So, you want to know how to create a biography on Wikipedia. Not a problem. Anyone can edit Wikipedia so it should be simple, right? Well … not so fast.
While anyone can edit Wikipedia, doing so isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are many rules that you need to follow, or you will see the biography you create deleted, and maybe even locked so it cannot be created in the future.
How do you avoid this happening to you and able to upload a biography to Wikipedia successfully? Simple answer is that you need to know the rules. You can take the time to read the countless pages of guidelines that Wikipedia has to offer. Or, much easier, browse through this guide which summarizes everything you need to know about creating a biography for Wikipedia.
What You Will Learn In This Guide
- Why Wikipedia Guidelines for Living People are so Strict
- Writing a Wikipedia Article About Yourself
- Notability Guidelines for Biographies
- When a Person Doesn’t Meet Notability Guidelines
- Disclosing a Conflict of Interest
- Uploading a Biography to Wikipedia
- Correcting Issues with Existing Biographies
- Biography of Living Persons Noticeboard
- Final Thoughts
First, let’s talk a little more about the guidelines related to biographies, why they are important, and how to create a Wikipedia page based on these guidelines.
Guidelines for Living People on Wikipedia are Strict (as they should be)
When it comes to writing a biography, Wikipedia has strict guidelines. Stricter than any other guidelines in Wikipedia. Why, you ask? Well, it can be easy to damage the reputation of someone if false information is reported.
“Negative material about living persons may violate privacy policies or damage the person’s reputation; therefore, strict rules are in place to govern such information.” – Wikipedia
Wikipedia has three main core policies which are applied to biographies of living people:
- Articles must be written from a neutral point of view
- Information in biographies must be verifiable
- Cannot include original research
Writing from a neutral point of view can be difficult. Many people come to Wikipedia to either promote or disparage a topic. While promotion is not tolerated on Wikipedia, disparagement can be cause for litigation against the person introducing the content. As such, Wikipedia requires that editors represent information on people in a fair manner without editorial bias.
All information in a biography must also be verifiable. Information that does not contain a source is likely to be removed. The sources used for biographies are also set to a higher standard. Blogs and gossip sites are generally not considered reliable and therefore Wikipedia does not tend to include information from those sources.
Finally, original research is a big “no-no” for biographies. Original research takes place when someone introduces information into a biography on Wikipedia that cannot be found in a reliable source.
Original research also has an ugly cousin known as SYNTH (Synthesis of published material). This happens when two or more references are put together to create something that may or may not have actually happened. It is a logical fallacy and often done by people who want to disparage the person.
An example of SYNTH would be listing that someone graduated from a particular school, and then including information about how the school is one of the worse in the nation. This gives an impression that the person isn’t intelligent and violates both original research guidelines and neutral point of view guidelines.
These guidelines and policies are there for a reason. Anyone can edit Wikipedia and it can be easy for someone to disparage another using the site. As such, early on, Wikipedia editors found it imperative to create these rules to protect people’s reputations.
With that in mind, Wikipedia is also not a platform to hide someone’s faults. If someone has done something negative that has been reported in multiple reliable sources, it can and will be placed on their Wikipedia page. There is no policy or guideline that keeps biography pages clear of well-sourced negative information as long as it is written in a neutral manner.
Can I Write an Article About Myself on Wikipedia?
One question I always receive is if someone can create an autobiography on Wikipedia. As with most questions about Wikipedia, there is no bright-line answer.
However, autobiographies on Wikipedia are strongly discouraged by the Wikipedia community. They are seen as conflicts of interest as Wikipedia editors do not believe someone can be impartial while writing about themselves.
“Writing an autobiography on Wikipedia is an example of conflict of interest editing and is strongly discouraged. Editing a biography about yourself is acceptable only if you are removing unambiguous vandalism or clear-cut and serious violations of our biography of living persons policy.” – Wikipedia content guideline for autobiographies
This can be true to a point, but Wikipedia editors always see the exception as a rule instead of the other way around. Most people can write an article about themselves as long as they follow the guidelines for doing so. Do not include promotional tone, don’t write it like a résumé or LinkedIn profile, and include everything from reliable sources in a neutral manner.
