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swansong
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21 Feb 2010, 7:11 pm

First of all, before we determine the reliability or the usefulness of Wikipedia, we must ask what we are using or relying on Wikipedia for. It is certainly not a source as it is not where the information originally comes from, but it is somewhat useful. Below I have provided the pros and cons of Wikipedia.

The Pros Of Wikipedia
It is great way to get a general knowledge of any single topic in about five minutes. It is good for finding common knowledge which doesn't need to be cited. It is useful for looking up information that professional sources do not offer such as cultural information. While an official website for a politician or business or organization is unilateral, Wikipedia provides a list of criticisms for almost any topic and essentially, it is the voice of the common man. Also, its self-regulating nature is usually successful in weeding out spam and vandalism. A study reports that Wikipedia is just as accurate as Britannica.

The Cons Of Wikipedia
Many of Wikipedia's sources are broken links and many claims on Wikipedia aren't even backed by a source. Even though it is proportionately rare, Wikipedia does contain a lot of inaccuracies, vandalism, spam, and errors. Also, beware of Wikipedia articles which look like they are two-sided, but are truly biased. Moreover, Wikipedia is mostly edited by teenagers, the unemployed, and other people who have better things to do, rather than doctors and scientists.

Overall, I see it as a good way to get a general breadth of knowledge, but the information on Wikipedia should always be questioned and never should be taken as authoritative.

What are your thoughts on this?



pandd
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21 Feb 2010, 7:58 pm

It is an excellent source of leads if you do not know much about an area of knowledge (I find that a quick read through usually provides me with relevant names/concepts etc for inputting into a search engine).



Kaysea
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21 Feb 2010, 8:31 pm

I work with PhD's who use Wikipedia as a quick reference to brush up on various topics and laud its merits.



Keith
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21 Feb 2010, 9:21 pm

I've seen some incorrect information on that site. I would rate it at ~90% accurate



Roxas_XIII
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21 Feb 2010, 9:31 pm

As far as knowledge goes, if the subject is undeniable fact, then Wiki hits it right on the ball. If it's something that is currently in debate, however, Wiki is not very reliable.

I trust Wiki for common knowledge things. Matter of fact, this morning I used it to look up common integrals while doing Calculus homework. However, I would not trust it on a "hot topic" debatable issue, even if said issue is in a scientific and not political environment. I agree that Wikipedia is unbeatable for general knowledge on a subject that one has not yet studied, but for more specific information, it's best to look somewhere else.

My college success class names Wikipedia as a good starting place for research; however, most professors look down on it being included in a final citation.


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Orwell
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21 Feb 2010, 10:22 pm

Wikipedia is at least as reliable as any other encyclopedia, included the vaunted Britannica. I have had several professors cite Wikipedia, and even Steve Strogatz recently referred readers of his column in the New York Times to a Wikipedia article on some mathematical topic.


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Roxas_XIII
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22 Feb 2010, 12:03 am

K, let me rephrase that; my high school teachers looked down upon it for final citations, but they're picky anyways.


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scubasteve
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22 Feb 2010, 3:28 am

The most important and contentious articles also seem to be the most heavily policed. The only articles I've come across that were obviously vandalized were about obscure sports figures. That's not to say everything I've read there is 100% accurate, but it's close enough to be extremely useful as a way to quickly learn about a topic. I can spend hours at a time going from article to article learning about all kinds of things, and the things that I really care about I check the source for. So, in short, it's not perfect, but I find it extremely useful.



roadracer
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22 Feb 2010, 3:44 am

It is about as reliable as any book or encyclopedia. It is very subjective to how well it is writen, and how you interprete it. If you are looking up something important, never trust just one sorce of information, unless you can be totally sure it is true. Wikipedia is usually always my starting point, and then I usually try to find a couple more sorces of information, and compair what I am reading.

Some people seem to not like wikipedia because they say it is full of errors, when really, there are errors in every sorce of information, just because it is in a book, or you learned it from a teacher, or a reliable sorce, that does not always make it true, people make errors all the time



Sparx139
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22 Feb 2010, 3:51 am

It's useful for general knowledge. When doing research for essays etc, it's extremely useful as it provides citations to all kinds of scientific journals, etc.



SilverPikmin
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01 Mar 2010, 2:19 pm

It really depends on the article. Wikipedia provides a unique completeness for most topics that no other website can cover. There's nowhere else where you could easily find a detailed and complete history of, say, the Crimea. Most of the obvious articles that could be biased are heavily monitored for bias; it works astonishingly well for a project with little formal organisation. Allowing everyone to edit it means that articles are vandalised frequently, but also that you can get rid of the vandalism yourself when you come across it.

I think Wikipedia is a lot better than people think, as long as you keep thinking while reading it and don't just take it as blind fact.



alana
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03 Mar 2010, 7:57 pm

I think you can pretty much tell by the quality of writing, to begin with, and then you need to refer to the references they use. I think it's great they don't allow original research on there. Still I wouldn't give it a terrible amount of credence, I use it like an encyclopedia to find out random facts but I never read an article without referring to the footnotes and sometimes going to the references myself, they are sometimes the better source of info than the wiki article itself.



solinoure
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03 Mar 2010, 8:27 pm

Roxas_XIII wrote:
As far as knowledge goes, if the subject is undeniable fact, then Wiki hits it right on the ball. If it's something that is currently in debate, however, Wiki is not very reliable.


^This.


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ruveyn
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03 Mar 2010, 8:27 pm

Its article in mathematics and the hard sciences are pretty good. They will provide definitions and references into the literature. The wiki articles are not deep, but they do provide a quick way to pick up on the concepts and terminology.

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hitokage
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04 Mar 2010, 5:45 am

swansong wrote:
Moreover, Wikipedia is mostly edited by teenagers, the unemployed, and other people who have better things to do, rather than doctors and scientists.

As they say on Wikipedia "[citation needed]"