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Wikipedia? Answered

I know this may not belong on instructables, but I like how diverse the culture of people here is.  There are people on here with doctorates, and some without high school degrees and so it is one of the best places to ask peoples opinion on the following subject.

Is Wikipedia a reliable source?  I have always loved and cherished Wikipedia, and throughout my life used it for all but school projects.  It incorporates proper information with the social accepted alternates too.  I have never found a piece of bad info, and the people on here recommend it all the time to me on other questions. 
My teachers always claim it is a bad source, but that is like saying apples are poisonous without even trying one, or at least doing some research.  Who came up with this preposterous idea that a information source run by the community with constant additions every day is unreliable.  Wikipedia is the only site that is updated at least yearly on almost every page if not more often.  I have done many projects over the years and I have never used a non-wiki source that was updated at least a year prior.  
Why would you wan't to surf across many sites to find bits from each when you can find a good, accessible site with it all mixed into one?
I do understand you can change information to preposterous things, but someone will quickly report it and it will be turned back right?  I have tried a few times and actually failed to make changes, but for this question I will try again, and see what results I get.



Best Answer 6 years ago

Part of the problem is that if you're looking for information you don't know if what you're reading is correct or not. There is misinformation and inaccuracies on Wiki. But no other site on the internet can be taken as a perfect source. Anyone can publish ANYTHING they choose be it true or false.

But, Wiki is a great place to start and getting information on what to look for. If you can find the same info in several places then you can be assured that it "might" be correct.

I don't have to eat and apple to determine whether it is poison or not, there are tests I can do.

So, do your tests!

You are so right, I actually maintain a website, which I could easily falsify. Its is our school football site, so if I feel like it I could claim John Elway is the coach. I understand how people think it is a good idea to cross-ref. Wiki, but no teacher has ever said, check all your sources. They just assume everything else is just fine. They also say, try to use .org sources. That really is hysterical, because I was going to make my own website and the .org address was cheaper, but like .com required no special certification.


6 years ago

My test result was great, in under 2 minutes a false post was caught and corrected. Now try to tell me its a bad source.

I use wikipedia as a source for research reports. BUT! I also try to double verify any major facts about it. Usually it is right but occasionally there is a wrong day or name..


Use Wikipedia as a base to get started, then check the source links at the bottom of the page(s). After that, do a search (Google, Yahoo!, Dogpile, Bing, etc.) and compare the info already gleaned.

Yes, you were lucky in that the people working there caught your mistake so quickly. There have been situations where an article was uploaded and not caught for a while. The one I am thinking of was purposely posted that way to see how long it took to get corrected. It took, IIRC, about 3 weeks before it was caught and by then the mis-information was spread around the web. In those 3 weeks, many people came to firmly believe the "lie" and didn't want to accept the experiment.

To recap, due diligence is needed when you are using a source that consists of information provided by unknown sources such as the contributors of Wikipedia.


I've read some information off Wikipedia that was incorrect, but that doesn't mean I discount all the information they provide. I think its important to look at the references, and use them to research further (or to verify information). You don't want to just rely on one source, no matter which source it is.

Any source is a bad source if it's your only source and goes unchecked.

I tell my pupils that Wikipedia is OK as a starting point. Use it to pick up links to other sources, or as a source of inspiration for further search-strings, but don't use it to the exclusion of all else.


6 years ago

Teachers tend to rely on and trust printed sources more than anything else. I think the reason why is that a printed source cannot be tampered with and a printed source can be verified and tested. So, lets say I write a paper on global COOLING and it gets published. My paper will contain (or should contain) any sources that I used and any data I collected and used to base my paper on. These can be checked and verified as to whether they are legitimate. Sometimes there is false data used and presented but since that data can be crosschecked it becomes verifiable. In addition the printed article cannot be altered without issuing an updated version which can be compared to the original and notations made as to what the changes were. So, although printed medium can be falsified, and has often been done so, it is possible to publicly scrutinize it for mistakes. The problem many authorities have with Wiki is that anyone can change anything even if for a short time. Many think of it as more of a "1984" type medium. (This refers to the book, in which the ministry of truth routinely updates history to reflect what those in charge want it to work with. "He who controls the past controls the present and he who controls the present controls the future." is the famous slogan.)
There is no doubt that there are many professionals who contribute to and monitor wiki subjects. They would be considered as valuable source material for any encyclopedia and in fact may very well have written articles for printed medium. But the occasional stray bit of inaccurate data that is possible to appear in Wiki makes it "less reliable" than an authoritative work. The smart thing is to accept Wiki as a beginning place for research with followup verification into more in depth and more acceptable sources. This does not mean that the info there is wrong or incorrect, it simply means that it lacks the verification that other works have.

I personally love wikipedia. If directly sourcing info from it is bad, then I just use it to gain the knowledge, and if I need references, I use it as a starting point of what articles/journals I need to look up.