Why is Wikipedia often considered an unreliable source?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by spinnerlys, Jul 26, 2009.

  1. spinnerlys Guest

    spinnerlys

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    #1
    Hello.

    Often I see threads, were people are asking some questions and sometimes a Wikipedia link is given as an answer, and sometimes this link is accompanied by a remark, that "it's just Wiki, so what gives...." .

    I even did that myself sometimes, mostly out of sarcasm.

    So here I sit, bored at work and got wondering why it is, that Wiki is often seen as such an unreliable source.

    Is it that way, because everyone can edit an article?

    For me Wiki is often the starting point for my knowledge research, so I read the Wiki article and then go to the articles linked there on other sites, or have better search terms for further investigating.


    So what are your thoughts on Wiki?
     
  2. r.j.s Moderator emeritus

    r.j.s

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    #2
    I see it like this: What is preventing that person from editing it, then using it as their source?

    It will support their point long enough for most of the target audience to see it, but will probably get corrected later if actually wrong. The damage has been done per se.
     
  3. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

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    #3
    Because many of the "more reliable" sources can only dream about when they'd be as reliable as Wikipedia.
     
  4. steviem macrumors 68020

    steviem

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    #4
    It's because anyone can edit it. But most of the time silliness doesn't stay on there.

    Just end up quoting the sources, just to prevent people from going 'meh, it's just wikipedia'.
     
  5. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

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    #5
    Exactly, which is why generally it is pretty reliable.
     
  6. steviem macrumors 68020

    steviem

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  7. r.j.s Moderator emeritus

    r.j.s

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    #7
    I'm guessing this is the "fact" ...

     
  8. scotthayes macrumors 68000

    scotthayes

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    #8
    well, it was there when I read it at 14:37. be interesting to see how long it lasts. Oh and that was funny!!!

    Windows Vista cost Microsoft 6 billion dollars to develop. $5 billion of which was spent on the "I'm a PC" campaign.

    Oh, and have included the "fact" but it's in white so other people can try and spot it and not have a spoiler on here
     
  9. Marcus263 macrumors regular

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    #9
    1. Because anyone can edit at any time with false facts.
    2. Because subjects in discussion are given a personal bias.
    3. Because subjects are open to personal interpretation.
    4. Because anyone can edit at any time with false facts.
     
  10. steviem macrumors 68020

    steviem

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    #10
    However, if you read it and then look to the sources, if there are any, you would be able to see the facts are there. I'm a little disappointed at the moment, my 'fact' is still there :(
     
  11. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

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    #11
    Those two both apply to the real press as well - except that they aren't as prompt at publishing corrections.

    It disappeared 1 minute before your post was published ;).
     
  12. Marcus263 macrumors regular

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    #12
    In academia, especially Post-Grad subjects and research (this includes all science, art, business breakthroughs you hear about made by hotshots scientists and academics) are done through peer-review. If you're just starting out in this domain, then you have zero credibility and you officially start with what we call "State-of-the-art" review. That's basically when you look at credible sources and cite journals accepted by the academic community, then take a pack of scholars and just review what they're saying. It's kinda like a narrator in a wildlife programme that just describes what's going on. He's not analytical, nor does he interpret the results of what he observes - he just tells us what he sees. That's it.

    As you progress you can use empirical studies of others and your own to start "suggesting" things to the wider community.

    Anything you cite from Wikipedia, Magazines, Business Journals, News papers etc, will lack any credibility and your paper will be thrown out. The simple reason is that the research methodology isn't compatible and up for review by everyone so it's useless.

    I don't know why I pointed this out, but it's probably good the world works this way.
     
  13. cleanup macrumors 68030

    cleanup

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    #13
    I think the OP was talking more about when people cite Wikipedia as a source for a claim on the forums.

    But believe me, it always irks me when people ask if they can cite Wikipedia or websites in a paper/article.
     
  14. spinnerlys thread starter Guest

    spinnerlys

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    #14
    Thanks for the replies and especially yours, Marcus263.

    I'm aware, that citing Wiki in a research paper or thesis or any other kind of scientific document, leads to some incredibility towards the researcher.
    "Was s/he not prudent enough to actually care to do a proper research" would any professor think, when reading that Wiki was used as a citation, instead of maybe as one of many starting points.

    I will still use Wiki for myself to get acquainted with a subject and then search for better documents.
    Right now it's mostly technical anyways, so I think (maybe naively) that those articles get less exposure to willful tampering.
     
  15. theimacdude macrumors member

    theimacdude

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    #15
    It can be edited by anyone - someone can easily go on and change a fact.
     
  16. zioxide macrumors 603

    zioxide

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    #16
    It's gone. I looked at the revision history, and it took 18 minutes for it to be fixed.

    The only reason that wikipedia isn't considered a "reliable source" is because the academic community is a bunch of retards and still think it's 1960. They can't accept the fact that the internet has made research much easier. Books for research are going to be completely obsolete within 20 years.

    Wikipedia is just as reliable as most book sources, and in some cases it could even be more accurate. When some new information on a subject is found, it's going to be updated almost instantly on wikipedia. For a book, you have to wait for a new edition to come out before you get the updated information.

    All of the information on wikipedia is cited, and they have an editing staff to make sure that false information is removed. They removed that false fact about Vista in just 18 minutes! The bottom line is that people need to wake the **** up and stop saying that wikipedia is an unreliable source.
     
