Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Wikipedia - Is it reliable?

  1. Mar 9, 2006 #1
    I am aware that there are some errors in Wikipedia on the science side.

    My question is how much and how large of errors?

    Do you, the users of PF "trust" the information found at wikipedia?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 9, 2006 #2

    Astronuc

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I believe this question came up in GD sometime during the past year.

    Wikipedia is not a 'controlled' reference, i.e. any member may contribute. Apparently the Wikipedia staff do try to monitor the quality. I have seen several articles that were flagged because the quality of the content or information was not up to Wikipedia's standards, and I have seen several articles where the concern was the 'bias'.

    Yes, I have seen several errors in scientific matters.

    However, Wikipedia is generally a good starting place, but I prefer to verify and cross-reference.

    Other sites include Hyperphysics, in which the content is controlled or access is restricted to a few, and

    http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/
    http://mathworld.wolfram.com/

    as well as other tutorials - see PF Math & Science Tutorials

    I would have liked a third option in the poll - Somewhat.
     
  4. Mar 9, 2006 #3

    ZapperZ

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I have never used Wikipedia as a reliable source, and would never use Wikipedia as a reliable source.

    Zz.
     
  5. Mar 9, 2006 #4
    My english professor told us not to use it for doing research of course, but she also mentioned that a study had been done and a major encylopedia (can't remember which one) was found to have about 4 errors / however many pages while wikipedia had about 6. So I guess you can take that two different ways, either wiki had more errors, or that an encylocepdia isn't much more accurate than wiki is.
     
  6. Mar 9, 2006 #5

    ZapperZ

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    You should read these threads:

    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=104313
    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=103804

    Zz.
     
  7. Mar 9, 2006 #6
    I think Wikipedia is relible.Usaually if there is anything that mods(I'am not sure what call them Wikipeda) aren't sure about being accuarte they put a notice for someone that is expert about the subject like this one:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravitational_radiation
     
  8. Mar 9, 2006 #7

    JamesU

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I have to do a repoton the '50's in class. :groan: and my teacher wouldn't let me use Wikipedia:grumpy:
     
  9. Mar 9, 2006 #8

    Mk

    User Avatar

    Hellz, yeah. Wikipedia is reliable. I'm an addicted Wikipedian, and spend several hours per day writing, editing, and reading articles. If you find an error tell me, I'll fix it if you don't want to. :D :biggrin:
     
  10. Mar 9, 2006 #9

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I think an easy answer to it is that it is reliable for general education college level education and below. Upper division and graduate level and real world requirements are a no-go.

    I say that basically because anything outside of upper div, grad, and the real world is worthless and no one's reputation is at stake
     
  11. Mar 9, 2006 #10

    But would you any regular encyclopedia as one? Such a statement is meaningless without context.

    The only problem I have with Wikipedia (and this is not Wikipedia's fault per se) is that many people think that citation is a form of proof and will cite an erroneous statement from Wikipedia as proof that they are right.
     
  12. Mar 10, 2006 #11

    Mk

    User Avatar

    Yeah, Wikipedia cant' be taken as always right, or fact, but it is great for quick easy reference, and a good hobby. :smile:
     
  13. Mar 10, 2006 #12
    I've used it before but I always check the information elsewhere to make sure it's correct so I put no because I don't think I'd ever feel comfortable, A) using Wikipedia without checking and, B) using Wikipedia and admitting to it in the bibliography.:rofl:
     
  14. Mar 10, 2006 #13

    ZapperZ

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    No. As I've stated in one of the threads I mentioned, I don't use any of the "regular" encyclopedia either.

    But it depends on what is meant as an "encyclopedia". I some time view the CRC Handbook as an encyclopedia. If so, then I do use it often. There is also an encylopedia of superconducting materials. I used to look at that often.

    But here's a problem that Wikipedia has that other encyclopedia doesn't. The information printed in other encyclopedia stays PUT and doesn't change with the printed edition. If there is any update or changes, it will come with newer editions. What this means is that if someone wants to cite that particular information, one includes the edition number and the information will still be there. You can't do that with Wikipedia. You do not know if what you cite will still be there, or in the relevant form, next week, regardless whether the info is accurate or not.

    So if you're writing a school term paper, good luck in citing it. Considering that from the Nature survey, only barely 10% of scientists and researcher surveyed actually looked at Wikipedia (not to be confused with citing it, since this isn't usually done) should tell people something.

    Zz.
     
  15. Mar 10, 2006 #14

    arildno

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    I think Wikipedia is a wonderful knowledge source for interested laymen in diverse fields (not just for science).

    However, the requirements of quality and reliability of source material that professionals need is not met by Wikipedia, and I don't see why Wikipedia should aim at this type of specialized use.
     
  16. Mar 10, 2006 #15

    Mk

    User Avatar

    I never use wikipedia as a reference.
     
  17. Mar 10, 2006 #16

    ZapperZ

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    And that is where we differ.

    If I am Joe Public, and I want to learn about something, while I do not have the ability to comprehend the intimate and intricate detail of that thing, I DO want my source of info to be reliable and accurate. Having it explained in understandable form need not automatically equate to loss of accuracy and reliability. This is a falacy that should not be tolerated.

    If one is happy to accept mediocre information, then one should at least be AWARE of it. Use it at one's risk. But don't expect to be taken seriously when ALL one can do is cite something out of Wikipedia as source to support's one's point or ideas.

    Zz.
     
  18. Mar 10, 2006 #17

    vanesch

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    In general, Wikipedia is quite a good information source. There have been some errors in the past, but _most_ topics I consulted were of rather high quality. I think one has to be careful about controversial topics. Because of the way Wiki is organized, sometimes, entries are "hijacked". Nevertheless, in most of these cases, a warning label is put up.
    I know that there have been some "spectacular" errors or manipulations of Wiki. However, there have been objective tests where scientific entries of Wiki and of the Encyclopedia Brittanica have been anonymously given to experts, and Wiki, and they are of comparable level of quality:

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v438/n7070/full/438900a.html

    Now, of course, for highly specialised material, it is probably better to consult a professional source. But for general information, wiki is probably one of the better information sources available freely on the net.
     
  19. Mar 10, 2006 #18

    Astronuc

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    In terms of reliablity, the fact that Wikipedia is not "controlled" means its reliability is questionable or at least suspect.

    After I made my first post, I used Wikipedia for something and realized -
    Therein lies the problem with respect to 'reliability'.

    I am not as skeptical as Zz, but I keep in mind that I cannot put 'full faith' in Wikipedia. In fact, I don't put 'full faith' in anything - I always question everything.
     
  20. Mar 10, 2006 #19

    arildno

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    If, say, you're interested in getting the general idea of the political situation in China 4 centuries B.C, sure, if you want to invest time&money to find a book by a professional historian that deals with this accurately, then that's what you should do.
    If, however, you want a relatively quick overview without costing you any dollars, then you should use Wikipedia.
    (As a note, I tend to buy works by professional historians, but that's me..)
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2006
  21. Mar 10, 2006 #20

    Astronuc

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Me too! :biggrin:

    Same with my technical books!
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: Wikipedia - Is it reliable?
  1. Wikipedia not working? (Replies: 12)

  2. Not on wikipedia (Replies: 6)

Loading...