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NUPEDIA.COM EDITORIAL POLICY GUIDELINESVersion 3.31 (November 16, 2000)
Printable copy. Note, this might be a copy of an earlier version.
This is a statement of the policies and procedures that that editors, peer reviewers, writers, and copyeditors will be expected to follow in the production of the Nupedia encyclopedia. Everyone involved in this project is expected to be familiar with the relevant parts of the policy statement. This statement is essential to our giving the project direction, consistency, and coherence.
This is a statement of the policies and procedures that that editors, peer reviewers, writers, and copyeditors will be expected to follow in the production of the Nupedia encyclopedia.
Table of ContentsI. Definitions of Some Key Terms.
II. Overview of the Editorial Process.
III. General Nupedia Policies.
goals of the project -- the international nature of the project -- our audience -- lack of bias -- access to the disabled -- our way of thanking contributors
IV. Choosing Article Topics.
V. Assigning Articles.
qualifications of writers -- whom to assign a topic, and what to assign when -- how to assign an article and check assignments
VI. General Nupedia Guidelines for Writing Articles.
general features of written style -- official style and usage guides -- section headings -- explaining why a topic is important -- how to -- explaining jargon -- pronunciation -- keywords -- for further reading, notes, lists of works, and discographies -- cross references and external links -- adapting pre-existing materials -- graphics -- italics and other markup -- communicating with the XML crew
VII. Articles Types.
three types of articles: the differences -- definitions -- brief introductions -- medium-length articles -- longer articles -- biographies -- "top-level" articles
VIII. Setting Category Specific Guidelines for Writing Articles.
IX. Reviewing and Approving Articles.
X. Peer Review Checklist.
XI. Copyediting Procedure and Policy.
I. DEFINITIONS OF SOME KEY TERMS.
Some definitions of a few key terms will be useful in advance. Further clarification of these terms is given throughout this document.
Associated with the categories listed here are editorial review groups made up of a subject area editor, peer reviewers, and interested members of the public subscribed to an associated mailing list. (Information on mailing lists is here.) A particular review group that bears the primary responsibility for an article is the article's lead review group.
A review group is considered to be functioning when the category has an editor and at least two peer reviewers. The steering committee of the category consists, essentially, of the first members of a functioning editorial review group.
The subject area editor of a category, such as Classics, is the person responsible for giving final approval to articles in the category, approving new peer reviewers in the category, and organizing discussion on new categories.
A peer reviewer for a category is a person officially designated as being responsible for discussing article submissions and guidelines on the review group's mailing list. The lead reviewer of a particular article is responsible for shepherding the article through the review process.
A copyeditor is a person charged with ensuring that articles are written with excellent grammar, spelling, punctuation, usage, and style.
The Nupedia advisory group consists of subscribers, from among
editors and peer reviewers, to a mailing list. Issues of policy are
discussed and settled upon by this group. These distinguished
scholars and scientists have contributed many valuable changes and
additions to this policy statement.
II. OVERVIEW OF THE EDITORIAL PROCESS.
Here is an outline of the Nupedia editorial process:
A writer (often, and as appropriate, an expert on the topic) asks the
editor to be assigned a given topic, or an editor asks someone to write on
it. The topic is assigned and the writer goes to work. The
article is also assigned a "lead reviewer" and there is a "blind review"
exchange between this initial, lead reviewer and the writer. The
resulting draft article is posted on the relevant review group (or, in
some cases, groups); peer reviewers suggest revisions. When approved
by the peer reviewers and subject editor, the article is then submitted to
the copyediting group. After the article has been checked and
revised for good grammar, usage, etc., the completed article is inputted
into an article submission form on the website. From that the
article is converted into XML format and the article is uploaded into
Nupedia's database, ready for public access.
Most of the rest of this document is an elaboration of the steps
involved in the above-described process.
III. GENERAL NUPEDIA POLICIES.
A. GOALS OF THE PROJECT.
Our long-term goal is to create an open content encyclopedia, usefully cross-referenced, arranged, and searchable, freely available on the web and in various other inexpensive formats, and with a greater amount of content than any encyclopedia has had in history. Also essential to our goal is that articles will be peer-reviewed and academically respectable, unbiased, translated into various non-English languages, and will offer both practical and theoretical information. The leaders of the Nupedia project recognize that this goal cannot be achieved without considerable time, effort, and ambition, as well as some humility.
Significant near-term milestones have already been reached: (1) our
first article has been given final approval; and (2) our first article has
appeared on the website. Other near-term goals include: (3) all of
our review groups are staffed; (4) at least one article from each subject
area appears on the website; and (5) 1,000 articles appear on the
B. THE INTERNATIONAL NATURE OF THE PROJECT.
Nupedia is, by design, an international project in several senses.
First, since the project is web-based, it is amazingly easy for us to have participants from around the globe. We do, therefore, strongly encourage participation by people from all nations.
Second, though our first articles will appear in both American English and British English, we will, as soon as is practical to do so, set up a system whereby translations of Nupedia articles into many other languages are made available. Our hope and intention is to render Nupedia articles in all major world languages.
Meanwhile, we hope to avoid regionalisms, insofar as that is possible, thus making articles in American English comprehensible to British English speakers and articles in British English comprehensible to American English speakers. The very fact that this rule needs to be made testifies to the truly international nature of the undertaking, which could not have been achieved on this scale before the advent of the Internet.
