Answered By: Sarah Taylor Last Updated: Dec 19, 2017 Views: 18
A very good question.
We all use Wikipedia from time to time (even librarians!) and there are some pros to using it:
- It covers pretty much any subject and any person you can think of
- It contains over 5.5 million articles
- An average of 600 articles are added daily
- It's really useful to access definitions of terms that you can then use to further your research. Indeed, Discover@Bolton links its topic definitions for this very reason
- The fact that it is used by hundreds of millions of people every months means that it's possible to get a fairly good picture of the types of information people are looking for.
However, there are some real issues with Wikipedia that you need to be aware of:
- Anyone can add or edit an article. And they might not be right, either accidentally or deliberately!
- Something that you read one day might disappear overnight
- Unlike scholarly publications, there is no formal editorial board
- There is a high risk of bias
So, if you do end up reading a Wikipedia article, just consider the following:
- Use with caution! Don't assume 100 per cent accuracy or provenance
- Use it to help you identify keywords than you can apply during your search strategies
- See if you can establish the author as you would with any other web source
- See if there are good quality links and references attached to the articles
And remember, do not rely on Wikipedia as a source for research material, don't cite it and don't assume it always presents fact! Do ask the Subject Librarians for further guidance, take a look at LEAP Online for help to improve your skills at appraising web-based material.