I was always told when doing homework assignments that Wikipedia was an unreliable source for data or reference for any work being done for school. I found that I usually researched with Wikipedia first to get a general sense of the topic and then focus my research towards scholarly articles after a general idea formed of the topic. Many professors condemn Wikipedia because the posts were user generated allowing anyone the power to modify the information. That is one of the biggest problems that Wikipedia as an encyclopedia faces in which allows people to criticize its credibility. This is also something that has been reinstated in some of the articles (Giles; Dijk & Nieborg) however the big question now is can we trust the website and communities that build upon it.
Interesting points came across from Dijk and Nieborg that participation amongst users are the ones that constitute pages such as Wikipedia, Youtube etc. However there are several points they find that argue that mass collaboration is generally out of interest of all users desire to contribute content either out of need to communicate or express oneself creatively. They reveal that “Of those people who use the internet regularly, only 13 percent are actual creators” (861, Dijiek). Not all users on the internet are of the same highly-educated group that contribute intellectual content for others to benefit from, it’s more of them that watch and download content by others (Dijek). This is interesting as companies are trying to insincerely create knowledge through social websites by creating users of social media equivalently to consumers of knowledge through peer to peer notions. This is applies to social sites such as Wikipedia or ones with focused forums (example: game modifications) in which we as users feel the obligation to communicate knowledge to one another because we join these communities similar to our interest. This however is not a bad thing because we receive knowledge free from the usually expensive costs of reading high educated people with the same information as someone without a degree.
In this article by Royal and Kiplan they explain that Wikipedia is biased because of its policy of allowing any user to put information on the website this is what I believe in as well. However they conduct a study in which they compare it to the Britannica Encyclopedia that had 132 errors in comparison to Wikipedia that had 162 (Giles; Royal & Kiplan). The two encyclopaedias are generally ranging in the same area amongst accuracy. The only problem amongst the encyclopedia was that information amongst topics such as popular culture has vast amount of information in comparison to Belgium politics. This just shows that Wikipedia has references to many articles of varieties however more information may be needed for topics that require. As Royal and Kiplan state “Wikipedia did well on coverage, even in its weakest areas. The areas of law and medicine were particularly lacking, explained by the presence of licensed experts in these fields” (140). This was also true in another articles by Giles in which research was done on two scientific disciplines between the two encyclopaedias. Scientists in that field conducted a blind test in which they peer reviewed the articles and found that both encyclopaedias had that same number of misinterpretations four from each (900, Giles).
Overall, I find that I might research with Wikipedia more however I feel that professors and teachers will not allow it. It’s a matter of showing them the research to enlighten them on the knowledge that Wikipedia offers to the community for no fee. It will remain one of the first places I will look for when I gather information on any research topic however I will always verify with the sources that is usually posted below on the Wikipedia page in order to ensure that information is correct.
Van Dijk, J. & Nieborg, D. (2009). Wikinomics and its discontents: a critical analysis of Web 2.0 business manifestos. New Media & Society. 11, 5. pp 855-874.
Royal, C. & Kapila, D. (2009). What’s on Wikipedia, and What’s Not . . . ?: Assessing Completeness of Information. Social Science Computer Review. 27, 1. pp 138-148.
Giles. J. (2005). Special Report: Internet encyclopaedias go head to head. Nature. 438, pp 900-901