Wikipedia is increasingly the “go to” source for researchers, including journalists, consumers, health and medical professionals. However, few Wikipedia readers understand how the system works and where caution should be applied. In general, the original sources cited by Wikipedia may be credible. Wikipedia itself, however, is not an original resource and should not be cited as an authority.
The overwhelming dominance of Wikipedia as an information source is related to its size. Currently, if Wikipedia were printed, it would amount to one million pages crammed into 1,000 volumes of 1,200 pages each. The last printed version of Encyclopedia Britannica was “just” 32 volumes and 32,640 pages. Wikipedia grows exponentially each year — four million articles were posted to Wikipedia in 2012; more than 4.5 million articles have been posted in 2014, and more than five million articles are expected to be posted before the end of 2015.
Wikipedia has faced considerable criticism, which ironically enough, is outlined in a Wikipedia entry. As consumers of information, every researcher should be aware of these criticisms.
- Canadian Health Care Study Finds Wikipedia is the Go-to Site for Research (Australian.com.au).
- Wikipedia Founder Sticks it to “Lunatic Holistic Healers’ (Time.com)
- Museums Warming Up to the Culture of Wikipedia (NYTimes, March 19, 2014).
- Wikipedia: a bias against women? NYU Abu Dhabi prof hopes to find out. (The National, April 13, 2014.)
- How Can Wikipedia Woo Women Editors? BBC.
- Summary of criticism of Wikipedia,