Social Question

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

If a person finds Wikipedia too often factually incorrect, what is a good, free internet encyclopedic alternative?

Asked by Espiritus_Corvus (17269points) January 25th, 2017

Interested in building a list of reliable internet encyclopedias. Discussion and criticisms welcome.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

20 Answers

ragingloli's avatar


Darth_Algar's avatar

If you’re looking for free then you’re not likely to find better than Wikipedia. In fact Wikipedia has generally been found to be as reliable as any other encyclopedia – free or premium, online or print. It is, like any encyclopedia, a good starting point and good for a general overview, but should not be used to study any subject in depth.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

You can correct Wikipedia yourself.

cinnamonk's avatar

which wikipedia articles are you finding to be too factually incorrect?

Strauss's avatar

Wikipedia allows for corrections, and sometimes even solicits improvements.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@AnonymousAccount8 Where in that question did I say that I personally have found Wikipedia factually inaccurate?

Yeah, guys. I’m aware that it is a very democratic org and we can all make corrections, although it is heavily moderated and has extremely strict guidelines. I’m in the middle of writing a Wikipedia article at this very moment. Me, of all people.

This is the problem:
It evidently has enough of a rep for being factually incorrect that many academic institutions and even a few news agencies won’t accept them as a reference.

I’m cheap. I spent a lifetime being nickle and dimed by banks and their bloody ATM fees, Cable companies padding my bills with unannounced services, getting fucked over on the net for small amounts and hidden fees, etc., etc. Now, in retirement, I take advantage of every quality freebee available.

When I need a universally respected encyclopedic reference, I will sign up with Encyclopedia Britannica for one of their 90-day free trials, then move on to World Book, then use VPNs to hide my IP and start all over again. It’s a real pain in the ass, but it doesn’t take food out of my mouth.

I was just wondering if any of you used something better than Wikipedia.

cinnamonk's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus jeez, sorry. I was just trying to understand the scope of your problem.

Darth_Algar's avatar

The biggest reason why many schools/teachers won’t accept Wikipedia as a reference is because citing it indicates that you didn’t bother to look any further, not even at the material Wikipedia cites as its reference.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar


I didn’t know that. And it doesn’t make sense to me. A kid can do the same thing with Encyclopedia Britannica. Just open the page, read the article and cite it without checking the reference material. I mean, that’s the whole purpose of an encyclopedia, isn’t it? They do the work for you so you don’t have to spend your life researching something that somebody else already has.

The only difference is, the kid has to walk down the hall to the school library to pull the book—which isn’t an academic exercise and therefore shouldn’t affect the grade. Seems to me there must be more to it than that.

Where did you get that information from, Darth?

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

It’s the same as Britannica. It’s a starting place, not the end.

If you turned in a school paper that you simply copied from the hardcover encyclopedia, your teacher would reject it and say now find some more sources based on what you learned form the encyclopedia.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Ok. So why do they accept Britannica and not Wikipedia? Obviously since the kid can equally shirk studies using both. They both come in electronic format, so copypasta is just as easy as well. So, that isn’t the reason.

Have requested this question be moved to Social.

cinnamonk's avatar

As far as I know, no encyclopedia is considered an acceptable reference at any college or university. I could never have turned in a paper that cited an encyclopedia at the college I went to, anyway. So it isn’t like Wikipedia is uniquely restricted.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

janbb is a university librarian, but she’s in Cuba at the moment. I’ve asked her to give us her institution’s policy on this. Should be interesting. This is becoming curiouser and curiouser.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus “Where did you get that information from, Darth?”

I have a couple of friends who are school teachers. for what’s it’s worth they won’t accept info from a student that’s simply lifted from any encyclopedia. They at they very least expect the student to put it in their own words. But no one under the age of 60 has print encyclopedias anymore and Wikipedia’s the one every student goes to these days.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Right, that’s a given. You don’t copy shit and expect to get a grade. The kid has to show some effort, unless he’s on the football team, of course. I would return a paper where the student hadn’t at least elaborated on information taken from an encyclopedia, but making a statement and then using the encyclopedia as a reference, among other sources, is what I’ve been talking about here.

And, of course, everyone knows that more than one corroborated reference is much better than one—and might even get you a better grade. But to discount completely one encyclopedia over another, or to eliminate all encyclopedias entirely as references, doesn/t seem like a reasonable policy at all. They are Reference Books. That is what they are for.

If anyone here can dig up the electronic version of a school policy on the net where they specifically state that all encyclopedias are not allowed as references in student papers, I’d be interested in seeing it. That seems unbelievable to me. I’d like to see the rationale behind that.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

You got some helpful clear responses. You’re welcome.

But it’s clear you have the “right” answer in your head and don’t want to hear anything else.

flutherother's avatar

Wikipedia is a good secondary source of information, it covers a huge range of topics in a fair bit of detail and I have found little in it that is incorrect. The sources listed at the bottom of the page are very helpful and often extensive and direct you to primary sources such as government departments and professional bodies’ websites, press articles and textbooks.

When searching for information I often type in the subject together with the word ‘wiki’ and start with the Wikipedia entry. It’s a great free resource and moreover it’s kept right up to date which has always been a problem with encyclopedias.

Strauss's avatar

I just completed an informal survey of about 10 of the teachers at the school. They all agree, neither Wikipedia, or any other encyclopedia would be considered a primary reference source. They are good sources of information, and good stepping-off points for further research.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Thank you, Strauss. Well, that’s good enough for me.

Thanks, guys.

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