Wikipedia:Writing Wikipedia articles backward

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If you read pages like the Teahouse where experienced editors advise the less experienced about creating new articles, you'll see statements like these:

"Writing an article is much more difficult than it looks"
"Creating a new encyclopedia article in Wikipedia is one of the most difficult tasks there is for inexperienced editors"

and even

"Successfully creating a new article is the most difficult task to perform on Wikipedia"

These statements are false. Ok, creating a new article is not easy. It's harder than rewriting a clumsy sentence, or adding an image, or finding and adding a reference. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone with less than 300 constructive edits in their edit history. But it's easier than understanding how categories work, or editing a large table, or creating a template with parameters.

So why do experienced editors make such claims?

They do so because almost all new editors try to create their first article backward, which is extremely difficult.

How to create an article forward[edit]

  1. Find several reliable independent published sources with extensive discussion of the subject.[1]
  2. Write an article basing it on what those sources say, citing them as you go.
  3. Check that your draft meets the notability guidelines for your subject. Go back to 1) if it does not but there are more sources you could use.

(For very full instructions, see Help:Your first article.)

How to create an article backward[edit]

  1. Write whatever you like. Base it on what you remember from school, or what the subject of the article told you, or what you read on a blog, or what your grandmother once told you; or just make stuff up.
  2. Use a search engine or a good library to find reliable independent published sources[1] that support everything you've written. Add references to those sources.
  3. Check that your draft meets the notability guidelines for your subject. Go back to 1) if it does not but there are more sources you could use.

This is much harder than doing it forward. From my personal experience I'd say, at least 20 times as hard. Step 2 is of course the difficult bit.

"I've started creating an article backward, but I see the sense in what you say. What should I do now?"[edit]

What you should do:

Go through what you've written, looking for any reliable independent published sources with extensive discussion of the subject[1] that you happen to have cited. Keep those. Delete everything else. Yes, everything else. Then switch to creating your article forward.

Most of you won't be able to manage that. You'll suffer from the sunk cost fallacy, and place value on the words you've spent time typing in. But those words, if not supported by acceptable sources, are worse than useless. They'll distract you from the task you're trying to get on with. And when you're creating an article, typing in the words isn't the difficult bit, finding sources is.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Reliable independent published sources with extensive discussion" means sources each of which is reliable and independent (not based on press releases, or on statements by the subject or people associated with the subject) and published and has substantial discussion of the subject.