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How Students Use Wikipedia

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the must-be-true dept.

Education 170

crazybilly writes "First Monday recently released a study about how college students actually use Wikipedia. Not surprisingly, they found, 'Overall, college students use Wikipedia. But, they do so knowing its limitation. They use Wikipedia just as most of us do — because it is a quick way to get started and it has some, but not deep, credibility.' The study offers some initial data to help settle the often heated controversy over Wikipedia's usefulness as a research tool and how it affects students' research."

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170 comments

Hate (3, Insightful)

s1lverl0rd (1382241) | more than 4 years ago | (#31506912)

Lots of my fellow students copy sentences and whole paragraphs from Wikipedia verbatim, without citing sources. I hate that.

Re:Hate (4, Insightful)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 4 years ago | (#31506928)

I'd imagine they hate it worse when the marker uses an automated plagiarism detection program and fails them.

Re:Hate (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31507088)

I'd imagine they hate it worse when the marker uses an automated plagiarism detection program and fails them.

Oh look, it's the resident cheerleader from the Wikipedia cabal.

OP: states his experience;
ta bu shi da yu: sees possible criticism of Wikipedia and implies unfounded allegation about OP.

Yep, business as usual at Wikipedia.

Re:Hate (3, Informative)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507172)

...he/she wasn't referring to the OP, just that people who copy word-for-word from a site as big as Wikipedia likely get failed due to the anti-plagiarism programs that a lot of universities are no providing their professors with.

They weren't saying anything positive or negative about Wikipedia; just that the people who copy directly from it likely do (or at least should) get caught.

Re:Hate (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31508052)

I realise that Wikipedia adherents are completely detached from academia and scholarship, but use of plagiarism detection software tends to be regarded as a bad thing by the best educational institutions. I realise also that Wikipedia adherents have no concept of reputation, so they wouldn't see how criticism of their educational institution would reflect on themselves.

I must remember my audience in future. Sorry.

Of course, students shouldn't believe liars, including online businesses which claim to be providing a "free encyclopedia".

Re:Hate (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508288)

Or fails them without any special software because of all the facts they got wrong.

Wikipedia is meant to be informative, not definitive. You need the Hitchhiker's Guide for that.

Re:Hate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31506930)

And is this worse than them copying sentences and whole paragraphs from another website, without citing sources ?

Re:Hate (1)

shaker-cat (1547407) | more than 4 years ago | (#31506948)

that seems typical, so lazy these days.

Re:Hate (2, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31506982)

"These days?" More like "always". I used to do that circa 1985 in 6th grade with an old-fashioned paper encyclopedia. It's nothing new, and yes you get caught when you do it.

Re:Hate (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508306)

"These days?" More like "always". I used to do that circa 1985 in 6th grade with an old-fashioned paper encyclopedia.

I agree laziness is nothing new, nor is it increasing, but some people might lump 1985 in with "these days." Such people are less likely to be posting on this newfangled series of tubes though.

Re:Hate (5, Funny)

smitty97 (995791) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507178)

Lots of my fellow students copy sentences and whole paragraphs from Wikipedia verbatim, without citing sources. I hate that.

[citation needed]

Re:Hate (4, Funny)

986151 (986151) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507246)

Lots of my fellow students copy sentences and whole paragraphs from Wikipedia verbatim, without citing sources. I hate that.

Re:Hate (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31507500)

Lots of my fellow students copy sentences and whole paragraphs from Wikipedia verbatim, without citing sources. I hate that.

Digg sez: This exact comment has already been posted. Try to be more original...

Re:Hate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31507744)

Plenty of students I know duplicate sentences and entire paragraphs from Wikipedia and barely change the working. I despise that.

What's wrong with limited plagiarism? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31507390)

If you're only copying sentences, what's wrong? Many times I find Wikipedia has some of the most concise summaries of complex topics.

When it comes to papers where you analyse data, why not avoid the stupid stuff (definitions) and offload it on wikipedia, and get to the heart of the topic? Wouldn't that be a much more efficient way of writing?

This obviously won't work for persuasive papers, because wikipedia tends to be neutral and fact based.

Re:What's wrong with limited plagiarism? (2, Insightful)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508296)

The definition of plagiarism isn't merely "copying sentences"--it's copying sentences and not citing the source when it's not your own, original thought. Many times I've had an original thought and wrote it as my own, only to find hundreds of other people have had the same thoughts, and put them in papers. Just because I wrote the same thought doesn't mean I plagiarized it--only that human minds often come to the same conclusions.

