Conservapedia:How to create and maintain high-quality articles

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This page is a list of good practices for writing high-quality articles. Many of the points raised relate to repairing existing articles, but the principles apply to newly created articles as well.

This page should be considered an adjunct to Conservapedia:Editing article and talk pages, which covers a lot more of the "policy" issues (and is locked), while this page is more about low-level mechanics and stylistic presentation.

Introductory paragraph

A good practice is to state concisely who or what the topic is, putting the actual name in boldface (triple single quotes), like this:

Sir Arthur Eddington (1882–1944) was a British astronomer ....

No matter how strongly you feel about the topic, avoid using inflammatory terms. Have a professional tone in articles. First impressions are extremely important.

Do not use "when" when defining a term, as in "A perfect game is when a pitcher pitches a complete game without any batter getting on base." Write it this way instead:

A perfect game is a baseball game in which not a single batter ....

Text

  • Avoid long quotes (whether attributed or not). Move naked URLs to footnotes using the <ref></ref> tags.
  • Avoid first or second person
  • Try to avoid wide, all-inclusive claims when speaking on subjective topics
  • Active voice is better.
  • Be kind and give people the benefit of the doubt -- do not spread gossip. Stick to documented facts.
  • Avoid long bullet lists
  • Section headings should be lower case except for the first word and proper nouns. (e.g., See also NOT See Also).
  • Check external links - make sure that they all point to valid web pages
  • Don't express unsupported opinions. Doing so can make the page look like and editorial piece and not an encyclopedia article. Try to find external sources to refer to. Sources from reputable web sites are better than blogs, especially blogs that you wrote. Remember, anyone can write anything on the internet. One can easily find websites that support any rare or strange idea you can think of. Conservapedia can do better than that.
  • Do not plagiarize from other sources. If a subject is so complex that you cannot put it into your own words, leave it out of Conservapedia.

Internal links ("wikilinks")

Internal and external (discussed below) links can be somewhat complex to set up so that they look right. See the page How to put links and footnotes into your articles for detailed information on doing this.

These are the links to other Conservapedia articles, indicated with double brackets.

  • Maintain the focus of your article. Articles that are written as though the author wants to show off his prowess at linking things often irritate readers. Wouldn't you rather have someone read your article than go off on a tangent after every few words, looking at other pages? Only put in links if you think looking at the other page is important to understanding your article or its context.
  • Only link a term once, at its first use. Don't link a second time.
  • Don't link ordinary words, only specialized terms. Conservapedia is not a dictionary. If you think the reader needs help with words, (a) you are wrong, and (b) you should send them to an actual dictionary website, such as merriam-webster.com.
  • Look before you link! Check that the linked page actually says what you want it to say. There have been cases in which:
    • The plain word "anonymous" was linked in a discussion of surfing the web anonymously. The linked page is about the political-action group Anonymous.
    • The single letter "C" was linked in an article about battery sizes. The linked page is about the C programming language.
    • The concept of "personal energy", in a discussion of Zeal linked to the concept from physics.
    • Avoid linking to a page that has a redirect or to a disambiguation page.
  • Do not link to a category. The place for categories is the list at the very bottom of the article.
  • Avoid misleading links. When using pipes, do not mislead, as in this obviously extreme example: [[Republican|Democrat]]

See also section

This optional section may have links, to other Conservapedia articles, that the reader might want to see for additional information relevant to the topic of the article.

  • If an article already has a link the article text, it does not need a second link in the see also section.
  • Use a simple bullet list with one link per line
  • Links should be directly relevant to the article. For example, if the article is a biography of a Supreme Court justice and the article does not discuss any Second Amendment cases written by him, then don't just add Second Amendment to the see also list as a lazy way out of adding a discussion of why this man is important to the Second Amendment.
  • Do not list every biography of someone vaguely related to the article's subject. For example, the Thomas Jefferson article should not have a see also list of every other signer of the Declaration of Independence. There should be a clear relationship between the article and the links on the see also list. Avoid "link spam."
  • This should be internal links only. External links belong in the "External links" section.
  • If a subtopic is sufficiently relevant to the article, discuss it in prose as a new section of the article rather than just adding a bunch of links to the See also section.

