Six months from now, Wikipedia will celebrate its ten year anniversary. Before Wikipedia, most people either went to the library or collected expensive hardbound copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica. On January 15, 2001, Jimmy Walles and Larry Sanger officially launched Wikipedia. The two were working on an online encyclopedia using only expert-written articles called Nupedia, and found the process to be extremely slow. One of the employees on the encyclopedia suggested using the new wiki technology to create a “feeder” of information to the project. Soon the wiki articles overtook the Nupedia work and Wales and Sanger decided to create Wikipedia to distinguish between the expert-written Nupedia and the open sourced, public driven, collaborative edited Wikipedia. Since its inception, the question of whether the site is a reliable resource or not has been debated. 
There is no shortage of college and university articles on the internet that warn students not to use Wikipedia as a primary source and plagiarism from the site will easily be detected. For example, a simple Google search of collage articles on the key words, “Wikipedia reliable source,” turns up a half dozen articles, like the one from Lock Haven University’s student newspaper the Eagle Eye in 2006. The article questions several students on the issue of Wikipedia’s reliability and provides a few expert quotes. For example, “Jack Becker, interim head of information services at the Texas Tech University library said Wikipedia should be used as only a "starting point" for a research project, and not a key reference.”  Likewise, the history department of Middlebury College made headlines when they formally banned the use of Wikipedia. Insidehighereduction.com quotes Don Wyatt, chair of the history department, “As educators, we are in the business of reducing the dissemination of misinformation … Even though Wikipedia may have some value, particularly from the value of leading students to citable sources, it is not itself an appropriate source for citation." 
And this is where you will find complete agreement. On the subject of Wikipedia’s reliability, both the site and the scholars agree, the encyclopedia is a “starting point” which leads “students to citable sources.” I don’t think Wales and Sanger had any other illusions when they founded the site. From the outset, they realized that the encyclopedia would be vulnerable to what they called “vandalism.” They built in safety nets. Wikipedia points out on their website, that there have been numerous outside studies on the site which have determined, as one early IBM study concluded, “surprisingly effective self-healing capabilities".  Yet, this doesn’t help the victim of the occasional vicious attack. A noted example can be found in the Eagle Eye. The article points to an example of personal attack in an article which seriously began to call into question Wikipedia’s credibility. “The credibility was first heavily scrutinized last November (2005) when it mistakenly linked journalist John Seigenthaler to John F. Kennedy’s and Robert Kennedy’s assassinations. The information stayed in Wikipedia’s website for more than four months before it was finally deleted. Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia founder said on CNET News.com, "The system failed in this case. A bad entry was kept for some time until (Seigenthaler) actually fixed it himself."
As long as Wikipedia uses a collaborative editing process, questions of the sites reliability will be raised. Nonetheless, the site continues to grow. Again, according to their own website, Wikipedia has now more than “15 million freely useable articles in over two hundred languages worldwide, and content from a million registered user accounts and countless anonymous contributors.” As of the date of the publication of this article, Wikipedia has now more than 3.333 million English language articles. And as the site grows, attitudes toward the reliable and usefulness of the encyclopedia has changed. As Wikipedia points out:
“The Gould Library at Carleton College in Minnesota has a web-page describing the use of Wikipedia in academia. It asserts that "Wikipedia is without question a valuable and informative resource", but that "there is an inherent lack of reliability and stability" to its articles, again drawing attention to similar advantages and limitations as other sources. As with other reviews it comments that one should assess one’s sources and what is desired from them, and that "Wikipedia may be an appropriate resource for some assignments, but not for others." It cited Jimmy Wales’ view that Wikipedia may not be ideal as a source for all academic uses, and (as with other sources) suggests that at the least, one strength of Wikipedia is that it provides a good starting point for current information on a very wide range of topics.
In 2007, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article written by Cathy Davidson, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and English at Duke University, in which she asserts that Wikipedia should be used to teach students about the concepts of reliability and credibility."
It could be argued that by Wikipedia highlighting the above articles they are guilty of self-referencing. Nonetheless, there is a general consensus forming on to how one should use Wikipedia as a resource. Most educators agree, Wikipedia can be an extremely useful tool. However, when reading Wikipedia, one should always check the sources cited in the article. Wikipedia articles are useful in providing general background on the subject you are studying. The key to effectively using the site is to make sure you click on the links. One should pay special attention to cited sources produced by scholars, that are carefully vetted. The cited resources will lead a researcher to a more comprehensive understanding of the material.
And so, in regards to Wikipedia’s reliability, it can be argued that the site is reliable in providing researchers and students a guiding light, or a “starting point,” into the subject. But, because of its collaborative editing process, Wikipedia should not be considered a carefully vetted source. Unless, of course, you are writing about the organization itself. Then, directly quoting the site and its founders just might be appropriate. After all, who would know the history of Wikipedia better than Wikipedia?
 “History of Wikipedia.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, inc. 4 Nov. 2001. 23 June 2010. Web. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Wikipedia
 Trentadue, Melissa. “Wikipedia determined unreliable source for school work by students.” The Eagle Eye. 22 Feb. 2006. Web. http://media.www.lhueagleye.com/media/storage/paper485/news/2006/02/22/News/Wikipedia.Determined.As.Unreliable.Source.For.School.Work.By.Students-1623817.shtm
 “A Stand Against Wikipedia. Inside Higher Ed. 26 Jan. 2007. Web. http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2007/01/26/wiki
 “Reliable Sources/Flaw.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, inc. 28 Feb. 2005. 10 Feb. 2010. Web.