Other times I read tons of background information and then use that mashed up knowledge to form my thoughts for a paper. There's no need to cite any of the sources, unless I copy them verbatim, because I was just using the original sources to become more informed in my thought processes.

Re:Hate (1)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507436)

Why do that when Wikipedia lists the sources at the bottom for you to cite? And then when the teacher sees that you copied Wikipedia, you say that you're the very person who posted those sentences. You figured since you were doing so much research, that you might as well update Wikipedia. It's the cheater's dream!

Re:Hate (1)

fedos (150319) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507710)

If the teacher was keen, they'd look at the revision history to see who made that particular edit and then ask to see you login.

Re:Hate (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507576)

Uuuum, is that even allowed?

My friends all told me, that here in Germany, Wikipedia is not allowed at all, and if you miss out even one citation, you’re seriously getting in trouble. Some professors even want to throw you out from the university for it. (But I doubt they actually can.)

Re:Hate (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507972)

The first thing anyone should be taught about collage level research is that an encyclopedia is not a primary source but it's an excellent starting point to find primary sources.

my teachers to that too (2, Informative)

iLogiK (878892) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507770)

Some of my teachers do that too. I'm in a non-english speaking country, but I'm studying in english, so teachers have to translate their courses.
Once I was having problems understanding something from a pdf from my teacher, so I thought I'd look up the subject on wikipedia. It was the exact same text.

I should have figured it out sooner since a lot of the words in the pdf were underlined (they were links from wikipedia)

Wikipedia tells me... (3, Funny)

kiehlster (844523) | more than 4 years ago | (#31506922)

that you must be gathering your information from Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]. I'm pretty sure that's what that Wikipedia article is saying.

Re:Wikipedia tells me... (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507018)

Yeah, well, according to conservapedia, wikipedia has a strong liberal bias, was founded by two atheists, and is edited mostly by teenagers and unemployed people.

http://www.conservapedia.com/Wikipedia

Re:Wikipedia tells me... (3, Interesting)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507100)

Well, as recent events [economist.com] in Texas have demonstrated, a minority conservatives think it's better to change reality to suit their ideology than to change their ideology to suit reality. Which was exactly the same motivation for Conservapedia.

Re:Wikipedia tells me... (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507114)

Err, that's "a minority of conservatives", obviously.

Re:Wikipedia tells me... (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508362)

That's ok...I liked your quote so much I posted it as my facebook status (and didn't cite you), but I changed it simply to say, "Conservatives think it's better..." to avoid the awkward "a minority conservatives" structure.

Re:Wikipedia tells me... (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508486)

conservatives think it's better to change reality to suit their ideology than to change their ideology to suit reality

That’s what founded this country. England sucked, and rather than changing their ideology to fit in, people left and created their own reality that fit their ideology.

Re:Wikipedia tells me... (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507144)

Yeah, well, according to conservapedia, wikipedia has a strong liberal bias, was founded by two atheists

So they are giving it a huge thumbs up in the eyes of many people. :)

Re:Wikipedia tells me... (1)

Al's Hat (1765456) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507160)

Those who use wikipedia wisely already know to carefully assess the content due to the nature of it's entry creation/editing. The political leanings of its founders certainly can't matter with that in mind.

Re:Wikipedia tells me... (1)

TaggartAleslayer (840739) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507374)

I had never heard of Conservapedia before. I am still trying to decide if it is a satire site.

Re:Wikipedia tells me... (1)

General Wesc (59919) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508058)

It wasn't satire, but once word got out, it got flooded with trolls. I haven't checked back since its early days, though. It's possible that everything still there is serious.

As a source of sources, it is invaluable (5, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31506932)

The list of sources at the bottom of most entries is a great starting point for research.

Re:As a source of sources, it is invaluable (5, Insightful)

OnlyJedi (709288) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507068)

Definitely true. I've used Wikipedia many times to get a heads-up on the topic and learn what sources are good for further reading. I would never cite Wikipedia itself; it's a bit too unreliable and, more importantly, changeable to use directly as a source. But with the amount of citations good articles have I can easily track down whatever source the Wikipedian used, read the relevant chapters, and cite that.

Then again, that's how all encyclopedias are supposed to be used. That's why they're usually considered tertiary sources, as opposed to primary and secondary sources. Wikipedia is no different than Britannica or Encarta in that respect. Most of my college classmates have understood this, and the instructors have stressed the importance of a good bibliography.

