Crowd-sourced Information: Is It Reliable?

Dating isn’t the only thing that has become streamlined in the internet age. The process of looking up any kind of information, no matter how minor, used to involve heading to the library, searching for the book that held the information you needed and looking through it until you found what you came for. Nowadays, however, we have received a seismic shock in terms of how we’ve gathered and accessed information since the beginning of history. Things that used to be found via books and journals are now readily accessible through the press of a button, from any location in the world, thanks to sites such as Wikipedia. While this has been a huge boost to the accessibility of information, the reliability of it is another issue. There are some who point out that most of what is on the internet is from a secondary source, and since it’s so easy to make things up and post them while claiming they’re legitimate, might not be reliable at all. Is this really true, though?

According to a study conducted by Konan University, the vast majority of information to be found on Wikipedia is “majority information” meaning the most popular information about a subject. For example, sports such as soccer, hockey or basketball are considered “majority sports” while lesser known or widely watched sports would be considered “minority sports”. When entering a search term, it was easy to find majority information on a subject, but minority information was more difficult to find. Another study, conducted by peer-reviewed journal First Monday, asked 258 researchers to read a Wikipedia article in their chosen field and evaluate their credibility. The results showed that Wikipedia’s articles are more credible than other articles written by non-experts, but 13% of overall articles contained errors. A third study looked at the reliability of drug information on Wikipedia, and concluded that the overall accuracy of the information was 99.7%, with the completeness of the information being 83.8% when compared to textbook data.

Based on these studies, we can conclude that Wikipedia is reliable as a source for general or broad information, but when looking for specific academic info it is best to turn to other sources. While there are other crowd-sourced information sites such as Ask.com, Wikipedia is generally accepted as the most popular and the most credible. However, even though Wikipedia is more useful as a popular information source than an academic one, information compilation has already progressed to a point where academic info has been transferred online. Does that make libraries obsolete? Personally, I’d say that depends on the research methods used by this class…

Works Cited

Hattori, Yuki and Nadamoto, Akiya. “Search for Minority Information from Wikipedia Based on Similarity of Majority Information.” Web Technologies and Applications: 14th Asia-Pacific Web Conference (2012): 158-170. Web. 12 June 2012.

Chesney, Thomas. “An empirical examination on Wikipedia’s credibility.” First Monday. First Monday Mag., 24 August 2006. Web. 6 November 2006.

Kräenbring, Jona. “Accuracy and Completeness of Drug Information in Wikipedia: A Comparison with Standard Textbooks of Pharmacology.” PLOS One (2014): n. pag. Web. 24 September 2014