A volunteer-based initiative is flourishing in Arabic Wikipedia: Reliability enhanced with +10k citations added

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Reliability is always an ongoing issue in all the Wiki projects, it has a large impact on how non-Wikipedia people look to the Encyclopedia. Adding citations from reliable sources is the key solution. In projects that are based on non-Latin writing systems, choosing scientific terminology is a complex task.

The Documentation & Arabization initiative is addressing both reliability & scientific terminology in Arabic Wikipedia.

General Context

Arabic Wikipedia is one of the largest Wikiprojects. It includes +1.2 M articles and more than 5K active users every month. The Arabic version was created in 2003, since then, and as with all user-based projects, reliability was a fundamental problem.

People always complain that the reliability of Wikipedia is under doubt. And They are partly right. The fact that is open for contribution to everyone makes it easy to add anything to it. However, this makes it easy to correct what is wrong as well. The only problem is that vandalizing is easily done while documenting is hard and time-consuming. So why do not we make documenting information as easy as possible, removing all obstacles and time-consuming steps?

Arabic is also a very specific case when it comes to scientific terminology, this ancient language had been influencing science for centuries, and the major word used in scientific terminologies almost in all languages worldwide, such as Algebra, alcohol, and a camera can be directly traced back to Arabic. And the new Arabic generation, represented in the editor community, will not let this influence stop.

However, although it is healthy for a language to be spread globally, this is a nightmare from a scientific terminology perspective. Arabic is official in 23 countries, and each has its own language academy that continuously enriches the language by adding new terms to it. It is all Arabic, but it is confusing to have different names for the same object. For example, the programming language compiler has 5 well-documented names in Arabic all are valid and correct.

Structure of the project


The project started in July 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdown. Thanks to the help of Sandra Hanbo who take in charge of the documentation process, I created the pages needed in Arabic Wikipedia, informed the community, and started to collect bibliographical information and sort them in one large table. In the beginning, I thought that we will end up with 50 dictionaries at most.

Each Entry in the table includes the dictionary name, publication year, publisher, ISBN and languages used, as well as a link to the dictionary if it is available online at the archive.org website.

But as time passed, the table grew it includes a hundred entries, and that is when I realized that the table needed to be divided without that, the page was going to be unbrowsable. So, the next step was to divide the large table into smaller domain-base: such as general dictionaries, applied science, medicine economy biology, and so on. After three years, we have collected bibliographical information for +930 dictionaries that were added and classified into 24 knowledge domains.

The Arabic community supported the idea, and there was a consensus to add a permanent banner in two places in Arabic Wikipedia: Wikipedia: Requested moves and the linguistic section of the village pump (Called the forum in Arabic). The history of the page can be traced back to July 2020, since then, the page receives 11K visits, with an average of 500 visits per month.


The next step was to line the project to Wikidata. Thus, we become an inter-project initiative as data become available for everyone and not limited to Arabic Wikipedia only. To do so, we decided to add a new column to the table: Wikidata Identifier. And we started creating items for the dictionaries we have.

The process is not easy, in many cases, the author(s), editor(s), reviewer(s), and publisher might not have items in Wikidata, and in order to document the dictionary well you need to create all these items if needed. In many cases, there are several editions of the same work, or the work itself might include several volumes. Each of these cases needs specific treatment. On average, it takes around 20 mins to well document a dictionary in Wikidata.

The final step in this phase was to use the famous template:CiteQ. The template needed heavy adaptation to Arabic which is written from right to lift and has its own terminology regarding citation. This step is completely technical, but thanks to user:حبيشان, it was completely done. Template:CiteQ was completely documented as well, so it can be used outside the scope of this project.


The third phase started in September 2022. With all the pieces in place, we had to teach people how to use the tools: Wikidata, CiteQ, and most importantly, the dictionary tables. Thanks to the Wikimedians of the Levant user group, we were able to organize a workshop between November 2022 and January 2023. There were 24 participants who attended 7 sessions. The sessions were recorded also and uploaded to YoutTube so they are available to other users who did not participate directly.

At the same time, we needed a tracking system to follow how people will use the citation system we have created. Thanks to user:لوقا and his bot, the system was created, tested, and put in for the weekly update of the statistics. Thus, everything is now in the place to go!


After almost three years of hard-working. The system was finally installed in Arabic Wikipedia. And it is now time to enjoy the results.

  • +10k well-documented citations added to Arabic Wikipedia, using around 100 different reliable sources. Honorably mentioning user:Eng.ahmadkadi, who heavily participated in this phase of implementation.
  • +400 dictionaries added to Wikidata, and more than 2k items were created for: authors, editors, reviewers, and publishers.
  • +20 Public-domain Arabic dictionaries were added to Commons, We provided all bibliographic data as well as all legal information so they can be used freely and safely by everyone on the Internet.
  • 2 lists of series of publications dedicated to the dictionaries: The unified dictionaries series of the Arabization Coordination Office (54 dictionaries) and the Technical Dictionaries series of Al-Ahram publishing house (18).

This is an ongoing young project, yet we have already started collecting results. And it is promising!

We, editors from the Arabic community, are sharing our experience with the global movement and looking forward to duplicating what we have done in other Wikipedia versions spreading free reliable knowledge to all.

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