During the previous century, as recently as a couple of decades ago, we would consult multi-volume encyclopaedias to find information, but today’s students are more likely to turn on their computers and go to Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is the encyclopaedia of the 21st century. The articles in printed encyclopaedias, such as the Encyclopedia Britannica, were written by top experts in each field.

"However, Wikipedia is open to all contributors who have access to a computer and an internet connection, regardless of the time of day or geographical location,” says Turo Hiltunen, researcher of the English language.

Millions of people use Wikipedia every day, including university teachers and students. The monthly number of users of the English-language Wikipedia is estimated to be about half a billion.

 “I’ve used it for a long time myself. When I’m searching for information on a topic I’m not familiar with, I often wind up reading the Wikipedia article on it,” Hiltunen continues.

The number of articles is constantly increasing

Turo Hiltunen studies corpus linguistics, which means that he examines the structure and use of the English language from extensive sets of text using a computer. Wikipedia is a wonderful resource for a corpus linguist, as the researcher can download the entire mass of text onto a computer and analyse it as any text corpus would be analysed.

 “All of Wikipedia put together constitutes an exceptionally large corpus, and processing it may be challenging. However, methods have been developed for this purpose,” says Hiltunen.

Wikipedia is a wonderful resource for a corpus linguist, as the researcher can download the entire mass of text onto a computer and analyse it as any text corpus would be analysed.

There are currently approximately 5 million articles in the English-language Wikipedia, and the number is constantly increasing. Wikipedia is continuously being edited and improved.

“I believe that in the future, Wikipedia’s other language versions will reach similar numbers to its English-language edition. New technologies are constantly being sought for this purpose.”

Turo Hiltunen is studying Wikipedia’s relationship to academic writing. He’s interested in how the texts in Wikipedia differ from traditional academic text types, such as research articles, and also from texts written by students. He has studied articles in medicine and comparative literature and compared the vocabulary used in a variety of academic texts and Wikipedia articles.

In the video, Turo Hiltunen, university lecturer in English language, describes his research and the contexts in which he believes Wikipedia can be used.