Is Wikipedia Accurate?
If anyone can write or edit an article, how are you to know whether the information they submit is accurate? Remember, Wikipedia articles are not written by trained professionals. As such, there are no guarantees that what you read will be a complete and accurate accounting of a given topic.
Indeed, mistakes do creep into the article database, and some contributors are more informed and quality-conscious than others. There are even, unfortunately, some contributors who deliberately enter false information, for whatever reasons. This can and does result in some sketchy, inaccurate, and even biased articles.
Remember, though, that the Wikipedia community is charged with policing the articles submitted to the site. But not all articles receive the same level of scrutiny; it's laughably easy for malicious or inadvertent misinformation to creep into articles, especially those that aren't widely viewed. More popular articles, fortunately, receive more frequent scrutiny and are more likely to achieve a higher level of accuracy.
Even if the Wikipedia community does a relatively good job of catching and correcting inaccuracies, however, at any given moment an article may be in a pre-corrected state. That is, it's possible for you as a user to read a bad article before any factual errors have been found and fixed. In fact, there is no way to know whether any given article has been fully fact-checked; you could be the first person reading an inaccurate article.
That said, it should be noted that the average Wikipedia article is relatively complete, accurate, and free from partiality. That's because the very thing that could cause unreliable resultsthe huge mass of non-professional contributorsactually works in Wikipedia's favor. It's the sheer number of users that matters; the more eyes reading and vetting any given article, the more likely that any mistakes or inaccuracies will be discovered and then corrected.
The bottom line, then, is that although most Wikipedia articles are factually accurate, if not always comprehensive, you can't assume that everything you read in Wikipedia is the ultimate truth. And it's that one bad apple that can trip you up.