The Issue of Wikipedia

Imagine the great writers of literature researched through Wikipedia, a result of a great movement of time or a breakdown in knowledge? One decade ago, time and effort would have been spent to research literary greats such as Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Keats. Now, for those who own a computer/laptop (which is mostly everyone), you do not even need to move to find out this information. Free, easy access and fast are the pros of Wikipedia. Reliability and accuracy are the cons. You would think these important cons would overrule these pros but I guess not when you live in a society that wants answers quick and easy.

I first started to question Wikipedia while studying A-levels; for one thing, all the teachers were against it. I could never really understand why. Then when assigned to do research on the internet, Wikipedia was the first to appear by Google. I didn’t think twice about going on to it, I had found my information, and then decided to compare it to other websites. In comparison with 3 other websites, Wikipedia was the only one with an answer that didn’t match up, “defenders of Wikipedia argue that mistakes and deliberate misuse are rapidly picked up and corrected”1.

To be honest mistakes should not be allowed to be put up in the first place. Now being at University, when doing internet research it doesn’t even cross my mind to look at Wikipedia. The lecture and session only enhanced my dislike towards Wikipedia. I understand that it can be a good base for knowledge, as a type of summary for your chosen research topic and that it should be critically reviewed. However I believe if you are really passionate and determined to find out good accurate information, you should put the time and effort into the research.

Much of the information on Wikipedia is mediocre. It can be based on peoples’ opinions, which can lead to the influence of wrong portrayals of others. Another aspect of this issue which struck me in the seminar is the Jordan v. Selim case “The entry on British Glamour model Jordan is more than twice as long as the article on Selim, ruler of the ottoman empire from 1512 to 1520 and conqueror of Palestine and Egypt”2. It just made me think, is this what the society is coming to, caring more about minor celebrities than one of the history greats.

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I firmly believe we should trust the traditions of books and reliable websites (with evident sources), rather than information which is based on just the majority opinion. When reading an essay written by Martin Cohen an interesting point was made; “Journalists doing research turn to Wikipedia. Students write essays based on its entries. Professors grab lecture notes from it”3. Full of irony, don’t you think? Are they not the ones who hold high prestige for their research skills? Just imagine, 10 years from now: a university student basing their essay on ‘The works of Wikipedia’. Embarrassing, I think so.