Wikimedia press releases/Northwest Trail

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Northwest Trail

Please approve by end of day Feb. 8


Would you consider Wikipedia a valid source for a collegiate research paper? How does wikipedia maintain accuracy in its articles?
Wikipedia is a great resource for students to get a good overview of a topic, but it should not be cited in papers or exams since it is not an authoritative source. Wikipedia is a great place to start your research, but it shouldn't be used as the final word.
There are several reasons for this. First, it is usually not advisable at the university level to cite an encyclopedia. Second, because Wikipedia is a "wiki", articles are never complete and can be edited by nearly anyone with access to the web. It is a continuous working draft copy; there is no guarantee an article is 100% correct at any time. We always recommend that students check statements of fact from Wikipedia against other sources when it is important.
Having said that, in the fall of 2005, Nature magazine published an article that compared some 40 Wikipedia articles to Encyclopaedia Britannica articles. The comparison found that the average Wikipedia article contained four inaccuracies, while the average Britannica entry contained three. This lead the magazine to claim that "the difference in accuracy was not particularly great."


What would you say to a professor that doubted Wikipedia's validity as a scholarly source?
I would say that they are sensible, and is obviously trying to teach their students how to discriminate between different types of sources, when conducting scholarly research. That is the sign of a solid professor and academic.


What would you consider to be the primary function or service that Wikipedia provides to its users?
Wikipedia empowers every single human being with the ability to share in the sum of all knowledge. It is a haven for lovers of knowledge, where they can be introduced to new topics, while at the same time share what they know.


What advice would you give to a student using Wikipedia as a resource?
Be a scholar - fact check anything you find in Wikipedia (or any other place for that matter) against other sources before you accept it as fact. As a true scholar, you should always be wary of any one single source, or of multiple works that derive from a single source. Taking an active part in the learning process is critical.
Many journalists have commented that they love Wikipedia, because its the universal backgrounding resource, but journalist are also trained to treat all sources critically. Students will get value from Wikipedia by taking the same approach.


I have heard that certain articles, particularly political articles, have a tendency to get spun in an inaccurate way, could you tell me more about that? Is there any controls on who edits Wikipedia's articles?
Our goal is to ensure that all articles have a neutral point of view. However, because of the nature of Wikipedia, articles are never "complete and final." Wikipedia's articles are continually being edited and improved over time, and in general this results in an upward trend of quality and a growing consensus over a fair and balanced representation of information. While we have a group of vigilant and committed editors, we encourage individuals to "be bold" and correct any errors that they see. Wikipedia is a project made by the community for the community.
While our editors are usually efficient at finding and correcting errors, they unfortunately have been spending much more time combating vandals, spammers and marketers, who pose a real threat to the quality of our articles. This is unfortunate, since it takes away precious time from our editors that they could be using to improve and further develop Wikipedia.