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Wikipedia and Library Research  

How to use Wikipedia as a starting point for your research.
Last Updated: Feb 23, 2016 URL: http://library.sfc.edu/wikipedia Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts
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Wikipedia and Research

What is Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that differs from other encyclopedias in a significant way: anyone can add or edit Wikipedia articles any way he or she sees fit. According to its website, Wikipedia was created in 2001 and has since grown to be one of the largest sites on the Web. It is a collaborative effort, with articles written by individuals from around the world using wiki software that allows content to be added or changed by anyone. As a result, Wikipedia is a dynamic work that keeps growing and changing. 

Limitations of Wikipedia

Many of the articles exist in Wikipedia for which no equivalent entry may be found in any other encyclopedia. As a result, it can be quite tempting to use the information found there for essays and articles. Those who plan to do so, however, are advised to use caution. While Wikipedia is without question a valuable and informative resource, there is an important concern to take into account when using it:

Because anyone can add or change content, there is an inherent lack of reliability and stability to Wikipedia. Authors of articles may not necessarily be experts on the topics they write about, leaving a lot of room for errors, misinformation, and bias.

The founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, has recently stressed that Wikipedia may not be suitable for academic uses, saying, "It is pretty good, but you have to be careful with it. It's good enough knowledge, depending on what your purpose is."

The best way to use Wikipedia is as a starting point for your research. At the bottom of each Wikipedia entry there is a list of outside source that provide additional information on the subject. Some of those sources come from scholarly and academic journals. But not all are available in full text on the Web.

See the presentation below to learn more. 

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