We know Wikipedia is a student favourite…and what’s not to like? It’s an encyclopedia…right? Encyclopedias are great sources of information…right? Right! However…there’s just a little catch! Most encyclopedias employ a whole bunch of respected experts to create their content…that’s what makes them so reliable. Wikipedia, on the other hand, can be edited by anyone…expert and dummy alike! Even Wikipedia is up front about this! Take a look at their disclaimer!
But don’t despair…you can still use Wikipedia…it’s a great place to start your research and can be used to point you toward other useful sources on your subject. Try it yourself right now – search Wikipedia for any subject, but bypass all that questionable user-created content and scroll right down to the bottom of the article.
You are looking for three sections: References, Further Reading, and External Links. The References list gives you the authorities for bits of information that Wikipedia users have added to the entry – so you can go straight to the source instead of relying on someone else’s interpretation. Further Reading gives you a list of suggested books and articles on the subject. External Links is a list of websites on the topic that Wikipedia users have recommended. If you are looking for web resources, this can be a great shortcut to relevant info that might not pop up right away in a Google search.
Of course, it is important to remember that any resource you use should be critically evaluated. An easy way to remember the criteria for evaluating web resources is the acronym COPE: Currency, Objectivity, Purpose, Expertise. For some more guidelines on how to use these criteria, take a look at this helpful guide from TheBRAIN.
Any questions about finding or evaluating resources? Just Ask Us.