Is Wikipedia Reliable?

Should we trust Wikipedia? My answer is a strong yes. One study I saw found that Wikipedia is more reliable than the Encyclopedia Britannica. My husband and I have submitted edits to Wikipedia, and we’ve been impressed by the quality control process they use. We had to provide reliable sources for the changes we suggested.

It’s true that teachers are always telling students not to use Wikipedia as a source. But that’s not because there’s anything wrong with Wikipedia’s information. I’m a longtime college professor, and I never allowed students to use the Encyclopedia Britannica as a source. But we often used it in class for a quick fact-check.

What you need to remember is that encyclopedias publish only straight facts, and those don’t need documentation. You wouldn’t give a source for the date when Thomas Edison was born, or the length of the Thames river, or the number of rooms in Buckingham Palace, or the name of Queen Elizabeth II’s great-great-grandmother. Nobody is going to argue with you about those facts.

What you have to document are controversies – and those are beyond the mission of an encyclopedia. That’s where you start reading articles and books by experts. You want quotes, opinions, viewpoints, and statistics. Encyclopedias don’t deal with those. Just the facts, ma’am.

I use Wikipedia all the time, and I donate whenever they have a fundraiser.


2 thoughts on “Is Wikipedia Reliable?

  1. Darrell Turner

    Wikipedia entries often have links to its sources. Checking the links is a good way to determine the reliability of specific information, based on the reliability of each specific source.

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