Some people summarize the content of a lecture to deepen their understanding, but I am thinking about using Wikipedia instead. Specifically, I mean finding the Wikipedia article (in my primary, non-English language) that covers the lecture material and adding any suitable content that the article does not already have. In some cases, this may mean making a new article from scratch.

I thought of several reasons that writing and editing a Wikipedia article on what you learned would be beneficial not only to other readers, but to yourself as well:

  • It will be more durable to write on Wikipedia than to keep it in a paper notebook. Even more, it could be get even better by someone adding to it, or correcting errors.
  • Wikipedia is usually found at the top of a google search, so it's easy to find. You don't have to flip through your notes to find it.
  • Wikipedia requires references, but you can use the textbook you used in the lecture as a reference. Of course, I will be careful not to reprint the textbook or lectures as is.

While it has all these advantages, I think the only disadvantage is that it takes a lot of time. Or is there some other reason for not recommending it?

  • 30
    While I appreciate the enthusiasm, this idea really sounds like if you say “the best way to prepare for my exam is to write a textbook on the topic on my own”. While Wikipedia is not a textbook, it assumes (ideally) some level of expertise in the topic, while the whole point of university lectures is to talk about topics you have little idea about. Listening a lecture once doesn't make you acknowledgeable in a field.
    – Greg
    Feb 14, 2022 at 3:49
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    What field are you in? There is a significant difference in the reliability of Wikipedia articles depending on the field. Hard sciences are usually much more reliable than history, sociology and politics, because the latter is very prone to be dominated by ideologically motivated editors.
    – vsz
    Feb 14, 2022 at 7:51
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    There are a lot of options between a paper notebook and Wikipedia. Many programs and websites can be used for note-taking. If going to Wikipedia is more convenient than checking your notes, I'd argue that your notes aren't particularly well-organised. If anything, well-organised notes should be comparably searchable, if not more easily searchable, than Wikipedia. People being able to add to it is a double-edged sword: they can improve things, but they can also remove all your edits or add a bunch of things you don't care about. A cloud backup should be "durable" enough for any personal notes.
    – NotThatGuy
    Feb 14, 2022 at 16:55

7 Answers 7


No, this is not a good idea. Wikipedia articles and the kind of notes you'd write while following a lecture are very different types of text.

Audience: A Wikipedia article should be written for a general public, your notes are written for future-you.

Context: A Wikipedia article would start much more with a blank slate for context, your notes fit into the surrounding lecture materials.

Level of detail: Your notes may often be so specific that the corresponding Wikipedia article would get deleted/heavily abridged for lack of notability.

Expert-level of the author: You write notes at the beginning of your journey through new material. The appropriate time to consider writing a Wikipedia article would be once you have actually mastered it.

This is not to say that writing/editing Wikipedia articles cannot be a great way to solidify your topic-mastery in a university course while simultaneously doing some good for the general public. But this cannot replace the role of note-taking.

  • 8
    Also a personal wiki (private or public) using standard wiki markup would be a nice way to structure notes, and a possible source of snippets of material ready-made for contributing to Wikipedia. (carrying on from the last paragraph). I actually did create a couple of Wikipedia articles for something I was reading up on in a professional context. They were a decent start and once created were improved by people with more knowledge than me - but there was nothing at all to start with
    – Chris H
    Feb 14, 2022 at 13:17
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    Another point to note is that things you write in Wikipedia should be supported by references. "My prof said that" isn't sufficient. Feb 14, 2022 at 16:29
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    Wikipedia is also increasingly monitored by either official or self-appointed page guardians, such that your edits - especially on a big topic - are likely to be undone if you don't have their respect and blessing in advance.
    – Mike M
    Feb 15, 2022 at 2:44

This is not what Wikipedia is for but you can use a personal Wiki.

There are several ways to do this. You can actually run a personal webserver on your own machine and access it like any Wiki. There are several open source projects that provide source code for such websites.

You can also use applications that are standalone. Lots and lots available out there. I sometimes use Zim for this kind of thing (everyone has different ways of working and it's worth trying out all the options to get what works best for their own needs).

I thought of several reasons that writing and editing a Wikipedia article on what you learned would be beneficial not only to other readers, but to yourself as well.

Wikipedia aims to be an authoritative source of information just like any major encyclopedia. Whether you consider it successful in that regard is neither here nor there. You have to be writing articles that you have a good faith reason to think your material is accurate and precise. Your notes will unlikely to be that. You could even end up banned as the site is moderated and they don't like people abusing the site.

