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Legacy Library

Google and the Internet: What About Wikipedia?

This guide is intended to provide helpful tips and tricks for using Google and other search engines to find good quality information.

Why Wikipedia Isn't Considered "Scholarly"

In general, Wikipedia isn't considered a scholarly source of information. There are many reasons for this. First, because anyone can write or edit Wikipedia articles, the credentials of the articles' authors can be problematic. Who is the author? What expertise (if any) do they have in that particular field? Articles published in encyclopedias like World Book and Encyclopedia Britannica are written by experts in the subject they discussing. Wikipedia authors can be biased, provide incorrect information, or even purposely mislead readers. 

Even Wikipedia itself acknowledges that it is not considered a credible source of information.


What Wikipedia is Useful For

Despite some issues, Wikipedia does have some redeeming qualities. According to a 2008 study, Wikipedia's accuracy rate was approximately 80% (compared to 95% accuracy for other encyclopedias). While the authorship of its articles is questionable, it is still a useful "ready reference" tool to help readers gain a basic knowledge of a given article's subject. It may be a good starting point to gain familiarity with a subject, but it should never be the only source of information for research.

Another handy aspect of Wikipedia are the references cited by the articles. Many of the references and "further reading" texts used to write an article are actually of a scholarly quality and can be used as sources themselves.


















For the study on Wikipedia' accuracy referenced above, see:

Lucy Holman Rector, (2008) "Comparison of Wikipedia and other encyclopedias for accuracy, breadth, and depth in historical articles", Reference Services Review , Vol. 36 Issue: 1, pp.7-22,