Saturday, August 9, 2014

On using Wikipedia

I think the following paragraph by Dan Gillmor regarding the proper use of Wikipedia should be required reading for students:
Wikipedia is a fabulous place to start when you want to learn about any number of things. But it’s also the worst place to stop if you plan to use the information anywhere else (a term paper or dinner party, much less a newspaper) or base an important decision on what you’ve read. I’ve stopped there when, for example, I wanted to refresh my memory about plot developments in a favorite TV series that’s back for a new season. But if I ever wanted to write about that series in a public venue, you can bet that I’d double-check to ensure I got my facts straight.

As a rule, I prohibit students from citing Wikipedia entries as references in written assignments, as Wikipedia is not a website for scholarship. It can be a useful starting point, however, and as long as one follows up any scholarly materials cited in a Wikipedia entry for aggression, for example, then one is on the way to having the materials necessary to craft an acceptable manuscript. Of course, I would also strongly recommend poring through the appropriate EBSCO databases in addition to examining the sources cited in a Wikipedia entry.

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