Another point to consider is notability. All topics in Wikipedia must meet notability guidelines (more on that in a minute). Some people think they are more notable than they actually are. Truth is, many people notable in real life still don’t meet the requirements for Wikipedia. So, it’s important that you meet “Wikipedia’s” requirements for notability; not your own.
As with all article topics, I suggest reading “creating your first article” to anyone who has not yet created an article for Wikipedia.
Notability Guidelines for Wikipedia Biographies
Wikipedia can be confusing. There are so many policies and guidelines that it is easy to fall into the trap of believing something is notable when in fact it is not. When it comes to knowing how to create a Wikipedia biography, there is no exception to these rules.
Instead of having you read endless pages of guidelines, I’ve outlined some of the most important ones here when it comes to Wikipedia’s idea of what they class as people’s notability. This can be very different to what you consider notable so worth understanding.
General Notability Guidelines:
General notability guidelines refer to the basic guidelines that can be applied to any topic within Wikipedia, including biographies.
For Wikipedia, the general notability guidelines say that a topic is “notable” for inclusion in Wikipedia if it has been the subject of “significant coverage” in “reliable sources” that are “independent” of the subject.
There are many discussions that have taken place on Wikipedia regarding what constitutes each (significant coverage, etc.); however, the general consensus has been summed up in what is considered the “Golden Rule.”
This can be a stumbling block for most people as notability guidelines are difficult to understand, even with a simple guide such as this. Keep in mind that we always offer free evaluations for notability by filling out our online form. Or, you can contact us for a fee-based telephone consultation.
You can also find a more in-depth discussion of notability guidelines here.
In addition to the general notability guidelines, there are specific guidelines that can be applied to biographies, subcategorized by profession.
General Biography Guidelines:
Outside of general notability guidelines, Wikipedia presumes a person to be notable if they meet certain criteria specific to people. This does NOT guarantee that the person will pass the notability test, but it does give a good indication that they are notable for Wikipedia.
For general biography guidelines, a person who has received a “well-known and significant award or honor or has been nominated for such an award several times” is likely to be considered notable. In addition, a person who has “made a widely recognized contribution that is part of the enduring historical record in his or her field” is likely notable. Finally, a person who “has an entry in the Dictionary of National Biography or similar publication” is probably notable.
Keep in mind, that even if someone meets these criteria as described above, they must still have significant coverage in independent reliable sources that discuss such. Simply meeting the criteria is not enough. There must be sources that verify.
Now, let’s move on to notability guidelines by profession.
Wikipedia Biography Guidelines for Musicians:
If you are looking to create a Wikipedia biography for a musician or band, you should know that there are generally twelve criteria that can be used to show notability. You only need to show one of the twelve, but keep in mind that you must also have the significant coverage that documents it.
You can read all twelve of the criteria on Wikipedia, but here are some of the most common you need to know:
- They have music that has charted (must be a nationally recognized chart like Billboard).
- Released a record that has been certified gold or above (can be for any country).
- Major record label release – must have at least two or more albums released under a major label (or a notable independent label).
- Won or placed 2nd or 3rd in a major music competition.
- Won or been nominated for a Grammy, Juno, or other notable award.
Musicians who are not performers (e.g., songwriters, composers) also have a set of criteria that can be met for notability.
On a final note, most band members are not independently notable. That means each band member does not qualify for a separate Wikipedia page. In order to have separate pages, they must be notable on their own. This can often be satisfied by showing they have been a member of multiple bands that are notable, or that they have released music on their own outside of the band.
Academic Biography Notability:
Academic professionals such as professors have a subset of notability guidelines that can be satisfied for inclusion. Known as the “professor test,” it can be confusing as it often requires less significant coverage than other biographies.
Here is the best example:
Let’s say someone receives a named chair at a university. The only reference that shows this accolade is the university website. Normally, this would not be enough as the source is not considered independent. However, for academic notability, that source would be acceptable and can show notability.