References section

If a page uses footnotes that were created between <ref> and </ref> tags, each time the page is displayed, these tags will be assigned footnote numbers dynamically, and the footnotes will automatically appear at the end of the page. However, Conservapedia style is to accumulate these in a separate section called "References". To trigger the display of the footnote text, the <references/> tag marks the location where the footnotes will be displayed. For added formatting, the {{reflist}} template can be used to display them in one column with extra formatting or {{reflist|2}} to display them in a two column format. If there are only one or two footnotes avoid breaking them up into two columns. Columns are not supported by Internet Explorer 9 and below.

If a reference is used multiple times on the same page, try referring to them such that this entry is only displayed once in the references section. There are several ways to do this—one is to give each reference a name. assigning a name is as simple as using: <ref name="AnyNameHere">Citation Text Here</ref> If this is done, each time this reference is pasted it will point to a single entry in the references list. A shorter option which acts the same way is to use the full <ref name="AnyNameHere">Citation Text Here</ref> the first time, then afterwards simply use <ref name="AnyNameHere"/>.

External links

External and internal (discussed above) links can be somewhat complex to set up so that they look right. See the page How to put links and footnotes into your articles for detailed information on doing this.

We are a national encyclopedia, attempting to appeal to a general audience. Try to avoid filling an article with links with too narrow an appeal. Rarely should a link be to a user-contributed review on Amazon.com, particularly reviews that you wrote.

There are two main reasons why you might want to make a reference to an external web site. The most common one is a footnote in support of the point you are making. In that case it should be an out-of-line footnote, so the text will show a clickable link with a number, and clicking it will take the reader to the item in the "references" section. It should follow the guidelines in the paragraph above.

The other type of external reference would occur when you are writing about that website itself. In that case it is appropriate to have the entire URL appear directly in the sentence, as in "You could use a dictionary website, such as merriam-webster.com".

Do not use this section to list your personal favorite web sites unless they directly illuminate the article. Some authors have used this section to list their favorite web sites, often written or hosted by themselves or their friends. This is called "link-spamming", and is very seriously frowned upon. People caught doing this are likely to have all of their contributions carefully scrutinized by possibly unsympathetic people. Don't do it.

Categories

Categories are special pages, in the "Category:" namespace, that are intended to help people who are browsing for pages on a particular topic. They are not like ordinary pages; you rarely need to edit them.

A typical category is Category:Physics. It lists (and gives wikilinks for) lots of pages about physics.

By the way, you would not normally put a reference like the one above in an article. We are doing this as part of the description of categories. You make links from articles to their categories by a different mechanism, described below. Do not put category references in a "See also" section.

The page Alpha decay is in the main body of the Physics category page, because it has a line:

[[Category:Physics]]

at the very bottom of the page. When you write a page about some topic in physics, put such a line at the bottom, along with lines for whatever other topics you want it to be in. (But there's a lot more to say about the "social niceties" of this, discussed below.) This will automatically cause the page to be listed in the category. Furthermore, it will cause the category name itself to be displayed at the bottom of the page; clicking that will take the reader to the category page, from which other related articles may be found.

Unlike an article (the purpose of which is to discuss a subject topic in a prose encyclopedia article), a category page is merely a finding aid to help readers understand the scope of the category and ultimately to find related articles.

The main page of a category

It is common (but by no means required; only do this if it makes sense) for a category to have a "mother" page about the subject of the category. For example, there is a page Physics. It is in the Physics category, due to having

[[Category:Physics]]

at the very bottom. (It's also in the "Science" category.)

Such a page may be called out for particular attention at the top of the category, with a line like:

For the main article, see [[Physics]].

You can generate such a line by using {{Main (category)|Physics}}.

(Remember, there is normally very little text in a category page. The items in the category will be displayed automatically by the wiki software.)

If there is a reference to such a "mother" page, be sure it isn't a redlink.

