Study suggests Wikipedia is accurate … and a little dull


“Those sources usually have more accurate information,” MacDermott said.

MacDermott said he has used Wikipedia for personal and professional queries and found some entries filled with complex lingo catering to experts on a subject, not everyday readers.

“It’s not written at a very readable level. … I think it would be more useful to everybody if it was written in more plain English,” he said, adding that a Wikipedia writer’s inability to use concise sentences and simple words should make college students skeptical of the resource. “[The Wikipedia writer] might find a resource that has great information, but since they don’t really know what they’re talking about, they struggle and make it difficult to read.”

Research published in March in the journal First Monday showed that eight out of 10 students surveyed said they used Wikipedia for background knowledge. Fifty-two percent of respondents said they frequently used the web-based collaborative encyclopedia, “even if an instructor advised against it.”

Twenty-two percent said they rarely or never used the site. Only 17 percent of student respondents said they used Wikipedia because it was more reliable than other web sites.

About 2,300 students responded to the survey, according to the First Monday web site.

“Students reported they could not begin their research process until they had an idea of what they were going to write about,” the study said. “They did not think that they could approach an instructor about an assignment, until they knew more about their topic. They did not use a scholarly research database early on, given the specificity of academic journal content.”