Falling exam passes blamed on Wikipedia 'littered with inaccuracies'

WIKIPEDIA and other online research sources were yesterday blamed for Scotland’s falling exam pass rates.

The Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC) said pupils are turning to websites and internet resources that contain inaccurate or deliberately misleading information before passing it off as their own work.

The group singled out online encyclopedia. Wikipedia, which allows entries to be logged or updated by anyone and is not verified by researchers, as the main source of information


I would not say that falling grades are the result of Wikipedia. However, Wikipedia does not help. Wikipedia can be a good starting point BUT I would not stop there, making it my only source. It’s way to easy to change articles on Wikipedia. That only makes it an untrustworthy source of information. Whenever I do research online I try to stay away from it. If there does not appear to be any other good sources than I will take a look and see what Wikipedia has to say.

Falling grades are blamed on bad teachers and lazy students. To blame Wikipedia is ridiculous.

It’s not just Wiki.

The whole Internet is full of errors. Numerous friends have said that all of their research is based on internet searches.

But, I’ve been to places and witnessed things and years later looked them up on the Internet and the names, dates and places shown on Internet sources were out and out wrong.

Even library sources are not always 100% accurate, so data and information need to be cross checked.

But the total dependence on Internet sources added to the lack of cross-checking combined with the fact that most people just don’t know how to use a library reference room all conspire to produce gross errors.

SUGGESTION: Visit a library reference room and chat with the reference librarian. Ask about how to cross-check some facts and information that you are using in a paper.

It’s actually fun and you pick up extraneous interesting information.

The internet is actually an information cowpath. Which perforce includes this website.


I love to show this video to students. If they rely on Wikipedia after seeing it, it’s their own fault. comedycentral.com/colbertreport/videos.jhtml?videoId=72347

Gone are the days when instructors would specifically exclude certain sources as acceptable?

I remember when I was a kid being told that encyclopedias could not be used as primary sources (though I could use cites from the article to find their source, and if I found that, I could use it). All it’d take is saying “Encyclopedias are not acceptable source material. Wikipedia is a variant encyclopedia.” Also disallowed were magazines that weren’t of the scientific journal variety (Time, Newsweek, US News & World Report, et. al were disallowed except for specific instances in which the subject was a current event.) Internet as source wasn’t an issue when I was a kid, but it doesn’t seem hard to figure out how to restrict acceptable/unacceptable sources (well, simply say “these are acceptable, these others are unacceptable, and all others must be approved by instructor before use” since there’s a gazillion sites and no one can know everything available), unless the instructor just wants to go w/ “these are acceptable, all others are unacceptable”.

I agree w/ Al Masetti–make friends with your local reference librarian. Those I’ve met are happy to teach how to check and evaluate sources.

Here in Massachusetts teachers have warned their students, if they use Wikipedia for their reference, they must provide the sources that they used to investigate that Wikipedia was indeed accurate.


If students were taught how to reason, it would dawn on them that Wikipedia was not the place to go for information. IMO, it is an opinion forum that may, or may not, contain fact.

A study was made comparing the accuracy of Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica, and Wikipedia had no more errors than the Encyclopedia Britannica. I can understand the fear of the web among educators because there are many websites with fraudulent information. Anyone, including a school child, can put up a website which those who carelessly rely on the web can draw on. All the same, I thing that probably that hostility to wikipedia which I see in my own case among librarians ( which I am myself) comes from a reverence for books which causes them to misjudge wikipedia.

Came across an article today that seriously critiques the inaccuracy of Wikipedia.


The link will expire pretty quickly, so here’s the article; it’s pretty concise.


August 24, 2008 –
Broadway runs east of Seventh Avenue north of 45th Street. Donald Trump owns an office building on Sixth Avenue. Lee Brown, the early 1990s police commissioner who presided over the highest murder rate in the city’s history, was a hero in the war against crime.

In what otherwordly New York City can this be true? In the wacky world of Wikipedia, the engine of ignorance “compiled by volunteers” and masquerading as a legitimate reference work. Its unreliability is not exactly news - it’s the bane of educators who must teach pupils not to trust it.

For all its popularity, Wikipedia is an agent of intellectual negation, based on the seditious idea that truth is subjective. Let anyone weigh in on the Boer War, or cyclotrons, or hula hoops - surely, the theory goes, if mistakes are made, they’ll be promptly corrected by more knowledgeable contributors to the site or by in-house editors.

