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Wikipedia - Research & Contributing: Using Wikipedia for Research

Wikipedia - Do's & Don'ts


- Use Wikipedia as a starting point for research (Be sure to check the reliability of the page and sources) 

- Use Wikipedia when trying to discover more search terms, keywords or linked topics for your research

- Remember to maintain a certain level of skepticism when reviewing a Wikipedia article

- Check the reliability of the sources of the article you are reading 


- Cite Wikipedia as a source 

- Take all the information on Wikipedia as fact. (Especially in the areas of medicine and law)

Michael Scott on Wikipedia

" Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject, so you know you are getting the best possible information. "

Wikipedia Mistakes

Since the launch of Wikipedia in January 2001, a number of controversies have occurred. Wikipedia's open nature, in which anyone can edit most articles, has led to various concerns, such as the quality of writing, the amount of vandalism, and the accuracy of information on the project. The media have covered a number of controversial events and scandals related to Wikipedia and its parent organization, the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF). Common subjects of coverage include articles containing false information, public figures and corporations editing articles for which they have a serious conflict of interest,paid Wikipedia editing and hostile interactions between Wikipedia editors and public figures.

Above paragraph taken from the Wikipedia article on the List of Wikipedia controversies. Read more here

Read more about the reliability of Wikipedia here

Wikipedia - Academic Use

Wikipedia is not considered a credible source. Wikipedia is increasingly used by people in the academic community, from students to professors, as an easily accessible tertiary source for information about anything and everything. However, citation of Wikipedia in research papers may be considered unacceptable, because Wikipedia is not considered a credible or authoritative source.

This is especially true considering anyone can edit the information given at any time, and although most errors are immediately fixed, some errors maintain unnoticed. However, it can be noted that Wikipedia's Good Articles and Featured Articles are some degree more advanced, professional, and generally more credible than an article not labeled Good or Featured. It is because these articles are reviewed heavily and edited many many times, passing a lot of "tests" before being confirmed Good or Featured, that they can be used for some deeper research than usual. It is Wikipedia's Featured Articles that are especially trustworthy in contrast to normal or even good articles, as they have to pass even harder "tests" to become featured, as they are to be "the best of Wikipedia", "a model for other articles", and thus, a much more reliable source than average articles.

Above taken from Wikipedia article entitled Wikipedia:Academic use

Wikipedia - For Research

How can Wikipedia Help You? 

Wikipedia can help you with your research in a number of ways. Some of the advantages include: 

  • Aide with gathering background information on a topic: Wikipedia has such broad subject matter available and through the references you can connect to a wide variety of information on the subject. 

            Remember: When using information found on Wikipedia you must review the citations on the                 article to ensure the reliability of the information.  

  • References: This is the section at the bottom of the article that includes links to the various sources used when the article was being put together. These resources range from newspaper articles, books and online publications. These could be useful resources for your assignment and also inform you of the reliability of the article you are reading on Wikipedia.  

  • Generate search terms: Wikipedia can help you put together a list of alternative search terms you could use when searching the Library or a database. Review the article to see if any terms or words jump out as being relevant and write them down for use on the Library website or databases.  

Why Wikipedia May Not Be A Good Source: 

Despite the great advantages listed above there are also drawbacks to Wikipedia which contribute to the fact that is may not be a good source to cite for an assignment.  

  • Authors: The people who contribute to Wikipedia do not need to provide information that would indicate their expertise in a particular area, therefore you cannot view Wikipedia as entirely credible.  

  • Bias: One of Wikipedia's five pillars is the fact that Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view but recently edited pages may be biased as they have not had the time to be reviewed. This Wikipedia article lists some examples of bias on Wikipedia.

Anatomy of a Wikipedia Article

Identifying a Credible Source