Wikipedia Is A Free Internet Based Encyclopaedia English Language Essay

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Wikipedia is a free Internet-based encyclopaedia started in 2001, is now overseen by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Wikipedia is collaboratively edited; its articles are contributed by volunteers worldwide. In 2012, there are 285 languages editions and estimated 365 million readers of Wikipedia; it has become the most famous and largest general online Encyclopaedia in the world.

Authority & Objectivity

In a departure from the style of other traditional encyclopaedias, Wikipedia provides public open spaces to share and exchange information and ideas. It is a web page that can be viewed, contributed and modified by every internet user, and has around 100,000 active contributors in 2011 (Wikipedia, 2012a). Everyone with a web browser, either with a registered Wikipedia account or anonymous, can edit the articles without approval during the communication process, with the exception of particularly vandalism-prone or sensitive topics are protected from some degree of modification. However, a valid login account is needed while create a new articles from Wikipedia.

As there is no article is owned by its creator or recognized authority, no author or editor name is shown in any article; no one knows the details of its contributors including their credentials, qualifications and experience. Thus, it is hard to estimate its authoritativeness or even hard to know whether any bias does the authors have, especially in some critical issues like political or religious topics, since all articles are written by anonymous or unknown parties.

According to the information from Wikipedia (2012b), it claimed that over 80% contributors was male; the average age for contributors was 26.8; half of contributors had primary or secondary education level, while about 30% and 15% had undergraduate and master level respectively, only 3% were doctorate degree holders.

Purpose

Wikipedia does not clearly state its purpose of the reference work, however, as we all know it is a general encyclopaedia, it provides basic knowledge to the audience. These days, there is a raised concern from the academic community which aware the purpose and development of Wikipedia, since there is an increasing trend of usage among academic institutes. It is usually argued that Wikipedia readers do not aware the purpose of this online encyclopaedia. However, on the other hand, more and more academic libraries add hyperlinks from digital library collections to Wikipedia (Lally and Dunford, 2007).

Physical Production

Only online electronic format is published in Wikipedia. It provides a clear and user-friendly searching interface; and maintains a good searching capabilities and quite easy for everyone in different information literacy level to access. Yet, advanced search option is unavailable in addition to the simple search. Various multi-media sources are included in most of the entries, such as coloured images, maps and video clips. Compare with equivalent products in the market, Wikipedia is totally free of charge. Other Internet encyclopaedia like Online Encyclopedia Americana, it charges a quite high annual fee for subscription and retrieval information.

Arrangement

Although it is an Internet encyclopaedia, there is an alphabetical arrangement as like as tradition encyclopaedia. "A-Z index" bottom can be found under the "Featured content" from the front-page, users therefore could search articles base on the character order. Besides, there is a "Content listings" bottom under the "Featured content" also; consequently, wide topics like Geography, Health can be seen under the "Content listings". For example, users can found various specific issues in Health such as Oral hygiene, Neurological disorders, Foodborne by different sub-categories. Further, several topics can be chose directly, such as Arts, History, Mathematics, on the top of the front-page. There is also an "All portals" bottom on the top which can see all subjects in Wikipedia.

Recency

As it can be freely updated anytime by editors, Wikipedia always provides and maintains the latest information in most of the majority topics; articles and hyperlinks are usually updated and revised, even in fast moving fields. For instance, the newest technology entries can be shown such as "iphone5", which introduce from Apple Inc. last month (on September 12, 2012). Compare to Online Encyclopædia Britannica, however, it still reveals "iphone4" is the latest model but not "iphone5" or even "iphone4S".

Further, all new create and revised entries are reported by dates under "Recent changes" page from the homepage. Users can search these changes, to look into what kinds of changes have been made by other contributors.

Accuracy

Wikipedia has been widely criticized by different scholars for its quality of entries and the contribution process (Waters, 2007). Unlike traditional encyclopaedias, which articles are deliberately and carefully written by related experts. As the consequence of the open structure, articles become immediately change upon edited, prior to any review, and lack of proper sources for some of the articles; Wikipedia does not guarantee of reliability and validity of its content. Hence, accuracy is always the most controversial part of Wikipedia, certain problems such as ideological biases, inaccuracies, or even patent nonsense are commonly found, until other editors review, and then solve and correct the problem.

Since nobody is ultimately responsible for the accuracy of articles, accountability concerns, such as vandalism, the insertion of spurious information, and similar issues, have been raised these days. Generally, there are various main concerns in vandalism, such as insertion of false information, opinionated language, highly partisan, advertising message or other kinds of spam. In some cases, editors commit vandalism by removing accuracy information or completely blanking a given page. Some kinds of vandalism may be much more difficult to detect, such as modify the page's title or categorization, introduce irrelevant format, utilize images disruptively, or manipulate the underlying code of an article (Waters, 2007).

Treatment

Though there is free to edit by everyone, several editorial policies and rules are set by the Wikimedia Foundation. These rules include neutral point of view, copyrights, deletion, merging and moving pages policy, etc. and lots of details instructions are provided under each rule. For instance, according to the Wikipedia policy on Verifiability, contributions need to be grounded in publications from outside the participatory online encyclopaedia. Under these policies, contributors can edit articles base on a unified and formal standard, the accuracy of the entries can be therefore enhanced and promoted.

However, the quality of writing in Wikipedia is still always criticized. As editors often rewrite and update small portions of an article rather than making a full length revision, high and low quality content might intermingled within an entry. Moreover, different writing styles in different sentence structures and vocabulary are often found in one article or even one paragraph. Even though the articles in Wikipedia are generally accurate, they are often in a poor writing, sometimes even in an unreadable style. Undoubtedly, better in readability articles tend to be more reliable for readers.

