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Can you use Wikipedia in your assignments?

 

The short answer is no!

Wikipedia can be a good starting point, BUT you should not use it as a source for your assignments.

Anyone can edit Wikipedia.  Wikipedia itself has compiled data on its contributors.  

The advice on Wikipedia itself is that it is not a reliable source, because:

  • Anyone can edit pages
  • Pages have been subject to vandalism in the past - this is often caught quickly, but some vandalisations have stayed on Wikipedia for years.
  • Wikipedia is a dynamic site; no article is ever "finished" - they are constantly being edited/added to.
  • Articles can vary wildly in quality and comprehensiveness.  For example, on the English Wikipedia there will likely be entries on every small town in the United States, but some large towns in the Sahara will not have an entry.
  • There is no systematic process to make sure that "obviously important" topics are written about, so at any given time Wikipedia may be wildly out of balance in the relative attention paid to two different topics.
  • Many contributors do not cite their sources—something that makes it hard for the reader to judge the credibility of what is written.

 

    Researching with Wikipedia

There is an excellent article on Wikipedia itself about using the database for research - pay particular attention to the Special research considerations concerning Wikipedia, which sets out the pros and cons of using Wikipedia articles, and the Citing Wikipedia section, which lays out the reasons you should not reference Wikipedia.

 

    Studies into the reliability of Wikipedia

Wikipedia has carried out numerous research studies and tests into the reliability of the articles on their site, including independent studies.  They have also consulted with many experts to gather expert opinion on Wikipedia, including academics, health and science professionals, journalists and, of course librarians!  The results of all of this evidence gathering can be found here.

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