Guidelines (About the EoE)

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Lyle Birkey

Cutler J. Cleveland

Please follow the suggestions in this section as closely as possible. They've been designed to give the Encyclopedia a unified "look and feel" and to ensure that its contents are accessible to a general audience.

In General...

  • Be sure your intended topic fits the aims and scope of the Encyclopedia of Earth as described in the Scope of the Encyclopedia of Earth
  • SEARCH your topic first to be sure that your intended topic hasn't been covered already
  • Determine whether a new article on a separate page is justified. Sometimes it is better to add information to an existing article on a related topic.
  • Choose your article name carefully. The name is important for the SEARCH function, for effective linking to other articles, and to your article's appropriate placement in the Encyclopedia
  • Feel free to create links to other articles within the EoE from your article, even to articles that don't exist yet. If you mention a term in your article that you think needs explanation, add a link, then run a SEARCH to see if anyone's done an article on it that you can link to.
  • It's best to work directly on the website. But if you must, you can write the initial article in Word then copy-and-paste it into the text box. (CAUTION: Best to paste into the Source code, lest extraneous hypertext pollute the page)

Publishing Content

  • Topic Editors have the sole privilege to publish content. Authors, interns, volunteers, etc. cannot publish content.
  • A TE cannot publish content for which he/she is an author.


Naming Conventions

  • Case is significant in page names. The first letter of all titles should be capitalized and all other letters should be lower case. UNLESS a term (such as a name) is normally capitalized.
  • Be as precise as possible regarding the subject of your article. For example, if your article is about breeder reactors, do not title it 'Nuclear energy.'
  • When an article pertains to a specific geographic location, the name of the country should be added to the end of the title. For instance, London smog disaster, England and Price-Anderson Act of 1957, United States.
  • Avoid acronyms in titles unless the term is almost exclusively known by its acronym (for example, laser or scuba).
  • Avoid articles (the, an, a) at the beginning of article names.
  • Avoid using non alpha-numeric characters (" # $ * + < > = @ \ ^ ` { } | ~.) for emphasis within your article. Many of these characters are special formatting codes and are likely to produce unwanted results. Instead, use bold, italics, and underlining.

Audience Level

  • The level of writing should target a well informed general audience—people who think about the world around them, including the environment, and who expand their understanding with reading. A freshman or sophomore undergraduate college students should be able to comprehend your article. However, our audience does range from high school graduate to Ph.D level readers. They are intelligent people, but they may know little about the subject matter on which they seek information. Their ages will range from young students all the way up to octogenarians. The level of writing should fall somewhere between that found in a good newspaper (e.g. NY Times, LA Times) and that found in a good general encyclopedia (e.g. Encyclopedia Britannica).
  • Avoid needless jargon, and explain any jargon that you must use. Remember that the EoE is heavily used by a general audience. When you can't avoid jargon, make it the occasion for a contribution—write an article explaining terms of thermodynamics, policy analysis, climatology, and so on.

Article Format

  • The first sentence of an article should give a succinct definition of the article's topic.
  • Use headings and subheadings in the "Format" scroll down bar to organize your article.
  • Avoid in-text references (e.g., "Smith 2007") within an article.
  • Include a "Further Reading" section at the end of your entry. Wherever possible, include links to the resource itself.
  • The minimum article length is 250 words. We recommend articles be somewhere around 1,000 words. The maximum size is 32 kilobytes, or about 5,000 words, not including images, figures, and graphs.
  • [../../../index.html International System of Units (SI)] are recommended.
  • The technical and mathematical details should be limited to that necessary for making your most fundamental points. Remember, the Encyclopedia is intended to reach a broad audience.

Article Length

While the parameters of the topic itself should determine the proper length of an article, please consider the following limitations:

  • The minimum article length is 250 words. If you want to start an article for others to continue but you find yourself writing fewer then 250 words, place a comment at the top of the article stating something like "This is a stub, feel free to add”
  • The maximum size is 32,000 characters (roughly 5,000 words) not including images, figures, and graphs. While this character maximum is derived from limits that some browsers set for the number of characters they allow in a text box, it's still a reasonable upper limit on document length. The software will alert users when this limit has been reached.
  • However, the recommended size for articles is approximately 1,000 words. With the ability to hyperlink terms and ideas, detailed explanations can be discussed in their own articles.