Moreover, we are quite willing to accept articles written in other languages than English. Currently, all editorial functions are carried out in English, however; therefore, before an article can be considered, it should be translated into English. There are many people associated with Nupedia who are willing and able to assist with this.
Third, in virtue of our nonbias policy (see below), we hope to make it possible to bring radically divergent viewpoints together in a way that, it is to be hoped, cannot reasonably be regarded as tendentious by anyone. We believe this is absolutely essential to the establishment of an international institution.
C. OUR AUDIENCE.
Articles, and particularly introductory and general articles, should be readily comprehensible to nonspecialists and nonacademics generally, and all purely technical terms should be defined. General articles are to be written for an average college graduate, or for an intelligent high school graduate. Articles on technical and abstruse subjects and on current topics of debate among specialists may be fully understandable only by some people with advanced degrees in those subjects, and should always be linked to more general articles where the subject is discussed, at least briefly. Nonetheless, all Nupedia articles are meant for the consumption of educated adults and are to be written so simply, clearly, and with such liveliness that others will have relatively little trouble understanding them. This does not imply that vocabulary and sentence construction are to be simplified for the purpose of being easier for beginners such as schoolchildren to understand; Nupedia materials can, under our open content license, be adapted for them in all sorts of ways.
The responsibility for ensuring that articles are well-written for our audience falls to all our contributors -- editors, peer reviewers, proofreaders, and of course writers.
D. LACK OF BIAS.
Nupedia articles are, in terms of their content, to be unbiased. There may be respectable reference works that permit authors to take recognizable stands on controversial issues, but this is not one of them. This is, admittedly, a difficult ideal to achieve; but we feel that, where bias can be detected, it can also be eliminated.
This question is a good (albeit not infallible) test of a lack of bias: "On every issue about which there might be even minor dispute among experts on this subject, is it very difficult or impossible for the reader to determine what the view is to which the author adheres?"
This requires that, for each controversial view discussed, the author of an article (at a bare minimum) mention various opposing views that are taken seriously by any significant minority of experts (or concerned parties) on the subject. In longer articles, of course, opposing views will be spelled out in considerable detail. In a final version of the article, every party to the controversy in question must be able to judge that its views have been fairly presented, or as fairly as is possible in a context in which other, opposing views must also be presented as fairly as possible. Moreover, if objections to any particular views are offered (which will be an essential component to certain articles, e.g., those on philosophy and public policy), the most serious or relevant objections to other, opposing views must be offered as well. The reader should, ideally, be given the tools for deciding the issue; or, failing that, the reader should be introduced to the problems that must be solved in order to decide the issue.
On any controversial issue, it is usually important to state which views, if any, are now (or were at some time) in favor and no longer in favor (among experts or some other specified group of people). But even this information can and should be imparted in such a fashion as not to imply that the majority view is correct, or even that it has any more presumption in its favor than is implied by the plain fact of its popularity.
To present a subject without bias, one must pay attention not just to the matters of which views and arguments are presented, but also to their wording or the tone in which they are mentioned. Nupedia articles should avoid describing controversial views, persons, events, etc., in language that can plausibly be regarded as implying some value judgment, whether positive or negative, except when the judgment is on some relatively innocuous matter and is virtually universal. It will suffice to state the relevant (agreed-upon) facts, to describe various divergent views about those facts, and then let readers make up their own minds about what the correct views are.
We acknowledge, however, that there will inevitably be some element of bias involved in arranging some articles (i.e., putting them into some order) on a web page. This task will be left to the discretion of Nupedia editors; but, as a rule, we will attempt to arrange articles on controversial views according to the popularity of those views.
One solution to the problem of bias is to offer "articles in disagreement." While this is not our official solution -- we believe that where there is occasion for such an article, there is occasion to amend a currently existing article in some appropriate fashion -- we might at some future date include, as a separate feature, a series of such articles, or an online debate among experts.
The nonbias policy does not mean that, as a Nupedia writer, you may not, to a large extent, speak with your own voice in terms of writing style (certainly you may; and see below). Writers should avoid use of the first person, however; the third person will be expected, and if the first person is used, it will require editorial approval (it will have to be for a very good reason).
E. ACCESS TO THE DISABLED.
We affirm our commitment to make Nupedia accessible to those contributors and users who are disabled, or differently able, as fully as possible. We shall adopt whatever reasonable policies and procedures we find necessary to implement this; hence we intend Nupedia to be among the best-suited for browsing and use by the disabled. The Nupedia staff will write or re-write our HTML in such a way as to assist disabled contributors and users. Some examples:
1) We will use text equivalents for all images.
At the same time, we assume that some groups of disabled contributors and users do use assistive and/or adaptive technology and, thus, we see it as our goal to make our website, our procedures and policies, and our content compatible with this technology. For example, for those individuals with voice-enabled browsers, we will try to provide a navigation system for our web pages and content that compliments such browsers.
We welcome the input and advice of persons who wish to see Nupedia improved in this regard.
F. BYLINES, CREDIT, AND OTHER WAYS OF THANKING CONTRIBUTORS.
All Nupedia authors will receive prominent bylines, and other contributors to the editorial process -- editors, the lead reviewer, other peer reviewers, and copyeditors -- will receive credit on every article on Nupedia.com that they help to create. Every byline or other credit will be linked to a brief member biographical entry, created by the member and edited for consistency of format, spelling, etc., by Nupedia staff. Therefore, all contributors are encouraged to fill out the name and bio portion of their member information pages.