In addition to having a named chair, here are a few others that will qualify someone for Wikipedia:
- They have received a prestigious award such as the Fields Medal, Pulitzer Prize, etc.
- Their work has made a significant impact in their field of study (example given by Wikipedia is that they are the author of several books used for teaching said topic).
- Have the title of Chief Editor of an academic journal (journal must be “well-established”).
Wikipedia editors often use a measure of impact such as the “H-index” to determine someone’s impact on their field. While a certain index number does not guarantee notability, many editors set a threshold whereby they will consider someone notable.
Again, the impact measure cannot be relied upon, just used as an indicator.
Creative Professional Biographies and Notability:
Wikipedia also has a sub-guideline to show notability of “creative professionals.” These would include, but not be limited to, the following professions:
There are four criteria that can be used to show notability for these professions:
- They are an important figure in their profession which can be shown by being cited by their peers or successors.
- They invented a new theory or concept.
- Creators of well-known works.
- Their work has been part of a significant exhibition, won critical attention, or been in the permanent collection of museums and/or galleries.
When creating a biography on a creative professional, it is important to include references which are reviews of their work. For instance, a biography for an author should include references of book reviews for what they have written.
Notability of Politicians:
Each election cycle I receive a ton of emails from people running for office. Candidates from local politicians all the way up to those running for federal office must meet specific criteria to create a Wikipedia biography.
Being a candidate alone is NOT proof of notability. In fact, most people who are candidates do not qualify for Wikipedia at all. In order to have a page created, a politician must actually hold a specific elected office unless they can qualify under another guideline (e.g., a notable author who is also running for local city council may qualify under the criteria for creative professionals).
The specific guideline says that a politician (including judges), must hold international, national, or sub-national office. Local political figures of “major” positions (e.g., mayor) also qualify.
Note that being elected does not automatically qualify someone for Wikipedia. They still need to have significant coverage. Many political candidate biographies are recommended for deletion. You can see some of the common outcomes of these deletion discussions at this link.
Athlete Biography Notability:
Athletes are probably the most confusing biographies to create. There is a subcategory for each type of sport that someone can meet to be notable.
For example, boxers are notable if they have fought a title bout for any of the major sanctioning bodies (e.g., IBF). They could also be notable if they have been ranked in the top 10 for their weight class professionally.
Now to throw a wrench into things. Professional athletes are different than amateur athletes when it comes to Wikipedia. The reason being is that many amateurs, with a few exceptions for certain sports (e.g., golf), don’t get to compete with professional athletes.
Using the boxing example, amateur boxers are notable if they have fought in the final bout of a major amateur championship.
Collegiate athletes (also amateurs) are called out separately by Wikipedia as many people attempt to create articles for them. These athletes are considered notable if they have won a national award or hold a record in NCAA Division I. They would also be considered if they are in the hall of fame for their sport at the collegiate level or won multiple national championships as an individual.
I tell people that collegiate athletes basically need to meet general notability guidelines (significant coverage in reliable sources independent of the subject) in order to qualify. Most college athletes will never qualify for Wikipedia pages based on being an athlete.
There are too many criteria to list for each sport. As such, I have provided the links to each guideline below. If you are still unsure if the person is notable, you can always reach out and fill out our evaluation form for a free notability assessment.
- Football (American style) – includes NFL, Canadian, and Arena Football
- Association Football (Soccer)
- Track and Field (running and Olympic type sports)
- Australian Rules Football
- Cue Sports – includes billiards and snooker
- Equestrian Sports
- Figure Skating
- Horse Racing
- Ice Hockey
- Mixed Martial Arts
- Sumo Wrestlers
On a final note, one of the most contentious areas to edit in sports is Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). With so many different sanctioning bodies, there are always arguments about who qualifies for a Wikipedia page. In fact, editors have written an advisory essay to help people better understand what is/isn’t considered notable for mixed martial arts articles.
Entertainer Notability Guidelines:
Entertainers such as actors, comedians, models, and other celebrities also have their own established criteria for notability.