Re:As a source of sources, it is invaluable (5, Informative)

k.a.f. (168896) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507226)

Definitely true. I've used Wikipedia many times to get a heads-up on the topic and learn what sources are good for further reading. I would never cite Wikipedia itself; it's a bit too unreliable and, more importantly, changeable to use directly as a source

That's why you cite not WP:Monkey, but http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Monkey&oldid=345367034 [wikipedia.org], which is guaranteed never to change again.

Re:As a source of sources, it is invaluable (1)

Velorium (1068080) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508214)

True, but many instructors still won't give you credit if you've cited Wikipedia.

Re:As a source of sources, it is invaluable (1)

g253 (855070) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508492)

... it's a bit too unreliable and, more importantly, changeable...

Its changeability doesn't prevent you from citing it though: in the toolbox section on the left side of any page, there's a "cite this page" link, which gives you a link to the specific revision you're currently looking at. The main article may change, but that revision is immutable.

(I had to explain that to a friend of mine who's a teacher, not long after explaining him - to his amazement - that yes, anyone can actually modify it)

Re:As a source of sources, it is invaluable (1)

mizhi (186984) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508500)

I use it for two purposes mainly. (1) To refresh my memory on a subject I've not touched in a while, (2) As a jump off point for an area of research I'm unfamiliar with. As long as you realize that you need to cross-check the wikipedia article, you should be fine.

11 years ago, when I started doing research, breaking into a new field was a bit more work. Instead of being able to look up high-level overviews via wikipedia, I'd spend a lot of time trawling publications looking for possibly relevant articles. I'd read the articles - often not having a clue what was going on because I lacked sufficient background knowledge - grab a few more seemingly relevant references, and repeat. Occasionally, I'd hit upon a survey paper, and would be able to find all the seminal works in the bibliography, but survey papers are not constantly coming out, and much of the time it was hunt and peck. Building up a good overview of the particular field could take a long time. Wikipedia has made the process much faster.

I recently needed to look up some information about some different performance measures. I was unfamiliar with what would be applicable to my problem, so I did some poking around on wikipedia, found the overviews, and then went to the library to look up the primary sources. I spent a bit of time verifying that the wikipedia article was accurate and gaining deeper insight into the measures, and went along my merry way.

I would never, on the other hand, cite wikipedia in my research papers - it's not a primary source and it can be edited by everyone.

Re:As a source of sources, it is invaluable (4, Insightful)

ircmaxell (1117387) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507170)

I agree 100%. And as for the "it's not accurate enough for research", I find that it's rarely REALLY wrong. And so long as you go through the sources and don't use it exclusively, it can be a great help. Especially when researching an unfamiliar topic, the Wikipedia page can typically give you a decent 10,000 foot view of the subject, and then you can base your research from there. While I wouldn't use it as a direct reference, you can usually gain enough knowledge from it to at least know what you're looking for when you look at bonafied sources. But then again, it seems like everyone's saying that Wikipedia isn't to be trusted, but that traditional encyclopedias are. From where I'm standing, the only difference between them is the fact that Wikipedia is up front about the "don't trust us". Traditional encyclopedias are typically outdated as soon as they are purchased (for any kind of an active field at least), and typically only show the "opinion" of one or two editors in each subject. Wikipedia at least has the benefit that it's constantly updated and is "peer reviewed" by a significant number of people in the field (at least for the more popular topics). Both have their limitations, but at lest Wikipedia is upfront about theirs...

Well, actually, now that I think about it, you probably could use it in direct situations, depending on what you're researching. If you're doing research into a highly debated subject, Wikipedia usually does a very good job of highlighting the fact from the opinion, and has subsections for each contested part. While this wouldn't be good for a physics research paper, it would likely be very good for a sociology, literary or even a psychology research paper... Subjects that the inherent inaccuracies in a system like Wikipedia would be useful.

Re:As a source of sources, it is invaluable (1)

kurokame (1764228) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507934)

I don't know about that. I've corrected examples where a physical equation was off in a way that would have made the universe uninhabitable. Other articles made conclusions based on data cited from another Wikipedia article...but copied the data incorrectly, used the bad copy to make the conclusions first-hand, and ended up directly contradicting the parent article on both points.

Of course, you'd have to find new examples now - which is Wikipedia's real redeeming property. But what counts as "REALLY wrong" varies a lot by topic and by what you want to use the information for. If you're not browsing casually, errors are going to veer off in any old direction - there's not some principle in operation which statistically makes errors "mostly harmless."

