The question still comes up (as it should)……can/should students use Wikipedia as a resource when researching?
In the past I have read about the peer review process and the electronic programs and systems that aide in the review process that Wikipedia articles go through. I have personally felt it was a suitable source of information to use for quick reference and alongside other resources. More recently it occurred to me that maybe Wikipedia has an opinion on this topic of discussion. So I decided it was time to go to the source…
Wikipedia offers many articles on this topic specifically including Wikipedia: Researching with Wikipedia, Wikipedia: Why Wikipedia is so Great, Wikipedia: Why Wikipedia is Not so Great, and even Wikipedia: Citing Wikipedia.
In a nutshell they suggest “You should not use Wikipedia by itself for primary research (unless you are writing a paper about Wikipedia).” (Wikipedia contributors ) Researchers should cite the original source of information and use Wikipedia only as a secondary source to back up that information as they would with other encyclopedias.
Students and teachers must have conversations about author authority and credibility, bias, purpose, and timeliness to completely understand that content on the web can be written by anyone and is not always accurate. Teachers may wish to have their students follow a process or use an evaluation tool such as the How to Evaluate Wikipedia Articles (Ayers) a one page PDF with recommendations on how to judge the information found on Wikipedia pages. One other suggestion from Wikipedia, make sure the information is cited properly including the date and time the information was accessed since information on Wikipedia is ever-changing.
What are your thoughts and ideas about how to get students to evaluate resources including Wikipedia, and how they can be used during the research process?
Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.
*quartermane. Wikipedia T-Shirt. 2008. Photograph. FlickrWeb. 8 Dec 2011. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeeperez/2453225588/sizes/m/in/photostream/>.
*Wikipedia contributors. “Wikipedia: Researching with Wikipedia.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 20 nov 2011. Web. 8 Dec 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Researching_with_Wikipedia>.
*Ayers, Phoebe. “How to Evaluate Wikipedia Articles.” . Wikipedia, 2008. Web. 8 Dec 2011. <http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/16/How_to_evaluate_a_Wikipedia_article.pdf>.