Wikipedia’s Top Sources: BBC, Social Networks, Cricket.

Oh, look: a librarian writing a blog post about Wikipedia. This is a brand new topic of discussion! 😉

Sorry to those of you who are fed up with hearing about it, but bear with me here. Webempires, a group of web designers, developers and entrepreneurs who develop apps and infographics relating to “interesting web companies,” had a post last week visualizing the top 50 sources referenced in English language Wikipedia articles. They programmed a crawler to scour all the articles and discover which web sites were linked to most frequently. The study returned more than 2,000,000 web sites.

Webempires also has a more detailed list of results, which gave greater insight to their findings. Google Books takes the top spot for the most cited source in English Wikipedia articles: there are nearly 155,000 articles containing Google Book references (with an average of about four citations per entry).

Other interesting points:

  • BBC News and The New York Times are in the top five. Two of the most trusted news sources on either side of the Atlantic are a favorite among Wikipedians. I’m sure many librarians would agree that they are two credible sources to reference when conducting research, particularly for current events. Interestingly enough, these are also two sources our users consistently cite using EasyBib.
  • MySpace and Facebook surpass The Washington Post and TIME. Yes, really. This is where the glaring problem with Wikipedia starts to show, although several of the articles I found that linked to Facebook or MySpace had the Wikipedia alerts of poor quality. Others, however, were lengthier articles with no warnings, but also had dozens of references to credible sources. Regardless, the fact that these two social network sites–one which is nearly a ghost town online–are cited more than two highly regarded publications is shocking.
  • There were some unexpected sites in the list, too. So far I’ve only mentioned major web sites that are familiar to many of us, but there were some unusual sources on this list, too! For instance, Cricket Archive, a web site dedicated to what many see as a painfully dull and peculiar sport, is in the top 50 sites. As a British citizen with family ties to cricket, even I was surprised to see it referenced more than Rolling Stone. (From the looks of that Wikipedia article, I need to clean up my relative’s entry, yikes!)
  • My opinion on Wikipedia has not changed after reading up on this analysis. It’s going to remain a source that students reference as part of the research process, whether they cite it in a paper or not. Teaching students how to look for red flags while reading Wikipedia articles, understanding the “View history” tab and evaluating the citations of each entry are just a few of the ways we can make their experience using the world’s largest encyclopedia a more factual and informative one.

    Webempire infographic of top sources on Wikipedia
    Detailed list of top sources on Wikipedia
    How Today’s College Students Use Wikipedia for Course-Related Research?

    Emily Gover is the in-house librarian for EasyBib. She is currently making her way through Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and is finding it to be a lengthy (but enjoyable) task. You can find her on Twitter, @Emily_EasyBib, or posting news you can use at the EasyBib Librarians Facebook page.

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