Students using Wikipedia

Post ImageWikipedia has become pretty popular in the last couple years, and I am sure that most students have at least seen the site, even if they don’t use it regularly. I think the online encyclopedia is an excellent resource, full of really great information. I also think it should be treated like any other resource, whether online or offline – with caution. That said, I don’t think there’s any reason students should not use it. An intern at CNET News.com thinks otherwise:

Wikipedia is one of the Internet’s latest additions to the information revolution. More importantly, it’s the reason I was able to finish my massive second-semester AP English research final project in less than 45 minutes.

As the deadline loomed, I knew there was no way I would be able to sort through thousands of Google search results or go to the library to research while simultaneously performing other vital homework completion functions like talking online, reading celebrity gossip and downloading music. So I did what any desperate, procrastinating student would do–I logged on to Wikipedia, pulled up the entries on Renaissance literature and filled in the gaps until I had a presentable product.

Until recently, many kids in my high school, myself included, used Wikipedia without questioning the integrity of its content. Before Colbert highlighted the unreliability of the site’s information, I doubt many people even realized it isn’t an authoritative, credible source.

So please take my advice, students: Wikipedia is a great place to find out about local bands or start doing research. However, before including Wikipedia information in a term paper or using Wikipedia entries to study for exams, make sure you support your findings with more legitimate sources.

So let me get this straight – you’re an advanced placement English student, with a major research project, and you’re waiting until the last minute? Then you rely solely on Wikipedia entries and a few blanks you filled in? As one student to another, I hope you failed. And are you really so unable to think for yourself that you just assume Wikipedia is the be all end all of accurate information? Pretty sad it takes a comedian on television to teach you that it isn’t.

Wikipedia has been found to be just as accurate as Britannica (granted, I would like to see some additional studies back this up). The difference is that Britannica entries are shorter and contain a neutral perspective, while Wikipedia entries can be longer, include multiple perspectives, links to other resources, pictures and other multimedia, and much more. Wikipedia is also able to offer a much wider range of topics, including some very specific articles on niche subjects. There’s no reason to think that Wikipedia can’t be as comprehensive or accurate as traditional encyclopedias, though it varies from article to article. In fact, on average, I bet it is better.

I guess this really isn’t so much about whether students should use Wikipedia or not – to me, it’s clear they should. The point that needs to be made is that students always need to find multiple sources for information they want to use, and they’ve always got to add something extra. Even in a research paper, a little commentary and anaylsis will help your paper rise to the top of the pile when the time comes for it to be graded.

Don’t use only Wikipedia, but don’t be afraid to use it in addition to your other resources either.

Read: CNET News.com

3 thoughts on “Students using Wikipedia

  1. I would like to add that I use Wikipedia as background reading for prepping my lessons. They are overall very very good…and they provide extra links.

    To those of you students out there who are only using one source for papers? Or worse, copying/pasting work from an Internet source….DON’T DO THAT. You will get caught (even if Mack didn’t…jkjkjk).

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