Wikipedia can be a blessing and a curse

    Commentary by Jos Boswell
Times-News correspondent
teens20@thetimesnews.com

   We’ve all had a school project that’s required lots of tedious Internet research. And during almost any search, somewhere on the page, you’ll probably come across that infamous website — Wikipedia.
Wikipedia was launched on January 15, 2001, and has grown into the largest reference guide on the Web. It has more than 4 million articles in English and gets about 500 million visitors each month. Wikipedia is also the sixth most popular website on the Internet. However, it has been criticized because of inaccuracies due to the fact that anyone can edit the site for free, according to the site, Wikipedia.org.
  
When it comes to school projects, Wikipedia is a major issue. A lot of teachers ban its use in their classes because of the possibility of errors on the site. Critics have called it unreliable and full of false “facts.” It is true that anyone can edit Wikipedia, and there have been reported cases of inaccuracies. However, currently, only members are allowed to edit articles, and some are even more restricted than that. And although vandalism is a problem, remember that for every vandal there is someone else with accurate knowledge that can change it back.
In 2005, the science magazine Nature compared 42 science articles from Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica, a more prestigious Internet reference guide known for its credibility, which were reviewed by professional scientists for errors. The final result was, surprisingly, four inaccuracies for both Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica, according to www.livescience.com.
If you are working on a research project, do not completely disregard Wikipedia, because it can help you. It has entries on just about any subject you can think of and is, for the most part, accurate. But do remember that there are inaccuracies and problems on the site, and double check any information you get from it on other credible sites.

 Jos Boswell is a freshman at Williams High School and a Teens & Twenties writer.

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