Re:As a source of sources, it is invaluable (1)

clickety6 (141178) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508326)

But then again, it seems like everyone's saying that Wikipedia isn't to be trusted, but that traditional encyclopedias are. From where I'm standing, the only difference between them is the fact that Wikipedia is up front about the "don't trust us". Traditional encyclopedias are typically outdated as soon as they are purchased (for any kind of an active field at least), and typically only show the "opinion" of one or two editors in each subject. Wikipedia at least has the benefit that it's constantly updated and is "peer reviewed" by a significant number of people in the field (at least for the more popular topics). Both have their limitations, but at lest Wikipedia is upfront about theirs...

But you're comparing apples and oranges, on-line encyclopaedias vs dead wood encyclopaedias. The on-line Britannica is also updated more regularly than the print version. Also, the way Wikipedia is set-up, in many cases it also shows ony the "opinions" of a single editor who controls that particular entry. As for peer reviews, it is reviews after the fact, not before, leading to published errors that are then reviewed. And there are cases of "peers" being complete charlatans (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essjay_controversy) which (to my knowledge) hasn't yet happened with the traditional encyclopaedias. But thank goodness for all those people with doctorates in Pokemonology that can peer review Wikipedia articles ;-)

It's also interesting that a number of Wikipedia articles cite the Encyclopaedia Britannica as a source (try citation 1 on the article on automobiles for example) . I'm not sure you'd find the reverse situation.

Wikipedia for engineers? (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31506942)

My workplace has one, that explains various esoteric concepts like how to get that ancient Windows 3 test program to run on XP, but as far as I know it's only a local resource.

Is there public version of Wikipedia designed for engineers & technicians?

Re:Wikipedia for engineers? (2, Insightful)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507186)

Isn't that an oxymoron? Wikipedia is the public encyclopedic wiki. If you have just a local wiki installation (random, possibly non-Mediawiki) with your own contents, it hardly qualifies as "having one [Wikipedia] at one's workplace".

Re:Wikipedia for engineers? (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508420)

There are lots of "wikipedias" out there. There's one for Azureus. There's one for Puppy Linux. And I'm not sure, but I think Ubuntu has a wiki too.

Procrastination tool (4, Interesting)

Rijnzael (1294596) | more than 4 years ago | (#31506966)

I use it as a means to quickly learn the essence of a chapter whose homework problems are due in only hours, the subject matter of which I haven't yet learned (e.g., due to skipping class). It's a quick and easy way to cut through a lot of a textbook's fluff and get to concrete examples of common problems and have the critical formulas for solving these problems displayed clearly.

As an aside, when I had a class freshman year on electrical engineering, the chair of the department actually suggested we heavily use wikipedia to improve our understanding of the topics at hand.

Re:Procrastination tool (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508504)

Works after you graduate too, as in I do the exact same thing, but get paid a salary for it now.

Wikipedia is an important research tool (4, Informative)

Vario (120611) | more than 4 years ago | (#31506976)

In the natural sciences Wikipedia is an important tool in research. In independent reviews the accuracy was on an equal level as other encyclopedias (Britannica), see for example: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b5/Wpausstellung-18.pdf [wikimedia.org] (german language).
It provides a free source with fulltext search. In many cases the original research is cited, so that you can look for more detailed information.

Just imagine trying to get quick information about something without. I am currently working on Quantum criticality. A quick google search provides you with tons of information, the wikipedia entry is a accurate one-page document which cites the most important theoretical papers from the past few years.

Re:Wikipedia is an important research tool (1, Insightful)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507060)

>>In independent reviews the accuracy was on an equal level as other encyclopedias (Britannica)

Sure, but the real problem with wikipedia is with editor bias, not factual accuracy. In any vaguely politicized article on wikipedia, you'll see long running edit wars, which only get kinda/sorta resolved when they take a majority rules vote on it, which basically means that the majority of whoever is monitoring a page gets their bias put in.

If you don't agree with the groupthink, then your voice is excluded. This means that wikipedia, in a certain and very real sense, controls the cultural gestalt for, well, most of the civilized world. You'd almost expect more people to be fighting over controlling it.

Re:Wikipedia is an important research tool (4, Insightful)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507220)

Sure, but the real problem with wikipedia is with editor bias, not factual accuracy.

Every information source created by human beings is subject to the exact same problem, so I don't see how that in itself would make Wikipedea worse than other resources.

