Sunday, May 8, 2011

My thoughts on Wikipedia

I’ve been asked what I think about Wikipedia.  So, I thought I’d post a few comments.

Many moons ago I told my composition students to avoid wikis at all costs.  Wikipedia was the devil and to be shunned like a red-headed step-child.  I hated it.  It was always the first thing students looked at, and many of them never wanted to move beyond it.  So, I banned Wikipedia. 

Then, as I started doing more and more online research for fun (geek, remember), I found that Wikipedia wasn’t so bad as a preliminary resource.  Sometimes I’ll need a quick explanation about a time period, character, book, band, etc.  Wikipedia is pretty reliable as far as that goes.  I even post links to Wikipedia articles on this blog.  I like to use other sources, but it is quick and easy to read.  So, it gets utilized regularly. 

HOWEVER, and this is important so pay attention, Wikipedia should never be used as a resource for a bibliography or citation in a research paper.  I repeat, do not quote this as a scholarly source.  Wiki’s, by their very nature, tend to have the occasional inaccuracy.  They can often be edited by non-experts.  When conducting important research, especially for educational purposes and citations, look for scholarly and reputable sources.  Don’t use Wikipedia in those cases.

I suppose that’s all I can really say on the subject.  I don’t have any kind of bone to pick with Wikipedia.  I now think wikis are important aspects of the online world, and they can be useful for preliminary research, study sessions, or just fun facts.  But I don’t depend on them.  And I try to find other sources from more scholarly authors when I can.

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