Wikipedia is a very popular encyclopedia; it is a free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project. Anyone can edit virtually any of the entries so the information in Wikipedia should be treated with caution and must always be checked for accuracy. There are some things to keep in mind when using Wikipedia.
On the positive side: Wikipedia can be useful for background information (which you must check in an authoritative source) and entries frequently include a bibliography which will often lead to further useful information sources.
On the negative side: The number of pages keeps growing, and the group of volunteer editors and monitors keeps shrinking, so it gets increasingly difficult for Wikipedia to make sure all content is accurate and error-free. The number of hoaxes posing as factual Wikipedia articles keeps increasing.
As a tool for research, free online encyclopedias, such as Wikipedia, can be valuable resources, but there are several reasons why students should be cautious in using them:
A bibliography that only cites these for reference or an argument that is overly reliant on them will not demonstrate the necessary “range of sources” required by the assessment criteria for the extended essay. They may also not be relevant or appropriate for the research question being explored. Many online encyclopedias are not scholarly sources; however, if used appropriately and critically they can offer a useful starting point for many students undertaking research.
If you are using free online encyclopedias, you should do the following.
The key point to remember is if you do use information that is found on the Internet, you are responsible for ensuring that it is both reliable and accurate.
Adapted from "The research and writing process; Academic honesty, Using online encyclopedias and other similar information websites", from Extended Essay Guide, International Baccalaureate Organization, 2016.