Wikipedia can be a helpful resource for research purposes. But it is frowned at in certain academic contexts.
For instance, it is considered a non-traditional source and is not accepted in place of primary sources. And you can understand why the academic community frowns upon Wikipedia research. First of all, anyone can add text to an article and change it at will.
These changes can take weeks or even months before a Wikipedia administrator catches on to what has happened.
Even if Wikipedia shouldn’t be your primary research source, it can still serve some purpose in your research – if you follow these seven tips.
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1. Check the Source
When using Wikipedia for research, it is crucial to remember that the information should not be taken as gospel. The site is an open encyclopedia, which means that anyone can contribute and make changes. This also means that the information may not be accurate. Always check the source of the Wikipedia article to make sure that it is reputable.
To check the source, navigate to the Wikipedia article’s reference section (all articles on Wiki have this). This section has credible links to reputable sources that back up the information in the article.
For instance, visit this page to see how credible sources are cited at the bottom to make it easy to fact-check the information.
2. Know How to Spot Reliable Articles
Wikipedia has a grading system for its articles based on the quality and reliability of the information. So, when you are doing your research, look for the “Good or Featured” articles. You can identify these articles by looking for the green plus symbol or gold star at the top left of your screen.
These articles have undergone scrutiny by Wikipedia’s editors for reliability and quality and are considered credible.
3. Cross-reference with Other Sources
Wikipedia is a great starting point for your research, but it is not the be-all and end-all of information.
Ensure to consult other sources outside of Wikipedia to verify the information you find there. There are many secondary sources that you can use in your research, including scholarly journals and books written by experts in the field.
4. Use the “History” Tab to Trace Changes to Articles Over Time
When using Wikipedia as a research source, it can be helpful to use the “History” tab to trace changes to articles over time. This can help you determine whether or not an article has been updated recently and whether or not it is accurate.
Additionally, by looking at the history of an article, you can see which editors have made changes and when they did so. This information can help determine the credibility of an article.
5. Use the “Reference Desk” to Get Insights from Wikipedia Volunteers
Wikipedia has a virtual reference desk where you can ask questions about almost anything, excluding medical or law advice. A Wikipedia volunteer will be happy to answer.
Of course, the answer you get here may not necessarily be 100% accurate because just any user like you can answer the question. So, you may ask the responder to provide you with links or other resources that back up their claim.
Scroll down to the Other areas of Wikipedia until you reach the Wikipedia Reference Desk section. Select Reference Desk. Click Ready? on the next page when you have selected a category for your question. Ask away!
Wikipedia is a valuable resource for research but should be used with caution. It is easy to add false information to articles, so you need to spot some trust signals before trusting any information you find there.
However, once you know how to research using Wikipedia, it can become a valuable tool in your research arsenal.