Skip to main content

Wikipedia: ABOUT

What is Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is a multilingual, web-based, free encyclopedia. It is a collaborative, cooperative effort by volunteer writers to provide up-to-date information on any subject imaginable.

Wikipedia is one of the most popular reference websites online, with millions of visitors every month. There are more than 19 million articles and 82,000 active contributors.

It is the #5 most popular website in the world coming after Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Baidu (Chinese search engine).

Why Use an Encyclopedia

An encyclopedia is a reference tool. It may be general or subject-specific. The most important role is to provide an introduction to a subject. Encyclopedias are perfect for preliminary research. They may provide terms to help with further searching, names of people associated with the topic, and overview and context of the subject, or sometimes information about controversies.

Good encyclopedias are generally well-accepted information. They attempt to be neutral is how they present information. As such, they are good for report writing in elementary school. But for college-level research, more analytical or theoretical information is eventually required. An encyclopedia may lead you to that material, however.

Do's and Don't's

DO...

  • use Wikipedia to become familiar with a topic or as a starting point for research
  • use Wikipedia to find more search terms or keywords for your research topic
  • maintain a level of skepticism when reading Wikipedia articles

DON'T...

  • assume that Wikipedia articles will count as sources in your bibliography for assignments or papers
  • treat information on Wikipedia as facts, especially when concerning legal or medical advice. Verify everything!

The Five Pillars

Wikipedia is guided by the following principles, referred to as the Five Pillars:

  1. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia.
  2. Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view.
  3. Wikipedia is free content that anyone can edit, use, modify, and distribute.
  4. Editors should interact with each other in a respectable and civil manner.
  5. Wikipedia does not have firm rules.

Otis College of Art and Design | 9045 Lincoln Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90045 | Otis Dashboard

Millard Sheets Library | Library Dashboard Site | 310-665-6930 | Ask a Librarian