To Wiki or not to Wiki…

Entering into my university career I quickly realized that Wikipedia was extremely frowned upon when trying to find research on projects or papers assigned to us and I don’t think that I have ever had a professor allow the use of Wikipedia. At first unaware of the way Wikipedia worked, I did not understand what the big deal was, but after being educated on how to find proper peer reviewed research articles and the importance of where to get my information and research, I can understand why Wikipedia is frowned upon due it its lack of reliability and validity. In the article What’s on Wikipedia, and What’s Not…?  It discusses Wikipedia’s level of accuracy, and the way information is put on the website, which has proved to support bias and unreliable sources of information. The fact that anyone can go into Wikipedia and add or change the information another person might be searching for, definitely makes me understand why professors do not want us students using Wikipedia. An article that in my opinion supported the lack of reliability Wikipedia offers is Richard Jensen’s article Military History on the Electronic Frontier: Wikipedia Fights the War of 1812. One of the main points this article discusses is the argument on Wikipedia over who won the war of 1812, and the knowledge or lack of knowledge the editors on this argument had, “about 90 percent of them are male, and 27 percent are under age twenty-one-13 percent are in high school- and nearly all are anonymous with no controls by any outsider on what they write”. To me that quote alone explains the hesitations on the validity of information Wikipedia offers, as well as in the abstract of the article it states, “Wikipedia is written by and for the benefit of highly motivated amateurs. Military history is one of its strengths, with over 130,000 articles and over 700 well-organized volunteers who prevent mischief and work on upgrading quality. They rely on free online sources and popular books, and generally ignore historiography and scholarly monographs and articles”. This proves that information can and is biased on important topics, and can mislead people who are researching answers and support them with faulty information.

Lastly, in Giles’ article Internet Encyclopedias go head to head, it talks about creating a way to let readers know the legitimacy of the Wikipedia article they are researching by introducing a stable version of each entry, “once an article reaches a specific quality threshold, it will be tagged as stable”. I think that this would be useful for researches and students alike, allowing experts to edit the information on Wikipedia would almost be like getting them peer reviewed in a sense. Also, professors may be more lenient on allowing to students to use “stable” Wikipedia articles, which might help to benefit students or researchers in gathering their information more quickly as they would now be allowed to enjoy the benefits of quick online research. After reading these articles, it did not change my confidence on the reliability of Wikipedia’s information. I do not think Wikipedia is the worst thing in the world, I myself do find it convenient to quickly jump on the computer and find a quick answer to a question rather then research through peer reviewed journal articles or monographs to find the answers to my questions. I think that being aware of the way Wikipedia works is important, and that people should know when it is or isn’t ok to use. Being aware of other research methods is important however I definitely think the sharing of online information comes with it’s pro’s and cons. Finally, I chose this image for 2 reasons, the first to back of the points the articles made that anyone can post or edit posts on Wikipedia, and second because I found it quite funny J

 

Giles. J. (2005). Special Report: Internet encyclopedias go head to headNature. 438, pp 900-901.

 

Jensen, R. (2012). Military History on the Electronic Frontier: Wikipedia Fights the War of 1812. Journal of Military History. 76, 1. pp 1165-1182

 

Royal, C. & Kapila, D. (2009). What’s on Wikipedia, and What’s Not . . . ?: Assessing Completeness of Information. Social Science Computer Review. 27, 1. pp 138-148.

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5 thoughts on “To Wiki or not to Wiki…

  1. I felt the same as you before the readings, but when I discovered the way the articles are peer-edited and re-edited, I changed my mind a little. A large group of minds can work together to create a great information piece and this removes all of the individual biasis’ that one mind holds. I agree with you that we have to be aware that there will always be people abusing the system as we can see from the Batman posting. I think as consumers of information we have to check and double check that information if we want to search out the truth. We can not just rely on one source of information.

  2. I am definitely on the “To Wiki” side of the argument. Although, all my professors have never allowed the use of Wikipedia, I still feel as if it is a credible source for quick information. But like you said, academic articles are truly the most reliable and valid sources that should be used. Wikipedia should only be used to understand the gist of the information, but I do not see a reason as to why we cannot use this as a source of information in university. If it is nearly as reliable as other encyclopedias, and is the first stop for information, it will still be used whether or not it is allowed. I am sure there have been times in which everyone has used information on Wikipedia to help them write a paper or understand a concept. By doing this, I have never run into a problem with accuracy and will continue using Wikipedia for fast and easy information. I love how you mentioned being aware of other research methods because that is very important. Wikipedia can be the first stop, but peer-reviewed journals must always be the last.
    P.S. I love the Batman picture.

  3. I feel the same way about the fact that after knowing how reliable most research journals are and proper peer-reviewed papers are, wikipedia doesn’t seem as reliable. I understand why professors won’t let us use wikipedia as a credible source, however I also agree that it is a great way to get information, fast! Especially if I have a topic to write about and don’t know what it is, wikipedia helps me get a quick fix of information before I start my research. I enjoyed in the article about the war of 1812 how they called everyone “amateurs”. That word alone made me see how unreliable wikipedia CAN be. It has obviously been shown that it is a pretty reliable source, however there is always the exception of an article, and an article someone chose to make wrong on purpose. I think having professionals edit an article and maybe giving the OK for it when they’re done would be a great idea! That way people know it has been edited by a professional and they know the information is legitimate. PS: I really like your choice for a picture!

  4. I find it very unfortunate that Wikipedia is not allowed to be used as a tool in a student’s university career today. Mainly because I feel everyone uses it regardless whether it’s just to verify a fact or for some to complete an entire project. I can understand why many professors do not want the use of this website as it allows us students to learn how to employ proper research techniques, and apply them to the area of study we are currently focused in. Simply put I think many professors find the site to contain to much accurate information, a one stop shop if you will. As students we are here to learn, regurgitating information posted on Wikipedia is not what we are all paying thousands of dollars to learn how to do. Although I have found it a very useful tool I have learned much more from the process of having to research information from scholarly articles as you are almost required to read the entirety of them and contrast and compare against other similar articles.

  5. I enjoyed the fact that you were honest about your blog post in that you still do not feel that confident about using Wikipedia. You bring up a great point about Wikipedia introducing a stable version towards each entry and maybe then your views as well as most professors would change towards considering Wikipedia as a creditable academic source. My personal opinion is that that having “more writers and editors are better than fewer (Royal and Kapila).” This allows for many different viewpoints from multiple users with knowledge on their topic of interest. Obviously there is a risk with having this type of online format, but I feel that the pros mostly outweigh the cons in this situation. Also even if someone were to put some misleading information into a Wikipedia page there is always the option to quickly change and edited this inaccurate information where there is not such an option in a written Encyclopedia.

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