WikiThesis is the current working title for a proposed WikiMedia project. WikiThesis hopes to create a wiki for the creation of content in the style of a thesis paper, and would be integrated with Wikipedia.
Basic Foundations of WikiThesis
The initial idea for WikiThesis came from the observation that new users on Wikipedia (at least the English one) often post content that appears to be a high school or college term paper. In general, this content is of reasonably good quality. Most term papers are well-researched, better sourced than all but the best Wikipedia articles, informative, and well-written. In general such content has also been extensively proofread and often edited by a teacher, professor, or other generally knowledgable person. However, Wikipedia turns away such content because it does not fall within the scope of the Wikipedia project (normally due to violations of the Wikipedia rules against original research and non-neutral point of view). WikiThesis would be a new wiki to embrace this content.
On WikiThesis, there would be no prohibition against articles with a point of view. Indeed, such articles would be encouraged; however, on WikiThesis the name essay would be used. As the name implies, WikiThesis would present theses intended to prove a point from any field. Unlike proposals for various debate wikis, the goal behind WikiThesis is not to provide a forum for debate of the pros and cons of pressing issues. Such debates could find a place in WikiThesis, but the primary goal is more academic content. Essays would include topics from many fields. For example, a WikiThesis essay in history might develop the view that World War II was a direct consequence of the Treaty of Versailles. An essay in criminology might develop the view that innovative policing strategies led to the drop in crime in New York during the 1990s. An essay in the field of economics might argue that lowering tax rates in the US would actually raise revenues.
All of the samples that I provided above represent viewpoints that have been expressed many times by eminent experts in the fields concerned; however, WikiThesis would not be limited to such ideas. Instead, WikiThesis would provide a platform for any defensible thesis. If an editor found the facts to support the view that listening to rock and roll music increases cancer risk, such a thesis would be welcome. In other words, WikiThesis would welcome certain varieties of original research and independent thought.
Key Criteria for WikiThesis Articles
- Defensibility: A thesis must be logically supported by relevant facts.
- Accuraccy: Facts used to support a thesis must be accurate and preferably supported by a citation from a reliable source.
- Originality of Interpretation Only: WikiThesis encourages editors to interpret known facts in a new way to arrive at a thesis; however, it does not accept original research in the form of new facts that have not been published elsewhere. For example, WikiThesis does not accept raw lab data that has not been published.
- Formal Wording: WikiThesis essays should be written like scholarly pieces. First person prononouns should never be used.
Key Principles of Conduct on WikiThesis
Because of its differences from other WikiMedia projects, WikiThesis would require its own rules of conduct, although in general these rules would be very similar to those on Wikipedia. Much like Wikipedia, consensus and civility would be key principles for WikiThesis. WikiThesis would also require even stronger rules against personal attacks because of the more controversial style of its writing. However, edit warring would be treated differently on WikiThesis. The following basic principles would underly conduct on WikiThesis:
- Consensus on Proccess: Issues of proccess should be settled by consensus. Consensus does not necessarily apply to debates on content.
- Civility: Be civil to all other editors.
- If you disagree, start a new essay: If you disagree with key assertions in a thesis, you should start your own rival thesis rather than starting an edit war. This also applies to attempts to refute the thesis of an essay. Only material supporting a thesis belongs in the essay, so if you wish to refute the thesis of an article or propose another thesis, you should start your own.
- Collaboration: Although an article will probably initially represent the views of a single author, no editor owns the articles on WikiThesis. Each article should represent a collaborative effort to provide the facts, quotations, and arguments necessary to support the thesis. Anyone who can improve the article by providing more or better facts, quotations, and arguments should do so. If editors disagree over whether or not something belongs in an article, they should settle the debate through discussion and follow the 2RR.
- 2RR: The two revert rule. In debates as to whether or not material belongs in an essay, an editor should not make more than 2 reverts in a 24 hour period. This rule only applies to debates over whether or not material effectively supports the thesis of an essay. Attempts to refute a thesis from within an essay or change the thesis of an essay without talk page discussion should be considered vandalism and may be reverted as many times as necessary.
Format and Structure
Essays on WikiThesis should be given a concise but descriptive title that provides, if possible a summation of the thesis. For example, an essay might be titled "The Treaty of Versailles caused World War II". Because no one would ever arrive at WikiThesis and search for "The Treaty of Versailles caused World War II", effective categorization and cross-referencing will be necessary to help readers find relevant articles. Categorization would follow a hiearchical scheme similar to that on Wikipedia. For example, the essay above might be found as follows: "History" then subcategory "Twentieth Century", the the subcategory "World War II", and perhaps the subcategory "Causes of World War II".
Each essay should also contain a "Similar essays" section at the end, providing links to essays on the same topic or closely related topics. For example, the essay entitled "The Treaty of Versailles caused World War II" might link to essays such as "German Nationalism caused World War II", "A Global Economic Downturn caused World War II", and "Hitler caused World War II".
In addition to the category scheme, WikiThesis should provide articles titled by subject, for example, "World War II" containing links to each essay concerning World War II and brief descriptions of them.
Integration with Wikipedia
Both Wikipedia and WikiThesis would benefit from fairly close integration. On WikiThesis, links to Wikipedia articles should be included in WikiThesis essays as appropriate. For example, it would make sense for the WikiThesis essay "The Treaty of Versailles caused World War II" to contain links to the Wikipedia articles on World War II, the Treaty of Versailles, and so forth. Similarly, Wikipedia could benefit from links to relevant WikiThesis essays. For example, the World War II article on Wikipedia might contain a link reading "WikiThesis has essays on World War II" that would direct a reader to the WikiThesis listing of World War II related essays.
Benefits of WikiThesis
In addition to the more obvious benefits of allowing people to put theses online, WikiThesis would:
- Encourage new users to participate in WikiMedia projects out of the following groups:
- Students: Many students might be encouraged to post term papers on WikiThesis. Doing so would require little extra effort for the students (after having written the paper for class), but would provide valuable content and new users. Many students might be attracted to the idea of circulating their ideas.
- Scholars: Many scholars who feel alienated by Wikipedia process might participate in WikiThesis. Scholars could use WikiThesis as a way to present their ideas for a broader audience in a format more similar to academic publishing.
- Provide a place for the many POV-pushers on Wikipedia. WikiThesis could provide a way for the many Wikipedia users who try to insert a particular viewpoint into Wikipedia articles to do so without threatening Wikipedia rules. These POV-pushers could write a WikiThesis expressing their point of view and then contribute more neutrally to Wikipedia knowing that readers could still view their positions.
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