For writing an article of any length that is included in Nupedia, as a small token of our appreciation, we will send the writer's choice of a t-shirt or a coffee cup (emblazoned with the Nupedia logo). All peer reviewers will automatically have this choice as well, and editors will receive both. Copyeditors who copyedit five articles can receive their choice of t-shirt or coffee cup as well. Moreover, after copyediting five articles, copyeditors may request reimbursement for their copies of required copyediting books such as The Chicago Manual of Style.
While Nupedia is an open content project and the various possible
benefits of the project can be had by anyone who wants to make use of our
content, those of us who are leading the project feel it's appropriate to
express our own appreciation in this small way. This is not, of
course, meant as any sort of payment for services rendered.
IV. CHOOSING ARTICLE TOPICS.
The editor of a category must approve of all topics to be assigned, or else assign this responsibility to one or more trusted specialists on particular subtopics.
Because Nupedia will be arranged in hypertext format, there is no need to solve the classic encyclopedists' dilemma, namely, the choice between writing many brief articles on specific topics or fewer long articles on general topics. We can have articles at virtually all levels of generality.
But initial topics to be created and assigned will, ideally, be general topics as well as other topics that the steering committee believes will be, for one reason or another, in highest demand among Nupedia readers. By, in the early stages of this project, encouraging the writing of articles at a relatively high level of generality, the editors and peer reviewers of the relevant categories will be forced, in a very useful way, to think about both how articles in their categories are to be arranged and what articles are needed at all.
Indeed, editors should bear in mind that the inclusion of an article in the encyclopedia might reasonably be taken to imply that other articles, of the same sort as the first, will be included as well. For example, if the Music category editor were to decide to include an article on a certain person because he was an influential patron of music, then the editor ought to be prepared to ask for articles on other influential patrons of music as well.
In deciding on whether to include some topic
in Nupedia (and how precisely to word the title), some general rules that
should be borne in mind:
Writersand editors will have the option of including secondary titles. These will be printed just below the main title, in smaller type but still set off from the main article. Secondary titles should be used when writers and editors feel that the main title by itself might be less informative than is needed or when an alternative spelling is common. Secondary titles are not to serve the function of definitions, but they are to be used to disambiguate or otherwise clarify the subject under discussion. They should be written with the first letter capitalized and a period at the end. They will often, but perhaps not always, consist of remarks on words or names rather than their meanings. For example, a secondary title for "Aesthetics": "Also spelled 'esthetics.'" For "Irish traditional music": "Also known as 'Irish music,' and, in Ireland and Irish music-playing circles, as simply 'trad' or 'traditional music.'" What secondary titles should be used, if any, should be discussed during the article review process.
Associated with each topic will be a review group or groups. For many topics, of course, there will be one obvious review group responsible for overseeing the topic. Less frequently there will be topics that we will want edited by more than one group; e.g., God or deity will probably need input both from philogic-l (the philosophers and logicians) as well as religion-l. As a rule of thumb: if within a given discipline there are experts who study the topic in considerable depth, the corresponding review group ought to have a say about the article. Generally, editors are expected to be alert to the fact that other review groups might want to have a say about certain topics that they create. In obvious cases, he or she can simply enter in any other relevant groups into the other areas part of the article assignment form. In less obvious cases, he or she may wish to consult with the other area editors and the editor-in-chief.
There will be one primary editorial group associated with every
topic in any case, called the "lead area" of the topic. In
case of dispute or uncertainty, the decision as to which group this will
be will be left up to the editor-in-chief. The editor of the lead
area will have final responsibility for determining who is assigned the
topic. This editor will also have the responsibility for deciding
what other areas govern the topic, and for determining precisely what
issues need to be decided by the other areas. That is, the editor of
the lead area may give specific instructions to the other areas that are
reviewing the topic about what aspects or parts of a given article are to
be reviewed. In all of these matters, any disputes will be resolved
with the assistance of the editor-in-chief.
V. ASSIGNING ARTICLES.
Nupedia topics will be assigned to writers or collaborators. Potential writers should contact the relevant category editor and ask to be assigned topics on which they wish to write (or on which they have already written an article). Moreover, editors may opt to contact known and respected writers to write articles on a given topic.
A. QUALIFICATIONS OF WRITERS.
Editors (and peer reviewers assigned this responsibility by editors) should determine, before making an assignment, that a candidate writer is adequately qualified for the job. There are some Nupedia topics on which, no doubt, very satisfactory brief articles could be written by a good writer with no special training at all, or a hobbyist's interest. A great many of the more specialized topics, and perhaps the bulk of topics overall, however, should be assigned to specialists in the relevant field. The rule of thumb an editor should bear in mind is: would an article on this topic be of significantly greater quality if it were written by an expert on the subject? If yes, we will require that the writer be an expert on the subject. If no, nonspecialists (who are good writers) are more than welcome.
Expert, however, is a notoriously ambiguous term. Just to take an example (that is not intended to bear any relation to any actual person): if a man who had received a Master's degree in French literature focusing exclusively on Victor Hugo had written a dozen or more peer-reviewed articles about Hugo, the fact that he lacks a Ph.D. should not stop us from assigning him topics related directly to Hugo. The same man, however, should probably not write the general article on nineteenth-century French literature; that job would belong to someone with a broader background. Moreover, if he wrote his articles two decades ago, has not studied or published very much since then, and there is no danger of our being unable to find a suitable Hugo expert, then we should probably not assign him the Hugo article.
