Wikipedia: Should students trust it?

Wikipedia: Should students trust it?

Summary: Should Universities ban use of Wikipedia in classes?

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TOPICS: Open Source
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Jimmy Wales, co-founder Wikipedia, admonished Microsoft for its efforts in seeking to correct what it deems to be inaccuracies in a Wikipedia entry, as I discuss and analyze in “Can Wikipedia handle the truth?

Conventional media “wisdom” is in accord with Wikipedia’s Wales. Google News headlines today include: 

"Microsoft tried to doctor Wkipedia"

"Microsoft under fire for Wikipedia laundering"

"Wikipedia blocks a pay-for-play scheme"

Many organizations and individuals are frustrated by the inability to be directly sourced for Wikipedia “encyclopedia” entries which purport to state “facts” about them.

Wales’ flawed Wikipedia editorial philosophy—see ““Is Wikipedia ‘knowledge’ merely third party hearsay?”—is spurring the ire of institutions of higher learning.

Universities are “taking a stand against Wikipedia,” according to “Inside Higher Ed”:

The history department at Middlebury College voted this month to bar students from citing the Web site as a source in papers or other academic work. All faculty members will be telling students about the policy and explaining why material on Wikipedia, while convenient, may not be trustworthy.“As educators, we are in the business of reducing the dissemination of misinformation,” said Don Wyatt, chair of the department. “Even though Wikipedia may have some value, particularly from the value of leading students to citable sources, it is not itself an appropriate source for citation,” he said.

The department made what Wyatt termed a consensus decision on the issue after discussing problems professors were seeing as students cited incorrect information from Wikipedia in papers and on tests. In one instance, Wyatt said, a professor noticed several students offering the same incorrect information, from Wikipedia.

“The important point that we wish to communicate to all students taking courses and submitting work in our department in the future is that they cite Wikipedia at their peril,” he said. He stressed that the objection of the department to Wikipedia wasn’t its online nature, but its unedited nature, and he said students need to be taught to go for quality information, not just convenience.

Wales, himself, agrees with the Middlebury College no Wikipedia here stance.

In “Social freeloaders: Is there a collective wisdom and can the Web obtain it?” I cite Wales asking that college students refrain from citing Wikipedia as a source of academic research:

Speaking at the Annenberg School for Communication, Wales said that while Wikipedia is useful for many things, he would like to make it known that he does not recommend it to college students for serious research and that Wikipedia has considered putting out a fact sheet on the site, it would explain the nature of Wikipedia and why it’s not always a definitive source. Teachers could hand it out, he said.

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9 comments
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  • Discretion

    It shouldn't be banned. Students should be informed and reminded that anyone can put anything on Wikipedia, and it is not necessarily a credible source. However, they need to be able to make this choice for themselves.
    gmillar
  • Professors missing the point completely...

    Colleges shouldn't "ban" Wikipedia, or "the Web" (how frigging ridiculous is that?!?) - this sends the message that other sources are somehow free of error... what they should do is require students to verify facts, cross check their sources and cite multiple sources for their arguments and papers. This is what students should do with regards to any source of "facts" or interpretations - a printed Encyclopedia is not immune to editorial bias, or being out of date, or favoring a point of view that once was popular within a discipline but is no more.

    Furthermore, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia - these are inherently NOT "primary" sources, and I was taught that in junior high school.

    Students who submit papers citing Wikipedia, without citing other sources backing up any claims made on the basis of information derived from it, should be given failing grades - that is just academic laziness.

    Contrawise, students who cite Wikipedia as one of a number of sources, and use the information derived therein appropriately, shouldn't be penalized.
    tvleavitt
  • wikipedia has many false biographies.

    * A false Wikipedia ‘biography’ - published by USA today,[http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2005-11-29-wikipedia-edit_x.htm] “[[John Seigenthaler Sr.]] was the assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy in the early 1960’s. For a brief time, he was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby. Nothing was ever proven.”

    * Actor Simon Rex [http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Simon_Rex&oldid=96600773] was described as “a homosexual and in early 1999 engaged in a ”three year sexual relationship with gay pornstar” Jeremy Jordan. The relationship broke off when Rex became involved with British singer Stephen Gately after meeting at the 1999 MTV Music Video Awards.”
    FreedomRocks
  • Message has been deleted.

