22 The Case of Wikipedia

The Case of Wikipedia

Alys Avalos-Rivera

The first and foremost criteria for checking the reliability of a source can include the following: a) whether the creator of the source is an expert or professional in that specific field; b) whether the source is reviewed by peer professionals in the same field before it was published.

A practical example for using these criteria is the use of Wikipedia. The reliability of the information published on the Wikipedia varies a great deal. The main reason is that Wikipedia is a web resource collaboratively constructed by writers with various levels of credential and expertise. Both experts and novice can contribute to a topic. What’s worse, any addition or modification is published even before the designated administering team can oversee the content. If a lie appears in Wikipedia, the content will be available on line for a while before the administrators can spot it. There are several anecdotes of this sort of incidents with the Wikipedia. In one of them, a student made up a “famous” quote for a Wikipedia page about the life and works of a famous composer. The student issued it right after the composer died. The spreading rate was so fast that the quote had been cited at a huge amount before the administrators could eliminate the false quote. Details of this story can be found at this news website: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/30699302/ns/technology_and_science-tech_and_gadgets/t/student-hoaxes-worlds-media-wikipedia/#.VtoCS8D2ZMs or you can google this article “Student hoaxes world’s media on Wikipedia”.

In spite of this and other similar cases, the public is still inclined to trust the information in Wikipedia. In fact, many people who are not familiar with one topic will first look something up in Wikipedia. Is this totally wrong? Well, not entirely. Wikipedia sources can be useful when one is not familiar with a certain topic and wants to find out some general introductory information about it. It can be a very nice ice-breaker between the information seekers and the topic. However, its function will end here. If you are planning on writing a scholarly piece of writing or even a paper for a college-level course, you should look for more reliable sources than Wikipedia. Always look for materials that have been subjected to editorial scrutiny before being published. This means that someone else, who are usually colleagues or professionals in the same field, had a close examination on the document before it was published or uploaded. The most reliable sources are usually those that were reviewed by a group of experts on the subject. Therefore, to produce a reliable piece of writing, such as a course paper or a journal article, one had better start from some scholarly journal articles which have been subjected to a process called peer-reviewing. You can learn more about this process in the following link.
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The Case of Wikipedia by Alys Avalos-Rivera is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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