But it’s a joke. To prove it to yourself, just check out any subject you happen to know well - as I did on New York City real estate and restaurants, which I write about in The Post every week.

I am also an editor, and in this capacity I confess to consulting Wikipedia on such essential matters as which actress plays which bimbo in “Gossip Girl.” Thanks to its habit or posting press releases, Wikipedia can actually be useful when it comes to pop cultural sensations of the here and now.

But when it comes to the city’s geography and streetscape, Wikipedia can be wildly out of date - like its notoriously wrong-headed story on Hunts Point, which (to the neighborhood’s dismay) cites 20-year old crime data.

Other entries read like dumb bus-tour guides’ off-base spiels. One states that the East Village “is considered part of the Lower East Side” - by morons, maybe, but not by anyone who has ever crossed Houston Street. Nor was the East Village “formerly known as the Bowery.”

It would take all the space on this page to straighten out the Times Square article’s zany misconstruing of past history and ignorance of how its present-day current condition came to be. But for a hint of how out-to-lunch it is, just check out the top photo depicting the scene looking south from 45th Street. The caption helpfully mixes up Broadway and Seventh Avenue, perhaps accounting for the dazed look of confused tourists I see there every day.

Count on Wikipedia to omit the most important single fact on a given subject. Of the New York Palace Hotel, it says former owner Harry Helmsley hired architect Emery Roth to design a 55-story tower to “blend in” with the historic Villard Houses at the site. Of course, although the entry’s writers (maybe the hotel PR people?) don’t mention it, Helmsley, over a period of years, infamously tried to demolish the Villard Houses - a widely reported preservation saga of the 1970s that’s common knowledge to locals, but unknown to Wikipedia.

Because anyone can tap into the site and put in his or her two cents, it’s not uncommon for an article to contradict itself. Anyone trying to learn about the Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center site will end up with a headache hoping to figure out what the endless entry is trying to say.

It’s such an incoherent maze of mangled chronology and outright falsehoods, you don’t know where to laugh first. For starters, there’s no “residential tower” planned at Ground Zero. A museum will not highlight “many of the different aspects of the past and future World Trade Centers.” The Port Authority did not “organize a competition through the LMDC” to come up with a master plan in 2002 - it was entirely the work of the LMDC.

Wikipedia is no smarter about our power players than our landmarks. Donald Trump’s entry says he “completed” 1290 Sixth Ave., an office building he neither built, owns nor has anything to do with. Wikipedia says he “bought and renovated” 40 Wall in 1996 for $35 million. The real story is that Trump famously bought the then-vacant property for a chump-change $1 million in 1995 and fixed it up later.

Stupider yet, the article snarks that although Trump values 40 Wall at $400 million, city tax officials assess it at just $90 million. Such assessed valuations have nothing to do with a building’s market value. But how would untrained contributors unfamiliar with the most basic principles of real estate know that?

At its worst, Wikipedia dangerously rewrites history. Take the entry on Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. When Kelly replaced Lee Brown as commissioner under Mayor David Dinkins in the early 1990s, we are told he “saw the continuing reduction of crime that started with Lee Brown’s community policing concept.”

Most New Yorkers who recall that period will guffaw at that, but readers outside the city or newly arrived might take it as true. In fact, although crime dipped ever so slightly in Dinkins’ last 18 months in office, it assuredly did not under Kelly’s predecessor, a top cop so lame he was widely ridiculed as “Out of Town” Brown.

Nor is it true that Kelly “aggressively pursued quality of life issues such as the squeegee men” - that didn’t start until Rudy Giuliani was elected and he made Bill Bratton his first police commissioner. Wikipedia unfathomably goes on to say the new Giuliani administration tried to “minimize the effect of the crime-fighting policies already in place.” Wha?

Nowhere is Wikipedia worse than when it comes to the history of this newspaper. Its malicious and ignorant essay on the New York Post starts off by saying, “Since 1976, it has been owned by Australian-born billionaire Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.”

Except, of course, that for six well-chronicled years it was not - from 1988-mid-1993, a period that was crucial in the paper’s history and was the subject of a book I wrote, “It’s Alive!” Wikipedia lifts one irrelevant quote from it without mentioning the book, but attributing it to me as “executive editor” - a title I have not held in 15 years.

