People use Wikipedia all the time. If you want to look up the birthday of an actor or the outcome of an important soccer game from 2004, Wikipedia probably has the (correct) answer. But you also see a lot of people using Wikipedia as their main source of information, especially students and High School kids. Unfortunately Wikipedia is the self-proclaimed ‘free encyclopedia that anyone can edit’, and it has gained a lot of negative publicity for having false information on their site. The people that write and edit things on Wikipedia are often not expert, and it is never good to rely on Wikipedia as your only source. If you are in college, teacher hate seeing ‘Wikipedia’ in your list of sources. Check out these 4 alternatives to Wikipedia:
Encyclopedia.com is a reliable source of information, as it has over a 100 trusted sources which include encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesauruses, biographies and other things. Whereas Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, encyclopedia.com has a very different approach and it can only be edited by experts that work for the site. Searching on Encyclopedia.com is free, but they also have an extra option to pay money for information that refers to magazine and newspaper articles for subscribers.
This is not technically an online encyclopedia, but About.com has the answers to a lot of questions and has articles covering a large range of topics. Although the freelance writers that work for About.com are not always experts, they are a lot more accurate than Wikipedia is. The people that write for About.com are called ‘guides’ and in order to become a guide for About.com you need to go through an application process in which you prove that you are a skilled writer. The people that work for About.com get paid for their articles, so they usually take their job seriously.
This website is the online version of the Encyclopedia Britannica: every volume of the English encyclopedia has been transferred to web format on this website. The good thing about this is that it is basically the most popular British encyclopedia online and that no one can edit articles, as the site is not a Wiki. The downside is that it is not for free; if you want to be able to read everything on the website you have to subscribe for $69.95 a year. However, for students or teacher this may be a good investment.
Scholarpedia.org looks very similar to Wikipedia, because it is made with the same software, but the content and policy of the site are very different than Wikipedia’s. The thing that makes Scholarpedia reliable is that the content it written by scholars. In order to become a writer for Scholarpedia.org you need to be invited or elected and then you can only write for topics of your expertise. Just like on Wikipedia, everyone can edit articles on Scholarpedia, but the updates need to be approved before they are made final, so that it is harder for misinformation to get through to the site.
Although you shouldn’t get all your basic information from this website or take anything too seriously, this spoof of Wikipedia is worth mentioning. The satirical version of Wikipedia looks exactly the same as Wikipedia, but everything that is written on the site is as inaccurate as possible and often hilarious. Check it out if you want to have a good laugh.
So while Wikipedia is great for if you are looking up something quick or if you want to read about something that interests you that isn’t too important, it is not so great if you really want to learn facts about a subject. If you want more sources to back you up, or to check if what Wikipedia says is valid, try any of the 5 alternatives to Wikipedia that we listed.