How Wikipedia Works

for similar works, see Wikipedia: The Missing Manual and Wikimedia/Wikipedia

How Wikipedia Works is a wiki remix of the 2008 book by Phoebe Ayers, Charles Matthews, and Ben Yates, with technical edits by Samuel Klein. It is a guide to understanding and using Wikipedia, for readers with a basic understanding of the project. It was published in the United States by No Starch Press under the GFDL, so that it would be compatible with Wikimedia projects, and in 2013 was relicensed under CC-BY-SA (see talk).

Cover of the original book.

Wikipedia is made up of people just like you: students, professors, and everyday experts and fans. With about 10,000 articles added to Wikipedia each week, there are plenty of opportunities to join this global community. How Wikipedia Works explains how you can make the Web’s go-to source for information even better. After reading, feel free to contact the authors or submit errata.

"This book was created by Wikipedians, and as a result, I have never read a better summary of how Wikipedia works. Anyone who wants to understand this miracle of the Internet should buy this book!" --Jimmy Wales
"...resolves Wikipedia's paradox: Anyone can edit it, but to make your edits stick, you need to know what you are doing. Editing Wikipedia means navigating a minefield of implicit norms, tacit knowledge, secret lore, suggested policies, and enforceable regulations." - Barry Wellman
"It is probable that the idea of an encyclopaedia may undergo very considerable extension and elaboration in the near future. Its full possibilities have still to be realized. . . . There is no practical obstacle whatever now to the creation of an efficient index to all human knowledge, ideas and achievements, to the creation, that is, of a complete planetary memory for all mankind." - H.G.Wells, 1937, World Brain (from the preface)
IN PROGRESS: please help us add and convert the original book text, and update it!

What's in the book?


We cover Wikipedia from soup to nuts: for readers trying to understand what’s in Wikipedia, how and why it got there, and how to analyze the quality of the content you might find on the site; for current and future editors, from basic editing techniques and wikisyntax to not-so-basic information on complicated syntax, referencing and researching content, and editing collaboratively and harmoniously; and finally for anyone interested in how Wikipedia’s vibrant and complicated community comes together to produce content, resolve disputes, and keep the site running. Finally, we touch on the wider world of Wikipedias in other languages, other Wikimedia projects, and the Wikimedia Foundation itself. We close with appendices about reusing Wikipedia content according to the terms of the GFDL license, and thoughts on using Wikipedia in a classroom setting.

Throughout, we provide community consensus viewpoints and our own thoughts on a common-sense approach to using and participating in Wikipedia, and a selection of carefully-chosen links to the thousands of pages of documentation, help and Wikipedia-space pages that we discuss — not to mention a sprinkling of humor. In every discussion, we try to provide a sense of the community that supports and is at the heart of the Wikipedia project and mission.

— Phoebe Ayers


Ch.1 - What's in Wikipedia?
Ch.2 - The World Gets a Free Encyclopedia
Ch.3 - Finding Wikipedia's Content
Ch.4 - Understanding and Evaluating an Article
Ch.5 - Basic Editing
Ch.6 - Good Writing and Research
Ch.7 - Cleanup, Projects, Policy, and Processes
Ch.8 - Building Wikipedia's Web
Ch.9 - Images, Media, Templates and Special Characters
Ch.10 - The Life Cycle of an Article
Ch.11 - Becoming a Wikipedian
Ch.12 - Community and Communication
Ch.13 - Policy and Community Input
Ch.14 - Disputes, Blocks, and Bans
Other Projects
Ch.15 - 200 Languages and Counting
Ch.16 - Wikimedia Commons. Other Sister Projects
Ch.17 - WMF and Project Coordination
Appendix A - Reusing Wikimedia Content
Appendix B - Wikipedia for Teachers
Appendix C - Edit Summaries Jargon
Appendix D - Glossary
Appendix E - History

Original book

Phoebe Ayers on How Wikipedia Works in 2019.
  • Phoebe Ayers; Charles Matthews; Ben Yates (2008). How Wikipedia Works:How Wikipedia Works: And How You Can Be a Part of It. No Starch Press. ISBN 978-1-59327-176-3.
  • Official website
  • Internet Archive text