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College Research

Learn the methods and tools for conducting college level research.

The Challenges of Using Wikipedia

Many people will tell you that Wikipedia cannot be trusted. For many of your classes, your instructors will not allow you to use Wikipedia articles as a source for your paper. The common argument goes that because anyone can edit a Wikipedia page - including people who are not experts - the information is unreliable.

But a 2005 study found that Wikipedia was almost as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica. Wikipedia is run by a community of users that keep each other in check and work to maintain the quality of information Wikipedia provides. There are administrators who can lock pages, respond to vandalism, and delete whole pages that have bad information.

Wikipedia also has a set of content policies that guide the writing and editing of pages:

  1. Neutral point of view – All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view, representing significant views fairly, proportionately and without bias.
  2. Verifiability – Material challenged or likely to be challenged, and all quotations, must be attributed to a reliable, published source. In Wikipedia, verifiability means that people reading and editing the encyclopedia can check that information comes from a reliable source.
  3. No original research – Wikipedia does not publish original thought: all material in Wikipedia must be attributable to a reliable, published source. Articles may not contain any new analysis or synthesis of published material that serves to advance a position not clearly advanced by the sources.

Despite this, there are still problems that come with using Wikipedia. Some pages have bad information, and controversial topics can change back and forth when Wikipedia editors fiercely disagree with each other. This short video retells what happened to the Whopper hamburger page on Wikipedia.

How to Use Wikipedia for Research

You might not be able to cite Wikipedia in your college writing, but you can still use Wikipedia to start your research. Watch the video below to find out how.