Everyone else is using it. Why aren't you?

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Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia that anyone can edit. It defines itself as a "free, multilingual, open content encyclopedia project..." and in early 2008 reached over 10 million articles with 2.3 million in English. But, how reliable is this online encyclopedia when people without even a GED can post information alongside those with PHDs? And how can it even be taken seriously when people like Brian Chase use it play jokes?

Brian Chase posted a false article that linked a journalist to the assassination of a US president. He said he didn't know Wikipedia was considered a serious reference. (Do you think it is?) As a result of the false article, USA Today discredited Wikipedia and Wikipedia, trying to gain back credibility, stopped allowing anonymous users to post and/or edit articles.

That was in 2005. Is it even relevant now? Has Wikipedia changed? One thing I found interesting is that instead of hiding the fact that they lost credibility with some newspapers, they have a whole article on the event that includes the reactions of The New York Times. It's called the Seigenthaler incident.

Still there is the question of who wrote this article? At the bottom of most entries, are Notes and External Links, where the creator and editors of the article can show the reader where they got their information. But, no author. To edit, these entries all one has to do is create an account. And to get an account, one just has to make a username and password that follows the guidlines. Verifying an email address is optional.

Now I won't lie. I use Wikipedia. Often. When I want to look something up quick or to get background information in language that an elementary schooler can understand, I search Wikipedias files. But, when I am writing a paper, I do not cite Wikipedia.


I do go there first though. After I scan the article, I scroll down to the links section and find articles that are good sources like BBC News or USA Today. From there, I read fully those articles and cite them as my work. I've had too many teachers tell me they won't give me credit for using Wikipedia in my source list.

How many years will it take for Wikipedia to become a respected academic source?

The world may never know.



Aja, you made a great point. When will Wikipedia become respected.
I also look at Wikipedia before I begin writing a paper. I don't cite it directly, but I do look at the information they have posted.
But to answer your question about when it will become an academic source, that may take a little longer than you think.
Because teachers, professors, journalists, etc. look at Wiki as bad and holding false information, that title as "incredible source" will forever be there.

Jed Fetterman said:

Once, for a class last year, I was looking up a name of famous people from the sixties on wikipedia. At the bottom of one category, someone had posted "Johnny Cash sucks butt". It did a lot for my understanding of wikipedia as 'reliable'. Though it was not enough to make me stop using it for the class, things like that do make a person rethink using it for a class where the teacher cares about the citations.
I have always felt that wikipedia is not something to cite too often, but it can be a good reference for public opinion in my opinion. If everyone can get on and edit an entry, then you can get a good idea for how America (and the world) feels about an issue by what is allowed to remain.
I also feel like wikipedia does not give me a total understanding of the issue as a whole. It might give me twice the amount of specific information that is found in a regular encyclopedia, but I do not understand how those specifics fit together very often. It is too choppy.
Wow that was a long comment. Oh, thanks for being the only person to comment on my bog for the last two weeks Aja.

Kevin Hinton said:

Wikipedia is useful for learning how many albums the Rolling Stones realeased or what happened in a particular Simpson episode. It is useful for trival and general knowledge only. However, if you need information that is academically proven, practiced or vetted then it is useful to go somewhere else. One of the creators of wikipedia stated that students are dumb for wanting to use information that anyone can put up.

You should also trust your sources. People with PH.D's and GED's can post something, but how do you know? I read an article about how reliable Wikipedia's editors are (http://www.enjoyfrance.com/content/view/779/31/).

Oh I responded to your comment:

Alex Hull said:

I agree with Kevin in the fact that Wikipedia is useful for entertainment information. Maybe it's because my history teacher beat it into me, but I never use Wikipedia in any way for school projects.

But I do find it useful and it is often credible. I liked Jed's point that is it useful for public opinion.

I don't think the question is how long will it take for Wikipedia to be respected as credible but if it will even happen.

Aja Hannah said:

My last two sentences were mocking "How many licks does it take to get to the center of tootsie pop" and "The World May Never Know"...as a way to say it will be a mystery forever, or it never will be...

David Wilbanks said:

I agree that wikipedia is useful for entertainment news and general knowledge. It has, however also proved useful for certain topics that are so boring and uncontroversial, ONLY an academic in that field could be bothered to post any information about it.

While someone might want to post "Johnny Cash sucks butt" on an entry about the music of the sixties, I highly doubt anyone would feel the urge to claim that John the III of Sweden was actually born in 1538 and not 1537. I doubt many non-historians know who he is (I sure don't.)

The fact that anyone can add to wikipedia helps to increase its sheer volume, helping to insure that at least some information can remain relatively safe in obscurity.

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