Public outreach/Academy/Workshops Novice/Novice lesson plan

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In general[edit]

  • Understand shortcuts
  • Understand page histories/versions


See step-by-step, below.

Not included[edit]

  • How to get a user account. (Everyone at the session will either have one or will be handed one. This is to minimize the autoconfirmed issue - CAPTHAs required every time a url is added.)

Starting out[edit]

Instructor note: Have a “vanilla” account without any non-default preferences or any scripts enabled. Logout before the session starts, login (to make sure you can), and log back out.

User accounts[edit]

  • Determine if all participants have a user account
  • For those who don’t, the teaching assistant will hand out slips of paper with standard accounts.
    • Advise students: Don’t throw these away after the workshops; may want to use the edits you do in the next two hours as the starting point of your own user account. (Details at end.)


  • Explain how to tell if logged in or not.
  • Go to login screen if not logged in.
    • Explain the value of staying logged in, if not a public computer
  • Login

User page[edit]

  • Explain how to tell if page exists already.
    • Example of redlink versus bluelink
  • Go to user page
  • Show five step edit process on overhead: start an edit, enter text, edit summary, preview, save page.
  • Create user page if it doesn’t exist, with holding text like “This is a user page”.
    • Explain that user pages aren’t supposed to have personal information, nor is Wikipedia a social networking site. And that IP addresses don’t have user pages.
    • Explain that all versions of a page are retained unless you specifically ask an administrator to hide the page from everyone but admins.
  • Save page.

Section headings[edit]

  • Create two sections on the user page: “About me” and “My subpages”. Save page.


Creating the personal sandbox[edit]

  • Follow the redlink
  • Add some text, save the page

Wiki Markup (basics)[edit]

  • Enter some text, preview, save:
    • Bold
    • Italics
  • Discuss concept of wiki markup – easier than html, basically (WP:CHEAT)
  • Create some sample sections and subsections, save.
  • Creating internal links (two edits follow; save after each; edit a section, not the page)
    • [[National Institutes of Health]]
    • Use pipe symbol (vertical bar) to hide direct name
  • External link (three edits follow; save after each; edit a section, not the page):
    • Create an external link to as a naked url
    • Put single brackets around the url
    • Put a space, and text, after the url, within the brackets

Editing articles[edit]

Note: this will all be done in personal sandboxes

Copy an article to personal sandboxes[edit]

  • Put article name in search box
  • Go to article
  • Open in edit mode
  • Select all
  • Copy
  • Go to user page
  • Go to personal sandbox
  • Open in edit mode
  • Select all and delete
  • Paste in the article
  • Edit summary
  • Preview
  • Save change

Getting familiar with editing articles[edit]

Note: this uses the copied article in the personal sandbox)

  • Table of contents (automatically generated)
  • Mention that we're going to look "under the hood", at the raw wiki text, but first, a diversion
    • Diversion
      • Go to my preferences
      • In "Interface" option, fourth box, check "Add an [edit] link for the lead section of a page"
      • Save, close window
      • Refresh personal sandbox page.
    • Open lead section
      • Note bolding
      • Note template(s)
      • Note paragraphs
      • Discuss purpose of lead section (WP:LEAD)
  • Discuss bottom sections (mention WP:LAY, guide to layout)
    • Open External links section, look at bullet points, non-visible urls


  • Discuss concept of footnotes
    • Open the references section
    • Back up to
    • Preview
  • Adding citations
    • More to be added

Each edit is a version[edit]

  • Look at page history for sandbox
  • Look at Recent changes
  • Look at history for en:History of biology (a main page article, June 2009)
  • Put that article into the watchlist
  • Add others to watchlist? (random)
  • Open watchlist
  • Remove an item from the watchlist

Communicating with others[edit]

Article talk pages[edit]

  • Discuss the concept of pairing
  • Discuss redlink versus bluelink
  • Go to article
  • Go to article talk page
  • Discuss new section versus commenting in an existing section
  • Discuss indentation in existing sections (WP:TALK, WP:TPG)
  • Discuss signing
  • Start, but do not save, a new section
    • Two regular paragraphs, plus an indented third
    • Signature (on separate line, though normally just at end of text)

User talk pages[edit]

  • Discuss: article talk pages are to improve articles, user talk pages are to interact with editors
  • "Interact" includes problems with user behavior.
  • Post to someone else's page
    • Pair up students
    • Enter User talk:XXX into the search box
    • Create page if necessary
    • Enter {{subst:welcome}} ~~~~, edit summary, preview, save
  • Yellow notice:
    • Go to random page after partner has saved his/her edit on your user talk page
    • Discuss: Yellow notice
    • Go to another random page
    • Clear the notice by going to your own user talk page
  • Implications: two halves of a conversation are typically on two different user talk pages.
    • There are ways around this; some editors say (at the top of their user page) that they will continue a conversation wherever it started.
    • Also can put a template on a user page saying that they have a message elsewhere.


Documentation and other help[edit]

  • Click "Help", on the left, and follow the links
  • Read a book, online, about how to edit Wikipedia
    • EN:WP:TMM: Wikipedia: The Missing Manual
    • How Wikipedia Works, at
  • Install some scripts: see EN:WP:NIHA (NIH Academy; shortcut to be created)
  • Go to the help desk: EN:WP:HD
    • Put WP:HD into the search box at the left

A final few suggestions for new editors[edit]

  • Wikipedia is a community; the proper measure of a edit is whether it improves an article, not whether it is absolutely correct. There are simply too many rules, intended to produce consistent articles, and two many technical details, for any single editor to know them all.
  • Trust the system: You don't have to solve any specific problem by yourself. It's okay to walk away from an editor who simply wants to fight, after a few postings making that clear. There are always plenty of other things that need to be done.
  • Finally, Do what you enjoy. You're not being paid to edit. If you do what you think you have to do (for some reason), even though you dislike it, you'll find that you aren't editing Wikipedia at all. So don't do that; do something else.

Getting credit for edits so far[edit]

Note: This may be a relatively poor use of time; it's not clear that this is particularly valuable to scientists, particularly since it removes some anonymity.

  • Can ask that your account be converted to another name.