What Wikipedia can do for you
Wikipedia is a valuable resource for supporting the whole of the research process: from discovery of topics and research materials, to verifying implicit knowledge about topics, to helping researchers define or clarify information they are reading in their work. In a number of research contexts, readers have developed a research habit to check Wikipedia on a regular basis to clarify knowledge about new topics they encounter in reading.
Research situations where readers are forced to leave the platform of their choice to find more information make it hard for readers to continue to stay focused within the research ecosystem. To take advantage of reference content, like Wikipedia, often means bringing Wikipedia to the reader, where they are.
Fortunately, the way Wikipedia is licensed makes is quite easy, free, and legal to reuse content within other web applications to streamline the research process (for example Google Knowledge Graph or in Facebook's Community pages).
For libraries and publishers there is a real advantage to integrating Wikipedia content throughout lib-guides, search and discovery tools, journal articles, and other websites—to supplement the carefully created and curated professional and academic resources. Bringing the Wikipedia content into ones platform helps keep readers within it, while bringing them relevant, accessible contextual material that supports their research needs.
With all of these advantages, it is also important to consider how to embed Wikipedia in a way that reciprocates value to the Wikimedia community: Wikipedia's nonprofit mission, serving free and open knowledge, relies on collaborative partnerships amongst readers, editors, and organizations, to help pay for developers, write our content, and support volunteers. If you want to include Wikipedia in your research platform, we invite you to reciprocate that service with some of the following strategies.
What you can do for Wikipedia
The sustainability of Wikipedia's content and its quality relies on a number of different factors which ensure its role in the public commons can be maintained for readers well into the future. Though free, many inputs make Wikipedia possible and sustainable.
Here are some simple strategies for giving back to Wikipedia, and the larger community that supports it, when integrating Wikipedia into your discovery tools.
Link to "Read more on Wikipedia"
When including only a portion of a Wikipedia article, it's important to link to the full article. The introductory portion of a Wikipedia article, called the "lead section" only summarizes the information represented throughout the article. Linking to the full article lets readers discover more depth of context and content that they might need.
Wikipedia's license requires that a reuser at least give attribution of its content, but including a link to the Wikipedia article as well helps readers recognize that the information presented in its new context is only a small part of the whole. It also gives the readers entry to Wikipedia's platform where they may choose to read more, edit more, or donate more - all major benefits to the Wikipedia community.
Link to resources explaining Wikipedia
Surprisingly, even some of the most educated researchers don't always understand how Wikipedia content is created. Like academic publications, it's important to explain Wikipedia's process of creating and editing the information.
Wikipedia has a highly unconventional content production process, operating on the principle that anyone can edit. Most readers never get a chance to learn about how this process works. Providing a clear informative link or popup that indicates how Wikipedia's information is created helps spread better knowledge about Wikipedia, and helps make resources with Wikipedia embedded within it more transparent and credible.
Depending on the audience of the tool, the Wikimedia community has created a number of targeted informational pages for helping those targeted communities. For example, adding a link to the Research Help page provides research-focused readers basic information on how to use Wikipedia effectively in a traditional academic research context. If the resource is targeted for librarians, we recommend the Wikipedia Library cultural professionals page. There are also more thorough pages that explore other elements of Wikipedia which may inform how your readers use the information (for example, Wikipedia's guide for information about medicine and health). For a full index of help pages, see Wikipedia:Help
Encourage readers to edit the article
Part of the reason that Wikipedia can remain accurate is that it relies heavily on members of the public to correct problems as they identify them. Following the programmer's motto that many eyeballs make all bugs shallow, Wikipedia's success is entirely dependent on those many eyes willing to update information. When information from Wikipedia is taken out of that editing context, a vital feedback loop for improving Wikipedia content is lost.
The simple solution here is a link to edit the article a snippet of information came from. Edit buttons can be minimally intrusive. For example, Facebook's community pages include a "Edit on Wikipedia" button which communicates the need for readers to contribute more actively to Wikipedia (example). Similarly, the Wikipedia Wikiwand adds more prominent edit buttons ( the cooking article).
