Thursday, February 26, 2009
Is Wikipedia trustworthy?
First let me explain what Wikipedia is. It is billed as an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. The three articles found here, here, and here say much the same thing. They all say that Wikipedia is not a good source for completely true information. Wikipedia is able to be changed by any person or company. There are cases spoken about in the articles where Wal-mart, Diebold, Dow Chemical Plant, and politicians have changed entries about themselves to make the entries look better. This makes it very difficult to trust content from Wikipedia.
Doing searches on Google, Wikipedia is usually the first site that comes up. This is really a bad thing because most students will look at the first site first when doing research. If the content on the page is not reliable, the student will learn something that is not true or might only be partially true. I believe it is very important to remind students not to use Wikipedia as a source for research. If a teacher is going to permit the use of Wikipedia, it should be one of many sources instead of the only one.
I do not believe that Wikipedia should be considered a trusted source of information. It could be used as a starting place to find names or ideas about a topic that is then researched further, but should not be used as the only source of information. It is too easy for me to go into the post about Gone With The Wind, a book by Margaret Mitchell, and change the type of book, the heroine's name and any of the other character names. If a person had never read this book and came across the changes I had made, she might think that the heroine was Melanie and that Scarlett had married one of the Tarleton twins. I would not trust Wikipedia for this reason, it is simply too easy to change things to suit yourself. If you worked for a chemical company that contributed to Hitler's Germany, you could go to Wikipedia and change facts to make it look like that had never happened. It would not change history, but some researcher might believe your version of history instead of what is true.