Don’t fear the Wiki?

At the website theory.org.uk David Gauntlett writes:

Students from various schools and colleges often tell me that their tutors have informed them that Wikipedia is an unreliable source of information which should not be referred to – and this seems to be common (see, for example, Jaschik, 2007). This is clearly the opposite of Web 2.0 thinking – it is ‘Do fear the internet!’. However the notion that any statement that anybody has ever managed to get into a book or article is going to be inherently better than Wikipedia content clearly doesn’t make sense, especially as Wikipedia is subject to continuous checking and updating – precisely unlike anything in print.

Is a blanket ban on citing from Wikipedia really justified? Read the whole of David Gauntlett’s provocative article here.

About Jennie Barnsley

I am the Research Development Officer in the CLTR (Centre for Learning & Teaching Research) where I have worked part-time since January 2005. In this role I develop activities and resources to encourage and support colleagues across the institution to research their pedagogic theory and practice.
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4 Responses to Don’t fear the Wiki?

  1. Bill Hopkinson says:

    It is not a bad place to start but it is unreliable because the status of the article is often not clear. Wiki includes a full range from scholarly articles and complete rubbish often within similar areas of interest. it is a good palce to start, but not a good place to finish: it not infrequently encourages plagiarism or at least laziness. A qualified warning is justified, I think.

  2. I agree that it’s an unreliable source – but it’s not the only, or even the most, unreliable source on the Web.

    I was recently chastised by a peer reviewer for referencing a Wikipedia entry, despite the fact that I’d carefully footnoted my reasons – to wit, that it is an unreliable but nevertheless useful source of information about subcultural phenomena (in this case, genderqueer). As it happens, the exact same quote I referenced from Wikipedia exists on another, genderqueer-specific, website which, had I cited that instead, would have raised no eyebrows.

    The problem, I think therefore, is not Wikipedia per se, but how to teach students the necessary skills to assess the reliabilty or otherwise of *any* web resource.

  3. John Gearing says:

    Wikipedia is a great starting point, at the bottom of most wikipedia entries our sources, these lead to other websites and literature that are sometimes more valuable to the subject.

    Restricted use of Wikipedia seems a little strong, as it is an academic source of a different media type, however encouragement to use books should always be given. Also journals are very useful and up-to-date.

    Maybe a module on ‘all’ courses should teach students how to use sources correctly and encourage best practices, as college level appears to have failed miserable in doing so. (Hence why most students in their first year run to online sources.)

    This is my opinion 🙂

  4. Alistair McCulloch says:

    Citing Wikipedia is fine as long as what you’re researching is Wikipedia or the way in which information/knowedge is developed in Web 2.0 environments. When you’re looking for source to back up your argument in a definitive way either in terms of statistical evidence or of an argument/conclusion that’s been peer-reviewed through a process that’s specifically looking to check the rigour of arguments/conclusions, then its not ok.

    It a bit like using Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code as a source. Great if you’re researching Dan Brown or the historio-fiction genre, not if you’re writing an historical text.

    In general, the rule is, don’t cite the Wiki.

    Completely agree with the previous writer on the need to develop information literacy in our (and veryone else’s) students.

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