Create and use a Wikidata item

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This article discusses how to create and use a Wikidata item.

This user made a first Wikidata edit 2012-12-24 and had logged 5,380 total Wikidata edits before starting to draft this article.

However, getting started with Wikidata was difficult, because simple searches failed to identify documentation that made its use accessible. Fortunately, enough of those problems were solved in one-on-one consultations during a hackathon at Wikimedia:Wikimania Cape Town in 2018. The vast majority of those 5,380 edits were made since Wikimania 2018.

And, please, if you see a way to improve this article, please do so. If you have questions, add them to the "Discuss" page associated with this article.

Why Wikidata[edit | edit source]

Wikidata provides a central point for documenting the structure of concepts, entities and things. An important use for Wikiversity is to document references in a standard format that can be used across Wikimedia Foundation projects and across languages.

One advantage is centralized defense against link rot: If the same web page is used in several different Wikimedia Foundation articles and pages that do NOT use Wikidata, if a URL cited becomes obsolete, each one must be changed individually if the linkage is to be maintained. If they all cite the same Wikidata item, one change to that Wikidata item can fix the problem for all the articles that cite that item.

In the early days of Wikidata, many Wikipedians were concerned that many Wikidata entries were not adequately documented and subject to vandalism that might not be detected. As of 2020-11-05 there may still be a problem with that. However, as this is being written, the Library of Congress of the US government is extensively cross-linked with Wikidata,[1] and many other similar major databases are investing resources to ensure that their data are appropriately linked to Wikidata and through that to Wikimedia Foundation projects and vice versa.[2] This in turn helps improve quality control for Wikidata items.

Several Wikidata items can have the same "Label" or name as long as the Label-Description combination is unique. For example, {{cite Q|Q303}}<!-- Elvis Presley human--> is distinct from the {{cite Q|Q610926}}<!-- 1956 self-titled debut studio album by Elvis Presley -->. The latter lists the former as "performer". However, but no link like that is required. For example, the blog post cited above on "Why is Wikidata important to you?" was written by Will Kent, Wikidata Q101210198, whose family name is Kent, Wikidata Q1739021, for which no explicit connection is recorded for the county in England named Kent, Wikidata Q1739021.

NOTE: If I'm in a hurry and I have a URL I want to cite, I will use "[" followed by the URL, followed by a blank space, then the description I want to display, then "]", as documented in Wikipedia:Help:URL. That's the fastest way I know to cite a URL. However, doing that is very brittle, because that URL could stop working at any time. If that happens, it would be difficult for someone to fix it. One could also follow the template at Wikipedia:Template:Citation or variants like Wikipedia:Template:Cite web or Wikipedia:Template:Cite news. For a document for which there will be only one citation, one of these citation templates may be quicker. However, I assume that if I cite something once, I may want to cite it later, and by the time I've used it a second time, I'm better off with a Wikidata item than with citing the same item twice using Wikipedia:Template:Citation each time. One reason is the problem of link rot, mentioned above. Another is that I often improve Wikidata items when I look at them. As a result, the quality of citations is more likely to improve over time using Wikidata than citation templates.

Another reason for using Wikidata is that it should make it easier to translate articles from one language to another: If the references are all in Wikidata, the translator doesn't have to translate the citation, with the possible exception of a need to translate the title only. (As this is being written, Wikipedia:Template:Cite Q is available in 19 languages other than English. Sadly, Spanish is not one of those languages. That's a problem for me, because I want to translate a certain article into Spanish, but I refuse to do it until Wikipedia:Template:Cite Q is available in Spanish.)

How to use a Wikidata entry[edit | edit source]

In the English-language Wikipedia and Wikiversity, a Wikidata entry is cited using "{{cite Q|" followed by the Wikidata item number and "}}".

For example, {{cite Q|Q101210091}} inserts a description of that Wikidata item, as:

Matt Miller (22 May 2019), Integrating Wikidata at the Library of Congress, Library of Congress, Wikidata Q101210091.

However, that's a cryptogram. To make it easy for an editor to understand what's being cited, a comment can be added to provide that essential missing information, as, e.g.:

{{cite Q|Q101210091}}<!-- Integrating Wikidata at the Library of Congress -->.

And, of course, for a note at the end, a cite like this can be wrapped in <ref>...</ref>, as, e.g.:

<ref>{{cite Q|...}}<!-- What am I citing here?-->.</ref>

Searching for a Wikidata entry[edit | edit source]

To cite a Wikidata item, you obviously need the Wikidata:Wikidata Q identifier (QID). If you don't know that, a first step is to go to any Wikidata page and enter the desired item name in "Search Wikidata". The most common outcomes of such a search are as follows:

  • Find the desired item.
  • Find several items by that name, including the one you want.
  • Find several items by that name, not including the one you want.
  • Find nothing and get "You may create a new item for" the name for which you searched.

Creating a Wikidata entry[edit | edit source]

If you are invited to "create a new item" for what you want, click on "create a new item". Otherwise, if you have a standard connection via one of the most popular browsers, "Create a new item" will likely appear in the middle of the left margin. If you see that, click on it, and enter the name of the desired new item. (If you don't see that, I'm not sure what the next step should be, e.g., on a smart phone.)

