I don’t know about you but I definitely use Wikipedia a lot to help me find information quickly. Whether I need the One Tree Hill episode synopsis or the history of the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Wikipedia is the place to go.
However, this quick search option has a major flaw. The identities of contributors, editors and administrators are unknown which jeopardises the validity of the information presented (Santana & Wood 2009).
We always hear our lecturers, teachers and tutors repetitively tell us that using information from Wikipedia as a reference for an assignment is a bad idea and this is the reason why.
Anonymity opens the door for Wikipedia vandalism.
Wikipedia vandalism is the act of adding, removing or changing the content on Wikipedia in an attempt to compromise the free encyclopaedia’s integrity (Shachaf & Hara 2010).
Take Lady Gaga’s Wikipedia profile for example:
Sorry anonymous Wikipedia author, Lady Gaga is not Madonna’s new alias and I’m pretty sure she was not the first performer to combine sex appeal with music….have you met Ricky Martin?
Yes, Wikipedia is a great source of quick, background information but users need to consciously avoid using its content without an academic source to confirm it.
Santana. A.,Wood. D. (2009). Transparency and social responsibility issues for Wikipedia. Ethics & Information Technology, 11 (2), 133-144. doi: 10.1007/s10676-009-9193-y
Shachaf.P., Hara. N. (2010). Beyond vandalism: Wikipedia trolls. Journal of Information Science. 36 (3), 357-370. doi: 10.11177/0165551510365390