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Published onAug 07, 2020

In this course, you will annotate Wikipedia articles on the criminal justice system. The assigned Wikipedia articles for each section of the course are found at the link Wikipedia Articles — Introduction to Criminal Justice, on the homepage page under “Materials.”

Wikipedia provides a better “textbook” than most textbooks. It has the potential to be better than all. Why? It is free to use and easily accessible. Its coverage is expansive, accurate, and regularly updated. Where lacking, anyone can fill the gap because articles can be edited and created. This democratizes the process, spreading the workload instead of concentrating it in the hands of a small group of authors and publishers.

For more information on Wikipedia’s use in the classroom (proverbial or real), visit and Instructor Basics: How to Use Wikipedia as a Teaching Tool. On its general value as a source of information, see:

  • Chesney, Thomas. 2006. An Empirical Examination of Wikipedia’s Credibility. First Monday 11. (Learn more + open access.)

  • Giles, Jim. 2005. Internet Encyclopaedias Go Head to Head. Nature 438:900-901. (Learn more + open access.)

  • Magnus, P. D. 2008. Early Responses to False Claims in Wikipedia. First Monday 13. (Learn more + open access.)

  • Niederer, Sabine, and Jose van Dijck. 2010. Wisdom of the Crowd or Technicality of Content? Wikipedia as a Sociotechnical System. New Media & Society 12:1368-1387. (Learn more.)

  • Reagle, Joseph M., Jr., and Jackie L. Koerner. 2020. Wikipedia @ 20: Stories of an Incomplete Revolution. MIT Press. (Learn more.)

  • Reagle, Joseph M., Jr., and Lawrence Lessig. 2012. Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia. MIT Press. (Learn more.)

  • Rogers, Richard. 2013. Digital Methods. MIT Press. (Learn more.)


There are many ways to annotate. For annotating Wikipedia articles, you will use a particular annotation method, which I think is best and, at a minimum, certainly one you should practice.

To annotate articles for a particular section, go to Wikipedia Articles — Introduction to Criminal Justice. Under a section header (e.g., Section: Criminal Law and Crime), you will see a series of articles listed (organized according to sub themes). You will annotate each of the articles listed.

Within each Wikipedia article, you will summarize each paragraph. Each summary should be:

  • In your own words; no quotation (or plagiarism).

  • One sentence in length; not less, not more.

  • Highlighted in yellow.

Before you can annotate a Wikipedia article that way, you must put its content into a Word Document.

How to Make Wikipedia Articles into Word Docs

To complete the assignment, you must make each Wikipedia article into a Word document — or “*.docx”, for short — that you can take notes in.1 One way to do so is easier, but has an uglier result. The other way is harder but has a prettier result. It is your choice on which to do; to be clear, the choice will not affect your grade.

Easier but Uglier Result

On the Wikipedia article’s page:

  • Put the mouse cursor, i.e. pointer, on the left side of the article’s title

  • Click and hold the left mouse button

  • Scroll all the way down until you’ve highlighted everything in the article

  • While still highlighted, copy the text by pressing Ctrl+C or by right-clicking on the mouse and selecting “Copy”

  • Open a new *.docx

  • Paste the text into the doc by pressing Ctrl+V or by right-clicking on the mouse and selecting “Paste”

  • Do whatever you need/want to save the *.docx to your computer, flash drive, or whatever

Digital Crime Problem - Make Wikipedia Articles into Word Docs, Easier but Uglier Result

Harder but Prettier Result

On the Wikipedia article’s page:

  • In the left column, choose the option to “Download as PDF”

  • On the next page, click “Download”

  • Do whatever you need/want to save the PDF to your computer, flash drive, or whatever

  • Open the PDF

  • Click “File” and then click and “Save As”

  • Under where it says “File name”, click the scroll men for “Save as Type”

  • Select “Word Document (*.docx)” and click save

  • Do whatever you need/want to save the *.docx to your computer, flash drive, or whatever

Digital Crime Problem - Make Wikipedia Articles into Word Docs, Harder but Prettier Result

FYI: Making “Comments” in Word Docs & PDFs

Word documents and Adobe PDFs do have built-in ways to do annotation. In both, these are called “comments”. For details on how to make them, see here and here. We do not use these functions for this assignment because, compared to writing summaries under text, they are (1) harder to grade and, more importantly, (2) less apt to produce good annotation.2

What is a “Paragraph” in Wikipedia Articles?

You may think it is obvious what is a paragraph. Usually, that is true in Wikipedia articles. However, there are places in some articles where it becomes unclear. This has implications for what you need to summarize in each article.

For example, let us examine Wikipedia’s article on soccer, formally known as association football. Look at the first screenshot, below.

  • It is clear that the space between “… into the opposing goal” and “Football is played in accordance…” is a paragraph break.

  • Someone may reasonably wonder about the following, however:

    • Is the italicized material at the top a paragraph? Or a series of paragraphs? For this assignment, at least, the answer is no. If something is italicized, you do not need to summarize it.

    • What about the description and information underneath the picture? No. If something is in a box with a picture, you do not need to summarize it.

Now look at the second screenshot.

  • Is the bullet-pointed material part of a paragraph? Yes, it is part of the paragraph beginning with “The recognized international…”.

Now look at the third screenshot.

  • Is anything under “See Also”, “Notes”, or “References” a paragraph? For this assignment, at least, the answer is no. If something is underneath those headings, or in a section among them (e.g., “External links”), you do not need to summarize it.

Furthermore, there is the question of what to do with figures, tables, and other visual depictions of information. There are several examples on Wikipedia’s article on List of FIFA World Cup finals. These visuals are not paragraphs, so you do not need to summarize them. However, they are often very useful to learning, so you should give them a look and try to get something out of them.

Finally, there is one type of paragraph that you are not required to summarize: information underneath a country-specific heading that is not the United States. See, for example, the fourth screenshot, which is from the Wikipedia article on Cyberwarfare.

First Screenshot

Second Screenshot

Third Screenshot

Fourth Screenshot

Grading & Submission

Submission: After completing your annotation, upload the Word document to the associated assignment folder in D2L. Because TurnItIn Technology is being used to check for plagiarism, make sure you do not put your name or any other identifying information in the document.

Grading: Each annotation will be graded as Pass/Fail. To achieve a pass (100 percent), you must follow all the instructions above and submit a complete annotation. If you are missing any entries and/or do not follow the instructions above, your submission will be viewed as incomplete and given a fail (zero).


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