Can you trust Wikipedia?

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Question: “How trustworthy do you find Wikipedia? I hear people referencing it all the time (including in this Forum) but sometimes the articles read more like opinion than fact. Does anyone know of an alternate (free) resource for encyclopedic or general information?” — Lisa, New Jersey

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If you check on Miriam-Webster.com you will see Encyclopedia Brittania listed on one of the tabs at the top of the home page. I find that to be a good source of information.

Since Wikipedia is editable by anyone therefore it is not a source of entirely factual data although it can be used to gather information that can be verfied by a separate credible source.

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Susan June 2, 2011 at 11:23 am

When you click on the "Discussion Tab" at the top of each entry, you can find out exactly which part of the wiki entry is cited as "fact" but may actually be controversial enough that there is heated discussion going on–pro, con–about what was left out and why.

Also sources at the bottom of the entries can be clicked upon if you don't trust Wikipedia. Some sources are more reliable than others (NY Times, Washington Post, etc.) I have tried to edit some entries when I see they cite opinion as fact.
There are people who take the wikipedia editing so seriously/obsessively that they refuse to let "newbies" post any changes, even with reliable sourcing/citing.

Wikipedia has guidelines as to conflict of interests that are supposed to be revealed. It is actually quite complicated to edit and if you choose to learn how become an expert on editing the entries, you'll see. It is for that reason that Wikipedia "locks" certain entries (like Global Warming) to stop "editing wars."

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