Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Trust, but verify -- Wikipedia is valuable, but not perfect

We teach our students to be skeptical about things they find on the Internet. For example, we can show them this list of Wikipedia hoaxes. (It is noteworthy that the list is published by Wikipedia).

Wikipedia is a great starting place for research, but students should be warned to verify what they find there and elsewhere on the Internet.

On the other hand, the vast majority of Wikipedia information is useful and accurate. This was illustrated by a study published by Nature in December 2005. Scientific experts reviewed articles in both Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica. Forty two reviews turned up 4 serious errors in each encyclopedia and 162 minor errors in Wikipedia and 123 in Britannica. (Details are found at

While Britannica edged Wikipedia out, they were close, and, more important, the Wikipedia errors were corrected immediately. Britannica has subsequently ceased print publication.

More Wikipedia evaluations may be found at