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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.

I use Wikipedia often and have for the most part found it reliable. They solicit input from users and people with contradictory information are encuoraged to update the entries. References are often listed for the information I've used. You may also want to try http://www.encyclopedia.com/about.aspx which uses info from the Columbia Encyclodedia and is updated regulary. I've qalso used www.infoplease.com, which has not only an encyclodedia but dictionary, thesaurus, etc. and is part of the Pearson Edication network and has been in operation since 1938 (radio first, not web!).

I use Wikipedia often and have for the most part found it reliable. They solicit input from users and people with contradictory information are encouraged to update the entries. References are often listed for the information I've used. You may also want to try http://www.encyclopedia.com/about.aspx which uses info from the Columbia Encyclopedia and is updated regulary. I've also used www.infoplease.com, which has not only an encyclopedia but a wealth of other tools. It is part of the Pearson Education network and has been in operation since 1938 (radio first, not web!).

Last semester when my son was writing papers for Humanities in college, they were not permitted to use Wikipedia, because they said it was not a trusted site, anyone can post on it, so the info may not be accurate.

Wikipedia can be edited by anyone. I find the site to be very informational, but I wouldn't use the site as a source for any work-related activities.

You may want to check with your local library. Many libraries have online access to all sorts of reference materials. All you have to do is get a library card and sign in with that.

The university that I attended did not allow us to use Wikipedia because they also said it was an unreliable source.

I use answers.com it is a great resource.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

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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