Tips for Creating & Editing Wiki Content

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Creating Content

Before creating new content, please review the SPNHC User Guidelines [1]. To create a new page on the wiki visit the MediaWiki page Learn to create content.

Thinking about our audience

Our wiki platform is a space where each working group, committee, task force, etc. can develop its own content and so there may be some variation on format and style. However, whenever possible content should conform to established templates and styles as outlined in the User Guidelines and SPNHC publication style guidelines. Content is intended for SPNHC members and allied professionals. Useful information for writing technical entries, is given in this blog post by Alan Hogg, a former conservator who went on to get his PhD in atmospheric science and now teaches writing for the sciences.

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Page Naming

The names of wiki pages should be succinct but informative, as it helps both readers and editors find the information they need. In addition, it helps when creating new links in wiki content, as the link-search function only searches the beginning of a string, rather than the center.


Headers should be used to separate different sections of the same page. Use headers in order: your first header should be header 1 ("= Test ="), your second level of headers should be header 2 ("== Test 2 ==") and so on. Do not use Header 2 if there is no Header 1 preceding it.

Table of Contents

Wherever possible, use the default wiki Table of Contents instead of creating a custom coded one or removing the Table of Contents altogether. This allows for easier navigation of your wiki page. It also reduces the need to manually update links or add in new section links related to your Table of Contents. Using the default Table of Contents will also help create a consistent look across the wiki.

Bold, Italics, and Underlines

  • Bold or italics can be used to designate important words in a paragraph, but only one at a time, not both. In other words, do not use bold AND italics, but rather bold OR italics.
  • Do not use bold, italics, or underlines in place of header tags.

Inserting links

There are two frequently used types of links: an internal link which connects to another page within the SPNHC wiki, and an external link that connects to a site out on the internet.

  • Internal link: Page Name displays a hyperlink to the desired page.
If you want to replace the displayed page name in your sentence with other text, insert a vertical pipe and a blank space after the page name: spot test.
As with the internal links above, adding a vertical pipe and a blank space after the url will allow you to display other text that will be hyperlinked to your desired internet page.

Note: with both these links, the blank space after the vertical pipe is critical to get the first word of the different text to appear correctly.
MediaWiki offers even more linking advice.

Adding Images

To add an image:

  1. First, upload the image file using the "Upload file" link in the left-hand menu bar under "Tools"
  2. By uploading the image you are attesting that you are the owner or have permission to use the image online. Please put information on the owner of the image and any caption information into the Summary field
  3. Check to ensure that you are loading a permitted file type.
  4. Then, edit the page where you want to display the image. Paste the code: [[File:Filename.jpg]] Replacing "Filename" with the image name you gave during the upload process. The image will then appear in the text in its full size.
  5. It is then possible to resize it by adding a pixel limit on the code, e.g.: [[File:Filename.jpg|500px]] The image will be resized to 500pixels.
  6. The file can be further modified to add determine its placement and add a caption e.g.: [[File:Filename.png|200px|thumb|left|alt text]] to use a 200 pixel wide rendition in a box in the left margin with "alt text" as description. or have the image appear as a thumbnail on the page, with a caption underneath: [[File: Filename.jpg|thumb|caption]]
  7. To for directly linking to the file without displaying the file use [[Media:Filename.ogg]]

See MediaWIki Image page for more information on adding images including placing images in different places on a page and formatting the text around an image.


The small book icon in the WYSIWYG editor menu is an easy way to create insert citations which automatically collate to a Reference list at the bottom of the wiki page [2]

Citation style 1 - Footnote

This style has the advantage of allowing the reader to jump down to the citation in the References section of the page below. And, by clicking on the arrow in the citation, allows the reader to easily jump back to the text. Multiple references to the same citation are easily found. This method will not give an alphabetized reference list at the end of the page. The following paragraph from the SPNHC wiki Labeling page is an example of this style of citation.

Natural history collections are collections with unique purposes and uses compared to history and art collections. These collections are primarily used for research by scientists and academics and are continually added to, to help track information about species, populations and other parts of the natural world [1], [2], [3], [4]. There are often multiple samples or specimens of a certain species because researchers and scientists need to see how the populations, species and environments change over time or how the methods of collecting the samples or specimens have changed. These collections represent the natural world through space and time, and they are incredibly valuable and large for this reason. For example the effect of the pesticide DDT on eagle eggs and other birds in general was confirmed through historical samples of eggs in natural history museums. Researchers could see that eagle eggs were in fact thinning compared to the past, and the research therefore influenced the ban of the pesticide[4].

Citation style 2 - In-text citation

This style preserves the in-text citation. Clicking on the hotlinked text jumps the reader down to the to the reference in the References section at the bottom of the page. However, there is no easy way to jump back to the place in the text where the reader left. This method maintains an alphabetical reference listing. The following paragraph is an example of this style of citation.

