Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why You Can't Rely On Wikipedia

I've written before about Wikipedia. In a nutshell, what I said there was that the more controversial the topic, the less reliable Wikipedia will be. I suggested that Wikipedia might be a great place to start research on a topic, if the endnotes and footnotes are well documented and from reliable sources.

It turns out that controversial topics aren't necessarily the only ones leading to a lack of reliability. Sometimes it's all fun and games, or perhaps "research":

Shane posted a poetic but phony quote on Wikipedia, he was testing how our globalized, increasingly Internet-dependent media would uphold standards of accuracy and accountability in an age of instant news. His report card: Wikipedia passed. Journalism flunked.The sociology major's obituary-friendly quote _ which he added to the Wikipedia page of Maurice Jarre hours after the French composer's death March 28 _ flew straight on to dozens of U.S. blogs and newspaper Web sites in Britain, Australia and India. They used the fabricated material, Fitzgerald said, even though administrators at the free online encyclopedia twice caught the quote's lack of attribution and removed it.
If I were a teacher who required reports, I'd take points off for referencing Wikipedia.

7 comments:

sciencectn said...

Are there actually teachers that allow Wikipedia as a valid source? None of my teachers ever did.

mazenko said...

Generally, teachers should point students to Wikipedia as nothing more than a starting point - there are many effective citations. Additionally, research by the Denver Post and University of Colorado found Wikipedia to be "overwhelmingly accurate," even more so at times than print sources because of the extensive quality control of a copious amount of diligent editors. As a source, it is not academically credible because there is no specificity of authorship. But there is nothing wrong in using it as a starting point, and it can be trusted as much as, or more than, many textbooks.

Scott McCall said...

Here at the University of Arizona, professors encourage the use of wikipedia as a staring point. They then just say to continue research from the reference links at the bottom of the page. follow enough reference links and you get to a scholarly article (hopefully).

so wikipedia is a good starting point, but as you said, many professors actually do take off points for "faulty information" if it's quoted directly from wikipedia.

PeggyU said...

Same with my son's high school papers. They are allowed to use it as a starting point, but not as a serious reference.

Law and Order Teacher said...

Darren,
Good starting point, but not as a stand-alone source. I also find it a good source for photos on PowerPoints.

Ellen K said...

I do count off. Wikipedia is only as good as the people who write it. And I've found glaring mistakes in some common articles. You might as well go to Yahoo Answers and ask. You would get the same range of responses.

allen (in Michigan) said...

One nice thing about those "glaring mistakes" in Wikipedia is that you can correct them. I've done it myself a couple of time.