MODULE 7: EVALUATING SOURCES: Additional discussion

By the prickling of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.
—Macbeth, Act IV, Scene 1

Why Wikipedia is never an acceptable source of information

1. Wikipedia aside, there are a number of perfectly accurate and reliable sources of information that instructors may limit or ban entirely, e.g., general encyclopedias or popular magazines. Depending on the nature of the research students are expected to do, some sources of information are inappropriate. It just happens that Wikipedia, because of its inaccuracy and unreliability, is never, ever appropriate for school work.

2. Wikipedia even states that “In all academic institutions,” it (Wikipedia) "is unacceptable as a major source for a research paper." Those are Wikipedia’s words; in actuality, it should never be a source of any academic information. Ironically, the only exception would be if you are doing research about Wikipedia itself (as in this discussion). Many of the numerous problems inherent to Wikipedia are explained on the Web page referenced below, so they are not detailed here.

3. Wikipedia is very frequently inaccurate. The data and information may be purposely or inadvertently misleading, or out-and-out wrong

4. The information in Wikipedia is subject to revision (sometimes done maliciously) on a moment’s notice. Even if Wikipedia were one hundred percent accurate, all the time, the fact that the material is subject to change would make it unsuitable for many types of research. Readers need to be able to examine the sources of information, as the writer originally used them, for themselves.

5. Wikipedia is very unreliable. Much of the information it contains is uncited, i.e., it doesn’t have any references to where it was obtained. Many of the citations that are provided are to non-scholarly, or otherwise unverifiable, sources.

6. The writers of the information in Wikipedia are unknown and therefore can never be relied upon to have correctly conveyed the information of the original source—in fact; they may have purposely distorted the facts or even made them up entirely.