The reader is always responsible for estimating the bias of any document's author(s) and interpreting the information in that light.

If you don't agree with the groupthink, then your voice is excluded.

This is true for everything in life. In an old-style paper encyclopedia, it just happened that the groupthink was hidden from public view and confined to a small group of the publisher's employees.

Re:Wikipedia is an important research tool (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508068)

In almost all encyclopedias, and other information sources each article is written by one person, and edited by one person.... is this not *more* likely to be biased ?

In wikipedia an article may be biased but is less likely to be so (unless it is a one person article), and is more likely to be only moderately biased

Wikipedia like most sources of information are accused of bias, and like many information sources it is accused of bias in opposite directions at the same time, sometimes for the same article .... this is actually a good indication that on average it is not unduly biased

But like *all* information sources you should assume it is possibly inaccurate, possible biased, and check with other independent sources ....

Re:Wikipedia is an important research tool (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508468)

"If you don't agree with the groupthink, then your voice is excluded. This means that wikipedia, in a certain and very real sense, controls the cultural gestalt for, well, most of the civilized world."

Yeah right, because if you get your "group think" from elswhere Jimmy will send a few editors around to your house, bust your door down, smash your PC, gouge your eyes out, break all your fingers, burn down your book shelf, and shoot your paper boy.

Re:Wikipedia is an important research tool (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507358)

Yes. I don't understand the implicit criticism in the article. *All* reference works are a "quick way to get started." No serious college student would write a research paper that cites an encyclopedia article as a primary source (maybe in ENG 101, but certainly not at anything above that). Encyclopedias, including both Britannica and Wikipedia, are meant to give a broad overview of a topic and suggest some additional sources for further research. IMHO, Wikipedia does a fine job of that (and I used to be in academics, so I know a thing or two about research). Would I accept it as the be-all, end-all word on a subject? Of course I wouldn't. But the same goes for any reference work (Britannica articles are written by biased academics too, you know, not by some objective god).

reverse plagiarism (3, Interesting)

fph il quozientatore (971015) | more than 4 years ago | (#31506978)

What if I write an essay for my class, and then include parts of it into Wikipedia? Will the automated cheating detectors mark me as a cheater? Sounds unfair.

Re:reverse plagiarism (3, Informative)

s1lverl0rd (1382241) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507024)

Wikipedia keeps history. You can use that history to prove the edit was made after the essay was written.

Plus, if you include parts, you'd probably list the essay as a source.

Re:reverse plagiarism (2, Insightful)

getuid() (1305889) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507130)

Good luck with getting your own essay recognized by the wikipedia admins as a "credible source" for a wikipedia article you're writing...

Re:reverse plagiarism (1)

hrvatska (790627) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508360)

Good luck with getting your own essay recognized by the wikipedia admins as a "credible source" for a wikipedia article you're writing...

Why would the essay need to be cited in the Wikipedia article? If the original essay cited sources those same citations could be included in the Wikipedia article.

Re:reverse plagiarism (1)

Saint Fnordius (456567) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507236)

If you are worried about that, then state upfront that you have added to the Wikipedia entry, providing a hardcopy (or at least a screenshot) of the history page. Most instructors will accept that, some might check the history page themselves to make sure you really did make a contribution that wasn't merely cosmetic, and a few might still mark you for plagiarism simply because there are bullies amongst teachers as well.

Long story short, if you're worried about that, then hold off on editing the Wiki entry until your paper's been graded. If you did it already, document your changes and submit them before your teacher asks.

Re:reverse plagiarism (1)

dbolger (161340) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507268)

When I was a student, we had to sign away the rights to anything we wrote to the college, so I'd imagine you'd have to get permission from the college to submit it to Wikipedia in the first place.

Re:reverse plagiarism (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507614)

Well, that would mean that you add a [citation needed] in there, or do it yourself, and cite your own work.
And then you can cite your old work in your new work. ;)

Of course, citing Wikipedia is illegal on any self-respecting university anyway.

Re:reverse plagiarism (1)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508226)

What if I write an essay for my class, and then include parts of it into Wikipedia? Will the automated cheating detectors mark me as a cheater? Sounds unfair.

