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Why Learn to Evaluate Wikipedia
Wikipedia is a collaborative effort in creating freely accessible encylopedic content. Because of the collabortive nature of Wikipedia, and that changes can be made by anyone in real time, Wikipedia articles develop at different paces and are, therefore, not created equal. The quality of Wikipedia articles range from excellent to very poor and this page will give you tips for evaluating a Wikipedia article's quality.
Is Wikipedia a good source?
Again, the answer is "it depends". Some articles are better than others -- all are a work in progress. If you are doing research on a topic, you need to take the time to also find other sources, compare the information that's in there to Wikipedia, and do further reading.
If you just need a quick idea of what something is about, Wikipedia can be a great source!
Evaluating Wikipedia Articles: A Checklist
Remember, Wikipedia articles are not appropriate sources of information for college level work. But Wikipedia can be a good starting point to find other, more appropriate sources of information. Please use Wikipedia responsibly.
- Assess the article's quality
- Check the article's grade on the article's talk page.
- Is the article's topic explained well?
- Are the Wikipedia style conventions followed? Is there an introductory paragraph? Is the article broken up into seperate sections?
- Does the article provide in-line citations? Are the sources appropriate for the information in the article? Are the sources authoritative?
- Look at the article's history page and talk page
- Check the article's creation date.
- Look to see how many editors have contributed to the article. Has the article been created by only one or two people, or has it been a collaborative effort among many editors?
- Has the article been subject to heavy or continued vandalism?
- Have there been discussions about the article's validity?
- Does the article appear to be controversial?
- Pay attention to the template messages that appear at the top of, or within, an article.
- Make sure to read the template messages (the boxes at the top of the page or section) if they appear in Wikipedia articles. They can inform you of any issues with the article such as lack of references and sources, the presence of unverified or unreliable information, or if the article requires clean-up, etc.
Wikipedia Article Grading Scheme
The Talk Page
Each Wikipedia article has an associated "talk page" which is accessible by the tab labled "talk." This is a place to discuss the article (not the article's subject). If you've got comments about an article or see a problem with it, you can leave a comment on the talk page. And, if you are evaluating an article, you can check out the talk page to see what discussions have already been had.