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November 6, 2008

Wikipedia: a go-to source?

I'll admit it, I use Wikipedia. But I never cite it. I usually only go there to get a brief overview of the topic I'm researching, so I know of some things to look for. (It's kind of like how I use SparkNotes to get some other ideas about books I'm reading, to see what I might have missed in works of literature.)

In those cases, I don't see why either sight is "bad" though many professors have told my classes to never, ever even look at those sites. However, is that all changing now?

In our Writing for the Internet class we read an article about how Wikipedia may be becoming an academic source, though I don't think Wikipedia will ever be that advanced if anyone with a computer is always allowed to edit it, this article brought up a lot of interesting points about how scholars use it, basically for the same reason I do. (Ha, who knew I was so bright!)

This part stuck out most to me... "Of course, just because more researchers—including some prominent ones—are citing Wikipedia does not mean it’s necessarily a valid source for academic papers.  However, you can begin to see academic norms shifting as more scholars find useful information in Wikipedia and begin to cite it." I like this part best because I don't fully agree with it. Even if some prominent researchers are now citing Wikipedia, I don't think I ever will. I don't feel that something that can be altered by any average human being at any time could ever be considered scholarly. So, you won't see me citing it until it is only run by a few, VERY smart people.

I think that my idea is justified by this article, where it talks about someone being sued for liable because of something he put on Wikipedia; when the only reason he did so was to make a joke - because he didn't think Wikipedia was a real website used for research, he thought it was just a joke site.

Both of these articles were interesting, but because both of these sides exist I don't think I'll ever be able to fully take Wikipedia seriously.  

1 Comment

I agree with you on the use of both Wikipedia and Sparknotes. It makes no sense to me why I would just leave myself in the dark when reading a work, when there are resources out there that can help with that.

For Thinking and Writing, we were forced to read Foucault's essay on the Panopticon (another indirect reference to Bentham). In the reflection paper, I made the mistake of saying that if I had to read this for comprehension, I would have to use Sparknotes to get started. Of course, that got quite the response; I believe it started with "be careful" and degenerated into chicken scratch.

It is the truth, though. If I am completely clueless of the plot of some novel, I'm not going to sit around wait for some giant revelation regarding the novel to hit me on the head. I am going to get some reference source to get my thoughts going. I guess the professor would be the best place to go, but what do you do when he or she is not around?

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