First, a confession: ‘Kabali’ was the carrot, thanks for following it (readers who are not updated about the tremors in the Indian film industry, please jump to the next paragraph). The fact though is- I did make a small edit in the introductory section of the wikipedia article on the film ‘Kabali‘. In the morning of it’s release, I cited a reference to substantiate the fact that the movie had been released (What a contribution to humanity!).
And that, my friends, is the case in point. Any stuff written for public reading should reflect facts substantiated by reliable references, and such references should be cited within the text at appropriate sections. These form the basic tenets of responsible writing. Books, articles, websites, encyclopedias- no exceptions granted. Not even to Kabali. That’s why, the number mentioned in the title is more relevant than the eponymous bait . “51” does not refer to erroneously counted shades of grey, but to the number of Wikipedia articles that I had edited this year, until last week, to try and help improve the quality of the health related content in the public domain.
Why edit Wikipedia articles?
We have become too gullible because we are swamped by countless forwarded messages on social media everyday. Or, we’ve been that all along (more likely). Most social media messages, despite being baseless, continue to be forwarded on, as is, further down the (anti)social chain. It is therefore not surprising that any random, incorrect health information too is consumed without being questioned. As an extension of this ‘behaviour’, there is a general tendency to believe as true whatever is published in Wikipedia, which is among the top resources sought after by most people looking for health information on the internet.(1) Such a following is despite the fact that the quality of medical content on the internet in general, including in Wikipedia, is not robust.(2)
Given such a scenario, we all have a choice- to either remain indifferent to the inaccurate or outdated content read by millions of people everyday, or, to help them all by chipping in to improve the quality of the medical content in the public domain. If you chose the latter, where better to start than Wikipedia. “One sentence at a time” is good enough too.(3) At least, for as long as it lasts, since Wikipedia seems to be having it’s own survival problems.
If you are interested too, but do not know how to get started, the following faq-type information could help.
Still can’t believe it. Can I really edit Wikipedia articles?
Yes you can. Yes, we all can.
What are the prerequisites for me to get involved?
- At least a bit of ungullible paranoid trait
- Intent and willingness to help
- A few minutes of time to spare
- Basic or higher subject knowledge in health sciences, and about the right type of research evidence to cite and reference (a systematic review when possible).
How can I edit a Wikipedia health article to improve it’s quality?
- Create a Wikipedia account and login (preferable, not mandatory)
- Click on the “Edit” link provided at the top of each section/article, if you believe a particular statement/section needs to be edited to be more accurate
- Edit the content in the “Edit source” text box that would open. Or, to “switch to visual editing”, from the top right corner click on the pencil symbol . This will lead to a more direct and easier options for editing content.
- Delete/Add/Correct text, intuitively, by clicking anywhere.
- Add at least one citation to an appropriate source of research evidence, at the end of each substantial bit of information you edit. (see the next question)
- Click “Save changes” at the bottom of the page, after entering a couple of lines to briefly describe the changes that you have made, in the “edit summary” box.
That’s it. You’re done.
How to add a citation while editing a Wikipedia article?
- Click at the appropriate position (usually immediate after a comma or a period/full-stop) of the content where you want to cite a reference to a journal article.
- In the visual edit mode, from the floating toolbar on the top of the page, click on the “cite” button
- Enter one of the three details (the last option- PMID- seems to work better):
- url (web address of the journal article, copied from the address bar of the article)
- DOI (Digital Object Identifier, mentioned in the citations section of the electronic version of a journal article)
- PMID (Pubmed ID- the unique number that is given below each pubmed article).
- Click “Generate”
- Click “Insert”
Will someone else check what I edit?
Yes, there are software programs called ‘bots‘ that keep checking all Wikipedia articles for gross errors. And, there are people, like you and me, who keep a watch on what is going on. Inappropriate edits are likely to be “undone” or deleted.
Will my work be acknowledged?
Well, for starters, I thank you for your interest. While each edit might not be acknowledged, there are people who track specific articles of interest. They are likely to send a thank you note if you make a significant, meaningful change. Once you make a habit of editing the lacunae that you find in Wikipedia articles, you would no longer expect compliments from others. If you make the edits after signing in to your account, every edit will be logged for anyone to see.
Is that all?
The suggestions mentioned here are very basic dummies’ guide to Wikipedia editing risking oversimplification. The more you want to get involved, there’s more to do for all. Help is available. All you need to do is, get started.
Happy reading, questioning, and contributing!
- Heilman JM, Kemmann E, Bonert M, et al. Wikipedia: A Key Tool for Global Public Health Promotion. Eysenbach G, ed. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2011;13(1):e14. doi:10.2196/jmir.1589..
- Fahy E, Hardikar R, Fox A, Mackay S. Quality of patient health information on the Internet: reviewing a complex and evolving landscape. The Australasian Medical Journal. 2014;7(1):24-28. doi:10.4066/AMJ.2014.1900.