Thursday, January 10, 2013

Wikipedia? Pretty Accurate

Recent research presents an interesting view on Wikipedia that challenges traditionally held beliefs, including those of Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales who stated that the site should not be cited for academic purposes (Clauson, 2008, p. 1815).  The epistemological approach by Fallis (2008) was an interesting study of the usefulness of Wikipedia compared to other available sites.  This methodology is different than the approach taken by Giles (2005) which compared Wikipedia to the Encyclopedia Britannica which found that they were comparable.  The methodology of Clauson (2008) evaluated the information on Wikipedia to an authoritative medical database and found that it, too, compared favorably. 

Royal and Kapila’s (2009) study from an LIS perspective found that Wikipedia performed well although there were some biases detected.  This conflicted with two other LIS studies, Cronin, 2005 and Gorman, 2007 (as cited in Fallis, 2008) that found Wikipedia unreliable.  Overall, the consensus was that Wikipedia was reliable, errors were corrected quickly, but that its information was incomplete. (see e.g., Clauson, 2008; but see Hjorland, 2011). 

The overall conclusion by Clauson is the best evaluation of Wikipedia:  that it serves as an excellent “point of engagement” (Clauson, 2008, p. 1815) for initiating research. 


Brown, A. (2011).Wikipedia as a Data Source for Political Scientists: Accuracy and Completeness of Coverage. Political Science, 2:339-343. 

Clauson, K., Polen, H., Boulos, M.N.K., and Dzenowagis, J.H. (2008). Scope, completeness, and accuracy of drug information in Wikipedia. The Annals of Pharmacotherapy ,42 :1814-1821. 

Fallis, D, (2008). Toward an epistemology of Wikipedia.  Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 59: 1662-1674. 

Giles, J. (2005). Internet encyclopaedias go head-to-head. Nature, 438: 900-901. 

Hjørland, Birger. (2011). Evaluation of an information source illustrated by a case study: Effect of screening for breast cancer. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 62:1892–1898. 

Royal, C., & Kapila, D. (2009). What's on Wikipedia, and what's not … ?: Assessing completeness of information. Social Science Computer Review, 27: 138-148.

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