Everything on Wikipedia is open for criticism. In this day and age anything you publish whether it be online or in a book, is only considered valid and reliable if it is properly sourced. On Wikipedia some of the information posted at times does not have a credible source to verify the information which ends up making it less reliable. However this most definitely does not mean that nothing on Wikipedia is ever sourced, it would be wrong to say that. There have been numerous Wikipedia pages that I have come across that have information properly sourced. And upon checking some of these sources, I was surprised to see that some were even scholarly articles.
When searching for a Wikipedia page on Canada’s Plastic Bag Policy, it was quite easy. There seems to be a lot of information and different opinions about this topic on Wikipedia. I narrowed my search down to one specific page titled “Plastic Bags”. Based on the article itself and also the ‘Talk’ section of the page it seems clear that the information provided has been carefully referenced and reviewed by multiple Wikipedia editors. The talk page definitely adds to the authenticity of the site in general. The open discussion on the editing and publishing process on the site essentially can reassure users that the information is reviewed and reliable. In the ‘talk’ section there have been numerous people who have critiqued different parts of the article. The editors have in turn provided useful and verifiable information to address their concerns.
From reading the “talk page” it is clear that this article contained bias information. The information on the page favoured one particular type of biodegradable plastic. The article failed to mention any disadvantages this type of plastic might pose to the environment or human health. A few comments mention the key word of this article being at times “bias,” which indicate that they share different opinions then one another. However editors have tried to eliminate this bias by including different alternatives to plastic bags rather than just focusing on biodegradable bags. Under the talk page there are numerous posts and comments concerning the bias nature of the page. The changes or edits made herein have been made to clear the bias and balance the argument. Additional edits made to the page were based on facts and not opinions. The facts and statistics were sourced from credible sources which assured me of the authenticity.
The comments on the Talk page also refer to the fact that the Plastic Bag page on Wikipedia lack specific dates and statistics. Comments state that the writers should also add specific historical dates to the information. One commenter suggests that the text from the webpage has been pulled straight from a website. He or she also makes it a point to state that some citing and backing up of facts and figures mentioned would vastly improve the article. This specific Wikipedia page had links to some sources that were not accessible. There were however a couple of sources that were scholarly articles from academic institutions. I personally would like to see links to proper and accessible sources. If sourcing is done properly then dates and statistics can be added. Without proper links verifying the information the dates and statistics are surely going to be doubted by readers. The links provide the Wikipedia users with a second source to confirm and verify the information stated on the page.
As Jenson states in his article, Wikipedia is one of the most, if not the most, popular information sources for history and all other forms of Internet accessible information (Jenson, 2012). This is the exact reason why Wikipedia is so controversial yet so popular. Wikipedia loaded with basic and primary information for any given topic. The articles are short in length and straight to the point. Wikipedia is extremely user friendly, you can go in find what you need and essentially be out of there within seconds .The reason for the growing popularity of this free encyclopedia is because of the ease of accessibility. Users are able to quickly find general information about a topic they might know nothing about. However the problem most people have with Wikipedia is its reliability. The fact that anyone can change or alter information on a webpage makes Wikipedia less reliable and trustworthy in the eyes of the public. Anyone has the permission to edit entries and this is because of a, as Jenson explains, slim structure and a set of written rules for editing and publishing information. (Jenson, 2012). However its important to remind you what Giles discovered in her analysis of both Britannica and Wikipedia. In the article titled “Internet encyclopedias go head to head” Giles explained an experiment that was done where 42 submissions on the same topic were looked at from both Britannica and Wikipedia, and the mistakes that were found in both were considerably equal. There was an average about 4 mistakes in Wikipedia and around 3 mistakes found in Britannica (Giles, 2005). This really surprised me because we all consider Britannica to be a reliable and trustworthy source. This leaves us with the question of whether we are being too critical of Wikipedia?
Jensen, R. (2012). Military History on the Electronic Frontier: Wikipedia Fights the War of 1812. Journal of Military History. 76, 1. pp 1165-1182
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