Is Wikipedia a Reliable Source? Part II

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From the good people at Editors Only

Posted on Monday, March 30, 2015 at 11:43 AM

Editors find it convenient. But can it be trusted?

By William Dunkerley

–“We use it for background…”

–“It’s a great starting point for research…”

–“I personally only use Wikipedia as a jumping off point…”

–“I use Wikipedia primarily for a quick check on information…”

These are a few comments last month’s survey elicited from editors. Admittedly, I use Wikipedia a lot myself, too.

I remember some years ago offering statistics I picked up from Wikipedia while making a point to my physician. She responded, “Where did you get that from?” She sneered when I said Wikipedia. At the time I thought to myself that this doctor was behind the times in ignoring such a great new information resource as Wikipedia.

But after preparing this two-part series for Editors Only, I’ve learned to use Wikipedia with a great deal more caution. I don’t trust it as much as I used to.

A fundamental premise of Wikipedia is that anyone can become an editor at will. Any such editor can enter new information or change text that is already there. Supposedly, through an ongoing process of editing and reediting by various people, a better encyclopedia article will eventuate.

That is probably a good premise if all the editors are doing is polishing the language so that it can be better understood by readers. Beyond that, the process can be problematic. This is particularly true when large segments of the editing population see facts differently.

From the good people at Editors Only


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