    FreedomRocks
  • Wikipedia is not neutral or reliable

    They claim that that site only presents “neutral” information. However, those administrators are writing their own articles.

    On November 29, 2006, [[International Hearald Tribute]] published an article “Chinese-language Wikipedia presents different view of history” [http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/11/29/news/wiki.php] by Howard W. French from The [[New York Times]]. The subtitle is “Sensitive topics get gentle treatment.” Since then, many other sites published similar articles.

    The wikipedia’s article “[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Wikipedia Chinese wikipedia]” is written only by the Chinese language wikipedia administrators, no others users are allowed to write anything bad about it or they will be banned. And they are violating wikipedia’s own rules by quoting their own words as if they are the real truth in order to defend their “innocence.”

    When other users who disagree with those lying administrators try to add more information to the “Chinese wikipedia” article, their editions were immediately deleted under the disguise of “vandalism” by the wikipedia [[OCD]] administrators. Here is the version - [[Chinese Wikipedia]] that they called vandalism.And the article was put under protection, “This article is currently semi-protected to prevent sock puppets of currently blocked or banned users from editing it. Please discuss changes on the talk page, or request unprotection.”

    On the external link section, it has a direct link to a personal blog which is written by the Chinese wikipedia administrator who claim that everyone misunderstood the Chinese langaguage wikipedia. It is against the wikipedia’s rules to link any personal blog site, because it was done by the administrators, so it was ok for them to abuse their editing power. And there was no other links that disagree with his point of views even though many users completely disagree with them.

    There are many examples such as this one, wikipedia administrators only keep editions that they like, otherwise, those will be deleted for “vandalism,” and the person who wrote that will be banned.
    FreedomRocks
    • Ministries of Truth

      Actually, I meant to post this the first time as a response to this post, not to the original article. So here it is again:

      Welcome to the Brave New World of the Internet, where we have _many_ big brothers running _many_ "Ministries of Truth'!

      I kid you not. The principle in action as denounced here in this post on Wikipedia is alive and well in many corners of the Net. Look at how much nonsense gets blasted all over in the blogs, while the truth is shouted down. Look at how many 'Moderators' of groups and forums pass themselves off as arbiters of politness and/or truth, while really practicing censorship or worse.

      The Internet has not brought us greater freedom of speech -- unless it is greater freedom to abuse it.
      mejohnsn
  • wikipedia teaches students how to say the dirty F word

    guess what, wikipedia even has a page for the word fuck.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuck

    It is a simple word, and there are those nerds who actually added all kinds of things in the article. Not only that, those OCD administrators locked that article, so no one can edit it freely. In a way, the administrators approved the content of the fuck article. If they don’t like what they read, they already swiftly deleted them, and labled those edition as “vandalism.” how typical for them.

    And if you search for “fuck you,” it will redirect you back to that fuck page. And if you type “fuck me,” it will show you a french novel.

    Back to the article - fuck, it is quite long. And if it also teaches readers how to use alternative ways to say the word fuck in English. You and little kids will be able to learn how to say that word in other languages, do you really need to know how to say fuck in afrikaan, Norwegian, Swedish? Just check out at the bottom of the page.

    How wonderful is that encyclopedia? Now little kids will be able to go to that “serious” “free” encyclopedia, and learn some up-to-date swearwords. oh. fuck.
    FreedomRocks
  • RE: Wikipedia: Should students trust it?

    You're asking the wrong question. The correct question should be: should students trust ANY source of information? Wikipedia is great for a quick fix, a nutshell version of what's what and who's who, but for deeply cited and verifiable data, it's best to go elsewhere. Wikipedia as an instance of data, but not as an end-all and be-all. But, use with caution and find original source data!
    HarringA
  • RE: Wikipedia: Should students trust it?

    Welcome to the Brave New World of the Internet, where we have _many_ big brothers running _many_ "Ministries of Truth'!

    I kid you not. The principle in action as denounced here in this article on Wikipedia is alive and well in many corners of the Net. Look at how much nonsense gets blasted all over in the blogs, while the truth is shouted down. Look at how many 'Moderators' of groups and forums pass themselves off as arbiters of politness and/or truth, while really practicing censorship or worse.

    The Internet has not brought us greater freedom of speech -- unless it is greater freedom to abuse it.
    mejohnsn