  17. steviem macrumors 68020

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    #17
    :) That's awesome.

    I think that shows how quickly they act on fixing these things.

    It probably shouldn't be used as a Source in coursework or in college work, but for getting quick bits of information it's great.
     
  18. Nugget macrumors 65816

    Nugget

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    #18
    Source: Study of vandalism survival times, Dr. Loren Cobb
     
  19. spaceboots06 macrumors 6502a

    spaceboots06

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    #19
    +1

    If you need to write a paper or whatnot, just scroll down to the bottom and use the links that they use for citing things.
     
  20. thegoldenmackid macrumors 604

    thegoldenmackid

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    #20
    That's a heated topic and any user on here could have fixed it.

    They aren't going backwards, they have accepted the internet has information, but, Wikipedia is not any better then taking sticky notes off of a wall at your coffee shop. Books won't be obsolete for a variety of reasons, including that when having to read large amounts of information they are tremendously easier to read an annotate. Sure you have a search feature, but that is not helpful when you actually have to learn the information enough to write.

    Most books go through editors and are subject to scrutiny for facts. Also, they tend to be written by people who are qualified on the subject as opposed to people that sit on their computers and post links. Even if you take a footnote off of Wikipedia, that is always more credible then the article on Wikipedia itself. Also, academia wise, peer-reviewed journals are the norm.

    No. And you can easily make up cites to books that their staff does not check. Get a cite for that, you totally made that up.

    They do, but they don't get everything, it only matters that you get something wrong once in the world of Academia.

    Here is why it's not reliable and the problems when taking it solely on face as reliable.
     
  21. it5five macrumors 65816

    it5five

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    #21
    You clearly don't do research then. Right now I'm almost done writing a research paper for a seminar class I took over the summer. I found plenty of great secondary sources online through JSTOR and other academic search engines, but half of my research is still done with books. All of my primary sources are in book form. Hardly any of the information has been available online in a reliable format.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negritude

    Now, look at that wikipedia article. Scroll down to the bibliography. All of the sources are in book format. All of the books I have sitting next to me are rare enough to begin with (one copy in my university library, at a university of 67k students), so I can't imagine that books will become obsolete any time in the future. That wikipedia article I posted doesn't have enough material for a good one page paper, let alone what I need for a 20-30 page paper.

    I also don't know where you get the idea that the academic community doesn't accept the fact that the internet has made research easier. It has, and every professor, lecturer, or TA I have met would agree. My university has access to more than 550 research databases, and their use is heavily encouraged not only by the professors, but by the library itself.

    EDIT: I've even had professors encourage the use of wikipedia, but as a starting point. It can be good to gain a broad understanding of major topics in history, but no serious research can be done with it.
     
  22. Marcus263 macrumors regular

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    #22
    Wikipedia is good for a broad understanding of a topic where the interpretation of information doesn't really matter to anyone other than yourself, and also when that information isn't really going to be used for anything other than just some recreational reading. For instance, I was just reading about the Great War on Wiki the other day, and understanding that my retention is average at best, I read the whole thing to gain a broad understanding of the topic. In-depth information like, actual dates, names of people and places I would never remember anyway and since I was just reading for the hell of it, even if the dates were wrong or there were mistakes... It wouldn't really matter in my case. For actual research or serious stuff, I would use books or journals or forums like Macrumours.

    Oh yeah, and zioxide who commented:

    "The only reason that wikipedia isn't considered a "reliable source" is because the academic community is a bunch of retards and still think it's 1960. They can't accept the fact that the internet has made research much easier. Books for research are going to be completely obsolete within 20 years."

    This is very true, because I know of a SweetRomeo14 from Myspace, that created a website on Quantum Mechanics, which is much more reliable than that Cambridge Professors book who has coincidentally written several books on the subject.
     
  23. furcalchick macrumors 68020

    furcalchick

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    #23
    i would say that in addition to the comments above, it's because it's an encyclopedia in nature, and those are not really a good source of info for hard facts (same for encarta and the other hard cover ones). it's good as a starting point if you have little to no knowledge of the subject, and the links on the page could be used as references depending on the subject matter of those. when i did this for my project, none of my sources were wikipedia, although it did help me get the basic structure of my paper as i collected more reliable sources.
     
  24. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

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    #24
    Obviously Wikipedia isn't a good source for a serious (meaning at least degree level) research paper (though at Uni we were allowed to use it as one source among many) - I don't think anyone would argue that it is.
     
  25. zioxide macrumors 603

    zioxide

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    #25
    I'm going in to my 4th year in college and I've taken multiple classes on research methods and ****. I use wikipedia and the databases we can access on our school's website. It's way more efficient than wasting my time searching through hundreds of pages in a book to find one small bit of information. There hasn't been one time where I've gone to the library and actually used a book source.

    The thing that really pisses me off is when professors require book sources. If I can find all my information using technology, why should I have to go and use some outdated ******** that's going to waste more of my time to find the same information? Most of the time, I just go on amazon and find a few books and just put random citations in. They can't even tell.

    Now I understand that you don't want to use wikipedia on a huge thesis project or something, but for the ******** 3-5 page papers that professors love to assign, wikipedia is definitely a reliable source.
     

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