விக்கிப்பீடியா:விக்கிப்பீடியாவைக் கொண்டு ஆய்வு
Wikipedia is a great tool for learning and researching information. However, like all sources, not everything in Wikipedia is accurate, comprehensive, or unbiased. Many of the general rules of thumb for conducting research apply to Wikipedia, including:
- Always be wary of any one single source, or of multiple works that derive from a single source.
- Where articles have references to external sources (whether online or not) read the references and check whether they really do support what the article says.
However, there are also some rules for conducting research that are special to Wikipedia, and some general rules that do not apply to Wikipedia.
Notable strengths of Wikipediaதொகு
Wikipedia has certain advantages over other reference works. Being web-based and having a very large number of active writers and editors, it often provides access to subject matter that is otherwise inaccessible and can also (via its links) be an excellent guide to other relatively authoritative web content. As Wikipedia is a collaborative, ongoing project, one may also ask questions of an article's authors.
Wikipedia often produces excellent articles about newsworthy events within days of their occurrence, such as 11 March 2004 Madrid attacks, 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, Hurricane Frances or the 2005 Belize unrest. Similarly, it is one of the few sites on the web even attempting neutral, objective, encyclopedic coverage of popular culture, including television series or science fiction.
In comparison with most other web-based resources, Wikipedia's open approach tremendously increases the chances that any particular factual error or misleading statement will be relatively promptly corrected.
Notable weaknesses of Wikipediaதொகு
Wikipedia's most dramatic weaknesses are closely associated with its greatest strengths. Wikipedia's radical openness means that any given article may be, at any given moment, in a bad state: for example it could be in the middle of a large edit or it could have been recently vandalized. While blatant vandalism is usually easily spotted and rapidly corrected, Wikipedia is certainly more subject to subtle vandalism than a typical reference work.
Also, much as Wikipedia can rapidly produce articles on timely topics, it is also subject to remarkable oversights and omissions. There is no systematic process to make sure that "obviously important" topics are written about, so at any given time Wikipedia may be wildly out of balance in the relative attention paid to two different topics. For example, it is far more likely that the English-language Wikipedia will have at least some material about any given small U.S. village than about a given moderately-sized city in sub-Saharan Africa.
Another closely related issue is that particular Wikipedia articles (or series of related articles) are liable to be incomplete in ways that would be less usual in a more tightly controlled reference work. Sometimes this is obvious (as with a stub article) but other times it may be subtle: one side of a controversial issue may be excellently presented, while the other is barely mentioned; a portion of someone's life, not always the most notable portion may be covered in detail, while other aspects may be presented only sketchily or not at all; coverage of a country's history may focus on the incidents that drew international attention, or may simply reflect the interest and expertise of some individual writer.
Another problem with a lot of content on Wikipedia is that many contributors do not cite their sources, something that makes it hard for the reader to judge the credibility of what is written.
Use multiple independent sourcesதொகு
Because Wikipedia is licensed under the GFDL, its content is often reproduced, especially online. Researchers should be especially careful that a second article appearing to confirm a Wikipedia article is not (for example) simply a copy of an earlier version.
Special research considerations concerning Wikipediaதொகு
Examine an article's historyதொகு
The process of creating Wikipedia is radically open. As a result, unlike most reference works it is possible that even for a generally excellent and stable article, the latest version at any given moment may be the subject of recent edits which are not of the same quality as the rest of the article.
However, unlike most reference works, you can access the history of the article (previous versions and change comments) and the discussion between the editors who created it. Often, if you have questions about an article or are looking to do in-depth research on a subject, reading the history and talk pages gives you further insight into why the article says what it says and which points of the article (if any) are in dispute and may particularly merit further research.
Wikipedia breathes new life into one of the initial dreams of the World Wide Web: hyperlinks. Hyperlinks allow Wikipedia authors to link any word or phrase to another Wikipedia article, often providing annotations of great value. Background information to an article no longer needs to be limited or even produced by the author of the article. This method has proved to have major limitations on the Internet, because for a variety of reasons links are prone to quickly become obsolete. However, internal links within Wikipedia can be made with confidence, and so Wikipedia serves a web of mutually supporting information.
That said, some articles are probably over-linked: important links may be obscured in a sea of blue, and someone may have linked a word without looking to see whether it leads to anything useful: you may follow up a link and find nothing more than what you just read. In general, this problem is less common in the English-language Wikipedia than in Wikipedias in some other languages.
