Wikipedia belongs in our bibliographies


Allison Rafert, Opinion Editor

I’ve been told the rule hundreds of times—it is ingrained in my memory and has become an irreversible part of my research skills. Now, whenever I surf the internet, red warning lights go off in my head every time Wikipedia comes up as a search result.
For our entire high school careers, we have been brainwashed into thinking that Wikipedia is not a legitimate source.
Numerous teachers have claimed that Wikipedia is unreliable because it can be edited by anyone who has internet access, making it inherently full of errors and bias. They have decided that Wikipedia is only acceptable for preliminary research but should never be cited in a bibliography.
While it is true that Wikipedia is edited by volunteers, that should not be an excuse to exclude it from students’ works cited pages.
Being an encyclopedia, Wikipedia is simply a summary of primary and secondary sources. But, it is necessary to acknowledge that the school system regularly allows students to cite other encyclopedias in their school work—Wikipedia should not be treated differently.
In fact, Wikipedia is often found to be just as reliable as other encyclopedias, especially with articles that are not about popular culture. When compared to Encyclopaedia Britannica in a 2005 study by Nature, a multidisciplinary scientific journal, an examination of both sources found them to each contain “four serious errors among the 42 articles”. Furthermore, the Journal of Clinical Oncology described Wikipedia as containing “the same level of accuracy and depth in its articles about 10 types of cancer” as a database managed by the National Cancer Institute.
While Wikipedia will never be completely reliable, its quality is certainly comparable to alternate encyclopedias and sources. In fact, Wikipedia may even result in less bias than other sources due to it being maintained by multiple editors. And it is the only encyclopedia that is constantly being updated, while the alternatives become outdated nearly as soon as they are published.
Although, this is not to say that Wikipedia should be the sole source used in a research project—a better argument is always constructed with a synthesis of multiple sources.
When considering Wikipedia as a resource, the benefits it provides certainly outweigh any risks of its volunteer-editing, and it deserves to be quoted from and cited in students’ school work.