From The Sunday Times
December 30, 2007
The truth’s out there – honestly
We all know the pitfalls of Wikipedia, so where can you find some real facts online?
by James Knight
It has become a reflex reaction in the digital age. If you have a question that needs an answer or a fact to check, simply head online and tap it into Google. More often than not you will be directed to Wikipedia, where the answer is laid out for you.
The only problem is, it may not be the right answer.
Though many of us have come to rely on the online encyclopedia, every entry in it is available for anyone to edit, so you can’t always trust what you find there.
Fortunately, there are numerous more accurate resources on the web.
The trick is knowing where to look for them.
As an alternative to Wikipedia, try www.refdesk.com. This portal offers links to all manner of free dictionaries and encyclopedias, such as Microsoft’s Encarta, which has 42,000 articles. Conscientious researchers also have the option to head to sites with a better academic pedigree. Drawing together a range of global public-domain academic resources (of varying quality), www.ibiblio.org is worth dredging if you have a wide field of inquiry – cultural development in China, say.
For definitive statistics on any country in the world, the CIA World Factbook (www.tinyurl.com/2b2kg9) takes some beating. It contains up-to-date figures on everything from population to climate, life expectancy to natural resources and territorial disputes.