Monday, January 29, 2007

College Profs Bar Students From Citing Wikipedia

According to Inside Higher Ed, the history department at Middlebury College voted recently to bar students from citing material found on the collaborative encyclopedia Wikipedia as sources in academic work.

"The department made (...) a consensus decision on the issue after discussing problems professors were seeing as students cited incorrect information from Wikipedia in papers and on tests. In one instance, Wyatt said, a professor noticed several students offering the same incorrect information, from Wikipedia".
Interestingly, Wikipedia agrees with the policy decision. Sandra Ordonez, a spokeswoman, is quoted as saying:

"Wikipedia is the ideal place to start your research and get a global picture of a topic, however, it is not an authoritative source. In fact, we recommend that students check the facts they find in Wikipedia against other sources. Additionally, it is generally good research practice to cite an original source when writing a paper, or completing an exam. It’s usually not advisable, particularly at the university level, to cite an encyclopedia".
The debate over the accuracy and appropriateness of Wikipedia and similar sources has been brewing in academic and librarian circles for quite some time.

Earlier Library Boy posts on the topic include:

  • Following the Wikipedia Controversy (December 14, 2005) : "As many people are aware by now, controversy over the biography of John Seigenthaler Sr. on the collaborative online encyclopedia Wikipedia has triggered extensive debate over the reliability of Wikipedia, and more broadly, over the nature of online information (...) The entry on Wikipedia falsely suggested that Seigenthaler may have had a role in the assassinations of both John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. The error stood for months before it was revealed and removed."
  • Encyclopedia Britannica Strikes Back At Wikipedia Comparisons (March 23, 2006) : "Back in December 2005, a study in the journal Nature concluded that articles in the collaborative online encyclopedia Wikipedia, to which anyone can contribute, were as accurate as those in the Encyclopedia Britannica."
  • Wikipedia in U.S. and Canadian Case Law (June 28, 2006): "The Tech Law Prof Blog had a post last week about some of the recent credibility problems of online collaborative encyclopedia Wikipedia. As explained, 'The Wikipedia founder says that he regularly gets about 10 email messages from students per week saying they cited Wikipedia as their source and got Fs on their papers'."
  • The Great Wikipedia/Traditional Encyclopedia Debate: Another Episode (September 13, 2006): "Wikipedia, the community-edited online encyclopedia, has blossomed. It has thousands of volunteers that have created more than five million entries in dozens of languages on everything from the Elfin-woods warbler to Paris Hilton. But the popular site has also been dogged by vandals and questions about its accuracy (...) Can Wikipedia's everyone's-an-editor approach produce a reliable resource tool without scholarly oversight? Are traditional encyclopedias like Britannica limited by lack of input?"

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:27 pm


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