Generally, they are considered notable if they have had significant roles in major films or television shows. This means they are the lead actor or regular character in a show. They can also be notable if they have what is considered a “cult” following. Also, if they have made a unique contribution to their field, they could be considered notable.
Other Notability Guidelines for Biographies:
There are many more notability guidelines for various categories. These are less common, so I won’t cover them in detail here. However, here are the links to the specific criteria for you to view:
If for any reason you are unsure of what category a biography would fall into, you can always reach out to us for clarification.
What to Do When the Person Isn’t Notable
So, after reading through the notability guidelines you may have determined that the person you are creating a biography for isn’t notable. What are your options?
First, you can always include information about the person in another article where appropriate. For instance, let’s assume the person reached the summit of Mount Everest. While they received a few mentions in the media, there isn’t enough coverage to consider them notable. However, they could always be added to the Wikipedia article for the “list of 20th-Century summiteers of Mount Everest.”
Another way to include someone is to redirect their name to an appropriate article. A classic example would be how musicians, who are part of a band but not independently notable, are redirected to the page on the band. That way, people who want to search for the name in Wikipedia are led directly to the band page.
Also, I want to strongly discourage you from attempting to create a Wikipedia biography for someone who isn’t notable. I always get people who ask me to “try” and “see if it sticks” but I absolutely refuse to do so. If a topic isn’t notable, it has no business on Wikipedia. Once it is found (and it always will be), it will be deleted and trying to get it back up once it is notable becomes extremely difficult.
Disclosing Conflicts of Interest
I have always compared disclosing to getting a haircut in a guillotine. Wikipedia editors tell you to disclose your conflict and they will work with you as a community. This is one of the biggest lies ever as not all editors follow this philosophy. Many times, a disclosure puts a mark on you and editors will target the topics you write about (even making it near impossible to create a biography).
Here is an in-depth video on Wikipedia and disclosing a conflict of interest.
So, what is the best solution?
As far as my team and I are concerned,we never disclose our clients. However, the majority of work we do is consultations so disclosure would not be required.
Ways to Upload a Biography on Wikipedia
There are a couple of ways you can upload a biography to Wikipedia. The first is to upload it directly to the mainspace. The other is to submit it through a process known as articles for creation.
Creating a Biography in the Mainspace
The “mainspace” of Wikipedia is the live article space where you see Wikipedia articles. It is just a fancy term for saying that the article is “live” in Wikipedia. To create an article directly in the mainspace, you will need an account that is “auto-confirmed.”
An auto-confirmed account is one that is more than four days old and has a minimum of 10 edits. So, if you want to post directly to the mainspace, you will need to create an account and start editing other Wikipedia pages. This is a good way to get some experience with Wikipedia prior to actually uploading the biography to Wikipedia.
Once you have an auto-confirmed account, you can follow these steps to create the article.
- Search for the name of the page you want to create in the upper-right search box in Wikipedia.
- In the search results, click on the red title of the name near the top.
- You will be taken to a page where you can copy and paste the Wiki-code (or write the code from scratch) which creates the page.
- Save the page and it will then be live.
The advantage of this is that you don’t have to waste your time going through the articles for creation process which can take weeks. The disadvantage is that new pages often get scrutinized and you could wind up with a deleted page if you are not accurate with your creation (e.g., you didn’t use the correct references, wrote it too promotional, etc.).
Submitting a Biography to Articles for Creation
The articles for creation process (also known as “AfC” for short), is a way to submit your draft for review by other Wikipedia editors. It is a peer-review process whereby editors will look at your draft and determine if they feel it is suitable for inclusion in Wikipedia.
If editors agree that the draft deserves to be a live page, they will move it to the mainspace of Wikipedia. If they don’t, they will leave comments on the draft which will tell you how to improve the draft for inclusion.
To submit a draft to articles for creation, you don’t need an auto-confirmed account. In fact, you don’t need an account at all although we still recommend creating one. You simply need to do the following:
- Go to the link for the “article wizard” located here.