This invitation to edit helps readers recognize that inaccurate information embedded from Wikipedia can be corrected. Moreover, when your research platform is full of experts and academics, they are often in the best position to review the content for accuracy, identify flaws, and improve article quality. This creates a virtuous circle in which the content your platform is pulling in goes through continual improvement.
You can also offer readers a way to donate to Wikipedia. Wikipedia's servers, volunteer community programs, and support infrastructure get funded through small reader donations, most of which are collected in our yearly fundraising campaign which includes banners on Wikipedia article pages.
Our commitment to free knowledge means we will never prohibit reusing Wikipedia in any context; however, every reader who interacts with Wikipedia content outside of our site is unreachable to our fundraising. On the whole, this places a financial burden on the Wikimedia community -- and forces a smaller portion of our readership to pay for more and more of the community's expense.
Our donation portal is modern, lightweight, fast, and secure. Linking readers to it lets them directly support the content they are benefiting from and ensures it will still be there in decades to come!
- More information about supporting Wikimedia projects through donations can be found on the Wikimedia Foundation.
Every time libraries, publishers and other research organizations include Wikipedia content in a research platform, the organization lends additional credibility and value to Wikipedia's project. However, readers often don't interpret this additional credibility with nuance -- and for some readers this additional endorsement of a crowdsourced encyclopedia can be shocking. Explaining how Wikipedia's contributes to your research tools, helps your readers and experts understand the complex reasons and decision making that led to the decision making that led to that bold move.
This kind of communication is a huge added value to our community: explaining your process of embedding Wikipedia helps other comparable organizations learn from your experience and follow your lead. It's a good and bold step to use Wikipedia in a specialist context, but it's even bolder to tell the public about it!
You wouldn't be alone here, as many top publishers and libraries are already pulling in Wikipedia content. Why keep a good thing a secret?
Create toll-free Wikipedia referred reader access
If you are including Wikipedia content in a research platform that is behind a paywall, there is a very simple way to contribute back to the community: allow people visiting that page from Wikipedia to read it. Offering toll-free access to traffic coming from Wikipedia, and encouraging volunteers and readers to add citations to that content on Wikipedia, creates a sustainable source of traffic and attention to your research materials.
Cite on Wikipedia applet
If Wikipedia content is being shared alongside pages that would make reliable sources for a Wikipedia article, we recommend making it easy for readers to cite that page on Wikipedia. By encouraging citations, of your source on Wikipedia, readers can help fill the virtuous circle, created by the research environment.
Wikipedia uses standard citation templates that make it easy to extract publication metadata and format it so it's ready to use on Wikipedia. Zotero has all of these templates already installed and many websites already offer this service. It's just a matter of integrating a "Cite on Wikipedia" link that capitalizes on the metadata translation created by these pre-existing tools.
Donate access to select Wikipedia editors
Wikipedia is a community of 80,000 active monthly contributors. If you look more closely, there is a dedicated and prolific core of several thousand who write many of the articles, summarizing scholarly, news and other reliable sources for the public. Granting experienced, trusted, highly-active editors access to your platform lets them improve Wikipedia with it while also adding citations back to your platform.
The Wikipedia Library can facilitate this mutually beneficial proposition (and has over 50 partnerships already, with leading publishers like JSTOR, Elsevier ScienceDirect, EBSCO, and Project Muse). By sharing access to your curated knowledge with Wikipedia editors, they summarize that knowledge for the whole world, helping researchers discover its existence, and include a citation pointing to your collection, from one of the most trafficked sites on the internet.
- For more information about the access donation program, see The Wikipedia Library's information about the program or contact the Wikipedia Library team at wikipedialibrarywikimedia.org
There are very few restrictions on how to reuse Wikipedia's content, whether in a mirroring situation, extracting information or data through the API, or copying the content. However, its important to abide by the simple restrictions laid out at Wikipedia:Reusing Wikipedia content. The principles concerns are around proper implementation of the copyright.
For more information about the technical and social considerations of using Wikipedia content, see Wikipedia:Mirrors and forks and the API documentation.