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Professors To Ban Students From Citing Wikipedia

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the we-have-these-things-called-books dept.

Education 507

Inisheer writes "History professors at Middlebury College are tired of having all their students submit the same bad information on term papers. The culprit: Wikipedia — the user-created encyclopedia that's full of great stuff, and also full of inaccuracies. Now the the entire History department has voted to ban students from citing it as a resource. An outright ban was considered, but dropped because enforcement seemed impossible. Other professors at the school agree, but note that they're also enthusiastic contributors to Wikipedia. The article discusses the valuable role that Wikipedia can play, while also pointed out the need for critical and primary sources in college-level research." What role, if any, do you think Wikipedia should play in education?

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Or is it the other way around? (4, Insightful)

suso (153703) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772588)

I wonder how many of those professors had actually been misinformed. I've had a handful of professors state information that I found out later to be in disagreement with a larger community. Most of them don't like to be told or find out that they are wrong. On the other hand, I don't blame them for doing this. Wikipedia might be a good place for determining what books you could find good information in, but not as the reference itself.

With City Wikis like Bloomingpedia [] , a lot of the information is gathered from observation and personal research and there isn't much else to reference. I'm wondering how referencing then will pan out, if it ever needs to be done.

Re:Or is it the other way around? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17772746)

You may not have meant it that way, but I'd like to point out that facts are not democraticly elected or the result of who prevails in an edit war. Most of the greatest minds have at one point been in fundamental disagreement with a larger community.

Re:Or is it the other way around? (0)

suso (153703) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773012)

Yes, yes, of course. But I think that the case you are talking about occurs far less of the time than professors being flat out wrong in their statements.

Re:Or is it the other way around? (0, Offtopic)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772778)

I wonder how many of those professors had actually been misinformed. I've had a handful of professors state information that I found out later to be in disagreement with a larger community.

I took an A+ class for easy credits and the instructor swore up and down that firewire was a 400MBps interface, not 400Mbps. I actually had to bring something in and show him to correct him. Now this is just a community college potzer, his actual job was engineering industrial lighting, but it just illustrates the point that there are often people who know more than you do.

Our education system is totally upside down and backwards anyway. I think the biggest mistake is simply to send your kids to a public school. Lots of people don't feel like they have a choice, but that's a bunch of bullshit.

It would be better to live within your means and have a parent stay at home and provide schooling, if they fucking knew anything, than to send them in to public school to be trained to be factory workers (which is what our school system is designed for, and even moreso since we instituted this "no child left behind" bullshit which is really a "reduce all of our children to the lowest common denominator" program.) Unfortunately most people didn't learn anything of real value in school (not until they learned a trade anyway) and they're thus utterly unqualified to teach anything of value to their children.

Re:Or is it the other way around? (4, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772874)

I wonder how many of those professors had actually been misinformed.
This is quite true. I'm constantly amazed at how many people who should know better end up with misinformation. In fact, I think it happens to everyone to varying degrees. The problem with citing Wikipedia (or any Encyclopedia for that matter) is that it is a non-authoritive source. It becomes unclear whether the encyclopedia is at fault, or the person who believes it to be at fault. Citing authoritive sources clarifies who is correct. (Always the authoritive source, unless the other party knows that the source has been discredited.)

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Wikipedia is a great place to start your research. It can even be perfect for solving quick arguments on the Internets. But it should never show up as a citation in any professional or educational context. Which is something one needs to keep in mind, as it's very easy to slip up and treat them as authoritive. They're not. They're just an encyclopedia. :)

Re:Or is it the other way around? (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773088)

Which leads to the main problem with Wikipedia - not inaccuracy, but unsourced articles. The tendency is that if you "know" something, you can just write it down. I've seen articles on there that authoritatively claim "the first one was built at..." with no dates and no citation. It may even be true, but there's no way to check. I just throw {{fact}} on those.

Re:Or is it the other way around? (5, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772878)

Whether the professor is wrong in contradicting information on Wikipedia is irrelevant. You can't very well prove him wrong by citing Wikipedia. All Wikipedia will tell him is that at least one random person on the Internet thinks he's wrong.

Wikipedia has been shown to be riddled with errors, and should be used only as a quick reference or as a place to find links to more information, not as a citeable source in real research. Professors get proven wrong all the time, that's the nature of scholarship. Some might get a little bent out of shape about it, but if they were going to be shown wrong by Wikipedia, they would probably be shown wrong with a whole lot more credibility by a whole lot of other, more reliable, sources.

Re:Or is it the other way around? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17772934)

Such a wiki has no relevance to the Slashdot story as there is no reason why such a wiki would ever be cited.

Nice covert ad for your lame wiki about your lame town (Illinois is better! We have the Bears! Who are going to lose...)

Re:Or is it the other way around? (1)

apt142 (574425) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773074)

An interesting phenomenon I've discovered with history (and anthropology) students and the professors is that they tend to be very protective and defensive about their knowledge. I've heard of students getting flunked out out for favoring the wrong theory or worse, an opposing professor's theory. It doesn't come as a surprise that they have conflicting opinions about wikipedia.

