Evaluating information on Wikipedia

One of the webpages you probably visit most often is Wikipedia, which is the fifth most-frequented website in the world. It is also often dubbed an unreliable source of information, because anyone can contribute to it. What’s more important, however, is the quality of a given Wikipedia entry and what we need the information for. You can learn to assess this yourselves.  

What Wikipedia is all about 

It’s important to remember that anyone can contribute to Wikipedia, even you. This allows us to learn much, but we also have much to assess. Nonetheless, Wikipedia has “verified” editors who care for the site, and deal with things like reported or problematic entries. These are typically controversial topics or individuals such as politicians. Things like vandalism or completely false entries are nothing new on Wikipedia. You can find personas on the site like Vanda Jitka Varvara – a painter who never existed.  

 

Verified editors usually have their own page on Wikipedia. Source: Wikipedie.cz - Wikipedista: Bazi. Screenshot: KISK.

Follow the editors’ notifications 

You can notice symbols and comments that editors use to mark articles. For example, you can find a padlock at the top right of the entry about the President of the Czech Republic – here neither anonymous nor new editors can edit. For the entry on Eurocentrism, you’ll find the phrase “The neutrality of this article has been disputed”, which means that someone has reported a possibly biased opinion in the edits made to the entry. For the article on Velesova kniha you’ll find a warning that “This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed” – this means that someone has reported this section of the article as suspicious or simply insufficient.   

Wikipedia as a guidepost 

Citation on Wikipedia is one of the most important things about it. Firstly, we can judge quality according to how well the article has been cited. Step one: Are sources cited in my article? Step two: What are these sources?  

Secondly, if sources are present and the situation calls for it, this can be a path for us to find other information. If I can’t remember the year Charles University was founded and I’m arguing with someone about it, Wikipedia will be enough; but, if I’m writing a term paper, I’ll use Wikipedia more like a guidepost which, through its basic descriptions, will give me an idea about the subject matter and mainly point me to other sources that I can study. The article and sources on Wikipedia can also serve to find suitable key words necessary for additional searches on Google.  

Think about the purpose and assessment of information 

Always consider the purpose of using an article from Wikipedia. Apply the same rules for assessing information to Wikipedia as you would elsewhere. Is the information correct? Are the original sources of information available? Is the information up-to-date in regard to my needs? 

 

Source: Articles on Wikipedia can easily be edited, even without logging in. Because of this, it’s very easy to improve Wikipedia, but also to vandalize it. Source: Wikipedie.cz. Screenshot: KISK.

 

Engagement in work on Wikipedia  

In addition to using information from Wikipedia, you can also help by modifying entries, translating entries from a different language, or by creating wholly new entries. At the very least, you can report problematic areas to the editors.  

 

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