Is Wikipedia really all that Unreliable?

Logo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Logo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Tylyn Johnson, Writer

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In school, students often learn that Wikipedia is to never be used for research, usually at the middle school level. By high school, students might be seen trying to get away with using it for papers they are writing. And in college, the hammer really comes down on students electing to use the website, if they even do so at all. Regardless of age or level of education, it is agreed by everyone, including The Free Encyclopedia itself, that it is not meant to be used formally, but for improving one’s general understanding of a topic that is within the confines of the millions of pages of Wikipedia.

Interestingly enough though, studies do show that the “free encyclopedia anyone can edit” is fairly accurate, at least with more factual, or even academic, subjects, like the physical matter of dark energy, which apparently had a better than 95% accuracy. However, this is contrasted by the more rumor-prone pages of pop culture, such as the indie pop band, Passion Pit, which seemed to have more than a few inaccuracies of varying degrees.

Even still though, Wikipedia remains criticized for the nature of how its content is created. Though there may not be any strong ethical issues with it, the fact that anyone can edit the material without being held fully accountable by what they contributed, be it a valid and neutral point, or some slanderous paragraph. While the people that maintain Wikipedia, including its Board of Trustees, and slew of editors, who care deeply about their work, try to keep the pages of the website as accurate as can be with the requirement of citing other sources, it is still far from immune to the malice and ignorance carried by some who wish to make their own “contributions.”

Therefore, it is for the best that not only students, but everybody, use Wikipedia with a healthy dose of skepticism, as they should with all other sources of information, since there is always the possibility of mistakes in even the most well-intended webpages and books. Wikipedia certainly fulfills its proclaimed role of being “The Free Encyclopedia anyone can edit,” by allowing more people to access information about subjects such as law, mathematics, and theories regarding history and what the strange International Baccalaureate is all about, despite the bad press Wikipedia gets for its openness of editing.

There does seem to be a real effort to put knowledge into the people’s hands, and that is something that just about everyone can stand behind. It is “Power to the People” in the modern-age, without the need for bloodshed in a revolution taking place, which is certainly a good thing.

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