Using Wikibooks/Wikipedian Primer

Wikipedia is an important sister project for Wikibooks, and many of our editors started as Wikipedians before coming to Wikibooks. Despite the many similarities between the projects, especially software-related similarities, there are a number of subtle differences between the two projects that could confuse Wikipedians at first. This chapter is designed to be a quick start guide for incoming Wikipedians, to help them acclimate to the Wikibooks project quickly.

Textbooks vs. Encyclopedia Articles


It should be obvious that a "textbook" and an "encyclopedia" would be different things, and online this difference is the same. While an encyclopedia is tasked with providing information, a textbook must instruct the reader, and teach that information in a way that a reader can learn. For the same size of a page, a textbook will typically contain much less information, but much more explanation and instruction.

Textbooks on Wikibooks should also be structured similarly to traditional textbooks. Books have a table of contents, and the book content is separated into chapters and then pages. Some books may only have pages, not chapters. Some books will use other layers of organization such as "units", and "subchapters". This much is left up to the discretion of the author. However, the important part is that books are organized hierarchically, with the "book" being the top of the hierarchy, and the "page" being at the bottom. Because of the hierarchical structure of books, and the self-contained nature, our textbooks tend to use hyperlinks less extensively than articles on Wikipedia do.

Wikibooks textbooks may also include other components of a traditional book such as:

Cover pages
Pages with the title of the book, a cover image, and some brief information
A page, written by the authors, about the book
Pages for defining terms and phrases used in the book
Pages that contain information that is ancillary to the central narrative of the book, but which is important for the proper understanding of the material

Organization and structure are not enough to differentiate a book from an encyclopedia article, however. The pages in a textbook should be interrelated to each other, usually with a predefined reading order, and a unified narrative that builds from page to page. A textbook is not a macropedia, a collection of several related encyclopedia articles. Some books however, such as the Cookbook are structured as a collection of pages, although this should be considered more of a rare exception than a rule. If a book does not have a specific reading order and a central narrative, it must at least be instructional.

"Bookify" and Book-Like Formatting


Many books start out as encyclopedia-like articles, or as macropedias. While a macropedia is not an acceptable textbook, it is common and acceptable for some books to be structured like a macropedia during development. There are several reasons for this. First, many books are created by importing articles from Wikipedia to use as a basis for the new book. Second, it is often easier to write information down first and then organize and revise it later. Writing a central narrative for a book can be difficult in the early stages of development when the reading order of the pages is not finalized. Macropedias that are early in development will be marked for cleanup. Macropedias that are old or abandoned may be nominated for deletion.

As we mentioned above, pages in a Wikibooks textbook tend to use links very sparsely. There are a few reasons for this. First, books really need to be self-contained. Relying on too many links means that your book isn't covering the material as well as it should. Also, external sources are unlikely to be as instructional as a textbook. Second, having to follow too many links, or following links in mid-sentence can be distracting to readers, and can prevent them from following the narrative of the book, and learning the lessons adequately.

Creating red links on Wikibooks, by putting [[brackets]] around [[common]] [[words]], like is done at Wikipedia is unlikely to create a viable link to an existing Wikibooks book. Converting these links to point to Wikipedia using piped syntax is more difficult to do, harder to maintain, and makes the source code of the page harder to edit. Also, interwiki links are unreliable, as we at Wikibooks have no control over whether Wikipedia articles are moved, or deleted, or disambiguated. Having pages full of such links can make maintenance a nightmare.

This is not to say that linking to Wikipedia or one of the other sister projects is a bad thing. However, use links sparsely, and only direct people to the articles that are the most pertinent and most important to support the discussion at hand. To include a link to Wikipedia, you could use the {{Wikipedia}} template. If you would like to link to several articles, you could use a page at the end of your book for "Resources", or a "Bibliography", or something similar. There are plenty of places to put links to reference Wikipedia or any other website, but typically they need to be used sparingly within the text of your book.

Wikipedian FAQ

  • Q: Where are the WikiProjects?
    • A: You can find information on them at Wikibooks:WikiProject. Another good place to start a discussion is in the Reading Room Project Page. If you want to work on coordinating several Wikibooks that are all about the same general topic, look for an existing project listed at Wikibooks:WikiProject, create your own WikiProject, or find a fitting shelf page and use the talk page to carry on that discussion.
  • Q: Why does my article need to be "de-wikified"?
    • A: Wikibooks are typically not named like Wikipedia articles, and a link to [[any]] [[old]] [[word]] probably won't point to anything at all. Also, books tend to collect most external links and resources together into a centralized bibliography. See Wikibooks:Dewikify for details.
  • Q: What are the module naming conventions?
    • A: The main page of a book is generally named "Book Name", while sub-pages are generally named "Book Name/Sub Page", or "Book Name/Chapter/Sub Page". Wikibooks does not use the wikipedia-style disambiguation convention of "Book Name (Page Name)"
  • Q: What are Wikibook's policies, and how are they different from Wikipedia's?
    • A: There are many differences, some big, some small. If you are interested in policy, see The complete list of current wikibooks policies. Wikibooks tends to be more minimalist then Wikipedia is, so the amount of policy that we have is far smaller than the Wikipedia counterpart.
  • Q: What is the recommended style for making and editing modules?
  • Q: Who decides the format/layout/audience/style/navigation/etc of a new book? Is there a single "right way?"
    • A: Who makes the decisions about a book? You do! Wikibooks authors are given a broad range of freedoms and liberties when it comes to writing books. We ask that all the pages in a single book are formatted the same, in order to give the book unity and continuity. Different books have different target audience, and the style of each book should be adapted for its particular target audience, so different books adopt different styles.
  • Q: Are there disambiguation pages?
    • A: No. There are some redirect pages and organizational pages (such as shelves), but so far disambiguation pages are only used in a limited way in the Cookbook.
  • Q: I'd like to move an article (or articles) from Wikipedia to Wikibooks in order to work on them here as textbook chapters. What's the policy on that?
    • A: Just request the article on WB:RFI, then follow the templated instructions that will be added to the imported page.

How you can help

  • Q: What kinds of cleanup tasks are there to do here on wikibooks?
    • A: Wikibooks has many of the same tasks as Wikipedia does. Pages can be categorized, modules can be fixed (edited, corrected, expanded), vandalism can be reverted, double-redirects can be removed... and the list goes on and on. For a listing of tasks that you can do, see Wikibooks Maintenance.
  • Q: How can I get involved?
    • A: There are lots of ways to get involved in Wikibooks. Most discussions about policy and structure can be found in the Reading Room where people can ask and answer questions. There are always good books to look through in Featured Books, where the community gets together and focuses on what books should be considered good models for other books to follow. Most of our debates about acceptable content on Wikibooks takes place on the Votes for Deletion page.