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In order to make Wikipedia maximally useful to a diverse readership, many people believe that articles should be written in summary style. This style of organizing articles is somewhat related to news style except it focuses on topics instead of articles. The idea is to summarize and distribute information across related articles in a way that can serve readers who want varying amounts of detail. Thus giving readers the ability to zoom to the level of detail they need and not exhausting those who need a primer on a whole topic.

This is more helpful to the reader than a very long article that just keeps growing, eventually reaching book-length. Summary style is accomplished by not overwhelming the reader with too much text up front by summarizing main points and going into more detail on particular points (sub-topics) in separate articles. What constitutes 'too long' is largely based on the topic, but generally 30KB of prose is the starting point where articles may be considered too long. Articles that go above this have a burden of proof that extra text is needed to efficiently cover its topic and that the extra reading time is justified.


Article in summary style

World War II

World War II was the most extensive and costly armed conflict in the history of the world ...

1 Causes

The war reparations demanded of Germany after World War I ...

2 Prelude to War

Resentment of the victorious powers' treatment of the Weimar Republic in the aftermath of World War I...

3 European Theatre

The German Wehrmacht invaded Poland on September 1 ...

4 The Pacific War

The Japanese had already invaded China before World War II started in Europe ...

Some characteristics[தொகு]

  • Articles written in summary style have lead sections that are concise encyclopedia articles in their own right.
  • Longer articles are split into sections (each about several good-sized paragraphs long; subsectioning can increase this amount)
  • Ideally many of those sections will eventually summarize entire separate articles on the sub-topic covered in that section (a {{details}} link would be below the section title). And so on.
  • Sections that are less important for understanding the topic will tend to be lower in the article (this is news style applied to sections). Often this is difficult to do for articles on history or are otherwise chronologically based unless there is some type of analysis section. Organizing in this way is important due to the fact that many readers will not finish reading the article.
  • Articles larger than 30 KB (those that trigger page size warning) may be getting too long to efficiently cover their topic. This likelihood increases with larger size and it is very rare for an article 50% larger than this to still efficiently cover its topic.
    That said: it is generally considered to be a bad idea to divide an article too hastily. Often the best way to divide an article is to let it grow and then look for sections that could logically be summarized and spun off so the article once again efficiently covers its topic. Interwiki links, along with external links, further reading, references, see also and similar sections should not be counted toward an article's total size since the point is to limit readable prose in the main body of an article.

Rationale[தொகு]

Since Wikipedia is not divided into a macropaedia, micropaedia, and concise versions like Encyclopaedia Britannica is, we must serve all three user types in the same encyclopedia. Summary style is based on the premise that information about a topic should not all be contained in a single article since different readers have different needs;

  • many readers need just a quick summary of the topic's most important points (lead section),
  • others need a moderate amount of info on the topic's more important points (a set of multi-paragraph sections), and
  • some readers need a lot of detail and on one or more aspects of the topic (links to full-sized separate articles).

We must serve all groups.

The top or survey article should have general summary information and the more detailed summaries of each subtopic should be in daughter articles and in articles on specific subjects. This can be thought of as layering inverted pyramids where the reader is shown the tip of a pyramid (the lead section) for a topic and within that article any section may have a {{details}} link to a full article on the topic summarized in that section (see Yosemite National Park#History and History of the Yosemite area for an example using two featured articles). The summary in a section at the survey article will necessarily be at least (if not more than) twice as long as the lead section in the daughter article. The daughter article in turn can also serve as a survey article for its specific part of the topic. And so on until a topic is very thoroughly covered. Thus by navigational choices several different types of readers get the amount of detail they want.

Size[தொகு]

Articles longer than 12 to 15 printed pages (more than 30 to 35 KB of readable text) take longer to read than the upper limit of the average adult's attention span - 20 minutes. An important consideration is that attention span is lower for children, below average intelligence adults, and all those with attention deficit disorders (groups we would like to serve as well).[1] [2] [3] Compounding this is that many of these groups also have a slower reading speed. Once the attention span limit is approached, most readers will start to lose focus and retention of the information begins to become significantly hampered. All but the most determined readers will quit reading once this starts to happen so going over this needs to be justified by the topic.

When articles grow significantly past this amount of readable text, a plan to break-up the article to improve readability and ease of editing should be explored. See Wikipedia:Article size. Longer sections should be spun off into their own articles and a several paragraph summary should be left in its place. That way our content is useful to those people who just want a quick overview and to those people who want more detail. Both groups win. Also, long articles are less editable and less readable than a more compact treatment.

There are also technical issues with editing articles over 30KB that often lead to duplicated information and poor structure. Few editors will read an entire 50 or 70KB article just to make sure a piece of info they want to put in is not already there. The result is that the information is misplaced, duplicated, or not put in at all.

Lead section[தொகு]

For the planned paper Wikipedia 1.0, one consensus recommendation is that the paper version of articles will be the lead section of the web version. Summary style and news style can help make a concise intro that works stand-alone.

See also[தொகு]