there is currently no article, or for which there already exists a stub in Wikipedia. You may select a topic for which there is already a well-developed article only if you will be expanding a section of the article that is currently underdeveloped, preferably by splitting that section off into a new article.

Interaction with a librarian

You will seek assistance on your research paper from a librarian, and write a post evaluating the interaction and its outcomes.

Once you have your topic more or less finalized, identify a library where you can go to get assistance from a librarian on campus). Ask the librarian for assistance with some aspect of your research: help with locating resources on a specific sub-topic, help with using a the databases the library subscribes to, whatever.

When your interaction with a librarian is completed, write a post discussing the interaction. Use whatever evaluation criteria you think are appropriate: Did the librarian help you find new and useful resources? Do you think the librarian understood your research topic well enough to helpfully guide you? How well or poorly do any new resources fit in with the prior materials you've identified? Etc. Read the RUSA's Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers. These criteria may be helpful.

Obviously there are many libraries on campus that you can go to for assistance. If you go to a campus library, you may want to select one that specializes in the broad area whence your research topic derives (e.g., Health Sciences, Music, Journalism). If there is no such specialized library on campus, you may want to identify a librarian who specializes in the area of your research topic. If you identify a specific librarian with whom you would like to interact, I recommend that you make an appointment. Feel free to also go to any other library, either locally or out of town (when you're visiting home, for example).

Post these evaluations to the course site. Give your post the category Librarian Interaction.


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Source evaluations

In the course of working on any research paper, you use a variety of information sources of a variety of types. You will write 3 evaluations of information sources that you consult during your research. These sources may or may not ultimately yield information that is useful to you in writing your article.

Each source evaluation should be approximately 500-1000 words, and include the following 7 parts:

  1. A complete citation for the source in American Psychological Association (APA) format. APA is the citation format most commonly used in the social sciences. If you are not familiar with this format, look at the APA Publication Manual, 5th edition, which is in nearly every library on campus. This page contains a good overview of APA citation style for print sources. The APA provides a FAQ list and a tutorial.
  2. Strategy for finding the source: How did you find the source? What database, book, bibliography, etc. did you find this source in?
  3. Rationale for selection of the source: Why did you think that the source would be useful for your research, before you actually used it? (Whether or not the source in fact turned out to be useful.)
  4. General evaluation of the source: The authority, scope, intended audience, and currency or timeliness of the source. Select the evaluation criteria that are most appropriate for evaluating this particular source. List each and write a short explanation of how well the source fulfills the criteria.
  5. Example strategies used to search within the source. How did you find information within the source? What were the results of your searches within the source? Keep in mind that many information sources get used repeatedly, so "searching within the source" may be conducted over multiple sessions. Your search strategy should evolve as you work with a source over time.
  6. A brief summary of the information yielded by the source: This follows up your rationale for selecting the source: your rationale for selection is why you thought that the source would be useful before you used it; this section should explain how your opinion of the source changed once you actually used it. What information does the source as a whole contain? What information does the source contain that is relevant to your research question? How does the source help you (or not) to answer your research question?

Post these evaluations to the course site. Give your post the category Source Evaluation.


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Wikipedia article

Your Wikipedia article must aspire to featured article status: I will use Wikipedia's featured article criteria as my criteria for evaluating your article. However, it's ok if your article does not actually become a featured article: featured article status is decided by Wikipedia's editors, and we have no influence over that, except insofar as we're all also Wikipedia editors (approximately 30 of us out of tens of millions of editors). And after all, the perfect article is not attainable.

Before you write your article, create an account on Wikipedia. Then, when you are writing your article, make sure that you are logged in. You must post your username on the course wiki. I will view your contributions to your Wikipedia article by your username.

Most articles in Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, so it's possible that your article will be edited by others even while you're still working on it. This is fine: you can keep others' edits or edit them in turn. I will evaluate your article based only on your contributions, not on others' edits to it. It is therefore critical that I know your username, and that you be logged in to Wikipedia when you make edits. Otherwise, I will have no way to know when an edit is your work.

These are some Wikipedia resources that I would recommend you read before starting to write your article:

Citation database

The University library provides classes and guides to two citation management applications: RefWorks (to which the library has a subscription) and EndNote. Zotero is a free citation manager that operates as a browser plugin and as a standalone application. Choose a citation management application to manage the information sources that you will be reviewing for your project.

Your citation database must:

  • Contain at least 15 items
  • Contain your notes on the items
  • Use folders, tags, or some other method for organizing items into sub-categories

At the end of the semester, you will email an export file of your citation database to me. Here are instructions on how to create an export file:

For Zotero: Generate a report from the set of items or collection that you've built for this course. See these instructions for generating reports in Zotero. Include all fields -- that's the default, but I want to see your notes, tags, etc.

For Refworks: Create a bibliography from the folder you've built for this course. See these instructions for creating a bibliography in Refworks. Again, I want to see all fields: notes, tags, etc.


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