Is Wikipedia Now Considered A Reliable Source?

As many of you will know, Wikipedia, has been around for a number of years now.  The idea behind it is to create a free and open encyclopaedia that anyone can edit and update (both registered and unregistered users).  The main idea behind it is sound, in that the collective knowledge of potentially tens of millions of people will be able to produce a comprehensive, up to date, reliable and broad view on every topic imaginable.

The main problem has been however, malicious edits or users basically editing and updating with good faith, but doing so in an inaccurate way.  This is counter balanced partly due to the fact that everybody can in effect peer review each others work.

But can we now say that we can consider Wikipedia a reliable source?  The answer is both yes and no.

In the past, educational institutions have frowned upon and specifically advised against using Wikipedia in any way for academic purposes.  And most importantly, it has been prohibited for use as a ‘reliable’ source of information for dissertations and assignments.

Wikipedia has come a long way, but unfortunately, for academic purposes, it cannot be considered wholly reliable.  Having reviewed many topics on Wikipedia there is a big difference from article to article on reliability and correctness.  Some articles are well covered, referenced and factual however this cannot be relied upon.  When learning a topic, you need to know that the information you are reading is correct, to prevent you making any drastic errors!  So from an academic point of view, if you are going to read up about things using Wikipedia, you are best to look up topics that you are already broadly familiar with so that you will be able to make your own judgement on whether the article is fit for purpose.  It is also a good idea to check out the general quality of articles in the subject area, and look at articles on a subject matter that you are quite familiar with.

For example, the networking articles on Wikipedia seem to be largely accurate and useful, whereas other areas such as business process modelling (BPM) articles seem to lack references, miscommunicate concepts and include opinion and conjecture.

However, when wanting to find out information for social purposes (i.e. where unreliability isn’t going to have a major impact on you) then Wikipedia can be great.

Overall for academic purposes, Wikipedia is very hit and miss and it would be strongly advised that you look for alternative, more reliable and authoritative sources.  For general information, reading about celebrities, places etc by all means, Wikipedia can be a good source for things like this!

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