Wikipedia: 10 Reasons Why its Unrealiable

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


According to a recent article published by Topix.com there are ten main reasons why students shouldn't use Wikipedia as a reliable source for journalism or for academic papers.


10. Always check more than one source for information. Never rely on just one.
Always be sure to look around and get the big picture before assuming things are true. Many scholarly journals and publications have made mistakes and have to correct them later. If a student or journalist relies on one source without checking it, there is a chance that the information could be incorrect even if it appears to be a reliable source.

9. Don't rely on a source like Wikipedia when the author is unknown.
Most people who post information to Wikipedia are un-named and even the editors are not recognized. Always ask yourself who wrote the information and why.

8. Often the contributor with an agenda gets their information out there.
The information posted on Wikipedia is not always the most accurate information. A lot of the time the information that stays published is the information published by the author with an agenda.

7. Contributors with an agenda also coincidently get editing positions as well.
When editors have the power to control the content based on their agenda, that's when the information starts to be inaccurate and opinionated.

6. Some people post wrong information on purpose.
When anyone can post to Wikipedia there is nothing protecting readers from authors who post incorrect information on purpose. Purposely-wrong information can often go unnoticed for months.

5. There is very little diversity among Wikipedia editors. This can reflect in the content left published.
A 2009 study showed that the mass majority of editors were male and are mostly from North America or Europe.

4. Although new information is still being published on Wikipedia everyday, the number of new editors has stopped.

3. The average person is becoming less powerful in the Wikipedia world.
With the contributor numbers down, a small group of editors have most of the control over the large amount of diverse content.

2. Accurate information can get deleted.
When accurate information is published by a reliable source there is still a good chance that it could get deleted. It is all up the the editors and they are the ones who decide what is reliable and what isn't.

1. Wikipedia admits their faults.
Why trust Wikipedia when they tell readers not to rely on their information. The site itself reads, "We do not expect you to trust us." They also go on to say not to trust them as a primary source and that the information on Wikipedia should not be used to make difficult decisions.

Photo Credit: Alexis Brion via Creative commons

4 comments:

Alexa Smith February 15, 2011 at 7:59 PM  

The ever controversial Wikipedia. In my opinion this site should never be used for papers or research projects. I do use the site when I'm working on a historical monologue and I need a refresher on the history surrounding the play.

Erin Gerken February 15, 2011 at 8:03 PM  

For me, I typically use Wikipedia as a background source to make sure I know the basics about the topic I have to research. But at least in my high school we were not even allowed to site Wikipedia as a source for our papers. For how unreliable it is it surprises me how many people actually use it as a reliable source, though.

Ben Lucas February 15, 2011 at 8:39 PM  

I recently heard somewhere, probably the INA convention, that a recent study showed that the number of factual errors in Wikipedia and a "real" encyclopedia were basically the same on a "per-entry" basis. Whether that's junk science or not, I usually only use it for context or to look up a weird philosophical term when I'm writing a paper.

April Sigmund February 16, 2011 at 10:22 AM  

I think Wikipedia is ok to use as long as you back up the information by finding it on another source. I would never rely on Wikipedia as my main source of information for school. However, if I'm doing research unrelated to school, typically I will rely on Wikipedia because it does generally give correct basic facts.

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