Why Using Wikipedia As Your Only Research Tool Makes Godzilla Angry

Wikipedia's a great source of information for just about any project — but it's a spectacularly bad idea to use it as your only source.

In many ways that's not news; the same open nature of Wikipedia that's allowed it to flourish has also made it a prime target for vandalism and seemingly endless arguments about points of view. Without getting into that particular bit of tedious prattle, it also means it can be a decent starting point for research — but never its end location.

I hit a semi-amusing example of this just recently when idling around Wikipedia just reading. In my case I wasn't checking anything important; just reading around the history of the 1998 US-produced Godzilla movie, and its lead character, often called just 'Zilla by many Godzilla fans. Anyway, according to 'Zilla's Wikipedia page at the time of reading, among the details of the movie (and spin-off cartoon series), were these "gems":

"Zilla is suggested to eat two people in his initial attack on Sydney, something few other Toho kaiju have done, although Toho employees have engaged in cannibalism when pressed by financial difficulties or intimidated by more attractive people into staying home for a few weeks."

"Those fins begin at the back of the head and continue down the length of the body and whip-like tail, growing larger on the back. The two largest fins on the shoulders were voted "greatest shoulders" in the 22nd Elections to the House of Councillors of Japan."

"But Jr. has developed his fathers fighting ability and even defeated the second incarnation of Destroyah by himself, symbolizing the struggle of the main character's attempt to ask a girl out to his home to watch Godzilla DVDs of the special editions."

Pretty obvious Wiki-vandalism there, but it does highlight something about Wikipedia that a lot of people outright ignore; it's not a primary source of information, and even the links used to primary sources may themselves be suspect. You'd have to be relatively daft to be fooled by 'Zilla's entry, but more subtle edits may fly right past you, whether they're arguments of perception, errors or outright vandalism. Just because it's in Wikipedia doesn't mean it's automatically accurate, or even fact-checked to begin with.


Comments

    I am a librarian and recommend that people only use Wikipedia as a way to get an overview on a particular topic. After that, they need to scroll right down to the bottom and have a look at the reference list. Then, if any of those references are worthwhile (check them for authority, authorship, ownership, scientific rigour and a few other things), use them for your work.

      As a Wikipedian, I'll second this, and add a suggestion: if you find a good reference that *isn't* on Wikipedia, please contribute it—especially if the article in question lacks references! Once you do, others will be able to find that source more easily. :)

    I find just like anything, it's all about how you use it.

    I have several times found Wikipedia to be great, and very informative. The onus is always on the reader on how they interpret the material, and how they consume it (ie do they fact check, cross reference, check sources, apply logic and common sense). As I find it's next to impossible to find impartial information, so you always need to consider the authors reasons and frame of mind behind what they are saying.

    Reminds me of that 30 Rock episode "Retreat to Move Forward", where the writers were editing Janis Joplin's wiki entry to mess with Jenna...

      You mean Jackie Jormp-Jomp?

        No, there were a few on the Janis Joplin movie arc. The one I'm referring to has Frank and Twofer changing the wiki to make a fool of Jenna who is employing method acting.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retreat_to_Move_Forward

    I love stealing the references from wikipedia because I CBF doing it myself.

    XKCD: http://xkcd.com/978/

      The first time I saw that XKCD issue it changed the way I will use the internet forever.

    Iv'e contributed to Wiki. look up 'Lycantropy'. I added the reference to Protoindoeuropean origins. Pushing it back beyond the Ancient Greek 'Origins'.

    I suppose it depends if you're researching facts or pop culture. Pop culture can be opinionated or emotional.
    Still, I regard this information on pop culture valuable but taken with a grain of NaCl.
    Historical facts are less disputed but I wish I could look up pop culture years ago when I was at school.

    I teach uni students and it still astounds me how many of them still refer to wikipedia despite my repeated warnings that it is not an acceptable source.

    Philip Roth (an author) was in the news recently trying to correct information around his Wikipedia page. It was rejected and he was told he was "not a credible source".

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now