Note: This blog post is the second in a series of profiles of students’ experiences on Wikipedia when participating in the Public Policy Initiative during the fall term.
When Georgetown University master’s student Nicole Anderson first discovered she’d be writing a Wikipedia article for class credit, she was excited.
“I thought it was a cool idea,” she says. “It’s one easy way to get your work published. It’s also a forum that is accessible to everyone who has access to the Internet. Being able to reach that broad of range of audience with academic writing is rare, but I have had the chance to do it!”
While crafting her article, Nicole relied on the help of two Campus Ambassadors who were present in her class, but at odd hours, she sought help from the Online Ambassadors, whom she found especially helpful.
“It was great having the Online Ambassadors available at almost all hours of the day,” she says. “All too frequently I would spend Friday nights asking technical questions or formatting questions. I had issues with my title and asked them for assistance, as well as with initial editing requests. Their edits more concerned how Wikipedians would see and critique my article, not necessarily grammar mistakes. Overall, the Online Ambassadors were very helpful.”
While Nicole enjoyed the experience of getting to write for such a wide audience, she says she now appreciates the finality of turning in a term paper. With her Wikipedia article, she says, she never felt done. She was constantly monitoring and improving the content, and she says she’ll continue to do that even though her course is finished. She found that it was difficult to write without analysis or opinion, both of which are more typical for term papers but not appropriate for an encyclopedia.
Despite the challenges, she ultimately appreciated the attention her article got, especially after it landed on Wikipedia’s main page in the “Did You Know” section.
“I liked that I was able to reach a lot of people with my article through Wikipedia,” Nicole says. “I had quite a few hits (I think it was close to 5,000), which meant that at least that many people learned something new about the region and about obesity. I was able to at least share my knowledge with others in a positive way.”
Communications Associate, Public Policy Initiative