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Evaluate Information

Criteria to consider in evaluating information, including websites, regardless of the format in which it appears.

Strengths of Wikipedia

This page is adapted from "Wikipedia: Strengths and Weaknesses." 17 Jun. 2015. pitt.libguides, University of Pittsburgh. Web. 17 Jun. 2015.

  • Wikipedia is freely accessible, providing information on millions of topics to anyone with Internet capabilities.
  • Wikipedia is constantly updated by the hour. In comparison, subscription encyclopedias might only be updated annually or less frequently.
  • Wikipedia might be a starting point, providing background information on your topic and possible keywords to help you conduct more in-depth research through library databases and other sources.
  • The sources cited can provide more pathways for further investigation into your topic.

Weaknesses of Wikipedia

  • Anyone can create, edit, or delete Wikipedia articles.
  • Articles are works-in-progress, meaning changes are constantly occuring to the information.
  • When an article is first published, the information might waver back and forth between viewpoints before achieving a neutral tone. Viewing the behind-the-scenes discussion can be a valuable way of learning about those varying perspectives.
  • Sometimes articles are vandalized, whether for fun, as a hoax, or because the subject is controversial.
  • The intended audience can vary-- some articles are written from a insider's view, with highly technical language, while some are written for a more general audience. This can be both frustrating and valuable depending on what one is looking for, and either way is a warning sign that the information can be inconsistent.
  • Wikipedia articles cannot be considered scholarly, because we don't necessarily know anything about the contributors. See What is a Scholarly Journal?