What is Wikipedia?

What is Wikipedia? It’s that information database that rests among the top results of just about every search term you type into Google. This article explains exactly what Wikipedia is, and why so much controversy surrounds its accuracy.

Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that covers just about any topic you can think of. It is an international information database that is available in many languages. It is operated by the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit company. The articles on Wikipedia can be edited by anyone with internet access. That means that someone with a PhD in literature could write an article on literary theory, and a twelve-year old could later “edit” that article.

Though Wikipedia is commonly cited by reputable news companies, its reliability is often a major topic of debate. The main reason for this debate stems from their policy of allowing anyone to edit their articles. Editors are not required to have qualifications or expertise, and, often, this has lead to both biased and incorrect articles. College professors rarely accept Wikipedia articles as scholarly sources and usually encourage students against its use. However, Wikipedia operators insist that experts eventually correct any inaccuracies.

The debate over Wikipedia’s credibility has spawned anti-Wikipedia websites. One such website, WikiWatch.com, lists Wikipedia articles that are biased and incorrect. Others, such as Uncyclopedia.org, serve as a Wikipedia parody.

However, Wikipedia remains one of the top-ranked websites in Google’s search engine. That means, more often than not, Wikipedia will be one of the first results listed when you search for a term that is explained in their database.

Though Wikipedia may not be the most scholarly or reputable source of information, it is a good resource for finding general information on topics that are not covered in traditional encyclopedias. Most of Wikipedia’s articles are followed by citations and links to reputable websites. Additionally, having some basic knowledge on a topic can guide a user to more detailed search terms.

The benefit of Wikipedia is that it is a source of information. Even if certain articles are biased or inaccurate, most articles are more helpful than the other 95% of websites that disguise advertisements as information.

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