I admit I use it as a starting point if I don’t have a clue about something, but I never stop just at wikipedia, because everybody can edit it and there could be invented things. I trust something that I read on internet only if I read the same thing at least on 3 different pages.
Like Gioia, I will often go to Wikipedia to look something up quickly – although it’s not always a good idea to trust what it says on there. What it can be really great for is finding links to pages on other sites that I know are reliable.
For example, the first 3 links in the notes section of the Wikipedia entry for cancer are to Cancer Research UK, the World Health Organisation and the American Cancer Society, which are all really reliable sources.
Actually, Wikipedia is generally very good in my experience. Most articles have references to back up what they say, so you can check up on things if you want to. It’s certainly a good starting point for finding information.
Wikipedia can be a very valuable resource. It is always worth checking the references, though – but this is the same for any source of information. I think that I would consider Wikipedia a more reliable resource for some information than the Daily Mail and other tabloid newspapers.
In science, it is very important to know where people are getting their information. That’s why all scientific publications contain ‘references’ – to other, peer-reviewed scientific publications, so that the reader knows they can trust what the publication says. I would think that all newspapers (and news programmes) don’t have this – but, funnily enough, wikipedia does. So at least you have the option to see if the information is incorrect!
Some articles are very good, but some are also very suspicious. If I were writing a scientific paper, wikipedia would not be a suitable reference. It is always best to find the primary reference in science. I do use wikipedia to find formulas and things though, because if they work as they are suppost to, then I know that they are right.