Home > interpreting, university > Wikipedia: a reliable source of information?

Wikipedia: a reliable source of information?

Most of us, who recently graduated from uni, praised Wikipedia for its precious service during our uni carrer, especially when time was scarce and we were loaded with projects, deadlines, presentations, interpreting classes etc. Wikipedia seemed to be a quick-fix for all our problems. Presentations were prepared fast and information was collected easily. Silently, we always thanked Wikipedia for the magic it provided so comfortably. At the same time,  we were lured to consult the website over and over again and until it formed an integral part of our uni life. Ok, we were told every now and then to refrain from using Wikipedia as a source of information for our interpreting classes, but come on: Who didn’t check on the website to save some time and nerves?

The thing is: Wikipedia may have helped us at university, but is the platform a valuable and reliable source of information which to consult for the preparation of an interpreting assignment? The answer to that question is: yes and no.

In a professional interpreting context, and I reckon that must be self-explaining, I’d never use Wikipedia for information such as bibliographic information about people, about historic events, political ideologies … for most of the things actually. Why? You never know who is behind the information, if the information is true/accurate/verfied or not. Wikipedia’s open, collaborative approach is generally a good thing, but you can never be sure who is behind the information you find. If you use Wikipedia as source,  always double-check your information!

However, I must admit that I use Wikipedia sometimes when it comes to technical things,although you have to be very careful here, too. Sometimes, people with amazing technical or mechanical knowledge post things about “suspension bridges” or “injection molding” or whatever else. The more they share, the easier it seems to get access to very specific and good information It’s like finding a magic fountain of technical wisdom in a way.

BUT: always double-check!!! Think critically!!! At the end of the day you can never be sure as to where the information comes from. And especially recent graduates should learn to prepare an assignment without Wikipedia and consult other, more reliable sources of information. Getting rid of Wikipedia might be like trying to quit Facebook as it involves a profound change of habits and a lot of self-discipline. It also involves a huge personal effort as “to quit” and “to stay away from something” are two different things.And, alas, Wikipedia is just so god-dammed comfortable. However, leaving Wikipedia behind along with your uni carrer might be the way to go for beginners. See it as part of the transition from student to professional! I mean why go the easy way if it is about a job, paying your rent, your reputation etc. Don’t take any risks! Fast, quick and vast information seems like a comfortable quick-fix … but that doesen’t mean we have to blindly believe it.

  1. 10/03/2012 at 11:34

    The thing I always tell students and lecturers both is that Wikipedia articles, in an academic context, should be taken as a way to get a veeery general overview of the subject. That’s what most people use our articles for. The real value comes from getting a grip on the subject as a whole, and then going to the “sources” or “further reading” section to identify books or journal articles that can be trusted.

  2. 18/03/2012 at 10:49

    If I were supposed to save just one website from the whole WWW, it’d definitely be Wikipedia. =)

  3. jzf
    19/03/2012 at 13:38

    I agree that things have to be double checked, but I wouldn’t urge recent graduates to leave wikipedia behind and forget about it altogether … As Oliver put it, it’s a great starting point, a general overview where you can find clues for further reading and I really appreciate the multilingual aspect of it – as the first step, followed by other, more (?) reliable sources. And don’t forget, that Wikipedia improved a great deal in the last years in terms of quality and reliablity. But as with other sources (!), caution and careful judgement essential.

  4. 09/08/2012 at 12:03

    Hi, yes…today wikipedia and many other sources need to be rechecked.

  5. 10/08/2012 at 15:00

    Any source of information is reliable and not in same time. It is always good to search more whenever you can. Appreciate that you post it here.

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