The category tree

A diagram showing the hierarchical usage of categories, where subcategories ("lower in the tree") are displayed to the right. This is hypothetical for discussion. Conservapedia's category tree doesn't actually look like this. (Click the diagram above to enlarge the picture).

In addition to listing pages, a category can list other categories, called "subcategories". The top part of the category page displays the subcategories (e.g. Category:Radioactivity) while the bottom part lists the actual pages (e.g. Alpha decay). The way the "Radioactivity" category is a subcategory of "Physics" is that the line

[[Category:Physics]]

Has been placed at the bottom of the "Radioactivity" category page.

Categories thus make a tree, with subcategories and sub-sub-categories, and so on. At the very top (or "root") of the tree is Category:Everything. (Yes, Conservapedia really does have that category; there aren't really any pages in it; just a few huge subcategories.)

The category tree has this very important property: There are no loops that go from a category back to itself. In the example above, "Euripides" is a subcategory of "Stage Plays", which is a subcategory of "Literature", but "Literature" must not be a subcategory of "Euripides".

In practical terms, this means that, if one is looking at the top (subcategory) section of a category page, it should not be possible to click on a subcategory, and perhaps click again and again, and get back to the original category.

And, of course, a category must not be a subcategory of itself.

Category references

Put articles in the most relevant categories. In many cases, a page will belong in many disparate categories. For example, Richard Nixon is listed in categories for Presidents, Vice Presidents, Veterans, Republicans, Quakers, and a few others. This sort of arrangement is exactly the kind of semantic linking that makes categories useful.

But how about choosing categories that are very close, such as one category which is a subcategory of another. Should the page be put in both?

In general, the answer is no. When faced with a choice like this, put it in the lowest (most specific) category.

But you need to use your judgment here. Suppose the category tree for Shakespearean plays looked like the diagram above. (Fortunately, it doesn't.) Would Hamlet be listed only as a tragedy? That means that the Shakespeare category would presumably have no pages, and just the two subcategories. A person wishing to browse among Shakespeare's plays would have to browse among two category pages, rather than seeing all the plays listed together. And a person who didn't know what type of play Hamlet is would have to guess. A case could be made that Hamlet should be listed under both Shakespeare and Shakespearean Tragedies, even though one is a subcategory of the other. (Fortunately, Conservapedia's categories aren't arranged that way, and the plays are all listed in the Plays of Shakespeare category.)

Here's a real-world example. Open sets and closed sets are fundamental concepts of topology, and are, quite properly in the Topology category. That category is a subcategory of Mathematics. Many topology-related concepts, like Fundamental group, are very specific to topology and belong only in that category. But open and closed sets are extremely important in mathematics as a whole, and are generally understood by high-school students. A person browsing the Mathematics category really ought to be able to see these fundamental items.

Illustrations

Illustrations (pictures or diagrams) make Conservapedia visually interesting and have an educational value. Please consider including a picture in each new article that you create. Unless the details of a picture is of unusual importance, just use the "thumb" attribute to display a small-sized image (while giving the user the ability to view the full sized image by clicking on the thumb nail image.) The mark-up language is: [[File:myimage.jpg|thumb|right|my caption here]] It is very important to make sure that no images are uploaded in violation of a copyright. Images that are in the public domain or are licensed as CC-SA can be uploaded to Conservapedia. Only family-friendly images should be used. Unless you have upload privileges, a request for upload may be posted here. Also, if you embed an animated file (gif), make sure that the animation still works once it is added. If the animation fails to run, try increasing the display size until it does. In some cases, it may be better to leave out the image if it must be very large. An Image should support the article, not distract from it.

Good writing

Pages should show a level of writing skill—grammar, lucidity, and general organization—at the high-school level. If you believe you may need help in this regard, here are some books you might want to read.

Two classic books on writing well

If you wish to improve the quality of your writing, two classic books on writing well are Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White and the book On Writing Well by William Zinsser .

Other books

Other books which may be helpful include Writer's Ink and A Writer's Reference.