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Basic navigation in Wikipedia

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How to navigate Wikipedia

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Wikipedia articles are all linked, or cross-referenced.

Wherever you see text like this, it means there is a link to some relevant article or Wikipedia page with further information elsewhere if you need it. Holding your mouse over the link will often show you where a link will take you. These links mean that articles do not need to cover common ground in depth; instead, you are always one click away from more information on any point that has a link attached.

There are other links towards the ends of most articles, for other articles of interest, relevant external web sites and pages, reference material. At the end of the article are relevant categories of knowledge which you can search and traverse in a loose hierachy for further related information in a field.

Some articles may also have links to dictionary definitions, audiobook readings, quotations, or the same article in other languages.

You can add further links if a relevant link is missing, and this is one way to contribute.

Every article has a list at the bottom of all the major categories it belongs to. For example Albert Einstein is listed under:

1879 births, 1955 deaths, Contributors to general relativity, Cosmologists, German physicists, German-Americans, Jewish Americans, Naturalized citizens of the United States, Nobel Prize in Physics winners, Refugees, Vegetarians, World federalists.

Each of these categories can be browsed and is linked to related categories in a loose hierachy or web.

Try browsing the various categories below right now.


Other useful buttons and panels

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To the side of each article are some standard options for navigation, and for tools, and on some articles, for languages:

Navigation options include:

  • Main page - the Wikipedia home page
  • Community Portal - as a community building an encyclopedia, Wikipedia has a portal for users, giving easy access to many of the useful pages within Wikipedia
  • Current events - latest world news reported within the Wikipedia community
  • Recent changes - articles that are being edited at this moment
  • Random article - lucky dip, if you're ever bored or want to learn something new!
  • Help - exactly what it says

Toolbox includes:

  • What links here - useful for tracing where this article is referenced from.
  • Related changes
  • Upload file - how you add images (and occasionally other files) to Wikipedia
  • Special pages - all the special functions and administration options can be found here.

Other sidebar functions include:

  • Search - allows you to search other articles across the whole of Wikipedia.
  • Other languages - if an article exists on the same subject in any of the other hundred languages in Wikipedia, it should usually appear on a list of other language links in the sidebar too.

Top tabs (above the article)

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Each page in Wikipedia contains an article, and a discussion page (usually called "Talk...")

You can see these above, the article is labelled "project page", the discussion page is the tab to the right of it. These are treated as two separate pages in Wikipedia, but are shown side by side on the tab bar, for ease of use.

Whether you are looking at the article or project page, or the discussion page, you will see there is a button marked "edit this page", possibly a button "+", and a button labelled "watch" or "unwatch".

  • Edit this page - this is the key to contributing to Wikipedia. When you click this button, you change from viewing an article or discussion about an article, to being able to edit the article, or add comments to the discussion that is going on.
Occasionally, pages that are important or may be vandalized are locked, in which case the "edit" will show "view source", and you will not be able to edit the article at that time
Page editing is simple with Wikipedia, and you cannot harm a page if you make a mistake, since all changes can be undone. This is part of Wikipedia's vandal protection.
  • "+" - adds a new section to a page, without changing what is already there.
  • Watch/unwatch - adds or removes a page from your watchlist, the list of pages you are tracking. You can view your watchlist with the user option button "my watchlist" at the top right of the screen.

User options (top right)

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These control your user account. To create a user account you only need to choose a name and a password. An email address is optional and only used for password reminders.

Unless you create an account you will not be able to customize Wikipedia preferences for yourself. Almost all experienced editors use an account in order to ensure accountability.

The user options also include links to view your watchlist (articles you are tracking), and contributions you have made.