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How can I use Wikipedia effectively?

Last Updated: Jun 16, 2016  |  134 Views

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As a tool for research, Wikipedia can be a valuable resource if used thoughtfully.  When using Wikipedia keep these thoughts in mind:

  • Use Wikipedia to get a general overview, and check the references it provides.  These reference (found at the bottom of the entry) can often lead you to better (often scholarly) resources.
  • Look at the Discussion tab to see if the article you are reading is part of a WikiProject, meaning that a group of people who care about the subject area are working on its content.
  • If it is part of a WikiProject, see if it has been rated. Articles in WikiProjects go through a type of peer review. This is not the same level of peer review applied to scholarly research articles, but it does imply that the article has been assessed by editors who consider themselves reasonably informed on the topic.
  • You may also wish to consult Wikipedia's entries on Neutral Point of View guidelines, verifiability, original research, and peer review.
Apart from using Wikipedia effectively, you should also know that it is not appropriate to cite Wikipedia as a scholarly source.  This is because:
  • Wikipedia is a general encyclopedia. At Bucknell, your professor is looking for more than general rudimentary material.  General encyclopedias usually give baseline information, the type of common knowledge that is not usually cited. Subject-specific encyclopedias will often provide more scholarly and citeable information.
  • Wikipedia is anonymous.  There is usually no way to know who is editing the entries in Wikipedia or what their level of expertise is.
  • You cannot be sure that the content is permanent.
  • You cannot be sure that the content meets sufficient academic standards.  Wikipedia strives to maintain a neutral point of view for all articles and there are some measures in place to help with this.  However, it is often difficult to determine when something is "neutral" or not.  Additionally, if an article does not have sufficient references/citations, there is no way of ensuring that the information is anywhere close to being factual.
Note: This answer was adapted from Cornell University.
Answered by Kathleen McQuistonBookmark and Share

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