Encyclopedias vs. wikipedia
Encyclopedias vs. wikipediaIntellectually ambitious families (my own included) often purchased encyclopedias. Salesmen encouraged the notion of intellectual benefits. Ambition, however, often exceeded practice and many encyclopedia sets were resold for a small fraction of the purchase price.
Despite opinions to the contrary wikipedia articles are generally as reliable as encyclopedia articles. There are however major differences. Encyclopedias tend to have comprehensive articles written by experts in the appropriate field. Encyclopedia articles are often longer and more complex than appropriate for the average reader. Following encyclopedia references generally requires library searches.
Wikipedia is far more comprehensive than encyclopedias. Topics are easily found by computer searching. Wikipedia articles are short; references can often be followed by clicking links. Furthermore complex terms can explored by Google searches. By tracking chains of references, larger pictures can be formed rivaling those of complex encyclopedia articles. Word searches easily find sought for terms in larger articles. Best of all wikipedia articles are free and up to date.
Should one go further than simply reading a wikipedia article? It depends. In general in pays to expand understanding by exploring references. Following strings of references promotes comprehensive understanding. For truly comprehensive understanding it pays to begin with a wikipedia article, follow links and then use written references as necessary. As with all resources, articles should be read critically, particularly those with contentious political or religious views.