So for the next couple of weeks, I’ll be talking about some ways to use….Wikipedia.

I know, I know, some of you don’t approve. If you look at my slide below, it makes the point straight off: You have to take Wikipedia with a grain of salt. 

The truth is, Wikipedia is moderated and updated by a bunch of volunteers, a small handful of whom have an agenda. They change and alter things to fit their whim, thus rendering a great site occasionally problematic. If you’re ever curious about what goes on in the background (and all the infighting about sentences and sources and changes) click on the tab that says “Talk” and you’ll see where the administrators have been discussing possible changes to the page in question.

But that aside…

Wikipedia has a LOT to offer. Seriously. I donate to Wikipedia because I use them so much.

But I know some of the tricks. So in the next couple of weeks, I’ll show you some things to look for.

The slide below is, by the way, much cooler in my presentation because it’s animated, and all the little arrows appear in turn. Here’s what they’re highlighting.

    • Words in blue indicate a link to another page within Wikipedia OR a link outside.
    • Words in red indicate links to stubs…articles with almost no content, so kinda useless.
    • REFERENCES links take you to original source material. Also, look for OUTSIDE LINKS
    • LANGUAGES takes you to versions of this page in other languages. (I’ll talk more about this later, but it was invaluable to me.)


All of those things can be very useful. They can link you to other information about your setting that may (or may not) be pertinent to your research. They can kick you to other sites, ones that give you MORE information. And they can help you get an inside view on other people’s perspectives on the same place/event/person.

(For example, when working on After the War, I spent a lot of time reading the various language pages regarding The Battle of La Lys/Operation Georgette. The English version, the Portuguese version, and the German version were all quite different–particularly in how many words the Portuguese got.)

So what one needs to do is think of Wikipedia as a stepping stone. It get you somewhere else, and that in itself is worth a few dollars a year for me!



Next Week: More Tactics for Wikipedia


RRH Confession#5

I spent a ton of time researching the Igreja de Bom Jesus de Matosinhos. That church only appears in a few sentences in The Golden City, but I wanted to get it right!  It was only when I actually visited Matosinhos in 2012 that I realized…….

…..that I’d described the Igreja de Bom Jesus de Matosinhos IN BRAZIL!


It turns out that there’s a church with the same name in Brazil, named for the statue that resided in the church in Portugal. The statue itself is the BOM JESUS DE MATOSINHOS (because it was fished out of the ocean near Matosinhos), not the BOM JESUS de Matosinhos. (Fine distinction there.)

Here’s the one I wanted, in Portugal:


Fortunately, I was able to catch the mistake in edits by removing a sentence. Whew!

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