- Follow the instructions on the screen (very short and very simple).
The reason I recommend creating an account for this is because you will receive messages on your account talk page that notify you of the acceptance of the draft or comments about improving the draft.
The benefits of using AfC is that a rejected draft is not a mark on the publication of the article. A draft that is declined can always be improved. However, a live article that is deleted is more likely to be deleted a second time as more scrutiny will be placed on it. The disadvantage of AfC is that is can sometimes take months for editors to review the draft.
Correcting Biographies Already in Existence on Wikipedia
Yes, we’ve all come across incorrect information in Wikipedia. Fact is, Wikipedia is not that reliable. Not because the site isn’t well-maintained, but because information in Wikipedia is based on secondary reliable sources. Many of the inaccuracies in Wikipedia are because the sources are inaccurate, not Wikipedia.
Here is what I mean.
Let’s say someone has an MBA from Harvard. However, all of the secondary reliable sources out there say the degree is from the University of Michigan. Since Wikipedia relies on the sources, it will have University of Michigan which is inaccurate. (Note, this is an extreme example just to help you understand how it works.)
Once you find an inaccuracy, here is how to correct it. We are going to assume that you do not want to do the edit yourself as you are either uncomfortable or have a conflict of interest:
Find an Accurate Source
As stated many times, Wikipedia relies on the sources. When correcting information on biographies in Wikipedia, you must have a reliable source that supports the change. Going with the example above, you will need to find a source that says the person actually graduated from Harvard; not University of Michigan.
Discuss on the Talk Page
Each article in Wikipedia has what is called a “talk page.” This is a page dedicated to discussing content changes and other issues with the article. If there is a change that is needed, you can go directly to the talk page and notify editors of the inaccuracy. Make sure to spell it out clearly and also include the reference with the correct information.
Calling Attention to the Request
Once you have started the discussion on the talk page, you can always notify editors by using a template called “request edit”. Once this is placed on the talk page, editors will be notified and come to the talk page to either approve or decline the edit requested.
Request for Comment
If you are unable to get assistance on the talk page, you can always utilize the “request for comment” process. This allows interested editors (who are notified automatically by a bot) to weigh in with their opinion about the requested edits. Keep in mind that this is normally reserved for disputes that cannot be resolved. So, you will need to try to get the information corrected on the talk page first.
Finally, if you want to do the edit yourself, you simply take out the step about the talk page or noticeboard. No need to go through these steps if you are doing all the work.
What is the Biography of Living Persons Noticeboard?
Now, what happens when there is a dispute that simply cannot be resolved through discussion. Or, when there is any violation of BLP guidelines that requires administrator intervention. There’s a place you can go for help with that.
Known as the “biography of living persons noticeboard” (often referred to as the BLP noticeboard), this is the location you need to go to when issues cannot be resolved among editors corrigibly.
The noticeboard is a separate space used to bring attention to disputes and request administrator involvement. There you can report things such as unresolved content disputes, disruptive editors leaving defamatory information, and even ask general questions about editing biographies.
The noticeboard can be a vicious place at times. Just like Facebook, you often get comments from people that are sarcastic and not helpful so make sure to take some of the responses with a grain of salt. Some people have nothing better to do.
On a final note, I will say that the BLP noticeboard is one of the most important boards on Wikipedia. As the guidelines for living people are very strict, it is absolutely necessary to have a place to get issues corrected quickly. This is especially important since we are dealing with people who can easily be defamed.
Final Thoughts on Creating a Biography on Wikipedia
Wikipedia can be a tough place to navigate. Hopefully this guide has helped you understand how to create a biography on Wikipedia. As always, we provide free evaluations for notability.
We also offer telephone consultations for those who have more questions about the process. If interested in a consultation, please reach out for cost details as well as available dates and times.
Finally, good luck with your project. Don’t get discouraged with Wikipedia as there are a lot of pitfalls that you may encounter along the way. Stay the course and hopefully you will see the biography live and free from maintenance tags and trolls.