Tuesday, June 5, 2012

How Does Wikipedia Work?

As any teacher will tell you, Wikipedia isn't a citable source of information despite studies showing it's as accurate as the Encyclopedia Britannica. There are plenty of stories of Wikipedia pages being altered with false information, but is it really that bad? Millions of people visit Wikipedia, but just who writes all this stuff? To understand these questions, and to find answers, we must first learn how Wikipedia works.

Wikipedia is a large website that is filled with volunteer generated and maintained information about just about anything you can imagine. ("Wikipedia" is a portmanteau of "wiki," meaning "quick" and "encyclopedia.") Anyone can, anonymously if they'd like, create or edit a Wikipedia page. When you visit a Wikipedia page, next to the header for a subtopic is a link that lets you edit the text in that subtopic.

So how does it maintain reliability? Because it is so easy to edit, people can easily correct mistakes and mark instances where information may be misleading, incorrect, unverified, or biased. In cases where a site becomes vandalized, there are people with special privileges within the Wikipedia community that can prevent anonymous editing for a period of time and can block certain users if they are the ones responsible for the vandalizing

When you visit a Wikipedia page, you'll often see notes that will warn you if a particular statement needs citation, if someone believes it's biased, etc. Reading the superscript notes (smaller words written in the top right corner of another word) can help you ensure that you're reading cited, reviewed works.

Practical Tip of the Day:
If you do need to write a paper, or simply want to look at the sources used in a particular article, there's a section at the bottom of each Wikipedia article entitled "References." These will list the resources used in the article. Similarly, you can click on a superscript number at the end of a statement to view which work was referenced for that information. References may be electronic or print.

1 comment:

  1. Great article. Used it in my syndicated column Techlife. Loved all the great tips and think readers will benefit from seeing the use or portmanteau used. Keep up the great work. "Wikipedia Talks" - Albania, Sears Tower, NCAA Hoops - http://bit.ly/11pP9mu