Can you trust the information you read on Wikipedia? My teen wants to use the website as a source for a school report.
The short answer: No.
A “wiki” (such as the popular Wikipedia.org encyclopedia) is a website that allows anyone to create or edit content. Consider it a communal work-in-progress project that blurs the lines between surfer and publisher. As such, many teachers and professors won’t allow Wikipedia to be cited as a source for essays, book reports or other assignments. Despite that, many students frequent the site for quick, easy-to-read explanations on a wide range of subjects.
Educators often want students to research subjects written by professionals in that particular field, as opposed to online "armchair" experts, if you will. But with so many millions of Wikipedia.org visitors, many of whom make slight alterations and tweaks on entries, it could be argued the information is whittled down to the "truth" over time.
Plus, credible Wikipedia entries link to a myriad of bibliographical sources, often outlined in the Notes section at the bottom of the page. Otherwise, Wikipedia offers the following caveat: "This article does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed."
If students are going to use Wikipedia for a school paper, consider it only a starting point and be sure to cross-reference the information with other credible sources or encyclopedias. And always be sure your child credits all sources at the end of the paper.
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