Could the Days of Wikipedia Being a Banned Research Source Be Over?

Wikipedia (Photo credit: Octavio Rojas)

It is well known fact that for many years most teachers have been telling students that they can not, under any circumstances, use Wikipedia as a source for an assignment. At a conference in Stockholm on the 20. of March we discussed this and it seems that more teachers are willing to let the students use Wikipedia these days. I always ask my students to use 3 different sources and Wikepedia can be one of those. But to be causious when using Wikepedia is generally good advice. Despite the site’s best efforts, inaccuracies always crop up. But most students go ahead and use the online encyclopedia anyway, even if they don’t cite it. Now a group of professors and students at Imperial College London hope to start legitimizing Wikipedia as a research source by joining forces to improve the content on the pages.

The effort makes sense given the massive size of the site. With over 18 million articles and 365 million visitors each month, Wikipedia is the connected world’s go-to reference source. The president of the campus group Wikipedians at Imperial College, medical student Vinesh Patel, told BBC News that “Wikipedia is here to stayit’s a question of whether we come up to speed with it or try to ignore it.”

Patel hopes to coordinate students and staff at Imperial and other schools to “make the most of Wikipedia, rather than pretend it’s not there.” To that end, he’s coordinating an April conference focused on bringing academia together to improve the quality and consistency of information the site the offers. Source: Good Education.  Last year, Harvard professor and Association for Psychological Science president Mahzarin R. Banaji launched a similar effort to clean up the inaccuracies in Wikipedia’s psychology entries, while British students and faculty teamed up to do the same in several content areas. If independent efforts like these are consolidated under the Wikipedia Education Program umbrella, the site could be on its way to true academic legitimacy. And because students—and the rest of us—are never going to stop using Wikipedia, we might as well focus on making the world’s most popular reference service a credible one.  Source: Good education.

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  1. I think it’s fair to let students start with Wikipedia. The key is to let them know that:

    1. Wikipedia should be one of many source. If other sources disagree – decide which is more authoritative.
    2. The links cited in Wikipedia articles can be hugely valuable.

    “Banning” anything can make it more enticing ;).

    Janet |

  2. I agree that we as educators can no longer ignore Wikipedia since we’re all using it anyway, and to such a large extent. Yet, I think a debate about whether Wikipedia is any good (reliable, accurate, etc) and whether it should be accepted as a source in academic contexts is slightly missing the point. Wikipedia is not an encyclopedia in the traditional sense – but we keep treating it as if it were. Rather, Wikiepdia is a dynamic, organic process, continuously changing and evolving. The most interesting part of Wikipedia is “backstage” – on the history and discussion pages.
    I agree that we should bring Wikipedia into our classrooms: and the best way to do that is to have students and their teachers become contributors rather than just consumers. Not in order to make Wikipedia perfect or more reliable but in order to understand how it functions. So very few of us do, and to me that is the most worrying part.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment Hilde. Let’s hope this catches on in Norway as well as in the US and the UK. I wonder how many educators know about this? That it is a dynamic process and that the most interesting parts of Wikipedia, are found in the history and discussion pages.

I would love to hear from you