In most cases we will want to assign topics to persons who have already done extensive, high-quality research (not necessarily published work, but probably, in most cases) on those topics. It obviously is not necessary, to have done extensive, high-quality research on a topic, to have any particular degree at all.
B. WHOM TO ASSIGN A TOPIC, AND WHAT TO ASSIGN WHEN.
Editors should focus first on assigning topics that they expect to be popular and in demand among encyclopedia readers. Of course, if a writer asks to be assigned an article on any topic, including unpopular topics, it should be assigned (provided the writer is suitable for the job, and with exceptions as noted below).
It should be helpful to assign biographies of figures associated with particular theories, movements, historical events, etc., at the same time as main articles on related subjects.
The subject area editors have broad discretion on whom they wish to assign topics. As general guidelines, however, the following should suffice.
Any qualified writer who asks to be assigned a topic should be assigned that topic, unless the editor wishes to reserve the topic for some special reason. Peer reviewers should be assigned nearly any topic they request; an editor would have to have a rather good reason to deny the request (e.g., the peer reviewer is not an expert in the subject, and a much-better qualified person will soon be able to write the article). Editors may reserve certain topics for themselves.
Moreover, of course, editors may wish to earmark certain topics or groups of topics for assignment to any of a number of experts not yet associated with Nupedia in any way. Editors and others may wish to solicit help from the authors of informational websites; information from such websites might be adapted for use on Nupedia (but on the topic of adapting pre-existing materials, please see below).
We hope that many of the initial articles to be assigned will be "brief, introductory articles" (this refers to a specific type of article; see below); our aim is achieve considerable breadth before adding detail.
Note well: If a "longer article" (this refers to another specific type of article; see below) is assigned, before it can be accepted, it must be accompanied by a brief, introductory article. The person or persons responsible for the introductory article on a topic need not be the same as the person or persons who write the longer article on that topic (again, see below). The longer article will require a separate assignment.
If a subject editor has any question, particularly on decisions that might be seen as setting important precedents, on whom should be assigned a topic, the editor should consult with the editor-in-chief.
C. HOW TO ASSIGN AN ARTICLE AND CHECK ASSIGNMENTS.
We have a web-based system that editors can use to create topics, assign them to particular people, and set official deadlines.
There will be a link on the website to a page from which writers may check whether a topic has been created yet, whether it has been assigned, to whom it has been assigned, and what the deadline is. We'll let members know when this is available.
Subject area editors are officially permitted to be as strict or as
lenient with deadlines as they see fit. An editor might wish to tell
writers that if an article on a topic is not received by the deadline,
then it could be immediately reassigned to someone else -- that would be
fine. An editor might also wish to tell writers that deadlines are
very flexible. Personal experience will no doubt suggest a happy
medium of some sort.
VI. GENERAL NUPEDIA GUIDELINES FOR WRITING ARTICLES.
There will be two different kinds of Nupedia guidelines for writing articles: general, Nupedia-wide guidelines, and guidelines set up for specific types of articles that fall under the purview of specific review groups. Writers are expected to be familiar with and to follows all relevant requirements, and peer reviewers and editors are expected to enforce them. The following are the general, Nupedia-wide guidelines.
A. GENERAL FEATURES OF WRITTEN STYLE.
Nupedia articles will, we hope, be exemplary specimens of the languages in which they are written. In general, we desire Nupedia articles to exhibit the following qualities (among others): unimpeachable standard usage, grammar, punctuation, and spelling; clarity (i.e., being readily comprehensible by Nupedia's audience); the use of active voice and concrete language (with examples); a high degree of logical structure that is made plain to the reader; lack of bias; and a natural, lively, and even witty style. It is worth perusing Strunk and White's Elements of Style again as a general guide to style. Within the general constraints of good usage and style, we want to encourage writers to be as lively, and even as humorous -- or at least good-natured -- as reasonably formal writing permits. Encyclopedia articles do not have to be written in a boring style.
It is worth emphasizing that, though there are, in principle, no space constraints, there are constraints on our readers' patience. Consequently, we wish to avoid rambling articles, and prefer our articles to be (if you will) densely packed with information.
B. OFFICIAL STYLE AND USAGE GUIDES.
The first language of Nupedia will be English in both its American (U.S.) and British varieties. We will, in time, try to set up our system and organize translators so that encyclopedia articles can be translated from any given language to many other major languages; but at present, it is quite ambitious enough to hope for an English-language encyclopedia.
We will adhere to the most recent edition (the 14th) of The Chicago Manual of Style on questions of citation and other issues common to both American and British English. Questions of American English usage are to be answered with the help of the excellent, recently-published Dictionary of Modern American Usage by Bryan A. Garner (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998). (The hardcover edition of the latter is fairly inexpensive and can be ordered online.) Questions of British English usage are to be answered with the help of H. W. Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage, Second Edition, edited by Sir Ernest Gowers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965). All copyeditors will be expected to have and use the relevant references (and indeed, American copyeditors are encouraged to get a copy of Fowler); editors, peer reviewers, and writers are encouraged to use them as well. Garner's pragmatic stance toward nonsexist language will be Nupedia policy for both British and American English.
On any matters of general policy left open, unclear, in dispute, etc. by these references, please consult the editor-in-chief; generally, these matters can be left officially unresolved, i.e., left to the discretion of individual writers and/or copyeditors. Forced to make a choice, in general, we will probably prefer the more well-established of two options; we have no great desire to be linguistic innovators (or, for that matter, dusty curmudgeons). We simply want Nupedia to be written in a fashion that is most easily understood by a reasonably intelligent contemporary reader.
