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General Guidelines for ToL Page Authors

The Tree of Life project is like an edited book. Just as journals and books have rules about style and format, so does the Tree of Life. The current page contains general guidelines for the construction of ToL pages. More detailed information about specific topics can be found on the following pages:

There's also a page with answers to scientific contributors' most frequently asked questions. For specific instructions about the content of branch and leaf pages, see Planning Your Branch & Leaf Pages. For instructions about the content of other articles and notes see Authoring Scientific Articles & Notes.

A Tree of Life page should...

be consistent with other ToL pages
Pages should as much as possible be presented in a uniform format; the standard Tree of Life format should be followed, especially for branch and leaf pages. Any new elements of the page should be designed to match as much as possible the style used in other, similar standard elements of a Tree of Life page.
be simple
Design pages so that they are simple in structure and visually appealing; complex pages with many small sections should be avoided.
be quick loading
Pages should not take too long to load. Use large illustrations and complex tables sparingly as these increase the load time. If you have lots of material to present, consider distributing it over several, linked pages.
target multiple audiences
The ToL has an audience that ranges all of the way from systematists who study the group to 12 year old students in middle school. Our natural tendency will be to write for fellow biologists, but the non-biologist should be considered. The page should also target, as much as possible, a global audience (e.g., don't assume that everybody knows where Idaho is).
be an independent entity
Each ToL page should be considered an independent article. All elements of the page, including authorship, reference lists, text sections, etc. should be considered and designed separately for each page. Although it's ok to refer to information presented on other ToL pages, a visitor should be able to understand the content of the current page without having to read any other information.
be presented in an open-minded fashion
Diverse ideas, including phylogenetic hypotheses, should be presented in an open-minded and fair manner; dogmatic presentations and personal attacks should not be tolerated. This does not mean that authors should not express their opinion or criticize the work of others, but they should do so without resorting to polemics or slander.

Please note that the design of the Tree of Life pages is still evolving. If you have suggestions for improvements, or if you disagree with any of the current rules and recommendations, so that we may consider your ideas.

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