Wikipedia is one of the favorites and open source of information available to the people. An encyclopedia whose tagline is: Anyone can edit anything. It’s a favorite among all groups of people. To all age groups, from the semi-literate to PhDs. Keeping that in mind, there is the question of credibility of Wikipedia.

To prove the statement of credibility, one of the sources will be Wikipedia. Now to the main article:

If I write an article or a research paper on any topic can we use Wikipedia?

According to the research conducted by Harvard University, “Students can use Wikipedia for basic research and for basic information but it must not be used as a fool proof final source.” It can be allowed to write as one of the sources but further research is encouraged.

Why?

Since Wikipedia is free to edit for anyone with or without credentials, it has known to include fake news. Also, since the majority of people are quite up to date with the pop culture, the news about the relevant may be up to date, but same cannot be said for the scientific and historical articles.

What was the solution?

Wikipedia found the solution to this problem. First is its policy of “no first or self- research”. It means one has to provide with verifiable references and citations. Almost every article on Wikipedia states disclaimers such as”citations needed”. Secondly, there is a discussion forum used by experts and people alike suggesting further important edits. Thirdly it locks the pages which are biographical of a living person or are targets of frequent vandalism. Accordingly, the editing rights are granted to experts, and the editing part is in full lockdown unless the moderator allows.

So is it usable now?

Wikipedia on its own discourages people to use its articles as fool proof sources. Although, as per a report published by Nature journal in a blind experiment, they provided articles from Wikipedia and The Encyclopaedia Britannica and chose 50 articles on topics from several disciplines from both encyclopedias and gave them to reviewers who blind on the source of the articles. In this, Britannica had 149 errors and Wikipedia had 162 while Britannica claims that the “research was flawed” and Wikipedia missed several details that were important and added trivial information while Britannica had errors of omissions.

A result of the review on an article on Dimitri Mendeleev was found that although Britannica had only 8 errors and Wikipedia 16 the errors were similar in nature.

Also, Wikipedia being open is biased due to the bias of the people. In a research by Feng Zhu, an assistant professor in the Technology and Operations Management unit at Harvard Business School and Shane Greenstein of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management in a paper called Do Experts or Collective Intelligence Write with More Bias? Evidence from Encyclopædia Britannica and Wikipedia. They found that Wikipedia was more biased but its bias reduced with each revision and also it became negligible after 2000 edits, which are a lot.

Conclusion

Wikipedia like any other web encyclopedia should be used for information and not as single source. The credibility of Wikipedia has increased recently (it also bans other unreliable sources such as the Daily Mail) it will increase but remember although how incredible Wikipedia is it is still collective intelligence which is as flawed as the humans that constitute it. So use Wikipedia but as it also states see the references given below and do your own research.

By Aviraj Singh Mehta

Image Sources: Wikipedia

This article is from our monthly magazine The Economic Transcript; to subscribe click here.

Reference links:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reliability_of_Wikipedia and Wikipedia: Academic use

http://usingsources.fas.harvard.edu/whats-wrong-wikipedia

Forbes article Wikipedia Or Encyclopædia Britannica: Which Has More Bias?

 

 

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