How long does misinformation stay on Wikipedia

Wikipedia in science?

  • Would you like to know whether you can use Wikipedia in your literature research?
  • Are you looking for help in assessing the quality of individual items?


On this page:


You have already received a lot of help on thematic research in the "Strategies for literature research" section. Nevertheless, you will certainly approach your topic not only in library catalogs but also with general search engines such as Google or Bing. Most of the time you will find entries from Wikipedia among the first hits. Sometimes you even get information about your search term in the so-called Knowledge Graph in the search result.

The use of these entries is still controversial. This controversy arises mainly from Wikipedia's underlying principle that anyone can create and edit articles. This can lead to up-to-date and detailed articles, but unintentional misinformation or deliberate manipulation can also reach the public:
How Wikipedia is manipulated / FAZ

In Youtube video quality on the Internet: Wikipedia - know how! explains what to look for in a Wikipedia article. You can also find detailed information about the advantages and disadvantages of Wikipedia in the Wikipedia dossier of the Federal Agency for Civic Education (bpb).


Are Wikipedia articles citable?

It is generally not advisable to cite Wikipedia articles as evidence or for definitions. Scientific elaborations must not lead to false results through misinformation, half-knowledge or (joking) misleading guidance. Reliable information should be used from sources whose authors are known and whose background can be checked (see also peer review process). As an alternative, recognized reference works such as the Brockhaus Encyclopedia or the Encyclopedia Britannica as well as specialist encyclopedias or corresponding manuals are recommended. However, do not trust just one single source here either, but check the contents in various reference works.

Research has shown that Wikipedia contains incorrect articles, but also recognized reference works:


How can you use Wikipedia sensibly for literature research?

Have you received a new topic for your term paper, seminar paper, presentation or similar? In Wikipedia you can read up on the topic and get a first impression. For example, you can extract suitable search terms for further research in the library catalog. Often literature references are listed as evidence at the end of the Wikipedia article. You can use this, for example, as a starting point for research with the pyramid scheme or check whether the author has published other publications on the topic.


How do you rate the quality of Wikipedia articles?

The qualitative assessment of Wikipedia articles does not differ fundamentally from the evaluation of articles, books and websites. However, there are a few additional points that you should be aware of. Compare this article, for example, with the English version. You will find that the contents can vary.

Wikipedia offers functions to monitor the development of the individual articles. An analysis of the version history and the discussion page provides clues as to the quality of an article.

The research and development project "Wikibu" of the PHBern University of Education developed the following orientation aids:

  1. Number of visitors: The more frequently a Wikipedia article is visited, the more likely errors are likely to be corrected by the visitors.
  2. Number of authors: The more authors work on an article, the more likely it is that different perspectives are incorporated.
  3. Number of references: The more often an article is linked to other Wikipedia articles, the more relevant its content is likely to be.
  4. Number of references: Thanks to references, it is possible to understand where the information comes from.
  5. Currently heavily edited: If an article has been edited frequently in the last few days, it is advisable to look up the changes in the version history. Currently discussed intensively: If an article is currently being heavily discussed, information could be controversial. Check the talk page to see what is being discussed.
  6. Wikipedia-internal quality awards: The Wikipedia authors examine each other's articles and award both negative and positive awards. After a careful review process, the Wikipedia authors distinguish exemplary articles with two attributes: worth reading and excellent.
  • Wikibu - Notes on the reliability of a Wikipedia article
    Wikibu is a software for analyzing Wikipedia articles that was developed in a project by the PHBern University of Education. The analysis is carried out automatically based on defined criteria and can thus provide information on the reliability of an article. The software does not replace an independent quality check.