I was working on an editing project this week that involves replacing expired or unacceptable references with credible source links. One of the replacement references I thought might work well was an entry from Harvard University. How can you go wrong with an Ivy League citation, right?
It couldn’t be used because the sources for the instructional PDF included a few Wikipedia entries. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia Aside from being disappointed that the source search had to continue because Wikipedia is not considered an approved reference by my client, I was amazed that Harvard would base material taught in a course on the first thing that pops up when you google almost any topic these days: Wikipedia.
Last night I came to the end of Deepak Chopra’s fantastic and fascinating “Life after Death: The Burden of Proof.” Writer-geek that I am, I as usual perused all the credits and acknowledgements. Guess what? Chopra’s a Wikipedia user, too! http://https://www.deepakchopra.com/gallery
I’m not bashing Wikipedia. It’s handy, fast and many entries are comprehensive, correct and cohesive. Using it routinely would make my editing life much easier. But truth be told, sometimes you have to dig to come up with substantiated facts rather than relying on the first entry — or first page of entries — that show in your search. Sometimes you need more than Wikipedia, even if just for use in your personal life. For example, I turn to mayoclinic.com (http://www.mayoclinic.org/) rather than simply googling a medical condition. In general I’m just more comfortable with the information I receive from sites that end in .edu or .org. Other red flags include sites with a lot of advertising and poorly written and misspelled material that does not demonstrate language competency. I base my decisions on whether information is credible on journalistic instinct, education and training. It all goes back to the adage: Don’t believe everything you read.
What about you? Do you use Wikipedia for research or writing?