After the item name is specified, add a "Description" that should make that item different from other potential items with the same name, as, e.g., the family name vs. county named "Kent", mentioned above. If you wish, you can also enter aliases under "Also known as" and labels, etc., in other languages. Then click "publish" (near upper right).

Then click "add statement" (near the right, below all the "statements" that have been added for that item). The first "Statement" you typically want is "instance of". This could be any of several things, but it should be something for which there is already a Wikidata Q identifier (QID). If it's a book, there's a QID for "book". For a news article, there are QIDs for both "news" and "news article". I don't know what's preferred, but I've often said an item was "news", then clicked "add value" and said it was also a "news article". For example, see Evelyn Mateos (8 September 2020), "Local Journalism Under Siege", Editor & Publisher, ISSN 0013-094X, Wikidata Q99581649.

Continue clicking "add statement" until you seem to have entered everything that seems appropriate. For documents, you will often want "author". The system invites you to enter "author name string". I avoid that, because each "author" should be unique.

If I have an author, I will select the "author" statement, then search for the name. If there is a Wikidata item for that author, it will usually pop up, and I select it. Sometimes, I get a list of options with descriptions. If one of those sounds right, I select that. Sometimes I select one, then click on it after I select it to see if it looks correct. Sometimes I change the "Description" to something more appropriate. Sometimes I find that the one I selected is not correct, and I either need to select another or create a new entry.

If I need a new entry, I typically switch to another browser or create a new tab in the browser so I don't disconnect myself from the Wikidata item I'm documenting. There, I typically start by entering the author name I have in the "Search Wikidata" box in the upper right. That will often list various other items written by that person or by someone else with the same or a similar name. Occasionally, it may identify someone else with essentially the same name, which may be the person I want.

Often, however, I don't find the person I want. In that case I click, "Create a new item" in the left margin and enter the person's name. Then I do more research on the web to learn more about that person, so I can create a sensible "Description" and maybe "Also known as" aliases, e.g., "Jim Brown" for "James Brown" or adding a middle initial or middle name. Then click "Publish" (upper right).

Then, as above, click "add statement". This time "instance of" will be "human". Then click "add statement" again and click, e.g., "occupation". That could be "writer" or "journalist" or "reporter". If I specify "occupation" = "reporter", I may also "add value" in the "occupation box" and also enter "journalist". There may be a rule for when to use one vs. the other vs. both, but I don't now that rule.

When "instance of" is "human", I also want to "add statement" "given name" being the first name or initial. If I also have a middle name or initial, I will "add value" in the "given name" box. Occasionally I encounter a first name that is not yet a Wikidata item, so I add that. After "given name" is complete, I repeat the process for "family name".

Wherever I have a URL, I want to add that. I click "add statement", then enter "url", and it gives me several options. These include "full work available at URL", "described at", "reference URL", "official website", and "archive URL". After each URL I enter, I want to "add reference" "retrieved" and enter today's date. That way if the link goes bad, there's a good chance someone can find it easily on the Internet Archive.

With humans, I sometimes have an "official website". In other cases, I only have a "described at" URL.

There's a little trick with "reference URL": It should NOT be used with "add statement" but only add reference". If you try to use it at the "add statement" level, Wikidata will display a lightning symbol. When I click on that, I can read, "The property reference URL should not be used on this type of entity ... ." Then I use "add reference" to attach it to a statement. Example: Clark-Callender, Wikidata Q99542817.

If I "add statement" "reference URL", I can click "edit" and "remove" to get rid of it. I often leave it until I've used "add reference" to attach it to a relevant statement. Then I "remove" it.

There's another little trick with "official website": After I enter the URL, I get an symbol indicating a problem, which says that I need to enter the language. To do that, I click "edit", then "add qualifier" = "language of work or name". NOTE: This is different from "add reference". It will let me "add reference" = "language", but that won't clear the complaint that I need to enter the language.

Of course, a news article will have "published in", e.g., Evelyn Mateos (8 September 2020), "Local Journalism Under Siege", Editor & Publisher, ISSN 0013-094X, Wikidata Q99581649. A technical report is similar, e.g., Jane Seymour, Eradicating Smallpox (PDF), Center for Global Development, Wikidata Q99372019. A book will have a "publisher", e.g., Daron Acemoğlu; James A. Robinson (20 March 2012), Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, Crown Publishing Group, ISBN 978-1-84668-430-2, OCLC 729065001, OL 16697651W, Wikidata Q7997840. These should all have a "publication date", though some may only have a year or a year and a month. Blog posts sometimes do not display a date, but it's wise to specify date "retrieved" with any URL. Many people have an "occupation" and an "employer".

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Matt Miller (22 May 2019), Integrating Wikidata at the Library of Congress, Library of Congress, Wikidata Q101210091
  2. Will Kent (3 June 2019), Why is Wikidata important to you?, Wiki Education Foundation, Wikidata Q101210191.