C. SECTION HEADINGS.
In longer articles, descriptive, straightforward headings should announce the subjects of blocks of text (a group of, just for example, five related paragraphs).
D. EXPLAINING WHY A TOPIC IS IMPORTANT.
It is one thing to impart bare facts and information, and it is another to place the facts into a context whereby the reader can understand why a person, place, species, event, concept, etc., may be regarded as important. Nupedia will differ from some other encyclopedias by consistently highlighting the latter sort of information, when relevant. Claims about inventions, achievements, revolutions, assassinations, etc., can and should be placed in a broader context to explain why they do indeed deserve our attention.
Thus, for example, in a bibliographic entry, the author should indicate why the actions of the entry's subject are regarded as important; it should be made clear what impact, whether good or ill, those actions have had. Another example: entries concerning inventions and discoveries should relate some hard facts that make it clear how and why the invention or discovery has impacted the world. Why was the cotton gin so important, anyway?
An explanation of the importance of a topic is an opportunity to entertain readers. It is also one sort of area where some care will be necessary, because, obviously, there is considerable disagreement about what are properly considered achievements, and whether the results of given acts and events have been positive or negative. So it will be important to avoid bias in explaining why certain topics are important. It may turn out that for one segment of the educated populace, a particular topic is simply not important, while for another it is extremely so, and that this difference in assessment is due to political or religious reasons, for example. In such a case it should be made clear, in as unbiased a fashion as possible, for whom the topic is important, and why.
E. HOW TO.
Philosophers distinguish between declarative knowledge, which is conveyed in the sort of declarative sentences ordinarily found in an ordinary encyclopedia, and procedural knowledge, or the knowledge of how to do things. A complete compendium of human knowledge, as an encyclopedia is supposed to be, ought to impart both kinds of knowledge insofar as mere words (and other online media) permit this. Thus, eventually, we will want articles not merely on the history of violins, the different violin makers, etc., but also on how to play the violin. Articles in the Family and Consumer Science category should explain to how to cook and clean, and give advice to families on childrearing. Articles about dogs will not merely explain the physiology and typology of our canine friends but also their care and feeding.
F. EXPLAINING JARGON.
Jargon should not be used without being explained. This might be somewhat complicated in the context of Nupedia as a whole, because, very likely, the item of jargon will have its own entry, however brief. Hence some care must be taken to ensure that the gloss given of a bit of jargon squares with any "official account" already given in Nupedia. Explanation of jargon could (and no doubt will) be handled, in the future, using special cross-references (in which clicking on or hovering the mouse over a word will cause its definition to pop up); but until some such system has been perfected, the rule will be that all jargon should be explained within an article itself. This rule can be relaxed with regard to basic jargon within very advanced/specialized material that a lay audience could not be expected to understand in any case.
Pronunciation of non-English and uncommon words and names should be given in parentheses. Pronuncations should be written out according to Nupedia's pronunciation guides; at present, only the American English guide has been finalized. Generally, if there is a substantial chance that an intelligent high school graduate or an average college graduate will not know how to pronounce a word, name, etc., then supply a phonetic explanation when the term first occurs. Examples: Celtic (kel'-tik) music; Arnold Schoenberg (shoen'-beRg).
For purposes of searching, a list of keywords, or search terms, is a required part of article submissions to Nupedia. In order to determine whether to include a word or phrase in a list of keywords, the rule is: is this word a word that someone might type in hoping to find this particular article (among possibly many other articles)? If so, include that word among the keywords; if not, don't. NOTE: the keywords do not have to be words that occur in the article itself. So, for example, if it so happens that this specific article may be of interest to people who search on thirty different words or phrases, then there might indeed be thirty different keywords or phrases. For example, the keyword list for "Irish traditional music" might read as follows: Celtic music, Irish music, traditional music, trad, Irish folk music, ceili, ceilidh, ceili dance, ceili music, Riverdance, sean nos, Irish dance music, fiddle, pipes, whistle, concertina, accordion, banjo, bodhran. Please limit yourself to about 20 words and phrases (separated by commas, as shown). Don't exceed 256 characters. Be sure to include common misspellings, if any, among your keywords (don't worry, this information won't be publicly displayed; it's used only for search purposes). You might also bear in mind that our system will return partial matches; for example, "philos" will return articles that contain "philosophy" as well as "philosophical." Further requirements about keywords might be provided when we know how our system will be using them.
A "For Further Reading" section will be associated with every (or nearly every) Nupedia article. The purposes of this list of works are to give readers credible sources of introductory reading and to make a record of the most important, influential, etc., works on the subject in question. Brief reading lists should be associated with brief articles and longer lists with longer articles. "For Further Reading" does not serve the function of a list of references/works cited; works cited should be noted in notes.
Notes (i.e., what are called "footnotes" or "endnotes") will be permitted, but are generally not encouraged for more introductory material. We will be using the "documentary note" format as described in The Chicago Manual of Style 15.2. When preparing articles for inclusion in the encyclopedia, the author should include any footnotes within the text of the article itself. The beginning of a note should be marked by <note> and the end by </note>. Our system interprets this as a note and include at that point a clickable symbol, which opens a pop-up window that contains the note.
