WikiSummary, the Social Science Summary Database


From WikiSummary, the Free Social Science Summary Database

This is a WikiSummary policy page. You can edit these policies if you feel they should be changed. If you are considering making significant changes, you should describe them on the talk page first and explain why your changes are necessary.

The Ideal Summary

Every summary should contain the following:

  • A brief (two to four sentences) statement of the book or article's main point.
  • An overview of how the publication fits into the literature; which publications does this new research agree with, and which does it challenger? Citations should all be linked.
  • A summary of the main theoretical argument, including its primary variables and hypotheses.
  • A description of the study's empirical methods and findings.
  • Optionally, summaries may contain a brief "Comments and Criticism" section at the end, so long as this section adheres to the criticism policies.

For most articles, the summary should be printable onto one or two pages; for books, one to four pages. Only for seminal works should the summary be any longer, and only if absolutely necessary. The ideal is a summary that conveys all the essentials of the publication (i.e. more than the abstract conveys) as briefly as possible.

Following is a list of specific editing policies that all summaries should adhere to.

Style Guide


It's acceptable to use abbreviations to keep summaries concise, but always write out the abbreviation on its first use. This rules applies even to common abbreviations, like MP. On first use, write "Members of Parliament (MP) blah blah blah."

Appropriate Content

Peer-reviewed articles and books from the leading scholarly publishers certainly belong here. In general, please do not clutter WikiSummary with summaries of conference papers or working drafts unless you have a very good reason.


Use blockquotes only for longish (more than a couple sentences) quotations. Be sure to follow the attribution policies that apply to all quotations policies. Generally, blockquotes should be used extremely sparingly. Here at WikiSummary, we prefer paraphrasing over using long quotations--otherwise, why would we be reading summaries in the first place?

If you need help creating a blockquote, check the editing guide.


There are two types of citations: The citation at the beginning of a summary explaining what is being summarized, and citations within the summary to other works. First, every summary must begin with a (loosely) Chicago-style citation. Generally, that means something like this:

Author. Year. Title. Publication information.

Second, in-text citations to other works should be reasonably clear. You need write only the author(s) and year if that is sufficient to identify the work being cited, e.g. Brown (2007). If you only write Brown, don't be surprised if somebody sticks a vague citation marker on the cite. If the cited work is summarized here, please make the citation clickable by linking it.

Comments and Criticism

Summaries may contain a brief list of important comments and criticisms. Usually, these should be criticisms that have been raised elsewhere in the literature (with an appropriate link to the relevant summaries). You may list your own criticisms as well, but only if they are brief, specific, and scientifically valuable (i.e. they could improve future research on the subject). Longer criticisms should be left on the article's "discussion" page--perhaps with a note at the end of the main article informing readers of as much.

Most summaries began their life in a mass importation of summary data by the site proprietor. Of these summaries, most have too much in the "comments and criticism" section. In such cases, feel free to move excessive commentary to a "Comments and Criticism" section in the article's discussion page.

Keyword Pages

Keyword pages can have content, just like summaries can. Ideally, every keyword page would have a few paragraphs providing a brief overview of the central research questions discussed by publications in that category. This overview should cite (and link to summaries of) specific publications within the field. For a good example, see bureaucracy.


When citing other publications that are summarized here, always link the citation to the summary. Internal links within WikiSummary help other users find additional summaries related to their research interests.

External links (i.e. to sites besides WikiSummary) should be used sparingly and only when necessary.

Never modify the "What Links Here" information at the end of a summary. That information is updated as necessary by an automated bot, and modifying the template could cause the bot to have errors.


Always use quotation marks around quotations. Follow the quotation with a citation. If the quotation comes from the work being summarized, the citation can be a simple page number. Citations should come outside the closing quote mark but before the closing punctuation. An example from Lupia and McCubbins:

Yet politics has much in common with this traffic signal: "Using similar logic, it follows that limited information precludes reasoned choice only if people appear to be stuck at complex political intersections and lack access to effective political traffic signals" (page 12, in chapter 1).

When quoting passages more than a couple sentences long, use a blockquote.


(Definition.) Please do not create a stub unless you have enough information to write three or four sentences about the book or article--basically, your standard abstract.