wikipedia paper

| November 20, 2015


As we move into more in-depth discussion of media literacy, we will continue to engage in a process of reading the media around us: CREATE AWARENESS, ASSESS, ANALYZE, EVALUATE, REFLECT COMMUNICATE, and ACT about media of all kinds. This includes print media (books, journal, newspapers, magazines, ads), visual media (art, films), and digital media (websites, databases, online magazines). This project will ask you to engage in the process to explore your use of the popular reference website, Wikipedia.

To prepare for the written portion of the assignment, choose a subject about which you consider yourself knowledgeable. Find the Wikipedia entry on that subject and print it out. (It helps to pick out a subject that has a relatively short entry; this will make the rest of the project much more manageable.) Be sure to name the topic and provide the link to the Wikipedia page in your document.


As you assess, evaluate, and analyze the article you’ve chosen, you willuse this entry to follow a process of media criticism, as laid out below. PUT THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS IN ESSAY FORMAT (not list format).


  1. Assessment Questions:Before you analyze your article (but after you decide on a topic), answer the following questions. Your answers will prime your brain for a more critical consideration of the article.
    1. Why is this person, event, invention (or whatever) of suchsignificance that it merits inclusion in an encyclopedia?
    2. How would you break it down? What would the differentsections be?
    3. What sort of images would you include in your article?
    4. What parts of the article might be potentially controversial? Why?
    5. Where would you go to find and verify information for yourarticle?
  2. Evaluation: Paying close attention, taking notes, and researching the subject under study.
    1. How long is the entry? Does the length seem surprising or not?(Look up a couple of articles on similar topics to help you answerthis question.)
    2. How is the entry divided into subtopics? List them.
    3. When was it last updated? See the very last page of the entry forthis information.
    4. What information seems to be the most recent? How can you tell?
    5. What kind of visual information (photos, graphs, tables, etc.) isincluded? List visual elements and explain what each adds to theentry.
    6. Who are the experts cited in the body of the entry (if any)? List them.
  3. Analysis & Interpretation: Discovering and focusing on significant patterns that emerge from the description stage.In the interpretive stage, we try to determine the meanings of the patterns we have analyzed.The most difficult stage in criticism, interpretation demands an answer to the “Sowhat?” question.
    1. What information in the article did you find the most surprisingor enlightening?What information seems outdated or in need of updating? Arethere aspects of the subject that seem incomplete?
    2. Look again at the selection of topics and subtopics and how theseare organized. Which aspects of the subject are emphasized bythis organization? Which aspects are de-emphasized? Are thereany aspects of the subject which are not adequately reflected inthis organization?Which of the subtopics is most likely to be considered “controversial”by readers? How does the article treat this subtopic? Whatelements make the article appear to be biased toward one side orthe other of any controversy? What aspects of the article contributeto a neutral point of view?
    3. To what extent do the images selected either complement orundercut the text? Which aspects of the subject are emphasizedby the images? Which aspects are de-emphasized?
    4. What conclusions can you draw from your efforts to “fact-check”the entry? How thoroughly sourced is the entry? Are there commentswhich really need to be cited but are not? Which aspectsof the article contribute to its general credibility? Which aspectsmake the article seem less credible?
  4. Evaluation: The fourth stage of the critical process focuses on making an informed judgment. At thisstage, we can grasp the strengths and weaknesses of the media under study and makecritical judgments measured against our own frames of reference—what we like anddislike as well as what seems good or bad about the stories and coverage we analyzed.
    1. How useful is this article? To whom would it be most useful? Forwhat purpose(s) would it be most useful?
    2. Where might this article fall short? Where would someone needto turn if he or she needs more information?
    3. How successfully does this article maintain the Neutral Point ofView, which is one of the pillars of Wikipedia culture? (“This policy states that their missions are best served not by advancing or detracting from particular points of view on any given subject, but by trying to present a fair, neutral description of the facts—including that various interpretations and points of view exist.”)
  5. Taking Action: For the final stage of this project, you will make changes to the article, following the stepsoutlined below.
    1. Choose one aspect of the article which, in your judgment, needsto be expanded or changed in some way.
    2. List specific sources you will use incompiling information to expand the entry. For each source, listspecific bibliographic information as wellas specific facts or quotes you want to include from the source. Write a short (200 word) reflection on this new information.

A Reminder about Plagiarism:

Plagiarism is not tolerated—PERIOD. If any part of your project is plagiarized, you will earn a zero on this assignment and automatically fail the course. Don’t copy and paste things—that is plagiarism!

It is important that you give proper credit (in-text citation and works cited page) when you quote or paraphrase from the text. Again, if you ever have any questions about citing and quoting, just ask!


  • Tuesday, Sept. 29: in-class peer review workshop activity
  • Thursday, Oct. 1: regular class canceled for one-on-one instructor conferences
  • Sunday, Oct. 4: Wikipedia Paper is due in the Dropbox by 5.00 PM and absolutely no later. No late work is accepted.


Your Wikipedia Paper is worth 15% of your final grade and 100 points. Satisfactory completion of the assignment depends on your attention to the directions and details of the assignment.



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