Entering into my university career I quickly realized that Wikipedia was extremely frowned upon when trying to find research on projects or papers assigned to us and I don’t think that I have ever had a professor allow the use of Wikipedia. At first unaware of the way Wikipedia worked, I did not understand what the big deal was, but after being educated on how to find proper peer reviewed research articles and the importance of where to get my information and research, I can understand why Wikipedia is frowned upon due it its lack of reliability and validity. In the article What’s on Wikipedia, and What’s Not…? It discusses Wikipedia’s level of accuracy, and the way information is put on the website, which has proved to support bias and unreliable sources of information. The fact that anyone can go into Wikipedia and add or change the information another person might be searching for, definitely makes me understand why professors do not want us students using Wikipedia. An article that in my opinion supported the lack of reliability Wikipedia offers is Richard Jensen’s article Military History on the Electronic Frontier: Wikipedia Fights the War of 1812. One of the main points this article discusses is the argument on Wikipedia over who won the war of 1812, and the knowledge or lack of knowledge the editors on this argument had, “about 90 percent of them are male, and 27 percent are under age twenty-one-13 percent are in high school- and nearly all are anonymous with no controls by any outsider on what they write”. To me that quote alone explains the hesitations on the validity of information Wikipedia offers, as well as in the abstract of the article it states, “Wikipedia is written by and for the benefit of highly motivated amateurs. Military history is one of its strengths, with over 130,000 articles and over 700 well-organized volunteers who prevent mischief and work on upgrading quality. They rely on free online sources and popular books, and generally ignore historiography and scholarly monographs and articles”. This proves that information can and is biased on important topics, and can mislead people who are researching answers and support them with faulty information.
Lastly, in Giles’ article Internet Encyclopedias go head to head, it talks about creating a way to let readers know the legitimacy of the Wikipedia article they are researching by introducing a stable version of each entry, “once an article reaches a specific quality threshold, it will be tagged as stable”. I think that this would be useful for researches and students alike, allowing experts to edit the information on Wikipedia would almost be like getting them peer reviewed in a sense. Also, professors may be more lenient on allowing to students to use “stable” Wikipedia articles, which might help to benefit students or researchers in gathering their information more quickly as they would now be allowed to enjoy the benefits of quick online research. After reading these articles, it did not change my confidence on the reliability of Wikipedia’s information. I do not think Wikipedia is the worst thing in the world, I myself do find it convenient to quickly jump on the computer and find a quick answer to a question rather then research through peer reviewed journal articles or monographs to find the answers to my questions. I think that being aware of the way Wikipedia works is important, and that people should know when it is or isn’t ok to use. Being aware of other research methods is important however I definitely think the sharing of online information comes with it’s pro’s and cons. Finally, I chose this image for 2 reasons, the first to back of the points the articles made that anyone can post or edit posts on Wikipedia, and second because I found it quite funny J
Giles. J. (2005). Special Report: Internet encyclopedias go head to head. Nature. 438, pp 900-901.
Jensen, R. (2012). Military History on the Electronic Frontier: Wikipedia Fights the War of 1812. Journal of Military History. 76, 1. pp 1165-1182
Royal, C. & Kapila, D. (2009). What’s on Wikipedia, and What’s Not . . . ?: Assessing Completeness of Information. Social Science Computer Review. 27, 1. pp 138-148.