How Wikipedia Works

Last updated: May 1, 2016 - 12:52pm EDT

Now that you know a little bit about what Wikipedia is (and isn't), it's time to learn what's on the actual website and how to use it.

Title Screen

Go to in your web browser.  You should see a page like the one in the screenshot below.  Click the buttons to learn what each option does.


Title and Popular Versions

Here you'll see Wikipedia's title and logo, along with Wikipedia's slogan "The Free Encyclopedia" in different languages. Below each version of the slogan, you will see approximately how many articles that language version of Wikipedia has. Click on one of the languages (in blue font) to go to the main page of that version of Wikipedia.


Article by Language Search

If you are looking for a specific article in a specific language, you can do that here. Click inside the first box on the left here and type in what you're looking for. Then click the drop-down menu beside it and select what language version of Wikipedia you want to search in. Finally, click the go button () beside the drop-down menu.


Language Search

If you are looking for a version of Wikipedia in a specific language, click in the box here and type in the name of the language, and then click the go button ()‚Äč  beside the box.

If you scroll down a little bit, you can also see all of the different language versions of Wikipedia, and approximately how many articles they have.  Click on a language (in blue font) to go to the main page of that version of Wikipedia.

Main Page

Once you select a language version of Wikipedia, you'll be taken to that version's main page.  Click the buttons in the screenshots below to see what you can do at each point.


General Options

You can click on an option here to do things like look at certain kinds of content, see what the Wikipedia community has been up to or ask them for help, or change the language version of Wikipedia that you're looking at.


Read / Talk

You can click these tabs to switch between reading an article and discussing how to change or improve it.


Read / View Source / View History

You can click these tabs to switch between reading the plain text version of a page, reading the HTML code of the page, or see when and how many times the page has been changed.


Create Account / Log In

Click either of these to, respectively, sign up for an account on Wikipedia, or log into an account if you already have one.

See our Wikipedia Accounts tutorial for more information.



Click in this box and type in what you're looking for, then click the search button () to search for it.

See our Wikipedia Search tutorial for more information.



If you're looking to browse some slightly more specific information, click one of the words in blue font here to go to a page with information about that category. These pages have sub-portals as well, so you can narrow down what you're looking at even further.


Featured Content

You'll find some interesting stuff here, including:

• A featured daily article
• A featured daily image
• A list of articles whose topics are being currently discussed in the news
• A list of articles whose topics had something to do with the current date in history
• A list of interesting tidbits from articles that have recently been created or edited

Article Page

Clicking on pretty much any word or phrase in blue font in the main window of Wikipedia will take you to its corresponding article.

You'll notice many of the same features from the main page; we'll highlight a few more in the screenshots below.  For example, after the introductory paragraph, there is an interactive table of contents.  You can click on the headings here to automatically jump to a specific part of the article.

On the right-hand side, there is usually a window with a summary of related information about the topic.  In the example below, we're looking at an animal, so you'll see information such as its genetic categories, where it lives, and whether or not it's in danger of becoming extinct.  If you were to look up a business, by contrast, you'd see information like whether it's publicly or privately traded, who founded it, who it's currently run by, its market performance, and so on.

Near the bottom of the article, you will see a list of references about where people got the information needed to put this article together.  If you click on a word or phrase in blue font with a symbol beside it, such as a portable document download () or link to an external page (), it will usually take you to a place where you can read the source of the information, so you can decide for yourself if it's accurate or not.

There are a few more things at the bottom of the page that you'll notice.  Click the buttons in the screenshot below for an explanation of each of them.>


External Links

Click a word or phrase in blue font with an external link icon () beside it to take you to more information about the topic somewhere else on the network of Wikimedia (the company that runs Wikipedia), or to a trusted website outside of Wikipedia.


Hierarchy of Related Information

Click Show or Hide on the right-hand side of each of these windows to expand or collapse lists of topics, from general to specific, that are related to the topic that you are currently viewing. Or, click a word or phrase in blue font to take you to an article on that topic.



Click a word or phrase in blue font here to take you to an alphabetical list of articles that the article you're currently viewing has been made a part of.

And that's the bulk of what you'll find on Wikipedia's most common pages!


More Wikipedia Tutorials

See all 9 Wikipedia tutorials
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