It would be unfair... On the other hand, if you altered wikipedia to agree with what you wrote in your own paper, you might also be doing something unfair. If your additions legitimately improve the quality of the article, that's one thing. But I can also see a student updating wikipedia, and then pointing to it and saying "Oh look, wikipedia confirms what I'm saying in my paper."

credibility (2, Insightful)

mugurel (1424497) | more than 4 years ago | (#31506996)

In part the credibility of information maybe an external factor, determined by its origin and the media through which it is transmitted. But I think that part of the credibility is due to the information itself. By reading a wikipedia article, you typically get quite a good impression of its credibility, by the stylistic quality of the text, it's structure, presence/absence of references, and most importantly, the quality of the argumentation.

Re:credibility (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508276)

In part the credibility of information maybe an external factor, determined by its origin and the media through which it is transmitted.

Translated: I saw it on the intertubes, so it must be true.
 
Its 'credibility' is also no doubt helped by it's high rank in searches. (In Google's case particularly, you'd have a hard time designing a site better suited to spamming the search engine results.)
 

But I think that part of the credibility is due to the information itself. By reading a wikipedia article, you typically get quite a good impression of its credibility, by the stylistic quality of the text, it's structure, presence/absence of references, and most importantly, the quality of the argumentation.

You must be reading a very different Wikipedia than I am, because I find none of those things to be true. The 'stylistic quality' is usually that of a committee of middle schoolers. The structure looks good, because it has an outline, but often repeats information and even more often presents it without any well thought out flow and organization.

Euler Angles (5, Insightful)

professionalfurryele (877225) | more than 4 years ago | (#31506998)

I know that if I go to wikipedia, type "Euler Angles" in the search box and hit enter, then all the information I need to get me started solving whatever problem I'm working on in rigid body dynamics is right there.

If the page was wrong, I'd recognise it. I know what Euler Angles are and can recognise the z-x-z convention. If it has been weeks or months since I last used them however, I go and I look them up. It's faster than a textbook or trip to the library and more likely to pay off than a google search.

Likewise if I need a quick overview of a subject, I fire up wikipedia. It's the equivalent of asking your mate 'Dave' who did a bit of work in the topic a while back about something. Sure you might not be able to trust everything he says because his memory is a little cloudy but he knows this really good text on the subject that is authoritative and he knows you are a lay person so he mentions the bare basics that aren't always in the more advanced texts.

I'm glad we have a study now which suggests this is how students are using this resource. The reason you don't cite wikipedia or use it as a serious reference text is the same reason you don't cite Britannica. It's an encyclopaedia! A really, really, really good encyclopaedia but none-the-less an encyclopaedia. The reason it's popular isn't because it is being misused, it's because unlike most encyclopaedia it actually contains a decent amount of useful information on a broad range of topics. The only reason we haven't had this 'problem' in the past is that until wikipedia encyclopaedia were, due to technical limitations, pretty crappy.

Re:Euler Angles (1)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507104)

Interesting: I Googled "professionalfurry" and...oh my God...you don't want to know what I saw.

[what-has-been-seen-can-not-be-unseen.jpg]

Re:Euler Angles (2, Insightful)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507136)

I'm glad we have a study now which suggests this is how students are using this resource.

So am I, but I'm also waiting for studies that show college students eat, sleep, and worry about money and love just like the rest of us.

The premise of the article is sad: that out default assumption should be that anyone who deviates from white-bread middle-aged middle-American in any respect should be treated as if they were irresponsible, dishonest, or stupid.

I live in a university town, my company has offices on campus, I'm a technical mentor on a program where most of the other mentors are university students, and I'm always surprised when I'm reminded that the students are a couple of decades younger than me, because there just isn't that much difference between us.

Re:Euler Angles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31507486)

I'm sort of surprised by this debate, and I think your post gets to the heart of it. The point isn't to use credible sources, the point is to figure out the truth. Having editorial standards and detailed citations is one way to do this, but another, which is especially good for mathematical topics, is, i.e., you work through a proof or definition and see if it is consistent.

Credibility (2, Interesting)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507000)

it has some, but not deep, credibility

Then again, what sources do?

Re:Credibility (4, Informative)

FroBugg (24957) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507148)

Established, peer-reviewed journals?

Re:Credibility (3, Interesting)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507190)

I publish in Peer reviewed journals and i have a very low rejection rate.

IMO Peer review is overrated. Plenty of crap gets though, and plenty of good work gets walled out.

Re:Credibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31507298)

You must be in a crappy field or publishing in crappy places. Not all journals are created equal. The good journals in my field have very high rejection rates.