Labeling is fundamental in such a collection, individuals within a species have similar phenotypes (e.g. all blue jays look the same) and so the only real way to differentiate which specimen is which is through a detailed identifying label. More information than just an accession number is often required as an identifier in such cases, so external or attached labels are often used (Hawks and Williams 2005, National Parks Service 2012). Wet specimens pose another interesting challenge with labeling. Often labels are attached and submerged with the specimen or specimens, and as a result have different material requirements as well (Bently 2004, Moore 2008, Simmons 2014). Labels in natural history collection often contain original information which is not recorded anywhere else in the museum records, as they were often created at the time of collection or accessioning, and are therefore extremely valuable. Collections staff at natural history institutions should recognize the labeling challenges for their collections, and stay on top of best practices and conservation standards for labels in their specific collections.

Notification of edits or updates

There are two easy ways to be kept abreast of edits on a wiki page of interest to you.

1. Use the WATCH tab in the wiki. First though you need to click on Preferences on the top header bar and make sure in your Email settings that you have entered your email and then checked E-mail me when a page or file on my watchlist is changed'. Next, navigate to a page that is of interest to you and click on the Watch tab. Next time another wiki creator edits your watched page you will receive an email update.

2. You can also use RSS feeds to stay on top of things. You can track other people's changes by adding an RSS Feed to your browser-- When you are in SPNHC Wiki, click on the little orange RSS icon and the feed will come up. Or you can cut and paste the URL into your iGoogle page.

Editing Content

Entering Summary Information

“What am I supposed to put into that Summary field at the bottom of the Edit page? Is it important?”
Rather than reinvent the wheel please visit MediaWiki answer which is a bit long, but the gist of it is that putting even a short entry into the Summary field is very useful in helping colleagues understand the purpose of your edits. The wiki entry gives useful information on what and how to summarize.

Additionally entering information into the summary field is also critical when uploading an image or file into the wiki’s document library. To give you an example of why, try typing Forum into the search box on the wiki. You’ll see that there are several pages where Forum is in either the title or text of the page. Next, try an advanced search. Click on the check box next to File and then click on the Advanced Search button at the bottom of the page. You’ll see that this advanced search was able to retrieve several documents from Collection Forum that have been uploaded to the File Library. Even though the word Forum wasn’t in the file name, the search found it in the summary. Next time you edit on the wiki – give it a try!

Assigning categories

There are so many things to remember when setting up a new page but it is important to remember to assign a Category. It is quick and easy to do – you just insert it as an internal link with the Category: prefix e.g.. If you click on a category link it will take you to a page with a listing of all other pages with the same category tag, making it easy for a reader to browse through related articles.

  • Check out an example of its use in the SPNHC wikiby clicking on the Best Practices link on the left hand menu
  • See the list of current categories on our wiki in the Special Pages > List of Pages > Categories (access Special Pages from the left hand menu)

Undo v. Rollback

The MediaWiki help pageprovides a very clear explanation of the differences in these two ways of reverting to earlier versions of the text.

In short, if you need to undo work you will probably want to use the Undo function rather than Rollback as it as it allows for more specificity and provides the ability to add a summary to explain your change (nice tie in with the Tip on Summaries on this page!). Knowing that you can revert to an earlier version of a page should hopefully give you confidence that you can’t “mess up” anything. Our site is secure but, if you ever notice vandalism on a page that needs to be removed, that should be reported to the SPNHC leadership or Wiki Committee Chairs User:BredaZimkus or User:JessicaCundiff immediately.

Formatting Tips


Most text coming from a word processing document can be copied directly into a wiki page, but tab spacing doesn’t transfer. To create an indent at the beginning of a line, use a colon : Multiple colons at the beginning of the line will move the text further to the right, as if it had been tabbed over.

Validity Banners

Validity Banners may be used across the site to indicate stages of editing and peer review. A consistent format for these banners is sought. Check back soon for more information on this topic.



Hawks, Catherine and Stephen Williams. 2005. National Park Service Conserv-O-Gram: Labeling Natural History Specimens. National Park Service. Number 11/6.

National Parks Service. 2012. Appendix H: Natural History Collections in Museum Handbook Part II National Parks Service, Washington.

Bentley, Andrew C. 2004. Thermal Transfer Printers – Applications in Wet Collections. SPNCH Newsletter, September 2004, Volume 18, Number 2.

Moore, S. 2008. Another update on computer printer inks and papers for internal labelling of fluid preserved specimens. NatSCA News, Issue 15, 36 - 40.

Simmons, John E. 2014. Fluid Preservation: A comprehensive reference. Maryland, Rowman and Littlefield.
  1. National Parks Service. 1999. Appendix Q: Curatorial Care of Natural History Collections in Museum Handbook Part 1. hmp:// National Parks Service, Washington.
  2. Ramotinik, Cindy. 2006. Natural History Collections: A Scientific Treasure Trove. United States Geological Survey, Fact Sheet -2006-3079. May 2006. Https://
  3. Rose, Carolyn, Catharine A. Hawks, and Hugh Genoways (Eds). 1995. Storage of Natural History Collections: A Preventive Conservation Approach. York, PA: Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Winker, Kevin. 2004. Natural History Museums and a Postbiodiversity Era. BioScience, Vol 54, No 5. Pp 455- 459.