Online Social Encyclopaedia vs. Offline “Authoritative” Encyclopaedia

We spend time with our students in the center trying to educate them on why Wikipedia should never be a primary resource in an academic paper. Actually, that’s not fair. We try to explain what Wikipedia is and why it is not always a credible source, and therefore should never be the sole support for the research in an academic paper.

The kids fuss, and we expect that since we’ve just asked them to do some real work and to read what they’re finding critically.

Of course, the argument then becomes why we support an often out-of-date source, like the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, over a site that is edited frequently by people theoretically trying to improve the level of knowledge on the subject.

Again, the best we can do is try to educate them to read everything with a critical eye. We try to explain the inherent problems with completely trusting a source that is open to anybody editing it. We try to explain the need for other sources to help corroborate what they’re finding on Wikipedia.

I use Wikipedia very rarely, but when I do, you can bet I’m running around finding up to half a dozen other sources to supoort or correct what I’ve found there.

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