Now, this has been my perception. Mileage may vary... yadda yadda yadda.

Seems Consistent (4, Informative)

udderly (890305) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772594)

This seems consistent to me--when I was in college, citing any encyclopedias was strongly discouraged.

Re:Seems Consistent (5, Insightful)

Cougar1 (256626) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772824)

Agreed! An encyclopedia is not a "primary source" of information, especially in scientific disciplines. While an encyclopedia may be fine for a high school paper, half the point of a University is to learn to use the Library to do serious research and delve deeper than what could be found in an encyclopedia. Encyclopedias, including Wikipedia, are useful to give a basic introduction to a topic and point someone towards useful references, but at the College, students should be digging deeper than an encyclopedia.

Re:Seems Consistent (1)

skiingyac (262641) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772844)

When I was in high school (late 90's), citing any website was forbidden, even if the website had peer-reviewed information... although conveniently that meant it was probably published on paper and you could cite it as a regular source after looking at the PDF online...

I think it depends on the topic, the student knows Wikipedia is not 100% accurate so if some fact was found on Wikipedia and its wrong, the student should just be penalized for not checking their source properly if the fact is important enough for the professor/teacher to get pissed about.

Re:Seems Consistent (1)

Ubergrendle (531719) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772900)

BINGO. Encyclopedia's are reference materials, basically intended to give you a background on a particular subject -- from there you can research further. Its a giant yellow pages for researchers.

Add to that the volatility of wikipedia (e.g. you can't reference its contents, since they're always in flux), and its a poor resource of term papers.

Re:Seems Consistent (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773006)

you can cite a particular instance of a wikipedia page from the page you want to cite click history then the date at the top of the list of revisions

not that you should be citing an encyclopedia anyways, but it is entirely possible as long as the page doesn't get VfD'd between the time you cite it and when you turn in your paper.

Re:Seems Consistent (2, Funny)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773108)

BINGO. Encyclopedia's are reference materials, basically intended to give you a background on a particular subject -- from there you can research further. Its a giant yellow pages for researchers.

Add to that the volatility of wikipedia (e.g. you can't reference its contents, since they're always in flux), and its a poor resource of term papers.
1 - Yes, I agree that considering wikipedia as a source is stupid, just like referencing an encyclopedia is stupid. Wikipedia *specifiaclly bans* original research, so it certainly can't be called a primary source for anything except information about itself.

2 - Actually, you can cite an article's state at a specific time, which will always get you back to that same version. So, the state of flux isn't a problem to anybody who bothers to research how best to cite wikipedia. OTOH, anybody who researches how cite well enough to be able to cite wikipedia properly, probably knows that they shouldn't do it in the first place. :)

3 - The students didn't already know to reference Wikipedia's references listed at the bottom of the article instead of the article itself in order to inflate their reference count? Slackers.

Re:Seems Consistent (2, Interesting)

krotkruton (967718) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772946)

Not contrary to your statement, FTA: All faculty members will be telling students about the policy and explaining why material on Wikipedia -- while convenient -- may not be trustworthy.

They will be explaining why material on Wikipedia may not be trustworthy. If they do this, then why do they need to ban Wikipedia from being used as a source. Shouldn't explaining Wikipedia's role and saying, "There are very few situations where it is acceptable to use Wikipedia, so if you want to be safe, just don't cite it as a source," be good enough to stop this so-called "problem"?

And on that note, what makes a school changing its citation policy newsworthy? English departments do this from time to time and citation policies can change drastically from one professor to the next. Just because the source in question here is Wikipedia doesn't make it special. The students at this school have not been taught how to use sources properly, so the school needs to teach them instead of making a publicity stunt out of it.

Re:Seems Consistent (1)

Taagehornet (984739) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773024)

Indeed, there's absolutely no reason to single out Wikipedia here. Wikipedia is no less trustworthy/politically biased than any other encyclopedia.

Instead of considering a ban on Wikipedia, the professors ought to teach their students methods for judging the quality or sources ...but that of course is a much harder task.

check the sources (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17772616)

Students should use it as a starting point, and check the sources of a wikipedia entry, then, use those sources for their papers.

Re:check the sources (2, Insightful)

Azarael (896715) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772730)

I agree. I'd go as far as to say that for any serious work, you should have multiple corroborating sources for a topic, no matter what those sources are. Textbooks, encyclopedias and even peer reviewed papers have been shown to have inaccuracies in the past, might as well improve your odds of getting the right information.

Re:check the sources (5, Informative)

daeg (828071) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772816)

One of my professors showed everyone Wikipedia for one of our projects. He invited us to use it, particularly if our subject matter was contested or had multiple viewpoints. He showed everyone that the History tab is an invaluable research tool -- paging through all the edits can lend some insight on to various realms of thought regarding a topic and can help shape your research as much or more than just seeing the list of sources on the bottom of an article.

For instance, does your paper need to cite some evidence contrary to your paper, such as opposing viewpoints? Reverted edits or changes that were merged back out can often give you some tips on where to start or what related topics you need to look for.

