Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Why is Wikipedia not a Strong Source for Papers?

By Dr. Andree Swanson

Wikipedia is not considered a valid and reliable reference.  Most professors will not accept citation or reference from Wikipedia.  First, it is most likely copied and pasted from the web.  Second, the information may not be accurate.

In April 2006, when I first wrote this article, this paragraph looked like this:

The content of Wikipedia is free, written collaboratively by people from all around the world. This website is a wiki, which means that anyone with access to an Internet-connected computer can edit, correct, or improve information throughout the encyclopedia, simply by clicking the edit this page link (with a few minor exceptions such as protected articles)...On Wikipedia...you are welcome to...edit articles yourself, contributing knowledge as you see fit in a collaborative way.

Today, the anonymous authors have been busy and changed the content.  Here is how the above paragraph looks today in December 2013:

Wikipedia is written collaboratively by largely anonymous Internet volunteers who write without pay. Anyone with Internet access can write and make changes to Wikipedia articles, except in limited cases where editing is restricted to prevent disruption or vandalism. Users can contribute anonymously, under a pseudonym, or, if they choose to, with their real identity.

The content on Wikipedia is not verified and may contain more opinions and errors than other, more academic, sources.  Students are better off to use the expert(s) that are readily available, the author(s) of their textbooks.

Websites presenting original material can readily serve as references/sources.  Additional articles, which you might find through search engines such as Google Scholar or databases such as Proquest or Ebscohost are much better.

For example, the New York Times tells a tale of deception in “Snared in the Web of a Wikipedia Liar” Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/04/weekinreview/04seelye.html?ex=1291352400&en=6a97402d6595c6f1&ei=5090

Read more about it at the New York Times Growing Wikipedia Refines Its 'Anyone Can Edit' Policy” Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/17/technology/17wiki.html?ei=5088&en=646c3d018ce68f36&ex=1308196800

All sources used in a paper must, of course, be properly cited and referenced to avoid any instances of plagiarism. Whether writing for a course or creating handouts for a presentation, avoid the temptation to use Wikipedia as a source.

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