We’ve all committed this sin with our research work: we put Wikipedia as a legitimate citation. Yup, that’s a sin now.
It doesn’t matter if a Wikipedia article is the first article that turns up in your web search. I don’t blame you for that. But that doesn’t mean that everything you read in that online encyclopedia is valid, because newsflash: most contents there are user-submitted.
While Wikipedia has their own editors to regulate content, that fact doesn’t remove the questionable credibility of the site. Not everyone who submits to the site have correct and verified information, and some of it may just be a figment of imagination. Not all are counter-checked by the editors given the imbalanced editor to content ratio.
In an article entitled “Ten Things You May Not Know About Wikipedia,” which is published by no less than Wikipedia themselves, they say that they “care deeply about the quality” of their work. But the thousands of articles in their website just do not match to the little their editors can do. There will always be content that will pass as factoids without a second thought.
The same article mentions about the team behind Wikipedia not really expecting for people to trust them. This is good that they admit to the rubbish articles they publish. They warn in this portion to “not use Wikipedia to make critical decisions,” and that includes putting their work in your data gathering. Do yourself a favor and stop citing Wikipedia as a reference for research work. Wikipedia said it implicitly themselves.
Wikipedia is not entirely a collection of articles that are founded on personal truths. One of the ten things to know about Wikipedia, perhaps one of the less convincing, is that they also do “articles with the highest quality of scholarship.” Editors also do their work that is comparable to Encyclopedia Brittanica. It’s just that in Wikipedia, you will need to have accompanying links to support your facts – but that feature also fails.
The point is to never trust Wikipedia for information until you get to verify them more than twice with external links, maybe even with books and journals. If you do actual research and there’s but one result that showed and it lead you to Wikipedia, the odds are that the one you are looking for is not true.
Yes, we’re all glad Wikipedia content is free, but too bad that it is also that free.