What’s the best site on the Web these days? Wikipedia, correct. Haters will hate, of course, pointing to this or that error, or highlighting high-profile compilations, but the spirit of the site endures: free and open information for all. Now a study has been published that says, you know what, on the whole, the information on Wikipedia isn’t any less accurate than you’ll find elsewhere. Does this mean, when writing a paper for you 12th grade history class, that you should ever have the site in your bibliography? No. No it does not. But to use the site as a stepping stone for further research? Absolutely, yes.
The study, carried out by researchers at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, says that the site is about as accurate as any published article you find in a peer-reviewed journal. The study specifically looked at Wikipedia pages on about cancer. The information turned out to be totally accurate, if only a little difficult to read. USA Today’s editors aren’t in charge of the site: the Wikipedia articles were said to be at a college-level reading level rather than a 9th grade reading level (found on PDQ, a professionally peer-reviewed Web site) That difference is due to the very nature Wikis: you’ve got a number of different people editing pages simultaneously, so naturally there chaos.
Whether you can extrapolate this information to other areas of the site, particularly those dealing with current events—you’ll notice that the page on the Gaza flotilla raid is semi-protected—I don’t know. It does, however, put to rest the idea that OMG WIKIPEDIA EVIL~!, an opinion usually put forward by someone who doesn’t know the difference between a Web browser and a driver.