Wikipedia Is Not a Valid Source?

I don’t have much to say, but I thought I’d post a link to this very interesting piece from HNN’s “Talking About History” feature: Wikipedia is good for Academia

My personal opinion? I’d hate to see students citing Wikipedia (or any other encyclopedia, for that matter)–and would grade their papers accordingly, but I use the site all the time, particularly with reference to things in which I have little background. I even use it for history info, particularly for names I’m not familiar with and dates of obscure events.

It is bookmarked, and I would bet that if I tracked how often I visited each of my bookmarks, Wikipedia would probably be at the top of the list. I think it’s a great site, and in my experience, it is usually pretty accurate. But would I cite in an academic paper? No.


4 Responses to “Wikipedia Is Not a Valid Source?”

  1. 1 Andrew Duppstadt
    March 23, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    I teach part-time at two community colleges and my students cite Wikipedia all the time. Yes, it drives me crazy, but as long as they putting the citation I don’t say too much about it. At least I know where the info is coming from if it is incorrect. I’d rather them not use such sources, but in this day and age they seem to think that its all fair game. I guess those that go on to become history majors will learn the difference.

  2. March 31, 2007 at 11:49 am

    I’ve been fairly successful with my students in that we always have a long talk about which internet sources are credible and which are not. The slackers still use Wikipedia at the expense of more reputable sources (like primary source documents) but most of my more dedicated students know that my paper assignments are not designed to be based on Wikipedia, and therefore they stay away from it. My policy is: if you need to check facts, use your textbook, Encarta online, or some other source. If you are just scrounging around for ideas, Wikipedia is fine.

  3. March 31, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    One other thing–many Wikipedia entries do indeed contain correct information, but my concern is that often they place undue emphasis on certain elements of the entry. For instance, the entry on Samuel Gridley Howe includes a lot of information on his work with the blind, but does not even mention his role in John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry. A reader unfamiliar with Howe would not know what information had been left out. Consequently, I would have no qualms about using the entry myself, but I would not suggest it to undergrads or others who are unfamiliar with Howe. From what I can tell most of the information in the entry is correct (albeit with a few ambiguous or misleading phrases).

  4. March 31, 2007 at 7:05 pm

    Wikipedia is not a vlaid source at all. I have personally found numerous errors in a few searches, not a good track record. See http://fusilier.wordpress.com/2006/08/07/127/ as well.

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