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wikipedia Research Tools: A Note About Wikipedia


Be careful...

Wikipedia is a fast and easy place to get information - and it can be very helpful at times. There are times though, say when doing an important research assignment, where you need to be certain the information you're getting is accurate and credible. That is not always the case with Wikipedia.  Read below to see what Wikipedia themselves say about articles possibly giving biased information. (Highlighting added.)

"Users should be aware that not all articles are of encyclopedic quality from the start: they may contain false or debatable information. Indeed, many articles start their lives as displaying a single viewpoint; and, after a long process of discussion, debate, and argument, they gradually take on a neutral point of view reached through consensus. Others may, for a while, become caught up in a heavily unbalanced viewpoint which can take some time—months perhaps—to achieve better balanced coverage of their subject (Wikipedia: About).

It is important to use Wikipedia carefully if it is intended to be used as a research source, since individual articles will, by their nature, vary in quality and maturity."

With this in mind, Wikipedia is not a source you should be using in your research. In fact, Wikipedia says so themselves:

"We do not expect you to trust us. It is in the nature of an ever-changing work like Wikipedia that, while some articles are of the highest quality of scholarship, others are admittedly complete rubbish. We are fully aware of this. We work hard to keep the ratio of the greatest to the worst as high as possible, of course, and to find helpful ways to tell you in what state an article currently is. Even at its best, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, with all the limitations that entails. It is not a primary source. We ask you not to criticize Wikipedia indiscriminately for its content model but to use it with an informed understanding of what it is and what it isn't. Also, because some articles may contain errors, please do not use Wikipedia to make critical decisions" (Wikipedia: Ten Things).

What Wikipedia is good for...

  1. The citations at the bottom of (mostly) each article. These are the sources that the contributors got their information from. Click on those links and cite those resources directly.

  2. Different terms, synonyms, and narrower topics for concepts and ideas. For example, if you're using a search engine and not finding what you need, sometimes a look at Wikipedia can give you ideas for different terms to search with instead.

The bottom line is this: for school research, don't use information directly from a Wikipedia article. Instead, read the cited articles and use the external links.


Works Cited

"Wikipedia: About." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 26 Dec. 2011. Web 26 Dec. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:About#Using_Wikipedia_as_a_research_tool>

"Wikipedia: Ten Things You May Not Know About Wikipedia." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 21 Dec. 2011. Web. 26 Dec. 2011.  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Ten_things_you_may_not_know_about_Wikipedia>