How credible is the information in Wikipedia? There have been many studies, formal and informal, that have tried to access this. A new article in the online journal First Monday reports on a simple methodology to explore the question.
Thomas Chesney, An empirical examination of Wikipedia’s credibility, First Monday, Volume 11, Number 11, 6 November 2006.
Two groups of researchers with various areas of specialization were asked to review Wikipedia articles. One group read articles within their own areas of expertise and the other was given random articles. After reading an article they were asked to assess its credibility, the credibility of its author and the credibility of Wikipedia as a whole.
If the Wikipedia articles are not very accurate, one might expect that the subjects would be less likely to judge articles in their own areas as credible than those outside their areas. But the results were a bit surprising.
“No difference was found between the two group in terms of their perceived credibility of Wikipedia or of the articlesâ€™ authors, but a difference was found in the credibility of the articles — the experts found Wikipediaâ€™s articles to be more credible than the non-experts. This suggests that the accuracy of Wikipedia is high.”
The author does point out that the study was small and that the experts did identify mistakes in the articles. Nonetheless, this simple methodology is believable and produced an interesting result.