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Wikipedia is a cheap and convenient source of information just like any other internet source. It provides a diverse knowledge base in various topics and professional fields. Whether the information provided by this web source is credible is an issue that has raised increased debate over the years. Web documentation is an easy task one that is often unregulated and so done for various reasons. Among such reasons is to genuinely provide information while some provide information as a means of marketing a given aspect presented in the documents. Various librarians and information management officers have presented criteria with which one could assess the credibility of information sources. Is Wikipedia a credible and valid source of information? Based on the evaluation criteria discussed below, Wikipedia as a source of information cannot be said to be a credible and valid source of information.
The criteria for evaluating information sources and especially the internet sources as presented by Chamberlain and the library of university of British Columbia. These criteria will provide a basis of disqualifying Wikipedia as a credible source of information. The determinants for credibility evaluation include the authority or the author, information accuracy, objectivity, scope of coverage, currency and the site arrangement or design.
Authority refers to the ease in identifying the writer of the information. This element relates to the extent in which one can identify the author of a document, his credentials, command of the topic under discussion and affiliation to a specified organization. The organization of affiliation should be identifiable and links provided to assure of such affiliation. Information sources with an identifiable author are regarded as more credible as compared to those without. The ease at which one can contact the author also determines such credibility. Organizational affiliation assures the user that the author has command and is highly knowledgeable in the field. An identified author provides one with the chance to further ones research in addition to it showing individuals who are willing to back the information provided. Wikipedia lacks in this evaluation element. Neither the page author is presented nor is the organization responsible for page maintenance provided. This means that no one is accountable for the information provided.
The second criterion for credibility is information accuracy. This relates to whether the information presented is edited or reviewed. It also relates to the availability of references and a presentation of an individual or organization that guarantees the accuracy of the information presented. work that has been edited by various scholars can be regarded as viable as relates to work that has neither been reviewed nor edited to determine if the information provided is accurate and in need of corrections. The Wikipedia lacks peer review and editions by identified editors. The pages usually have a section asking individuals to present their ranking on the information provided. Presentation precedes edition and review. This information source thus lacks accuracy and reliability. Even where the wiki sources have been edited the credentials of the editor are not available while such edition is not monitored thus prone to numerous errors done intentionally or accidentally.
The third criterion is information currency. Currency relates to how recent the information provided has revised or updated to cater for the changes in information resultant from the passage of time. The relevance of any information provided by any publication is dependent on the date of publication. Other links for which the page relates to should also be updated. Technical fields record new information that should be included in the web pages. This also is indicative of proper maintenance of the site. Wikipedia pages do have this element usually indicated as the “date last modified”
The forth criterion in the evaluation of internet sources is information purpose. The purpose of the web page determines the credibility of the information provided. This is because sites that are meant to advertise organizations or products do tend to be biased. This criterion could also refer to the range or focus of the information provided. Provision of narrow information may mean that the author may have had a limited knowledge of the information. The author could have opted to provide the limited information in order to present a biased outlook of the topic. Wikipedia pages often do not have a clearly stated purpose for the information provided. Some pages are presented with a conditional clause that information provided is subject to edition. This means that at the time of presenting the information the purpose was not to present objective information. Objective information should be presented for review to eliminate biasness. It can thus be concluded that some Wikipedia sites are biased thus disqualifying them as credible sources of information.
Page coverage is the fifth criterion for evaluating information credibility. Incomplete pages do not offer credible information sources. For a page to be used in research it ought to have been complete at the time of presentation. Some Wikipedia pages are presented while under construction.
From the five elements used to evaluate the credibility of information sources, Wikipedia lacks in most of them. The pages completely lack authority means that no one is accountable for the information presented in the page. The information presented in the pages is not edited or reviewed. It thus lacks the accuracy as review from professionals would eliminate common errors made in the field in which the information relates. Wikipedia provides a wide range of information, technical and general, some of which the authors may lack adequate knowledge. Based on the five elements used to evaluate internet sources, it can be concluded that Wikipedia is not a credible and viable source of information.