  • 4
    I've also used a wiki served off of a university site in teaching as a place to share "note" with students. Students could also edit.
    – Buffy
    Feb 13, 2022 at 20:21
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    While technically it is not an answer to the question, but a personal Wiki is a great tool of note-making both for studies and for research.
    – Greg
    Feb 14, 2022 at 3:51
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    @Buffy we had a great group wiki in the past. Then central IT took over all servers, refused to allow MediaWiki, and shifted everyone onto an expensive proprietary alternative. It took a year to get them to enable LaTeX support (physics). Whenever you make a nice tool on a university server, someone seems to want to break it
    – Chris H
    Feb 14, 2022 at 15:18
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    @ChrisH, yes, I lost access to the one I was using (and maintaining) for security reasons. There are certainly important issues around such things.
    – Buffy
    Feb 14, 2022 at 15:22
  • One of my lab instructors introduced me to TiddlyWiki, a personal wiki which I found great for note-taking. One particularly-relevant feature is the ability to easily export content to a standard-format file (like HTML), which makes it easy to share notes with others who don't use the software. Supports MathJax, and can be customized to fit your specific workflow. Fairly easy to transfer content to Wikipedia later if you so desire.
    – bta
    Feb 14, 2022 at 22:09

Other have already pointed out many valid reasons why to not abuse Wikipedia for personal note making.

However, one more reason comes to mind: You have no guarantee that someday somebody will alter your notes.

Wikipedia is written by everybody.

Granted, there is a review process, which incidentely might also prevent you yourself from making you notes. Reviewers might question the relevant/quality/ and opt to delete your notes


tl;dr: In theory this could be useful for all concerned. If you have bags of time and patience, including patience with people, you are more likely to succeed, but there's no guarantee.

Is it "advisable"? Well I wouldn't advise it, for several reasons, which I will come to in a moment. But there is benefit if done properly.

  • Firstly in ensuring that the content is covered you are improving Wikipedia.
  • Secondly in the process you are revising your knowledge from the lectures and getting supporting information from both Wikipedia, and the references you need (which won't be just the course text book) - and other reading you will do to make your edits good.

As to the negative reasons:

  • It's important that each article is reasonably balanced, your professor may have an idiosyncratic approach, or be on one side of an academic dispute, or just be plain biased
  • You may have to deal with gatekeeping behaviour from Wikipedians. In particular you may need to go through the Articles For Creation process which was designed to make it easier (or at least less traumatic) for new users to create articles, but arguably sometimes has the opposite effect
  • You may risk being drawn off into side-tracks that are not relevant to your course
  • The articles you edit or create may change (or even be deleted) leaving you without your "notes" (though you can keep copies, or links to specific versions of pages that still exist)
  • Wikipedia is not keen on single-source articles, so you would need to spend time on other sources (which is a good idea anyway).
  • Special sourcing requirements apply to medical claims, essentially requiring recent high-standard review articles as sources where feasible.

Another comment, somewhat neutral, perhaps: if a section of an article expands out of proportion this is called undue weight - provided the matter is sufficiently well sourced it should be split off into a separate article, leaving a summary behind. There is, however, no guarantee that this will happen.

Good luck, whichever path you take.


I used to do this to some extent, that is, adding new things I learned from books and articles to the relevant wikipedia entries (the Schur polynomial entry is perhaps my main victim). However, I quickly realized that I wanted to add information which is of interest for people in my field, but is perhaps somewhat too specific for wikipedia. Moreover, I wanted to be able to use LaTeX syntax for more general things (tables, etc).

So, I did what StephenG suggested, and made my own web-page about symmetric functions which is publicly available (but not editable by anyone but me). I occasionally get emails from researchers suggesting edits (where I have made some typo), or other inquiries.


Please, no. I spend so much time fixing things that students believe that they heard in lectures on the German Wikipedia. Excellent points have been made above. I suggest installing https://bitnami.com/stack/mediawiki on a machine under your control and keep your notes there.


The lecture material was provided for you and your classmates. You haven't been authorized to share it with the world.

Until you have permission to do so, you should not post your notes on Wikipedia.

  • 5
    Why would an authorization be needed for a student to share its own notes, of which the student holds the copyright? Moreover, law aside, it just doesn't make any sense. What's the point of attending lectures, if you need authorization to use the information in them? Both legally, and ethically, your statement is wrong.
    – Andrei
    Feb 14, 2022 at 16:28
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    @Andrei -- It's unclear if the student holds copyright, and depends on how much raw lecture material the student chooses to share. I was very careful to describe this in terms of "lecture material". Unauthorized sharing of course material is specifically prohibited in our academic honesty code, and "lecture material is course material. You obviously don't need permission to use the material, and that is an absurd reduction and thus a logical fallacy. Feb 14, 2022 at 16:55
  • Indeed, if we are talking strictly about lecture materials, then you are right, the teacher/university holds the copyright. But then your answer doesn't even touch the question, which is not about lecture material, but about the notes that the student takes, on which the student holds the copyright. My bad that I jumped to interpret "lecture material" in this context as "notes", although you explicitly refer to notes in your second paragraph. Student notes are obviously not part of lecture material. I would suggest you remove the reference to notes, which is wrong.
    – Andrei
    Feb 14, 2022 at 17:01

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