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Wikipedia as a Data Source for Political Scientists: Accuracy and Completeness of Coverage

  • Adam R. Brown (a1)

In only 10 years, Wikipedia has risen from obscurity to become the dominant information source for an entire generation. However, any visitor can edit any page on Wikipedia, which hardly fosters confidence in its accuracy. In this article, I review thousands of Wikipedia articles about candidates, elections, and officeholders to assess both the accuracy and the thoroughness of Wikipedia's coverage. I find that Wikipedia is almost always accurate when a relevant article exists, but errors of omission are extremely frequent. These errors of omission follow a predictable pattern. Wikipedia's political coverage is often very good for recent or prominent topics but is lacking on older or more obscure topics.

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Kevin A. Clauson , Hyla H. Polen , Maged N. Kamel Boulos , and Joan H. Dzenowagis . 2008. “Scope, Completeness, and Accuracy of Drug Information in Wikipedia.” Annals of Pharmacotherapy 42 (12): 1,814–21.

Lara Devgan , Neil Powe , Brittony Blakely , and Martin Makary . 2007. “Wiki-Surgery? Internal Validity of Wikipedia as a Medical and Surgical Reference.” Journal of the American College of Surgeons 205 (suppl): S76S77.

Jim Giles . 2005. “Special Report: Internet Encyclopedias Go Head to Head.” Nature 438:900–01.

Lucy Holman Rector . 2008. “Comparison of Wikipedia and Other Encyclopedias for Accuracy, Breadth, and Depth in Historical Articles.” Reference Services Review 36 (1): 722.

Cindy Royal , and Deepina Kapila . 2009. “What's on Wikipedia and What's Not… ?Social Science Computer Review 27 (1): 138–48.

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PS: Political Science & Politics
  • ISSN: 1049-0965
  • EISSN: 1537-5935
  • URL: /core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics
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