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Wikipedia: Strengths and Weaknesses

Find out more about Wikipedia and its strengths and weaknesses as a research tool.

Strengths

1. Wikipedia is completely free, providing access to information on millions of topics to anyone with Internet capabilities.

2. Wikipedia is constantly updated by the hour. In comparison, print encylopedias are usually updated annually.

3. Wikipedia is a great place to start your research, giving you background information on your topic and possible keywords to help you conduct more in-depth research elsewhere.

4. Sources used in the articles are cited, allowing further investigation into any topic.

Weaknesses

1. Anyone can create, edit, or delete Wikipedia articles.

2. Wikipedia articles cannot be considered scholarly, because we know nothing about the contributors. [Definition of Scholarly Articles]

3. Articles are works-in-progress, meaning changes are constantly occuring to the information. When an article is first published, the information might waver back and forth between viewpoints before achieving a neutral tone. Viewing the behind-the-scenes discussion can be a valuable way of learning about those varying perspectives.

4. Sometimes articles are vandalized, whether for fun, as a hoax, or because the subject is controversial.

5. The intended audience can vary-- some articles are written from a insider's view, with highly technical language, while some are written for a more general audience. This can be both frustrating and valuable depending on what one is looking for, and either way is a warning sign that the information can be inconsistent.

Wikipedia Mistakes