Lists of works -- for example, musical compositions, novels, best-known works of art -- are also permitted and encouraged, but of course not required in every case. Moreover, articles about music may include discographies. In any case, the briefer articles should have briefer lists of works -- around five items as a rough upper limit. The lists attached to longer articles can be of any length.
These lists should be compiled according to the applicable guidelines in The Chicago Manual of Style and any other editor-specified guidelines. The article's author should compile all these lists with the advice of the relevant review group(s). As a rule, any of these reference lists that fails to be exhaustive should make a fair attempt to represent the variety of works, style, etc., in question.
All items on these reference lists may, at the lead subject area editor's discretion, include some useful annotation. These can be judgmental but only insofar as they express extremely common or universal views; it's best, as usual, to say things that are both informative and uncontroversial, whenever possible. Annotations are not required at this time.
J. CROSS-REFERENCES AND EXTERNAL LINKS.
We can distinguish between three kinds of links that we might consider including in a Nupedia article:
Cross-reference links (of type (1)) will be added within the text of a new article only if an article on the topic in question exists. In that case, the writer, for the benefit of those who will mark the article up in XML, should enclose the text to be linked by underscores, and add the exact name of the article to be linked between brackets. For example:
Plato posited the existence of what are called _"Forms" or "Ideas"_ [article: Platonic Forms] (these words are sometimes capitalized and sometimes not; they are translations of the Greek "eidos," prn. \'ay-dohs\ ).
Moreover, when a new article is accepted, the writer, with the help of other Nupedia members, should compile a list of other text mentions in other articles that should contain direct links to the new article.
The URLs for any links of type (2) must be specified by the authors of articles.
Links of type (3) will, for now, be left out of Nupedia articles entirely. We might (and probably will), eventually, include associated web information -- what would be, essentially, a Nupedia web directory, integrated with our own content.
K. ADAPTING PRE-EXISTING MATERIALS.
Some people have already generously offered to Nupedia the use of their materials for inclusion in Nupedia. Exactly how these materials might be adapted for Nupedia's use is to be determined by the relevant subject area editor(s), but as a general rule, we expect all materials, if even previously web-posted or published, to undergo Nupedia's entire editorial process. Any exceptions to this general rule should be proposed to the editor-in-chief.
We strongly encourage everyone working on Nupedia to seek out or create high-quality (noncopyrighted) graphics of all sorts to enhance articles. So submission of graphs, diagrams, maps, pictures, etc., is strongly encouraged. Each should be accompanied by a small thumbnail (e.g., 80x80 pixels) that users will be able to click on to see the larger image. We might (or might not) formulate guidelines on the use of graphics based on what we receive.
Words that writers would like italicized like this! should mark up those words (and punctuation marks) <i>like this!</i>. This is for the benefit of those marking the articles up using XML, who will be instructed to see to it that exactly what is between the <i> and </i> tags is italicized. As a rule, we will prefer italicization for emphasis.
Other marks can be used to indicate how text should be presented, including bold, <b>like this</b>; underlining, <u>like this</u>; and SMALL CAPS, like this: <sc>B.C.</sc>.
XML coders please note: we will not, in fact, be using presentational tags in our articles; this is just a way for writers and copyeditors to communicate their intentions to the XML markup crew. This policy might change later, when we've implemented a DTD and stylesheet.
Finally, authors and others might take note of the way that pronunciations are ultimately marked up in articles. This is most easily indicated with an example:
N. COMMUNICATING WITH THE XML CREW.
The above-mentioned conventions for italicizing text are one way to communicate with the XML mark-up crew. Writers might wish to communicate more complicated issues, however. This communication should be placed between these two symbols: <!-- and --> . Please make an effort to get the symbols exactly right; we will appreciate that. For example:
The chemical formula for water is H20. <!-- the "2" should
be a smaller font and subscript, of course -->
VII. ARTICLE TYPES.
Here are some statements about what is required for a variety of general types of articles. Articles will also have to fulfill some more specific requirements for more specific types of articles; these more specific requirements will have to be obtained from the relevant subject area editors. In the future we might have a central web location where such requirements are posted.
A. THREE TYPES OF ARTICLES: THE DIFFERENCES.
Typically and most simply, a link to a topic will bring the reader to a page on which there is a brief article (one to five paragraphs in length). At the end of that brief article there will be a link to a longer, more in-depth article on the same topic. Below the link to the longer article, there will be links to articles on subtopics, which go into even more depth, on selected points, than the longer article.
It is possible, however, that we will lack a longer article on a topic on which there is a brief article; in that case, we might simply have the brief article by itself. It is also possible that we will want an article slightly longer than five paragraphs, say 8-10 paragraphs -- a "medium-length" article -- that can stand on its own, without any brief introduction.
So there are three types of Nupedia articles planned: (1) a brief, one-to-five paragraph introduction to a topic, which may or may not stand alone; (2) a medium-sized article, which must stand alone; (3) a longer article, which must be accompanied by a brief introduction.
For example, at the top of the music category, we will have a page containing three texts on music in general. First, we'll have a fairly brief definition -- which, admittedly, is hardly needed, as everyone knows generally what we're talking about when we use the word "music"; but it's useful for purposes of introducing the topic and giving the reader a more precise idea of what will be covered by the topic.
Second, after and including the definition, we might have some very introductory paragraphs concerning (just for example -- this is up to our musicologists) musical instruments, styles, composers, theory, and why anyone might want to study or make (as opposed to idly listen to) music.
