The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #99952   Message #1998715
Posted By: Don Firth
16-Mar-07 - 12:27 PM
Thread Name: BS: Wikipedia Boo-Boo
Subject: RE: BS: Wikipedia Boo-Boo
I can't recall now whether it was Nature or Science magazine, but one of the two published an article some months ago about the accuracy of Wikipedia. They chose about twenty entries at random on academic and scientific subjects (as opposed to pop-star biographies or political entries—which, incidentally, usually include a tag warning that this article is biased) and compared them with entries on the same subjects in the Encyclopedia Britannica. This comparison of articles was conducted by acknowledged experts in the various fields in question.

They found that the Wikipedia entries contained an average of four inaccuracies or mistakes. The entries in the Encyclopedia Britannica contained an average of three inaccuracies or mistakes. But—the survey noted that the entries in Wikipedia were generally considerably longer and contained more information than those in Britannica. Along with this, the info in Wikipedia was, in general, more up to date. So they declared it a wash. A tie.

They also noted that errors in Wikipedia entries can be corrected within minutes, whereas errors in Britannica have to wait for the next revision, or the yearbook, to be corrected. This is an immense advantage over hard-copy encyclopedias. Another immense advantage is that Wikipedia is free and it pops onto your screen with a few mouse-clicks. A full set of the Encyclopedia Britannica at Amazon lists for $520.00, and shipping weight is 144.8 lbs.

I recently had a couple of articles published in a music magazine on the early history of troubadours and wandering minstrels. I found Wikipedia to be an excellent source of information, and it steered me in a number of directions that it might not have occurred to me to investigated had it not been for the various links it offered. I also have a fairly substantial hard-copy library on the same subject, so all of my facts were checked and cross-checked.

NO source of information, no matter how authoritative, should be accepted wholesale. Cross-check with other sources, and during the whole research process, make sure your brain is in gear.

Don Firth