Wikipedia is acceptable to use as a reference for an academic piece of writing!?
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22 April 2010
Jimmy Wales the founder of Wikipedia said in an interview (2006) "For god sake, you're in college; don't cite the encylopedia." In your role as a student and/or practitioner how do you assess the use of Wikipedia as a reference source? Do you think Wikipedia is a reliable source to refer to or do you think the lack of expert involvement who approve articles like in Citizendium and the increasing violation of articles in Wikipedia reduce the value of this source?
I am afraid that we are missing the whole point!
The real question,I believe, is not whether Wiki is acceptable but what are we educating for. Another question arising is :why wikipedia is so commonly cited ? What happened that makes it so widely used?
Bearing these questions in mind, I sugewt we look differently at the issue:
1.As mentioned earlier, we ought to teach for critical thinking, critical evaluation, and systematic study of facts and views. However, Academia nowadays is in the midst of an ocean of changes:more and more knowledge is easily acessible to the ordinary person, and more strands are arising to criticizef academically acceptable mores.In such a social context, where there are many views and also differnt approaches to study and practice(see for example the case of conventional versus alternative medicine which have come closer in some areas),the sole instruction to use a rference from a certain source is not in and of itself sufficient to expand the views and learning of our students,in whatever educational setting.Nowadays, knowledge travels faster, and wikipedia is the ultimate example of it. Wikipedia is commonly cited because it is acessible and relates more to the actual world than many academic references which are unfortunately not available and can hardly be acessed.
We need to teach our students that when they cite some entry, they have to check what is standing behind it, who is the author, what are their methods and background, and how they derive their conclusion. Saying no just because...is not sufficient in the 21st century. In addition, it is important that we help them and teach them how to obtain information that is reliable, but also it is essential that we facilitate a process whereby they learn how to identify and formulate problems and how to critically evaluate different strands of research and practice. The example of the "merge" between conventional medicine which has absorbed some unconventionsl practices (such ae yoga,meditation, visual imagery-as examples), is a good way to illustraate that different forms of study and practice could be merged through the willingness to study and expand one's knowledge. So if someone is using Wikipedia I would try to teach them to evaluate it, as was done by some.
The world has changed :more knowledge is available around, and aalternative paths to university libraries are evolving. So, what we need is to teach information literacy within such a context. Wiki is but an example of a widely available resoiurce for knowledge. It swwms that the academic world itself is using other sources of exchange other than journals, such as blogs...and perhaps we may see other phenomenon breaking the ivory tower's walls????It seems like alternative paths to institutionalized knowledge are evolving...This is what we should pay attention to.. and look at the implications for the long run... Tali
17:58 on 24 April 2010