Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Research on the Free Web Tutorial: D. Things to know about Wikipedia

Community means people

Editing Wikipedia is fun.  Be the first to write an obscure but locally or personally significant entry - it's a blast.  Power to the 99%.  The majority of articles in Wikipedia aren't controversial, and so they're not locked down in any way.  Go ahead, add your -- thoughtful -- two cents.

Objectively Good Articles

We're happy to report that there are some really, really good articles in Wikipedia. Also some kinda good articles and a whole bunch of mediocre ones.  Sadly, you'll also find some real losers.  So how do you know which is which?  Mostly, you have to decide for yourself.  But you'll have some help: Wikipedians want you to know which are the fabulous articles, so they bestow awards on the best ones. 

Look for their "featured article" icon and their "good article" icon 

Commonly Vandalized Articles

Articles on topics which are targets of vandalism are subject to Wikipedia's protection policy.  These are frequently on socially controversial issues or people.

  • "Fully Protected" : can be edited by an administrator (which you must apply to be).
  • "Semi Protected" : can be edited by anyone who is "auto-confirmed" - a Wikipedia account user who's made at least 10 edits in 4 days
  • Other protection categories are less common

"Semi-protected" -- pretty low bar, huh? So while the casual vandal might be deterred, the determined vandal can usually find a way in. Wikipedia articles get hacked all the time. They get corrected pretty fast, but still. Good to keep in mind when deciding how much to trust Wikipedia for certain topics.

Public Vandalism

People have used Wikipedia to play jokes or make a point.  Here are some examples if you're interested:

To sum up: as much as we all love to use it, there are real and valid reasons why Wikipedia has the reputation it does among academics. You can't just stick your head in the sand and ignore them! Hopefully our tour has taught you to approach Wikipedial critically, but also demonstrated the tremendous quantity of valuable material that may be sensibly used in the academic environment.


End of Module 3


Previous  /  Begin Module 4