Using Reliable Sources on Wikipedia

Ever since its founding in 2001, Wikipedia has been the center of debate about the reliability of the content on its site. It was in 2005 that a study in the International Weekly Journal of Science (Nature.com) released a study showing that Wikipedia is just as reliable as Encyclopedia Britannica. The study was one of many articles about the reliability of Wikipedia. Accompanied by the massive change in policy by the Wikipedia community, the reliability of the information is getting better by the day. This does not mean that it should ever be used as a reliable source (as Wikipedia does not even allowing the citing of Wikipedia within its own articles), but it does mean that it is a great source to start looking for information. Even judges use it when citing case law and people are constantly looking for Wikipedia writing services to help them write an article.

Wikipedia is an open community of editors with user contributed content. Even co-founder Jimmy Wales states that the website is only as accurate as the editors who contribute as it involves self-policing of the site by all users to help ensure the accuracy of the content. Long story short, the community of editors must patrol the site on a regular basis, making sure that recent contributions are accurate. They do this by checking any addition of content against reliable sources. Content that is not supported by a reliable source (or cannot be verified by a reliable source after searching) can be (and usually is) removed.

Explaining what a reliable source is often causes issues when I provide a quote for professional Wikipedia writing services. Many who request a quote for a Wikipedia article believe that as long as there is something said about them on the internet that this is good enough to use as a source. This is not the case as Wikipedia has strict guidelines about the types of sources that you can use.

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Wikipedia’s guideline on reliable sources states that articles “should be based on reliable, third-party, published sources with reputation for fact-checking and accuracy.” While this may seem simple, it actually creates pages and pages of more guidelines that govern what sources are “reliable” and which ones are not. For instance, self-published sources are not reliable on Wikipedia. Press releases, personal websites and blogs, as well as Facebook and other social media accounts are not considered reliable. This is because a reliable source must have a reputation for “fact-checking and accuracy.” If a source is self-published, there is no fact-checking from an independent third-party. If sources such as these were acceptable, it would be easy to create a blog, write anything you want about a subject, and then create a Wikipedia article about it.

Wikipedia has become so strict with the type of sources that are acceptable, that they have created a reliable source notice board where people can post questions and discuss different sources, as well as the proper use of those sources within an article. The community is so split on what constitutes a reliable source that many have also written essays about the flaws with the reliable source guidelines. Regardless, I find it better to stick to some of the main reliable sources that are accepted in the community (e.g., major newspapers, magazines) as most Wikipedia writing services do. This helps to show the Wikipedia community the notability of an article and establishes that the article is supported by reliable sources (hard to debate notability of an article when the source are from New York Times, Wall Street Journal, People, etc.).

by Michael Wood – Michael Wood is an online marketing expert and owner of Legalmorning.com. He specializes in reputation and brand management, article writing, and professional Wikipedia editing. He is an expert Wikipedia editor and has helped hundreds of businesses and people post their articles to the site where they have otherwise failed. He is a regular contributor to many online publications including AllBusiness Experts, Yahoo, Business Insider, and Social Media Today.

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