Verifying Wikipedia Articles
As noted, the accuracy of Wikipedia articles tends to vary based on the popularity of the topic. The more people who read an article, the more people there are to catch and edit any mistakes in that article. Less-trafficked topics are more apt to contain incorrect information, whereas the most-trafficked topics are likely to be the most discussed, the most edited, and thus the most accurate.
That said, the best way to verify the accuracy of a Wikipedia article is to check the article's referencesthe sources of information contained within an article. By backtracking through the sources of information for an article, you can discover for yourself the primary sourceswhich often are more detailed and comprehensive than the extracts that find their way to Wikipedia.
In addition, you can read the original sources to discover whether they support the information that was in the Wikipedia article; it's basic fact-checking.
How do you find these references? When you read an article, key information within the text will often be followed by a footnote. This footnote indicates that the information in the preceding sentence or sentences is referenced from another source.
To view the source of that information, click the footnotewhich is actually a link to that source in the References section of the article. Each citation is to a book or magazine article or academic paper; many of these sources are available on the Web, while others may need to be tracked down at your local library.
In addition, many Wikipedia articles include See Also and External Links sections. These sections point to additional material relevant to the topic at hand, in the form of books, scholarly articles, websites, and the like. These references can be sources of either background or detailed information that might prove useful to your ongoing research.
Additional background comes from observing the discussions surrounding a given article. Click the article's Discussion tab to reveal talks about what content should be included; debates about the accuracy and appropriateness of the content; even questions about sources, accuracy, and the like from other users.
For that matter, you can use the discussion page to pose your own queries about the content in question. It's a useful background reference tool.