Reading Wikipedia

I’ve been taught from a young age to be skeptical of Wikipedia – and so I always am. And though I am always skeptical, Wikipedia is still a go-to for quick, basic information – I tend to assume that people know and post accurate information on these subjects.

With that being said, there are many ways to question a Wikipedia article to get more out of it. If you want to really understand an article on Wikipedia, you can use tools on the page to delve into the process of the page’s creation.

First: Scan the page for its organization. See how it’s divided and what the sections are.  If you know anything about this topic, do the subjects given provide a holistic view of the topic? Is anything missing?

Second: Read the page. Note when you have questions, or if you find some piece of information to be wrong. How might you right this article differently if you were an editor?

Third: Note any and all citations. Are there citations in the article? If there are citations, what is being cited? What kinds of references are being used? Are they scholarly or not?

Fourth: Search and scan the edit history. You can do this by clicking the “View History” tab at the top of the webpage. This page will show you all of the edits made to this page and who made them.  How has the page changed over time? Who are the primary contributors? Can you find out any information about them? Are they reliable editors? Would they have any bias in editing this article? You can also search the edits by editor to see all of their edits on the page. Is there a topic they focus on specifically?

Fifth: Find out what sections have been most contested on the page by clicking on the “Talk” heading at the top left of the page. You can view discussions between editors on aspects of the page. On what topics do they conflict the most?

If you’re primarily using Wikipedia for quick and basic information, you may find this to be not helpful. But if you want to better understand the information you’re reading on Wikipedia, there are many tools you can use to get a better understanding of the page. Experiment with these tools – the information you can gain is never ending.

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