Why Wikipedia is not Considered to be a Good Source for Academic Writing

The word “wiki” means “quick” in Hawaiian. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “wiki” as a web site allowing for visitors to make changes in the content of the web page. There are many different kinds of wikis, some private, some open to the public. Wikipedia is an open, online dictionary that allows anybody to sign in and contribute to a web page. There are now about 75,000 contributors to Wikipedia, with the number growing daily.

With this many contributors, the information for any web page in Wikipedia is always changing. The people who contribute information can do so anonymously, therefore withholding the credibility of the author in question.

Indeed, Wikipedia states that “Older articles tend to grow more comprehensive and balanced; newer articles may contain misinformation, unencyclopedic content, or vandalism. Awareness of this aids obtaining valid information and avoiding recently added misinformation.” (Italics are mine.) How are people to judge the validity of the information? The question becomes even murkier if one looks at the next “Pillar” of Wikipedia.

The next Pillar of Wikipedia is that anyone, regardless of background, can edit or modify other articles as long as they respect copyright laws and do not plagiarize. People who have no experience in an area may either edit or write on a new subject as long as they provide sources for their information. However, as stated before, newer articles may contain misinformation or even be subject to vandalism.

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, academic writing examples include dissertations, thesis, and other works of knowledge. These aforementioned two reasons, or “Pillars”, lead to violation of these assumptions of academic writing. The source material for an academic article must not contain misinformation or, even worse, vandalism. Academic writing demands integrity of data and verification of source material. There must be a formal review process, one aspect that Wikipedia lacks.

Furthermore, Wikipedia original research. Instead, it relies on books, magazines, and newspapers for its content. The bias is determined in the “Discussion” section of the web page, where authors can suggest that other authors rewrite or remove parts of their information. This can be a long process, oftentimes leading to lingering questions about the validity and bias of the content of a Wikipedia web page.

The process by which Wikipedia allows people to gather and verify its information makes it an unreliable source for works of knowledge that require formal review for credibility and integrity. The information is in always “in flux” as one YouTube video stated, making Wikipedia an inappropriate source of information for academic writing.