Re:Credibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31507438)

He stated that _he_ as an author as a low rejection rate, which means that the journals consider his work "good quality".
And actually, my experience in physics for what it's worth corroborates with his. Phys. Rev., Nature, Science, Rev. Mod Phys. etc. are "readable", but other journals... well, let's just say that I do not bother reading them anymore. If it is important, it will come up at a conference, but 90% of the "physics" in there is simply boring, unoriginal, does not actually advance the field and quite often not exactly wrong but so vague it is useless.

Re:Credibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31507434)

Which also happens to be used as a source for Wikipedia articles!

Re:Credibility (1)

Jimmy King (828214) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508056)

This is an argument that I frequently make when people say that using wikipedia is bad because anyone can edit it, so it could easily be incorrect.

I returned to college a few years back after many years working in the real world as high level support and a software developer. One of the most entertaining things for me is to go through my college textbooks on technical subjects and see how many incorrect statements I can find. I've got a college textbook sitting around here somewhere that claims JavaScript runs in the actual Java JVM and that PHP and JavaScript have very little built in functionality and mostly function by running local binaries, storing the output, and then passing that output to another local binary.

Just because it's printed on dead trees, even from a "reputable" source, doesn't mean that everything in it is accurate and can be trusted. You should always have several sources and compare information between those sources to come to your conclusions. I see nothing wrong with including wikipedia as just one of many sources that you use.

Re:Credibility (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508390)

it has some, but not deep, credibility

Then again, what sources do?

Established journals (peer reviewed or not as appropriate to the field) and/or news sources relative to the field. Acknowledged experts within the field. Acknowledged texts relative to the field.
 
If Wikipedia has any credibility at all, it's because it has cribbed from these sources (among many others).

i'm more worried (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507090)

when screenwriters use it

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Treasure:_Book_of_Secrets [wikipedia.org]

or bookwriters

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lost_Symbol [wikipedia.org]

i can live with some students with shallow term papers. but aren't some books and movies, like the ones linked to above, nothing more than the condensation from a late night session of following wikipedia links? worse than bookwriting/ screenwriting by committee of frat boys

The China Problem (4, Interesting)

BlueBoxSW.com (745855) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507458)

My issue as of late with Wikipedia is the infiltration of Chinese history into the pages.

Most major inventions are credited to first being invented by the Chinese, regardless how little evidence there is, or whether the invention was anything more than a dream, drawing, or element in a painting.

Moveable type? Invented by the Chinese.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moveable_type [wikipedia.org]

The automobile? Invented for a Chinese emperor.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automobile [wikipedia.org]

The Roman Abacus? "May have been inspired by" the Chinese.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abacus [wikipedia.org]

In fact there's a whole list of claims of Chinese "inventions" on Wikipedia that I kind of find dubious, since most of the reference don't exist or suggest otherwise.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_inventions [wikipedia.org]

If our students are using Wikipedia as a basis for papers, they are likely just repeating subtle propaganda without knowing it.

Try looking up the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Did you mean the "Tiananmen Square protests of 1989"?

Re:The China Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31507836)

It's easy to blow this problem off as poster bias, but it's actually a bit remarkable, now that I look at it.

Re:The China Problem (1)

H0p313ss (811249) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508120)

On one hand the "West" has a long history of overlooking the contributions of China (and India, and Japan...) to science and culture.

On the other hand the current Chinese administration has absolutely credibility and anyone who is paying attention has seen the results of their attempts to rewrite recent history.

Meanwhile the "Western" governments bend over backwards to avoid offending the worlds fastest growing economy and we go on buying everything they throw at us.

What will the historians be saying one hundred years from now? Will the moral weakness of the "west" be condemned or is China doomed to be the same flash in the pan that the Soviet Union turned out to be?

Re:The China Problem (3, Interesting)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508264)

Exactly.. It's not specific to Chinese though, as just about every culture makes claim to great inventions. In the US, many believe Henry Ford invented the automobile. Many believe Edison invented the light bulb. Entire cultures believe that reading Hamlet in the original Klingon is the only way to appreciate the nuances of revenge. The thing is that you can qualify the inventions as much as you want. There are incremental changes, early failed prototypes; we stand on the shoulders of giants, after all. Maybe Ford was the first to mass produce automobiles or Edison was the first to make a bulb that lasted, but to claim that they were the original inventors is wrong.

Movable type though? Probably Chinese. Fermented beverages? Probably not. Well, at least they probably weren't the only "inventors". Use of salt? Hmmm. Probably some over-zealous folks elsewhere tweaking articles to match the history they learned in school. Or a government tweaking folks to match their world view. Either way, history is mutable.

