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Chicago Fire of 1874 Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon

Tips and resources for the Chicago Fire of 1874 Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon at Roosevelt University and Northeastern Illinois University on Oct. 23, 2014

Edit Summary

There are two key ways of making sure that your work can be easily understood by other editors collaborating on the article.  One method is the “edit summary”—a text box that appears below the window where you’re editing the text of the article itself.  Any text written here will be saved in the article’s edit history, and will appear as a brief description of your edit elsewhere on Wikipedia.  So, for example, you might type in a phrase like “expanding paragraph that describes his service in World War I” or “adding references for claims made about the date and place of birth”: you want to choose a phrase that is short enough to be read easily, but descriptive enough that it will be of use to a collaborator who wants to know how the article is changing.

Talk Page

The other method of communicating your intentions is by leaving comments on the article’s talk page, which is linked to at the top of the article.  You can edit the whole talk page, or a section of it, in just the same way that you edit the article.  The key things to remember are that, unlike the article, on the talk page you should not edit or remove things that another editor has written—to preserve the whole history of the conversation, everyone’s statements should be left in place.  Also, it’s important to “sign” your statements so that it’s easy for editors to know who is speaking.  Signing a statement on the talk page works like this:

Once you’ve written down what you want to say – an explanation of a recent edit, a question you’re hoping someone can answer, a suggestion about how you think the page should change, etc. – finish by typing three or four tildes, like this. ~~~~ The tilde usually shares a key with the ` character, and can often be found in the top left corner of your keyboard. Three tildes ~~~ will automatically insert your username. Four tildes ~~~~ will insert your username and the date and time that you left your comment.


When you click an “edit” link on an article at Wikipedia, a new screen will appear that lets you make changes to content. When you click “edit” next to a section heading in an article, you’ll be able to make changes only to that section.  When you click “edit” at the top of the article, you’ll be able to make changes to all of the content in the article.  The text will look something like this:

Words you type will appear as part of the article. Putting two single quotation marks before and after ’’a word or phrase’’ will italicize it to appear like this: a word or phrase.

Three single quotation marks on either side of ’’’a word or phrase’’’ will bold it like this: a word or phrase.


When you want to add a link to a [[Wikipedia]] article, put it inside double brackets. For instance, in that last sentence, [[Wikipedia]] will automatically link to Wikipedia’s article about itself.

Sometimes, you will want the text that appears in your article to be different than the exact name of the page you’re linking to.  For instance, if you want the sentence “In 1938, he moved to Chicago.” to appear in your article, you may want the word Chicago to link to the article about that city.  But the city’s article is titled Chicago, Illinois.  Here’s how to insert that kind of link:

In 1938, he moved to [[Chicago, Illinois|Chicago]]. When you put |, the “pipe” character (usually it shares a key with \, the “backslash”  character), in the middle of a wikilink, the text before the pipe is the name of the article you’re linking to, and the text after the pipe is what a reader will see.

Creating Sub-Headings

Longer articles are normally broken up into sections, and sometimes those sections are divided again into sub-sections.  Each new section can be edited on its own, leaving the rest of the article free to be edited by other users, which is helpful when you’re collaborating at an event like this one.  Creating sections works like this:

==Text between two equal signs will create a main section==

You can then write information normally, adding [[links]], etc., where appropriate.

===If you need a sub-section, put text inside three equal signs===

==Create another main section anytime just by jumping back to two equal signs==


The names of each section—that is, the words written between the equal signs—will appear at the top of each article in its Table of Contents.  Sometimes it will be helpful to break down article content into bulleted form: Wikipedia easily supports both numbered and unnumbered bullets, like this:

#This item will get a bullet numbered 1.

#This item will get a bullet numbered 2.

##This item will be indented from the one above it, and get a bullet numbered 1.

#This item will get a bullet numbered 3.

*This item will get a simple round bullet.

*This item will also get a simple round bullet.

**This item will be indented from the one above it, and get a simple round bullet.


A good Wikipedia article relies heavily on extensive citations, which help ensure that the encyclopedia’s accuracy can be checked by readers if they wish.  References, if typed in correctly, will appear automatically in the references section that already exists in most existing articles.  Here’s how to cite a source.

Some sources will be traditional print resources, like books or newspapers, and can be cited as though they’re in a traditional bibliography using ref tags.<ref>A Book of Advice about Wikipedia, Big Important Publisher, New York, 2013, p. 2</ref> This will add a tiny numbered footnote after the sentence: when the reader clicks on that number, they will be dropped down to the references at the end of the article, where they can see that information that will allow them to look up the book used. Using a web site is just as easy.<ref>[]</ref> That tag will give a footnote, again, and in the references the text will be a hyperlink that points to the web address