Re:check the sources (4, Insightful)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773154)

But that's information archaeology. While interesting, and possibly useful, by pointing you to other (primary) sources, in the same way the main article should. The real point is that (particularly in a history department) they're teaching scholarship, which means going deeper than quoting from any encyclopaedia.

Use it properly. (3, Insightful)

Irish_Samurai (224931) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772618)

It's a great starting point, but you can't trust the information completely. Use it to get you aimed in the right direction and then go from there.

Re:Use it properly. (3, Insightful)

EastCoastSurfer (310758) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772892)

Exactly. I'd ban the citing of wikipedia from any class I taught also. It's made to be a starting point for research, not an endpoint. Kids these days just don't know how to go the library and do real research. If it doesn't come up on google and/or wikipedia it must not exist!

Re:Use it properly. (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772914)

It's a great starting point, but you can't trust the information completely. Use it to get you aimed in the right direction and then go from there.

Exactly and instead of "banning" it, they should simply educate their students to use proper research materials which would not include encyclopedias or any easily modifiable document, such as a wiki.

Re:Use it properly. (1)

rickett81 (987309) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773052)

Tuesday night, my professor read verbatim wikipedia to the class when defining something. He cited it as such, and I think used it correctly. He was not doing scholarly research at the time, just giving us a loose definition and background on a certain topic.

I dont remember the topic, so it didn't to me any good. I looked it up on wikipedia before he gave us the definition, and I was so surprised that he was reading directly, that I didn't listen to anything he was saying. Then he cited . . .

My idea (5, Funny)

Vengeance (46019) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772630)

I'm tempted to plant some *really* wrong information on any given topic, when I become aware of a term paper that's been assigned on it.

You know, things like 'Bonito Mussolini was named after a kind of tuna fish. He was born in the year 1726 and died of natural causes 800 years later'.

Re:My idea (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772986)

Bonito Mussolini was named after a kind of tuna fish. He was born in the year 1726 and died of natural causes 800 years later'.

And there are students who would mindlessly quote this. It's what we get for "educating" them in mindlessly quoting things; but it serves the higher purpose.

Bellyfeel is doubleplus good: yes.


Re:My idea (2, Informative)

mypalmike (454265) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773092)

I'm tempted to plant some *really* wrong information on any given topic...

There's a place for you on the internet. Uncyclopedia [] is a fine source of misinformation.

Re:My idea (1)

mypalmike (454265) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773136)

Oh, yeah, there's already an extensive entry [] for your subject even.

Re:My idea (1)

asiansteev (991271) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773162)

Reminds me of the snopes' article about "Sing a Song of Sixpence" being code for pirates, which was completely false, but used as reference by the television show Mostly True Stories: Urban Legends Revealed on TLC. p []
Similarly I remember hearing a story of old map makers who would include fake landmasses or watermasses so that they could tell if another map maker was copying their maps.
So it's not really your idea, now is it?

Re:My idea (2, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773174)

things like 'Bonito Mussolini was named after a kind of tuna fish. He was born in the year 1726 and died of natural causes 800 years later'.
Putting aside the humor for a moment, such info would be self-defeating. Anyone paying even the slightest amount of attention is going to notice the problems. What you need is something more insidious. e.g.:

Bonito Mussolini was born in 1897 in Paris, France. He lived there until 1921 when he immigrated to Italy to escape Jewish persecution. In 1938 he was elected the leader of Italy. In his innagural speech, he promised the world that Italy would hold strong against the Axis forces. Unfortunately, Italy was conquered by Nazi Germany in 1941, forcing Mussolini into hiding. To prevent Mussolini from stiring up a revolt, Hilter conscripted a body-double of Mussolini to act as the ruler of Italy. The plot was successful, and Italy believed that they had switched sides to the Axis powers. It wasn't until after the war that Hitler's plot was exposed, but it was too late to save Mussolini's reputation. Mussolini moved to Egypt shortly thereafter where he continues to live today.
Put *that* in Wikipedia and I guarantee you'll hook a few suckers. (*shudder*) It's a good thing that the information is regularly checked and rechecked, making it unlikely that this would stay up long. Still...

With Wikipedia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17772638)

you can gain the knowledge you need, then use that knowledge to find appropriate resources for citation.

Mission accomplished.

textbook replacement (0, Flamebait)

skynare (777361) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772652)

Wikipedia should be the one stop reference for undergrad level education. That way, students don't have to pay for expensive dead tree books that they rarely open.

Re:textbook replacement (4, Insightful)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772790)

An encyclopedia, regardless of type, is a poor replacement for a textbook. If you buy a book you rarely open, then you should be 1) studying harder, or 2) not buying your books until the 3rd week of class when you're sure you need them. ;)

priorities! (1)

Quadraginta (902985) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773098)

students don't have to pay for expensive dead tree books that they rarely open.

The average cost of a year of (private) college is $28,000 and rising fast, and you're worried about an extra $150 textbook? