2 Is this Website an Encyclopedia?

Sunday 22 July 2007
by  Administrator
popularity : 37%

This article first reviews the characteristics that should be possessed by an encyclopedia and the criteria to be used in evaluating encyclopedia articles. It then examines to what extent this website may be considered a true encyclopedia, and what steps should be taken to meet the standard criteria more fully.


The definition of an encyclopedia according to Wikipedia

The Wikipedia article "Encyclopedia" gives the following definition:

    An encyclopedia is a comprehensive written compendium that contains information on all branches of knowledge or a particular branch of knowledge.

Compared to a dictionary, which primarily focuses on words and their definitions, an encyclopedia treats subjects in more depth, conveying the most relevant accumulated knowledge on each subject. Historically, both encyclopedias and dictionaries have been researched and written by well-educated, well-informed content experts.

The Wikipedia article notes that four major elements characterise an encyclopedia: subject matter, scope, method of organization, and method of production.

  • Subject matter: Encyclopedias can be general, containing articles on topics in every field, or can cover a wide variety of topics but from a particular cultural or national perspective, such as the Encyclopaedia Judaica, or can cover a particular domain
  • Scope: encyclopedias aim to convey the important accumulated knowledge for their domain, such as medicine, philosophy, or law, may can vary in the breadth of material and the depth of discussion, depending on the target audience.
  • Method of organization: to make encyclopedias usable as works of reference, the articles are organised either in alphabetical order, or by hierarchical categories. Alphabetical order has been most common for printed encyclopedias, but electronic media permit classing articles in multiple categories, and offer new, previously unimagined capabilities for searching, indexing and cross referencing articles.
  • Method of production: the traditional production methods using printed medium have been supplemented by new methods using digital multimedia including audio and video.


Additional criteria for the Wikipedia encyclopedia

The above characteristics of an encyclopedia are listed in the Wikipedia article about encyclopedias.

In addition, Wikipedia gives detailed on-line instructions to contributors concerning criteria to be followed in writing encyclopedia articles.

Wikipedia’s three fundamental content policies are as follows:

  • Verifiable: any reader should be able to check that material added to Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source.
  • Neutral Point of View: articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view (NPOV), representing fairly and without bias all significant views that have been published by reliable sources.
  • No Original Research: Wikipedia is not a place to post original research

The on-line instructions in Wikipedia also present a page about What Wikipedia is not, including notably:

  • Wikipedia is not a guide: Wikipedia is not an instruction manual, guidebook or textbook. This is further detailed as:
    • Wikipedia is not a how-to: Wikipedia articles should not include "how-to" instructions, advice (legal, medical, or otherwise) or suggestions. This includes tutorials, walk-throughs, instruction manuals, game guides, and recipes.
    • Wikipedia is not a textbook: Wikipedia is an encyclopedic reference presenting facts, not a textbook to teach subject matter, such as articles with leading questions and step-by-step problem solutions as examples.


How this website can better meet the criteria for an encyclopedia

The articles on this website can be improved, following the above recommendations, in order to better meet the criteria for an encyclopedia. The main steps to be taken include:

  • Improve the verifiability by adding footnotes to article to show where the material is taken from
  • Improve the neutrality by removing the expression of partisan point of view to the companion websites
  • Remove any original research to a companion website
  • Remove any instructional how-to material to the companion Convivial Tools User Guide website.

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