Seriously, Wikipedia is Not Primary Source Material

I spend a fair bit of time helping students navigate the scary world of research papers. Nearly every single one of them brings their resources, which almost always consists of nothing but Wikipedia articles.

I do my best not to cry at the fact their teachers have not explained to them what constitutes valid research material, and then explain to the student why I won’t permit them to use the Wikipedia article as a primary resource. I’m sorry. I get the concept of pooling the wisdom of the masses, but it’s not vetted. It’s prone to the whims of people who don’t bother to check themselves before they change an entry, or those who wish to sabotage others’ valid efforts.

The students protest, but I don’t back down. I tell them that they can use Wikipedia to help them get started on a topic if they can’t find information any other way. This means they can use an article, but they must actually go through and research all of the facts present (which really translates to not using the article as anything but a jumping off point).

I may rethink that strategy, though. Or perhaps I should just reinforce it. Either way, Wikipedia has lost even more face with me thanks to this recent discovery.

And to think, I remember when the most scandalous bit of Wikipedia trivia was the fact that the founder was changing his article, and not in ways that supported the spirit of his own site.


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