Third, there will be a list of links to the main subtopics of music; but just before that list of links will be a link to a longer article about music in general. This longer article would elaborate points just mentioned in the shorter article, and might repeat (and indeed swipe material from -- remember, this is an open content encyclopedia!) relevant sections of subtopic articles.
Now for some more details on the above-mentioned article types.
Definitions are not, strictly speaking, types of articles; they are parts of articles. But this is a good place to explain what we require of definitions.
The first one or two sentences of any Nupedia article should contain a definition, or concise description, of the topic. As a rule, this sentence or these sentences should be written in plain, prosy, nonfancy language rather than specialists' jargon. The purpose of this definition is to introduce and clarify the topic of the article (category, subcategory, etc.) for people who do not know, or might not be quite sure, what the topic is. It is not to state The Truth as to what the proper analysis of the concept is. (A discussion of the literature of attempts to state that particular Truth, however, would be a very suitable subtopic in many cases.) Hence there is no requirement that the definition should avoid circularity or be perfectly precise, in the way that a technical definition should. Also, citing familiar examples of items mentioned in the definition (or of things to which the defined term applies) is to be preferred, not avoided.
More exactly what is required of definitions in various subject matters is also an issue for more specific policy-setting (or case-by-case decision), on which, see below.
C. BRIEF INTRODUCTIONS.
Both following and including the definition (assuming more text is appropriate, which will almost always be the case), there will be a brief, introductory article of one to five paragraphs on the topic. (Note that if the editor opts not to ask for an even longer article on the topic as well a definition and a brief introduction, then there might be, instead, a medium-length article of more than five paragraphs; see below.) Unlike the definition, this brief introduction might contain (as appropriate), in addition to the sorts of information on the topic one might usually find in an encyclopedia, both introductory information on the importance of the topic as well as introductory practical ("how to") information.
D. MEDIUM-LENGTH ARTICLES.
While very lengthy articles will always require a brief introduction, writers and editors might decide that a topic warrants something over five paragraphs, but nothing as long as, say, 3,000 words. In that case, they have the option of creating a "medium-length" article that will (1) appear in the place where the shorter article would normally appear and (2) not have an associated longer article. This type of article should not exceed 1,500 words. Writers and editors should designate an article "medium-length" only if no longer article is planned.
E. LONGER ARTICLES.
In many cases, linked prominently below the brief introductory article will be a longer article on the same topic. But again, note that if the editor opts not to have, in addition to a brief introduction, a longer article on the topic, then in place of the brief introduction there might be a medium-length article that might be of more than five paragraphs but fewer than 1,500 words. In the latter case, of course there would be no link to a longer article on the same topic.
A longer article may be of any length, but if it grows past, say, 3,000-5,000 words, then it should be truncated in some fashion, with individual parts of the article developed in more detail as subtopics; links to these subtopics should be added to the original category page below the link to the longer article.
An example should help here. Suppose I want to write an article about a priori knowledge. I begin with a definition of the concept. Then I write, probably, three paragraphs briefly outlining some leading issues surrounding the concept. Below those paragraphs is a link to a longer article about a priori knowledge. I find, however, that in supplying historical detail in the longer article, and detail about the recent literature about the topic, my article grows to well over 5,000 words. Consulting with the relevant philosophy editor and perhaps also the relevant philosophy review group, I decide to truncate and summarize parts of my unwieldy article, and I request to create subtopics: the history of thought about a priori knowledge; current views on a priori knowledge; etc. (Precisely how the topic should be arranged, and even whether there should be a lengthy article on a priori knowledge in particular, is a matter for the philosophers to decide.) The new subtopics will have associated with them some manner of brief introductory article, i.e., the above-described process of adding detail is iterative. Many of the details about a priori knowledge that I had originally wanted to put in the longer article are now placed in the longer articles about the subtopics or perhaps even sub-subtopics.
Brief, introductory biographies should have the following information in the following order; a "definition" is unnecessary (the first few sentences will serve the same function):
Full name. (Alternate name(s) in parentheses.) Date of birth-date of death. Nationality (adjective) title (noun). (For example: American diplomat; Chinese artist; German scientist and polymath.) Primary achievements or claims to fame/notoriety in a sentence or two. Then the dates, names, and brief descriptions (as applicable and as space permits) of major works, laws, crimes, battles, reigns, etc., and, as per remarks below, some explanation of why the person's achievements are or have been regarded as important. Space permitting, a brief account of aspects of the figure's private life, e.g., where lived, spouse and children, employed doing what, etc.
The bulk of biographical articles should consist of discussion of the person's achievements or "claims to fame" as opposed to relatively inconsequential personal data. E.g., regarding the entry about Descartes, there should be a much higher priority placed on discussions of his dualism, rationalism, and methodological skepticism, and the impact that these views had, than on relating the tragic fashion in which he died. Of course, longer articles may be exhaustive in all respects.
Important presidents and monarchs, inventors, artists, thinkers, and
other of the most influential people might merit four or five introductory
paragraphs; everyone else will receive fewer.
F. "TOP-LEVEL" ARTICLES.
Articles on the most general topics, or "top-level" articles (e.g., "music"; "philosophy"; "computers"), will have special characteristics that can be specified in advance.
