Wikipedia: the good and the bad


Research Tips

First Published: 18 April 2016

Author: Helen Stower

Opinions differ about the usefulness of Wikipedia as a source of information for research.  At Mt Alvernia, we teach students that it depends on the quality of individual articles and show them how to find the grade of the article on the Wikipedia Quality Scale before deciding if they are going to use the information or not. 


The highest status an article can reach on the Wikipedia Quality Scale is that of Featured Article.  Featured articles are reviewed for accuracy, neutrality, completeness and style by Wikipedia’s editors and are considered to be of encyclopaedic quality.  These articles are no longer open for public editing and can be trusted as reliable sources of information during the early stages of an investigation.  Featured Articles can be easily identified by the bronze star icon that appears in the top right of the article.


Students need to be very judicious when using non-featured content on Wikipedia and consulting the Quality Scale is essential.  The reason Wikipedia has a bad reputation for information that is untrustworthy is because many of the articles are open to editing by any user.  A humorous example of this occurred recently when a twelve-year-old boy, Orley Fenelon, installed himself as Prime Minister of Australia.