The dimwitted entry claims The Post’s famous 1983 front-page headline, “Headless Body in Topless Bar,” was written by a onetime employee named Paul Beeman. In fact, it’s a matter of historical record that the headline was written by then-managing editor VA Musetto (who is today The Post’s film editor and Cine File columnist).

Mr. Beeman - a low-level editor on the midnight-8 a.m. shift - did not even work at The Post in 1983. But why should that matter in Wikipedia’s world, where anyone can say anything about anyone or anything, and call it truth?

Anecdotal evidence alert

I have a 2006 edition of the Britannica, and here’s what it says about my home town, Elkhart, Indiana:

It lies at the confluence of the St. Joseph and Elkhart rivers, just west of South Bend.

In fact, Elkhart lies about 15 miles EAST of South Bend.

Lesson: don’t believe any information source. Corroborate, corroborate, corroborate.

Edit: Wikipedia put Elkhart in the right place.


I sometimes use wikipedia as a start, but I use the underlying citations if credible. Even then, I do not use those as my only sources.

Saying that, the wikipedia entry on my late cousin who played in the CFL is completely accurate.

Actually lawyers in England have been warned about relying on Wikipedia!

"Evidence has emerged that increasing numbers of solicitors, from trainees to senior partners, are putting clients and their own practices at possible risk by using collaboratively written online encyclopaedia Wikipedia. Google and other search engines for legal research".

No kidding.

One only has to look at most entries in Wikipedia relating to God or Jesus to get an idea that it is not the most reliable source for anything!

As you all know, I’m an aviation enthusiast.

So one day I looked up a specific specially made airplane because I had seen two of them at a certain hot spot parked right there in the sun right in front of everyone. That particular year, I saw them on January 10th (plus or minus a day or two) … when I got off an airliner. And they were parked just a few feet away.

The Wiki article state that they arrived there several months later.

So you need to be careful … you can get tripped up on the picky details.

I’ve learned more from wikipedia than I have did from school.

You just need to learn how to read the works cited at the bottom.

There you go.

I’m an editor/contributor for Wikipedia and have developed several pages for Wikipedia, as well as having edited and contributed to several other, already established, pages.

All I can say is be very careful with Wikipedia. There is no guarantee that the information is accurate.

Here is a page I developed : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_Trac

Many of the photos posted were actually taken by me, the sources verified by me, the technical information came from my collection of files of manuals and from my own experience as an owner of that particular machine. I personally own one of the largest Snow Trac toy collections, plus one of the largest Snow Trac literature collections, I own an actual Snow Trac, and run the largest Snow Trac internet forum known but even with those qualifications I’ve had people come to that page and change it several times, adding inaccurate information (which I believe they thought was true?) or deleting factual information (which I must assume they thought was inaccurate?).

All I can tell you is that if you trust Wikipedia then you are foolish. If you allow your children to use Wikipedia as a primary source, then you are a fool. Its not a bad reference tool, but it is not the Gospel. :eek:

Here is a Wikipedia link on the subject. :smiley:

Wikipedia can be a great tool for learning and researching information. However, as with 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 (in any medium — web, print, television or radio), 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.
*]In all academic institutions, Wikipedia, along with most encyclopedias, is unacceptable as a major source for a research paper. Other encyclopedias, such as Britannica, have notable authors working for them and may be cited as a secondary source in most cases. For example, Cornell University has a guide on how to cite encyclopedias.[/LIST]However, because of Wikipedia’s unique nature, there are also some rules for conducting research that are special to Wikipedia, and some general rules that do not apply to Wikipedia.

Citing Wikipedia

Main article: Wikipedia:Citing Wikipedia
First you should question the appropriateness of citing any encyclopedia as a source or reference. This is not simply a Wikipedia-specific issue, as most secondary schools and institutions of higher learning do not consider encyclopedias, in general, a proper citable source. Citation of Wikipedia in research papers has been known to result in a failing grade.[2][3]

This does not mean Wikipedia is not useful: Wikipedia articles contain many links to newspaper articles, books with ISBN numbers, radio programming, television shows, Web-based sources, and the like. It will usually be more acceptable to cite those original sources rather than Wikipedia since it is, by nature, a secondary source. At the same time, simple academic ethics require that you should actually read the work that you cite: if you do not actually have your hands on a book, you should not misleadingly cite it as your source.

I think this is good advice, but I’m a little skeptical since it’s on Wikipedia. :stuck_out_tongue:


There you go.

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