People who bash Wikipedia as a source…

It’s something someone likely heard their professor say to them while writing a report. “You can use this source and this one, but you can’t use Wikipedia. Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, so don’t use that.” Then little kids in pursuit of bachelors degrees run around telling everybody that they “can’t be taken seriously” because “Wikipedia isn’t a reliable source.” That their paper they wrote by staying up the night before deadline, using every other unreliable internet source is somehow better because they evaded the website that used the exact same (or better) sources.

Never mind the fact Wikipedia it’s the world’s largest source of information about everything, often edited by the same professors who bar them from using it. Never mind the fact you can’t post a thing on the site without backing it up with evidence, and mistakes are often caught frequently, as editors of certain pages revisit frequently to check for updates and edits. Wikipedia is obviously only where simple minded people go to search for information.

Wikipedia itself says it’s not a “credible source” but I find this to be a formality of sorts, due to the fact that most people cannot use discernment (ie. people who use one source and never look at any others or people who lack critical thinking skills). Most of the examples I’ve seen of that question Wikipedia’s credibility are from celebrity pages or other trivial topics no one would write a paper on anyhow.

Like it or not, Wikipedia is probably a better place of reference than the ten year old encyclopedia in your parents’ library. It’s easier to search and has clickable references. The reason why you can’t use Wikipedia as a source on your school paper is because it’s a reference based on a bunch of other sources. Who would write a research paper about a research paper?

Wikipedia’s mission is to make everything there is to know free and available in every language. Each article is graded to determine accuracy and credibility. So you can use your thinking cap based on the grade given to determine how much you can trust what you’re reading. There are also notes at the beginning of articles, or in the TALK section of an article, highlighting what could be questionable and why. I’m sure we’ve all seen an article that said that it needs editing because of the sources used, or lack thereof.

Besides, the people who say Wiki articles aren’t credible often watch documentaries, read NY Times bestsellers or watch the news under a less critical lens. If anything, these things are far less credible, as their mission is not to spread information, but obtain viewership and readership. The most reliable way to get information might be to seek it yourself, instead of waiting for it to come to you. Reading more than one source to gather information also helps. Most smart people do that, you know — instead of avoiding things.

For those of us who read, reference and edit Wikipedia, continue on with your search for knowledge and love of sharing it. These tools don’t know what they’re talking about. Wikipedia is a wonderful place to get lost in, to edit or contribute to and to share with others. It’s not the antithesis of intellectualism. It’s a community that encourages it.

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