Back to School: A Wikipedia Book To Start The Academic Year

As winter settles in and students slowly take their place back on the seats of universities and schools, I thought it'd be interesting to look at the initiatives that would make good books with good Wikipedia content.

On the topic of improving the quality of Wikipedia, there are quite a number of initiatives started at the school or university level, most of them destined to enrich the Encyclopedia on specific topics. The idea to have students add to Wikipedia under the supervision of their teacher is not exactly new; but it takes different turns every time. I remember the first project I was made aware of, five years ago, on the French Wikipedia. Jean-Noël Lafargue, a professor at the University of Paris VIII, started a workshop in which the students were graded on their contributions to the French Wikipedia in the realm of Contemporary Art (digital arts, but also architecture, art history, cinema etc.). The idea of the project was mainly to make sure that the section about contemporary art grew under supervision and motivation. Such projects are actually much more numerous than one thinks, and the last one I was made aware of had an extremely interesting focus, namely the goal to make Chemistry concepts on the English Wikipedia more accessible to the layman. This was a project conducted by Anne McNeil, a professor at the University of Michigan.

One of the first questions that comes to mind when putting Wikipedia on paper is often "what about the quality of the articles, are they worth putting on paper?". If University Professors actually work with their students in creating, correcting and rewriting Wikipedia articles, in short, if they think that Wikipedia is worth their time, then surely it is worth putting on paper.

Back to school

One of the things that often comes back in evaluating the quality of Wikipedia content is its extreme diversity. Wikipedia tackles topics that no other work of reference refers to, at least in such a comprehensive way. This is true for everyday topics (the much talked about Pokemons come to mind) but it is also true for very specific areas of science or literature, which stay obscure even for the specialists, but on which Wikipedia has a very detailed article. This is where books come into play.

A book made from Wikipedia articles is an excellent introduction to whatever topic you are interested in. New students in Chemistry at University? No doubt the Wikipedia articles in Chemistry reviewed and rewritten under the supervision of Professor Anne McNeil are a good place to start the book that will give you all the information you need to start the year prepared on the subject. And this goes for every single topic you can dream of. Wikipedia does have 3.4 million articles after all. So go for it! Start the book creator and make the book that will accompany you through your studies on the topic of your choice. And share it with others, so that other students can benefit from it!

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