Article Depth

  • EoE permits highly specialized articles. A digital, perpetual, online, and collectively managed resource such as this one is largely free of the space constraints placed on the production of paper volumes. There is no reason to place limitations on acceptable article topics based purely on the level of specialization. The only reason to refuse to create an article on a too-specialized topic is that the community cannot be expected to create and manage articles on other topics of a similar level of specialization.
  • Let articles on subtopics elaborate the details. When, in composing an article, you find that you are elaborating on some specialized topic (call it a "subtopic") incidental to your article's main idea, save the specialized details of the subtopic for its own article. The only details about a subtopic that you need mention in the main article are those necessary to the elaboration of the main article's topic. Each article should be self-contained, however, which means that some subtopics will need substantial elaboration.

First Sentence

  • The first sentence of an article should give a succinct definition of the article's topic. The article titled '[../152555/index.html Energy quality]' presents an excellent example: "Energy Quality refers to differences in the ability of a unit of [../152426/index.html energy]to produce goods and services for people."
  • When writing a description about a specific object, the first sentence of the article should state why that person, place, or thing is notable. For example, the biography of Niels Bohr leads with: "Niels Henrik David Bohr (1885-1962) was a Danish physicist who identified the fundamental structure of atoms and quantum mechanics."


The articles below are not necessarily exemplary, but are typical in length and topic range - which is very, very broad.  Each has some images and some references or further readings entries.  Many of the EOE articles come from federal sources, which not only provide a wide range of material, but also provide articles which meet Creative Commons requirement.

Source Material for Your Article

We do not expect authors to write all new original material for the Encyclopedia, nor do we expect you to re-invent the wheel with basic material that is essential but that has been written about extensively already. Thus, to the fullest extent possible, you should use material that you or others have already prepared, subject to any applicable copyright restrictions. Here are some suggestions.

  1. Use material for which you own the copyright. This might be material developed for your class, lectures, consulting, reports, other web sites, and so on, for which you retain the copyright.
  2. Extract material from one or more previous works, including your own, whose copyright rests with another party, and use it in your article in such a way that constitutes fair use under U.S copyright law. Fair use allows scholars, researchers and others to use protected works for socially productive purposes without seeking permission.
  3. Revise, update, extend, shorten, enhance or otherwise modify an existing work of yours whose copyright rests with another party to such an extent that it qualifies as a new work that is no longer bound by that copyright.
  4. Obtain permission from the copyright holder to use material in the Encyclopedia, such as a journal article or book chapter for which you surrendered copyrights to the publisher.
  5. Write new material from scratch.

Please be aware that you retain the right to use your Encyclopedia entry in other publishing efforts. All text content in the EoE is governed by the Creative Commons license known as "Attribution-Share Alike." This license permits anyone (including yourself) to (1) copy, distribute, and display your work, (2) work, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, and to make commercial use of your work, subject to these conditions:

a. Attribution. You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor.

b. Share Alike. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.

Note that the Share Alike condition acts as a disincentive for commercial operations to try to profit from your work: the most recent, reliable copy of the work will always reside with Encyclopedia. This follows directly from the Encyclopedia's editorial policy that specifically encourages collaborators working on the Encyclopedia to update each other's articles. Hence, the continuously-edited version of the article that appears in the Encyclopedia will be the community's in a robust sense.


Images uploaded for use in EoE articles should be your available under a Creative Commons license or in the Public Domain. You may use your own work if you are willing to apply a Creative Commons license, or you may upload an image previously published under a supported license (or in the Public Domain). You must identify the license that applies to the image during upload.

Harvested Content Disclaimer

All articles which have been provided by Content Partners or harvested from Content Sources must have a disclaimer at the bottom stating the following:

Disclaimer: This article is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally published by, the (organization name). Topic editors and authors for the Encyclopedia of Earth may have edited its content or added new information. The use of information from the (organization name) should not be construed as support for or endorsement by that organization for any new information added by EoE personnel, or for any editing of the original content.



(2012). Guidelines. Retrieved from