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Evaluating the Credibility of Wikipedia

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Evaluating the credibility of Wikipedia

Even though Wikipedia is a great source for information due to the fact that it is a convenient, more accessible method of research, which allows access to possibly every subject that exists, the information obtained from it may not be credible or reliable. In order to fairly evaluate the credibility of Wikipedia we will use the four standards set forth by Brenda Spatt in her book, writing from source. The standards outline four broad criteria: currency, relevance, credentials, and style & tone.

Impartiality is indeed an issue with Wikipedia since it allows individual users to edit information on articles which makes the reliability of the information doubtful. It is not possible to distinguish the original article from the additional entries made by other users. Furthermore it is impossible to identify the actual author of the original article in order to determine the author's credibility, therefore the validity of the information and resources that were used to write the original article. In essence, there is no way to determine whether the author is an expert in that particular field, or have credible experience in that subject matter. Due to this reason, the article might be missing some very crucial points about the topic.

Every single user has the ability to edit any information on the Wikipedia, which might lead to an unfair and unbalanced account of an article. While there are over 15,000,000 named accounts, Wikipedia estimates that only about 300,000 editors have edited Wikipedia more than 10 times. They also estimate that about the same number, edit Wikipedia every month; of those, about 50,000 make more than five edits, and 5,000 make more than 100 (Wikipedia:Wikipedians, n.d.).

In addition, the external sources that are cited for an article are not always fair or accurate. Also, the external sources might not be properly used, cited or be even related to the subject itself.

Wikipedia is far from a perfect information source. It inherits some serious flaws that have, in some cases, led to a bias against Wikipedia (Waters, 2007). However, there is evidence that a sizable percentage of students are using Wikipedia at some point during the research process (Head and Eisenberg, 2010; Powerset, 2008). It is a source that is more immediately familiar to many users than traditional resources such as catalogs or article databases.

In regards to Wikipedia's reliability, the site is reliable in providing researchers and students a starting point into the subject, but it should not be considered as a reliable source of information.

References: Waters, N. (2007). Why you can't cite Wikipedia in my class. Communications of the ACM , 50




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