Wikipedia has had its own user defined category system since the beginning of 2004. The category system is a collaborative categorization system using freely chosen keywords by all contributors to Wikipedia. This feature allows researchers to navigate Wikipedia via categories which can be very useful. However, the current quality of the category system is highly variable. In some topic areas contributors have created detailed and well organised categorisation; while in other topic areas categorisation as either not occurred or has been poorly done.
One of the lesser known, but extremely useful techniques for researching with Wikipedia is the effective use of the "What links here" link which appears on the left side of the screen, as the first item in the box marked "toolbox". This will give you a complete list of other Wikipedia articles which link to the current article. Even if the article you are looking at is a stub — or, more remarkably, if it is a blank article that has not yet been started — numerous related articles may be easily accessible through this feature. Sometimes these backward links will show you ways in which the article you started from is incomplete in one area or another.
Understand Wikipedia's biasesதொகு
No good scholar expects any given reference work to be truly unbiased. Instead, one comes to understand the expected bias of a particular work. For example, in looking at the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, one expects to find some Anglocentric perspectives and attitudes about race, ethnicity, sex, and sexuality that by today's standards seems prudish and perhaps bigoted. In using Collier's Encyclopedia, one should expect a rather Americentric perspective (and probably a lesser degree of scholarship than in Britannica, but a more easily readable style).
Unlike some reference works, Wikipedia's biases are inconsistent. Wikipedians come from all over the world and all walks of life. While we strive to have articles fit a neutral point of view, many articles are not yet there. In fact, two articles on related subjects may have been written by different people and reflect different biases. Even within a single article radically different or conflicting biases may be found. It is also a matter of contention whether certain views are described in a neutral manner.
In this respect, Wikipedia is more like a library (or like the World Wide Web itself) than like a typical reference work. The mere fact that a book is in the library is no guarantee against bias or misinformation. The same can be said of Wikipedia articles. This does not make libraries (or Wikipedia) useless, it just means that they should be approached differently than one approaches a typical reference work.
Wikipedia is not just an encyclopedia; it is also an immense community of active contributors, or Wikipedians. In the history section of each article, you can find out which users contributed what material to an article. In addition, each article has a talk page. If you have questions about the article, asking on its talk page or the talk page of the users who contributed the text will often get your question answered. Then, you and the contributor may update the article to make it clearer for the next researcher.
Probably the most general approach to this is to first put your question on the talk page of the appropriate article, then put a note on the talk page of the relevant contributor or contributors calling their attention to your question.
Questions like this are often very useful to the refinement of articles. If you have a relevant question that was not answered by the article, there is a fair chance that others will need this information also, and it should be added to the article.
In general, you should not expect Wikipedians to contact you by email. Instead, check back to the talk page periodically to see if your question has been answered.
We strongly recommend that if you want to participate in the Wikipedia community you create a Wikipedia account (it's free, you don't need to provide any personal or contact information, and there won't be any spam). If you log in, and if you sign your posts on talk pages with ~~~~, that will be saved on the talk page as an account signature and a timestamp. Posting to talk pages with an account is not only a local social norm, but it makes it possible for you to retain your identity across multiple editing sessions, and avoid being confused with others.
Look for comprehensive reviewதொகு
A small number of English-language Wikipedia articles — most notably, featured articles — have had broad, systematic review. These articles usually remain at a high level of quality, but it is possible (although unlikely) that a previously reviewed article may have deteriorated since the time it received that level of attention.
Wikipedia:WikiReader discusses one of the more ambitious schemes to bring a comparable level of scrutiny to a large number of articles. As of November 2004, there have been no English-language WikiReaders published, although at least two have been issued in German, and a number of English-language WikiReaders are in progress.
Another proposed approach to formally reviewing more articles can be found at Wikipedia:WikiProject Fact and Reference Check; however, this project is still in its infancy, as is Wikipedia:Forum for Encyclopedic Standards.
Despite this shortage of formal review, many articles have had enormous scrutiny. Again, this can often be identified informally by browsing the history and discussion associated with the article.
Main article: Wikipedia:Citing Wikipedia
Owing to the radical openness of Wikipedia decisions about referencing articles must be made on an article by article basis and must be made to a specific version. References should identify a specific version of an article by providing the date and time it was created.
- Wikipedia:Reference desk
- Wikipedia:Reliable sources
- Wikipedia:Why Wikipedia is not so great lists some additional issues about Wikipedia (and what we try to do to mitigate them)
- Criticism of Wikipedia
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