First, they should indicate "the lay of the land," the conceptual landscape that many experts explore in thinking about the subject. Thus in the introductory article about philosophy, after attempting a brief definition of the term, one would explain, for example, the distinction between contemporary philosophy and the history of philosophy as subjects of study, some of the main areas of philosophy (such as metaphysics and ethics) and problems or questions associated with them, and perhaps the fact that philosophy is these days pursued mainly in philosophy departments at universities, although in some broad sense people use and discuss philosophical concepts in many other fields and areas of human endeavor. One might also want to have probably an entire paragraph devoted to the question, "Why care about philosophy at all?" (The above only an example and is not meant to constrain what the philosophy editor and review group might decide.)
Similarly, with the topic of music, the top-level article might discuss, e.g., musical instruments, different kinds of music around the world and written vs. aural music, music theory, why play an instrument and how (in general) to start, why go to concerts, etc. What the topics will be will have to be a matter of choice for the brief article, which of course is as it should be. The longer general article about music might go into considerably more detail on the same topics and more, albeit at a still quite-general, schematic level.
Second, top-level articles should be content-rich, or contain a lot of information, even if it is information that would be obvious to many educated adults. That's quite all right; very well-educated people are probably not going to be so interested in the top-level articles on a subject. Also, and correspondingly, while we would wish to keep the articles as readable, well-written, and entertaining as possible, we would also like them to avoid rambling and to be full of information.
Third, in general, those responsible for top-level articles should look in other online encyclopedias or others you have on hand, to see what their articles cover. We do, of course, want to do at least as well. In many cases, this will not be difficult for us.
The editor-in-chief would be a suitable candidate for lead reviewer of
all top-level articles. In any case, the candidate should be
particularly well-informed about Nupedia policy and expectations.
VIII. SETTING CATEGORY-SPECIFIC GUIDELINES FOR WRITING ARTICLES.
Nupedia editorial groups will have to discuss and establish formats and guidelines for writing specific sorts of articles that are uniquely (or primarily) in their purview. For example, the biologists will have to discuss what is required for articles about different species; the historians will have to discuss what is required for articles about battles; the art historians will have to discuss what is required for articles about art styles.
It is the editor's responsibility to lead discussions on his or her review group with the aim of (1) identifying the types of articles for which there is a need for guidelines, and (2) actually setting guidelines for those article types. The editor might wish to assign the task of composing specific guidelines to particular specialists (though input should be possible from all quarters).
The editor should also take care to distinguish article types that are clearly in the review group's purview from those that are more general or global. Guidelines for the latter types of articles will be established under the direction of the editor-in-chief with the help of the advisory group, and will be posted in future versions of this policy statement.
An area editor, after consulting with the area's review group, may choose to adopt a more specialized style guide. When the specialized guide comes in conflict with The Chicago Manual of Style or Garner's Dictionary, then the latter are to outweigh the more specialized guide, with some exceptions at the area editor's discretion.
The initial articles to be assigned are to be brief, introductory articles. So, initially, there is not much point in discussing what needs to be contained in a longer article.
The area editor might wish use the occasion of the assignment of an instance of a new type of article as an excuse to discuss and formulate precise guidelines for that type of article. It is the editor's responsibility to make the resulting guidelines available to writers and peer reviewers. Editors can find their (editable) guidelines pages in the member area.
As general advice on leading a discussion on requirements, editors
should encourage discussants to think creatively about what sorts of
qualities superlative articles need to have. They need not simply
try to codify what a standard encyclopedia article on a subject might
include (and in fact they are discouraged from doing this); Nupedia's
articles can and should be much better than ordinary encyclopedia
articles, in terms of clarity, depth, organization, and other
qualities. (Nonetheless, it is recommended that, in formulating
guidelines, steering committees review a variety of reference
works.) Hence a reader should, in the end, be able to find all the
information and positive qualities in a Nupedia article that can be found
in articles from any other encyclopedia, and more.
IX. REVIEWING AND APPROVING ARTICLES.
The process whereby articles are reviewed and approved can be described
as follows. Please note that for brief articles, some of the steps
here might be extremely abbreviated; that is, the process needn't be quite
as long and drawn out as the text below makes it sound.
If any unsolicited articles are received, the editor should not, of course, feel obligated to accept them. The typical procedure is for articles to be assigned first.
X. PEER REVIEW CHECKLIST.
The peer reviewers and editor have the responsibility of ensuring that
an article satisfies, to an acceptable degree, the items on the following
checklist; peer reviewers are expected to be quite familiar with the
Nupedia Statement of Editorial Policy in order to do ensure this.
Here is the checklist:
XI. COPYEDITING PROCEDURE AND POLICY.
The members of copyeditame-l (the American English copyeditors) and copyeditbre-l (the British English copyeditors) will check those articles that have been approved by all relevant review groups for proper spelling, punctuation, grammar, usage, and (to some degree) style. An article's copyeditors will be properly credited for their work, just as the editor, lead reviewer, and author(s) are properly credited. The copyediting procedure and policy will be as follows.
What follow are some general rules that all copyeditors are expected to follow in commenting on articles:
Other Topics to Be Covered in Later Editions
In a very real sense, Nupedia will be a worldwide community effort. In the spirit of Linux and the Open Directory Project, we want to set up the mechanisms whereby thousands of people can work together in a massive undertaking toward a common, extremely ambitious goal. Indeed, Nupedia has the potential to become the finest general research resource the world has ever seen: the largest, most detailed, exhaustively edited, dynamic, widely translated, and unbiased encyclopedia in the history of the world. We feel this is a very worthy ambition.
Volunteer to Write on a Topic