Wikipedia - reliable?
In a lesson recently I heard a teacher briefing her class (yr6) to do research (use google.) She very commendably warned them that they should think about what they found and not just copy it, because internet sources are not reliable (excellent so far) and particularly Wikipedia. This really grabbed my attention as I'm a great fan of Wikipedia. It is often my first port of call for non-commercial information and I use it so much that I even feel obliged to contribute to their annual appeal.
I am well aware of the enormous amount of twaddle on the internet - I contribute some of it myself! But even if W is not all solid rock, I feel on firm ground with maybe the odd pothole, usually well signed. In fact I sometimes wonder if they're not a bit overcautious, when I see hoards of "needs citation" tags by things, some of which I've regarded as facts for donkeys years. Having spotted few errors in text books over the years, I'd thought W is at least as good as a public library.
And if I can't relax at least a little bit in W, are there any web sites you do trust?
What do others think?
Even Wikipedia tells people not to rely on its acuracy. They say to verify the information against other trustworthy sources, such as a newspaper....
I tell kids the story of the Romanian football fans who wear shoes on their heads according to a national newspaper a few years ago. This gem of information was a lazy hack who'd believed a joke entry on Wikipedia and printed it... so given it was in a national newpaper did this now make it true?
You have to treat everything on the internet with a pinch of salt, and everything in the newspapers and books for that matter. Cross check information against more reliable sources if it's important that you are 100% accurate.
There have been a number of printed newspaper articles that have been proved to be inaccurate because the journalists were lazy and just took what was written in Wikipedia.
My favourite was my next door neighbors soon who wrote an essay on the live of William Shakespeare. In the essay he had him working in several places the most notable being Starbucks! He had no concept that this could be wrong. That information came from Wikipedia.
I too refer to Wikipedia, but always check vital facts with other resources, especially if an error will make me look like an idiot.
Wikipedia isn't immune to twaddle. :)
Originally Posted by dbrown
None at all.
Originally Posted by dbrown
The Wikipedia entry for the school where I work has been altered several times in the ten years that I have been employed there.
The content we have had to remove included reference to the supposed far-right political leanings of the teaching staff and the supposed practice of leading field trip students off into the distance with the students eventually being burned on a bonfire. Perhaps those who undertake this soft of vandalism find it amusing. I am sure that our Wikipedia entry is not the only one to suffer such editorial contributions.
Back to the question in your post: I can't think of any websites I visit regularly where I trust the content 100%.
Wikipedia is reliable providing what you are using from the site is backed up with a credible source. The numbers next to statements in Wikipedia are sources. Check them out and it will tell you if its reliable. If you know how to use it properly, its a good tool.
I trust EduGeek 100% for an honest opinion.
As for the big W, even if you regard it as fact is the need for a citation a bad thing. It's a good sign and develops good skills for the students.
Equally, anything you find on Google should be corroborated. They themselves have some good resources on how to do searches and then evaluate the results on their education site.
I too use W for info but mostly for backing up something I think is true or have read elsewhere. I frequently go 'back' and check another source though or follow a subsequent link for verification.
Sounds like a good lesson being taught.
Nature ran a study a few years ago which judged Wikipedia to be on a par with The Encyclopaedia Britannica for scientific topics (Wikipedia, Britannica: A Toss-Up) - but note that they didn't judge them both accurate, but to be about as inaccurate as each other.
Well you can always use the encyclopedia as a source can't you?
Put it this way - if you use any encyclopaedia as a source in degree level work, your work will be marked as zero. Or at least, that was what I was told at uni.
Encyclopaedias are not meant to be the source of all knowledge - they're a starting point, somewhere to get quick access to info to set you on your search for knowledge. The advantage of Wikipedia is the requirement for sources. You can go to an article and then go onwards to actual journals, articles in the media (which themselves have to be taken with a pinch of salt; for example the recent story about the aggrieved dentist who removed all of her ex's teeth when he came in for a check up).
It is important that people learn that what they read anywhere should be questioned.
I don't believe you! :p
Originally Posted by localzuk
That was what I was told, even if the entries are true. But, It gives you a nice list of sources you can check yourself, so what I did at uni was use Wiki as a starting point for reports, then it was a matter of investigating these sources and quoting them directly.
But I was told by a member of the library / research team in a lecture once that Webopedia was fine (even though its more of a geek dictionary then a e-cyclopaedia).
There's nothing wrong with using wikipedia as a starting point for research, but in general I agree with the teacher here. It's not an actual source. Anyone can edit it at any time, after all. I'd suggest that any source needs to be read with a critical eye, and (as I don't know anything about your school or that particular class) this may not be a skill that the class have developed adequately to deal with a resource that can be edited by someone else in the class who just got there quicker than everyone else to claim anything they liked.
As expected Wikipedia has an article on just about everything: Reliability of Wikipedia.
Also there is Errors in Enyclopedia Britcannica and Errors in Funk and Wagnalls. The second link is not wikipedia.
I always preferred Funk & Wagnalls to Britannica and World Book best of all.
If you have to link to Wikipedia, link to the specific revision of the page you're interested in rather than the generic article link.