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Evaluating a Wikipedia Article

My first thought was reading the page on bearded dragons, because there’s one sitting right in front of me, but then I discovered that the page was too long. So I tried Towels. Also too long — people have a lot to say about towels, apparently. After a few more hit-or-misses, I’ve selected the Wikipedia article on diurnality for evaluation.

Diurnality, for those not aware, is living things that are awake during the day — as opposed to at night (nocturnality) or during twilight (crepuscular).

Before I began evaluating the article, I read through the entire article. Then I clicked the Discussion Page.

Did You Know?

Diurnality is within the scope of WikiProject Animals
This article has been rated as Stub-Class on the project’s quality scale.
This article has been rated as High-importance on the project’s importance scale.

I have no idea what any of that means! I have never looked at a discussion page for a Wikipedia article before. Venturing a guess, I would say that all that means is that, according to the WikiProject Animals, this page is important but is not thorough yet.

I read through the rest of the Discussion page (it is also not very long). The two main discussion points are: 1) the diurnality/nocturality of the human species 2) “moving” the page to match nocturnality. I noted that all of these changes and discussions were made in 2005-2007, so I next decided to see if I could view the history, like in the video Heavy Metal Umlaut.

The wikipedia article was first developed in 2005 and looked like this:

The newest page has a table of contents, splitting it into a basic definition, diurnality in animals, diurnality in plants (fancy!), a See Also section, and references.

Let’s take some of the questions we should use to evaluate a website, as taken from here:

-Who is the author?
-Does the site provide balanced, objective or factual information?
-Does the Web site provide subjective, editorial or opinion statements? Is the site a forum for a personal, political or ideological bias?
-Is the point of view presented in a direct manner, or is it presented in an unbalanced and unreasonable way? Are arguments well supported?
-When was the Web site last revised, modified or updated?
-Is the site well maintained? Are links current and working or do they lead to outdated pages and/or error messages?

This being Wikipedia, there are several authors of the webpage – 131 in all, by my count. On the subject of objectivity, and whether or not it makes an argument, the Discussion page covers a little bit of humor. At one point the page mentioned that “most” humans were diurnal. There was talk of going further into the argument on the main page, but there is no mention of humans on the page, except to say that some animals (beavers) have adapted their circadian rhythms to avoid humans.

I do feel a little annoyed with the Plants section. The Animals section is thorough, but the Plants section is only one paragraph, and its statements are much more broad. It mainly makes the argument that plants have adapted themselves to the rhythms of their best pollinators. While this makes sense, I feel that they could have gone into more detail, used some examples, explained what they mean a bit more thoroughly. I for one did not know that plants could be diurnal, keeping their leaves open to the sun.

All of the links work, and the latest revision was on the 29 of July of this year, making a minor edit (a second link in the See Also section).

Altogether I agree with the Wikiproject’s analysis. It’s a good, quality article, trustworthy, but it could stand to be a little more thorough.

Posted September 22, 2011 by agentksilver in Digital IT

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