Factual Accuracy of Information

This section analyzes the level of accuracy within the Wikipedia article against several scholarly sources. The Wikipedia article titled “Great Chinese Famine” discussed the events leading up to the massive nationwide famine that affected China from 1958 to 1961. Zhao Zhongwei in his article “The Demography of China’s 1958-61 Famine: A Closer Examination” discussed the same phenomenon. However, Zhongwei’s analysis concentrated more on displaying the statistics concerned with humanity. His analysis offered a wealth of information on the exact number of deaths that stood at approximately 40 million. This was very different from the 15 million provided by the Wikipedia as the official government figures. This difference in statistical accuracy is significant enough to cause a variation in the mindset of a reader and influence the conclusions[1]. On closer inspection of the succeeding paragraphs in the Wikipedia article, numerous instances of vagueness appear.

Apart from the section addressing the outcome of poor food and population control policies, the Wikipedia article steered clear of making assertive declarations that required solid evidence. Conversely, James Kai-sing Kung’s article entitled “The Causes of China’s Great Leap Famine, 1959-1961” contained detailed data in the two initial paragraphs. James outlined the percentage of deaths per year from 1958 to 1961[2]. Furthermore, a conflict exists between the three papers over the exact date when the famine commenced. While Kung placed the date of the disaster at 1959, both Zhongwei and the Wikipedia article quoted it as 1958. The presence of imprecision in a paper is evidence of the lack of statistical data to reinforce the argument. Achieving a high level of accuracy in the process of doing studies that involve statistical data is an indication of the competence of the author.

Structure and Grammar

An excellent academic document should have sensible arrangement, advanced structure and proper flow of ideas from the introduction to the conclusion. The Wikipedia article “Great Chinese Famine” illustrated an average level of organization. It contained general topics and subtopics that guided the discussion. While these topics were present, they were insufficient given the vast subject under discussion. However, the thesis of the paper veered slightly from the famine and into the roles of political figures. Losing the focus of a paper is a critical problem that affects its admissibility in the relevant field[3]. Conversely, Kung’s article illustrated a high level of organization both aesthetically and conceptually. It contained numerous headings and sub headings that subdivided the paper according to the main themes of political involvement, food policy consequences, feasible recommendations and conclusion. This attention to detail furnished it with a sense of order that was lacking in the Wikipedia counterpart. Grammar is an important aspect of the paper that complements the structure. Therefore, possessing a well-structured paper is impossible if substantial grammatical errors exist.

Given that Wikipedia articles are compiled by a community of interested individuals, ensuring the level of grammar is maintained can be difficult. They are essentially sophisticated blog posts that allow qualified members to create, edit and share academic topics on the World Wide Web. Wikipedia suffers from two other problems that are rare in academic type content: content oversimplification and lack of standardization[4]. Compared to Zhongwei and Kung’s articles on the Great Chinese Famine, Wikipedia’s train of thought in the same topic was relatively basic. For instance, in one paragraph discussing government distribution policies, Wikipedia simply glanced over the role of the state in creating and perpetuating the famine through poorly formulated policies.

Academic Citation and Sources

The usage of citations, appropriate sources and references is the major determining factor that categorizes a paper as academic or not. Wikipedia furnishes university and high school students with relevant articles on a wide array of topics. In fact, it emerges as the first result when looking through search engines. However, its consistency and credibility are far fro being accepted in the standard academic paper. Within a section of the article, the association has made it clear that while most articles present an acceptable level of scholarship, the remaining ones are admittedly completely unusable. In fact, it is recommended that only people possessing an educated understanding of the subject being researched should use it. It is difficult to rely on the “Great Chinese Famine” article in Wikipedia since it lacks an author. This is common for most articles in the site. Every researcher must always ask himself or herself concerning the author and the intention when evaluating sources.

In contrast, both Zhongwei and Kung’s papers contained the full names of the authors as well as their affiliations. In the first instance, Kung’s article originated form JSTOR, a highly reliable database for academic materials. Similarly, Zhongwei paper was certified by the Australian National University. Both Zhongwei and Kung presented their arguments and then provided counterarguments before making conclusions. In this way, the paper remains objective. Conversely, the intellectual struggles within Wikipedia during the editing process uses a consensus method to eliminate undependable contributions and amends. However, regularly, the contributor whose article is selected may not necessarily be the one with relevant information. Instead, the individual with the strongest agenda will be chosen. In the same way, contributors with agendas can be biased towards choosing particular entries over others. This unstructured approach towards selecting the most appropriate contribution for a particular topic is the main reason why it appears unreliable[5].


It is imperative to acknowledge that Wikipedia by itself cannot be considered an independent, authoritative and suitable academic material. On face value, it is structured in an organized manner. Most of the arguments on different disciplines are elaborate and complete. Furthermore, it has the advantage of supplementary links to other relevant sites that enhance the learning experience. However, the authenticity of the sources used in the Wikipedia articles is highly questionable. This is because most of the entries are made by ordinary people in the absence of peer reviewers. When conducting an academic research, using the information on Wikipedia exposes a paper to numerous conceptual errors. Given that Wikipedia lacks a central organizing system that can ensure that all articles are updated, most of the content there is obsolete. On numerous occasions, contributors have entered falsified information that has gone unnoticed by the editors for several years. Quoting such wrongful information in an academic paper will equally make the paper plagiarized and misleading[6]. In the worst-case scenarios, Wikipedia is susceptible to parties that may require an effective channel for propaganda. Fascist governments are a good example.



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Clâement, Matthieu. 2012. “Food Availability, Food Entitlements, and Radicalism during the Chinese Great Leap Forward Famine: an Econometric Panel Data Analysis”. Cliometrica.6, no. 1: 89-114.

Dikötter, Frank. Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962. New York: Walker & Co, 2010.

Kung, James Kai-sing. “The Causes of China’s Great Leap Famine, 1959-1961.” Economic Development and Cultural Change 52, no. 1. October 2003.

Wemheuer, Felix, and Kimberley Ens Manning. Eating Bitterness New Perspectives on China’s Great Leap Forward and Famine. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2011.

Zhao, Zhongwei and Anna Reimondos. “The Demography of China’s 1958-61 Famine: A Closer Examination.” Population 67, no. 2. 2012.

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                [1] Zhongwei Zhao and Anna Reimondos. “The Demography of China’s 1958-61 Famine: A Closer Examination.” (Population 67, 2012), 45-78.

                [2] Ibid ., 28


                [3] James Kai-sing Kung. “The Causes of China’s Great Leap Famine, 1959-1961.” (Economic Development and Cultural Change 52, 2003), 12-67.

                [4] Frank Dikötter. Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962. (New York: Walker & Co, 2010), 28 -45.


                [5] Felix Wemheuer, and Kimberley Ens Manning. Eating Bitterness New Perspectives on China’s Great Leap Forward and Famine. (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2011), 23-89.


                [6] Matthieu Clâement. “Food Availability, Food Entitlements, and Radicalism During the Chinese Great Leap Forward Famine: an Econometric Panel Data Analysis”. (Cliometrica, 2012), 89-114.

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