Evaluating Information: Wikipedia

Use What Where or Not at All

What is Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia published on the internet. It is an open source project allowing anyone with access to the internet to add or edit the articles. Due to its 'open source' model, Wikipedia articles are not recommended to be used in academia. 

There have been many fake articles published on Wikipedia over the past years which mislead the readers. Here is a List of hoaxes on Wikipedia, which are now removed from Wikipedia. Wikipedia also has a List of Fake News websites and information on Vandalism.

Fake or Hoax Wikipedia Articles

Bicholim Conflict  (Fictitious conflict between the Portuguese rulers of Goa and Maratha Empire in India, which took place in the seventeenth century -  mid 1640 to early 1641).

It was found that the war mentioned in this article was entirely fictional. The article stayed up on the Wikipedia for almost five years (from 2007 to 2012), until it was finally identified as fictional and subsequently removed. 

How to tell?

  • List of References is not very comprehensive.
  • The cited sources are not real works and do not actually exist.

John Seigenthaler biography incident

An anonymous author posted a hoax article on Wikipedia about the journalist John Seigenthaler. The article claimed that Seigenthaler had been a suspect in the assassination of the former US President, John F Kennedy. John Seigenthaler characterized this article as "Internet Character Assassination".

There may be more fake or hoax stories still lurking on Wikipedia, although the platform remains vigilant in preventing such incidents.

Evaluating Wikipedia Articles

Evaluation Criteria

Authority

 

 

 

 

 

Accuracy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Currency

 

 

 

 

Relevance

Wikipedia Articles

The authorship of articles varies from experts in subject areas to anonymous volunteers. 

Authors may not be experts; therefore articles can be biased or incorrect.

Articles' review history can be viewed in Recent Changes in Wikipedia page.

A reviewer can be anyone with internet access.

As such, Wikipedia articles may be deemed as those with less or no authority.

 

Articles on Wikipedia may or may not be sourced from original research. Articles may not have been analysed by experts in the field.

At the end of articles listed are the References. The reference list may have citations for books and peer-reviewed articles; however, some of the sources cannot be verified and therefore cannot be relied on.

Facts and images in the articles may not have been referenced.

Fake or Fictitious references may be have been used to support fake articles. These sources need to be investigated and verified.

Articles have a Grading System. The Talk tab on the top left-hand corner gives a grade for the article. Lower grades 'B' or 'C' would indicate that the article is not accurate.

Hence, articles on Wikipedia may be less or not at all accurate.

 

Articles published on Wikipedia can be easily updated. However, some of the articles may not be up to date with the latest information.

View History tab in the top right corner, which will provide the history of updates.

Articles, thus, may or may not be current.

 

Wikipedia articles mostly provide a general overview of a topic or neutral facts about the same.

Citations can be removed from an article.

Inaccurate information can be provided on Wikipedia with the aim of misleading readers. There have been quite a few fake or hoax articles on Wikipedia, which have been eventually removed as they had been detected as fake or fraud. 

Therefore, articles on Wikipedia may or may not be relevant to your chosen topics. 

How is Wikipedia helpful in Class Assignments

The simple answer to the question 'Can I cite Wikipedia articles in my assignment?' is "No".

Even so, Wikipedia can be used as a source to assist with assignment tasks and research in a few different ways.

Since Wikipedia articles provide a general overview of any topic, they can be a good starting point to understand an unfamiliar topic. Find relevant keywords from a Wikipedia article on the chosen topic and use them to search VU library. Authoritative and Accurate sources from VU library can be found and used in assessment tasks in this way.

References listed at the end of Wikipedia articles may contain citations for books and peer-reviewed articles. Assess these citations first, and then search for these resources in VU library to use in your assignment. 

Wikimedia Commons has authoritative images and media files. Use this site to find images for your assignments and cite their source accurately.