What About Wikipedia?
According to its own disclaimer , Wikipedia is a Web-based, "open-content collaborative encyclopedia, that is, a voluntary association of individuals and groups who are developing a common resource of human knowledge."I think it's one of the greatest developments in the history of ideas and education--but what does this mean for students that want to use Wikipedia as a source of information for tonight's homework (or any other purpose)?
The answer to this question depends on two factors: the type of information you are seeking, and what you plan to do with that information. As a student, you need to be aware that Wikipedia is not considered a scholarly source , and nothing found in it "has necessarily been reviewed by professionals with the expertise required to provide you with complete, accurate or reliable information."
In other words, Wikipedia is not considered a reliable or valid source for serious academic research .
This doesn't mean that Wikipedia is useless, or that all the information it contains is bogus. In fact, given its "open" nature, it is remarkably accurate. It just means that, as with all sources of information, you need to be a responsible and critical consumer. Always question and validate your sources . If any lingering doubts remain, then verify the information by finding supporting information in other sources.
To better educate yourself on the advantages and disadvantages of Wikipedia , I suggest you spend some time reviewing the following information:
- Read Wikipedia's definition of itself
- Read Wikipedia's frequently asked questions (FAQs) for schools and teachers
- Read the LONG list of Wikipedia criticisms (with external links to articles)
- Read Benjamin Sutherland's article " The People's Encyclopedia " (Newsweek, 2 January 2006)
- Read George Johnson's article " The Nitpicking of the Masses vs. the Authority of the Experts " (New York Times, January 3, 2006)
- Read Dan Goodin's article " Wikipedia's accuracy judged to be as good as that of Britannica " (Seattle Times, 15 December 2005)
- "Wikipedia is just the start" - Listen to a podcast (or read the transcript) of a 2007 interview with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales
- It's such a big deal, the New York Times has a special section dedicated to Wikipedia
If you have any questions about Wikipedia , or the reliability of any source you find on online, check with your librarian and/or your teacher.
Jessica Von Wendel
Librarian, Rainier High School