Users & Scope

Wikipedia is a general encyclopaedia, it widely covers most of the knowledge of scope and targets all general public audience including youth and students. As it is not a subject encyclopaedia, it does not suppose providing knowledge in-depth in specific field. Moreover, the entries are not edited by its experts, it is also not suitable for professionals and scholars for academic propose since the information is too general and lots of them may not be verified, lack of proper sources or even incorrect.

Acropolis

Wikipedia

The quality of writing is mixed, due to the presence of multiple authors. The content is longer than other online encyclopaedia; yet, most of the information is less relevant and not focus on Acropolis in Ancient Greek. For instance, it mentioned a "Great Stone Church in United States has been called the American Acropolis". This is very less related to Acropolis in Ancient Greek, and this information should not be added under "Acropolis" entry.

Further, the content is too brief and barebones; lots of vital information does not provided. For example, Wikipedia never mentioned the general building time of Acropolis, the purpose of religious (actually religious is another key purpose for Acropolis besides "purposes of defence"), and the reason of building at the top of hill in religious aspect. Above this information is very important for readers who would know more and deep in Acropolis. Besides, there are 13 outer references hyperlinks provided; most of them are useful and relevant yet 3 of them are invalid and do not work.

The World Encyclopedia

The current online version is the latest, which is 2012 version. Compare to Wikipedia and EB, only a few words in this entry. Nevertheless, several key concepts are mentioned. For instance, it point out Acropolis was "built for the Mycenaean kings and ……became the symbolic homes of the gods", and "the most famous acropolis, acquired walls by the 13th century BC". These 2 pieces of information is not mentioned in Wikipedia.

Compare to EB, there is no any pictures and video in the entry. Few hyperlinks link to related items, but it is not enough for academics to know more about Acropolis. Besides, same as EB, there is a "cite" bottom is provided that could help scholar to cite this entry conveniently. Yet, author name is absent in all entries.

Encyclopædia Britannica

The content is relevant and the hyperlinks provided are all work and meaningful, several pictures and 3 introductory videos are provided. Besides, related entries, topics, people like Athena are suggested and hyperlink, it is useful for researcher to know more about this topic further. Yet, no author name is shown.

Compare to Wikipedia, the article is much shorter, only 200 words are contained. However, more deep information has been gained from EB. For example, the purpose in religious of Acropolis and the reason of built on the hilltop site is described, which never mention in Wikipedia.

Dengue Fever

Wikipedia

The content of the article is certainly in encyclopaedia style; the reference sources are also credible, most of the sources are cited from WHO and medicine database like PubMed. Thus, it is a very good beginning for public or even advanced level of science students. Besides, those pictures, diagrams and map provided are attractive and relevant, and a full list of most of the important and common Zoonotic viral diseases is provided, users can check those related issues in the entry conveniently.

Although the entry content is very details and quite deep and balance; for in-depth research, both of a scholarly and medicine nature, the Dengue Fever article should be used for quick reference, never as a primary source. It is better to use a medicine encyclopaedia or the resource from the official authorities such as WHO directly for academic purpose.

OPEC Organizations

Wikipedia

The content is very details and most accurate; the writing is nice with graph and map. However, there is a lot of information without any citation, some of this information even is not mentioned in its official website; readers therefore do not know the reliability of the entry. For instance, it claims "Venezuela and Iran were the first countries to move towards the establishment of OPEC in the 1960s by approaching Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in 1949"; yet, there is no citation and we also cannot find and verified this "fact" from official website. Moreover, some information is ambiguous or even incorrect. For example, Wikipedia said "OPEC has had its headquarters in Vienna since 1965". In fact, "OPEC had its headquarters in Geneva, in the first 5 years of its existence (1960-65)", according to its official website; however Wikipedia does not mention it. It is ambiguous and readers may misunderstand that the first OPEC headquarters is start operated in Vienna, or there is no headquarters between 1960 and 1965.

Although there are very rich references resources hyperlinks, a quite number of them are invalid.

The World Encyclopedia

The content of this entry is very brief and short, it is very good for those readers who do not know what OPEC is to read. Yet, since a few words are provided, the information is unsuitable for academic purpose. For instance, it just point out "its influence has waned", but does not describe how its wane and the detail reason of this. What is more, there is no related reference hyperlink and information about OPEC and no photos such as the OPEC's logo whiles these kinds of information are provided in other 2 online encyclopaedias.

Encyclopædia Britannica

The content is details and accurate, it contains 3 pages on the web respectively: introduction, history and year in review links. The writing is in typical encyclopaedia format and readable style. Although there is no citation, author name is shown in the article (Albert L. Danielsen, a professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Georgia), the entry seems to be reliable as the author is an expert in this related aspect. Further, user can estimate the reliability of the entry if the author's biographical information is provided.

Moreover, Encyclopædia Britannica provides more accurate information in a short writing compare to Wikipedia. For example, it clearly point out "OPEC's headquarters, first located in Geneva", that is never mention in Wikipeadia.

Federation of International basket Ball (FIBA)

Wikipedia

The content from Wikipedia is clear and accurate; it is a user-run site. The writing is mixed, with simple and readable sentences. The entry gives a brief idea, but seems not enough and also a bit pointless. It is because the entry may focus too much content on previous presidents list and current champions list; it would not very good for someone using this to write a paper about FIBA. Editors should reference the site with caution and the article should more in-depth and more objective sources of information. Further, there are 2 hyperlinks [1] which provided in "Reference" and "External links" are invalid and cannot be assess.

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