Sunday, 9 November 2008

Why Wikipedia can be an unreliable source

Sometimes students seem to take my advice that Wikipedia entries shouldn't be taken as the main primary source of information with, well, let's say, a pinch of salt.

It is as if my protestations that the nature of a Wiki - a collaborative document which can be altered and adapted by anyone who feels like it - count for little.

So, for those of you who are doubters, refusers, and general ignorers, have a look at this article. It describes how the entries for American senators were repeatedly vandalised and altered, in order to demean them, in the run up to the recent American election.

I will confess to using Wikipedia on many an occasion. A great deal of what it contains is erudite, useful, and very well written. Nonetheless, the rule of caution should always apply to Wikipedia entries. The bottom line is that the veracity of what it contains can't always be verified.

In conclusion then, think of Wikipedia as the starting point for research, not the finale.

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