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Library Research Tutorial

When Is Wikipedia Useful?

Wikipedia:

  • Can be a useful place to start when you don't know much about a topic. It can be great for background information,  but for the type of academic research you will be doing at NIC, it is better to use an academic subject encyclopedia from one of the library’s databases already mentioned (Oxford Reference, Canadian Encyclopedia Online, etc).
  • Can be written and edited by anyone. However, unlike the library’s subject encyclopedias, this means the content is dynamic, and can change at any time, and there is no way to guarantee the author’s expertise.

Wikipedia can be safely used in the following ways:

  • As a starting point. Wikipedia can give you background information on a topic, as well as perspectives you can use when formulating a research topic. You should not cite Wikipedia as a source for your research. You should always validate anything you use for research in a reliable source.
  • When you are finding resources. The reference list at the bottom of a Wikipedia page allows you to access many types of sources on the topic, including academic journal articles, news sources, and even primary sources. Even if there are no actual links to these sources, you can search the library databases or Google for full-text copies of articles or books listed.

For more information on contributing to Wikipedia, see Editing and Contributing to Wikipedia, from Cornell University.

For more information on Wikipedia inaccuracies, see: 25 Biggest Blunders in Wikipedia History

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