Re:The China Problem (1)

thechao (466986) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508394)

I was about to call BS on this; however, after reading the links it me want to read "Hamlet" in the original Klingon.

Re:The China Problem (5, Interesting)

furbyhater (969847) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508502)

Movable type: Definitely first invented by the Chinese, see sources.

Automobile: A (western) jesuit designed a steam-powered vessel for the emperor, nobody knows if it has ever been built (clearly stated in the article).

Abacus: What should I say? Seems like the Chinses were first.

Do you have a problem admitting that the Chinese made some inventions before the west?
Let's just give credit where credit is due.
Just because your history class told you otherwise because it ignored inventions made by other civilisations than the "west" doesn't mean that the wiki articles aren't true.
You call it "infiltration of Chinsese history", I call it "accurate and complete information".

References etc etc etc. (1)

SirDrinksAlot (226001) | more than 4 years ago | (#31507590)

I think it would be better to use Wikipedia as a source to find reference. You find what you're looking for on Wikipedia, then follow the references. If there arent any references then you should probably move on anyways because it's unsubstantiated. IMO this is what makes Wikipedia more useful than many physical sources, its facts are usually referenced and substantiated.

entry.point.depth (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31508142)

wikipedia is super. but it really needs something like
a "depth" slider.
meaning "slider that lets the user adjust the depth of the data",
say, if a user wants to know more about say "turbines" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turbines)
s/he could request some more details about geometry, eg. more depth.
-or-
say if a user request information for "curl" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curl_%28mathematics%29)
can adjust the slider so as to have "less" depth.
the last example/article is next to impossible to understand for a non-mathematician.
-
also wikipedia just needs more multimedia elements, not just pictures/jpegs (and maybe a IRC chan?)

Wikipedia as an expert (3, Interesting)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508178)

I consider Wikipedia to be just as credible as a face-to-face interview with an expert in a given field. Given how articles are (generally) written by citing field experts, this makes sense.

The basic information will be entirely correct, but the most arcane details should be verified elsewhere. Furthermore, it will now and then include some crazy detail that nobody else agrees with, which should be passed off as fringe theories. It is credible, but not infallible.

I'm sorry if this comes as an insult to experts who think they are infallible.

My English 201 Research Paper... Thanks Wikipedia! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31508354)

Timmy Long
Professor Martha Taco
English 201

Mark Twain

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910),[3] well-known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. Twain is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), which has been called "the Great American Novel",[4] and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). He is extensively quoted.[5][6] Twain was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty.

From 1901, soon after his return from Europe, until his death in 1910, Twain was vice-president of the American Anti-Imperialist League,[58] which opposed the annexation of the Philippines by the United States and had "tens of thousands of members".[25] He wrote many political pamphlets for the organization. The Incident in the Philippines, posthumously published in 1924, was in response to the Moro Crater Massacre, in which six hundred Moros were killed. Many of his neglected and previously uncollected writings on anti-imperialism appeared for the first time in book form in 1992.[59]

Twain was critical of imperialism in other countries as well. In Following the Equator, Twain expresses "hatred and condemnation of imperialism of all stripes".[25] He was highly critical of European imperialism, notably of Cecil Rhodes, who greatly expanded the British Empire, and of Leopold II, King of the Belgians.[25] King Leopold's Soliloquy is a stinging political satire about his private colony, the Congo Free State. Reports of outrageous exploitation and grotesque abuses led to widespread international protest in the early 1900s, arguably the first large-scale human rights movement. In the soliloquy, the King argues that bringing Christianity to the country outweighs a little starvation. Leopold's rubber gatherers were tortured, maimed and slaughtered until the turn of the century, when the conscience of the Western world forced Brussels to call a halt.[citation needed]

Leave Wikipedia Alone! (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 4 years ago | (#31508416)

I hate the faux-intellectual discussions and critiques of Wikipedia. This morning I wanted to figure out which Rolling Stones singles would have been better song choices on American Idol last night so I fired up Wikipedia. There's more information there (and easier to find) than on The Rolling Stones' own web site.

Wikipedia is used for non-academic endeavors as well as being a decent starting point for finding primary sources.

Kids (high school or college) who plagiarize anything from the web by copying and pasting are just stupid and deserve to be kicked from academia...I'm not sure why everyone feels the need to blame Wikipedia for society's ills.

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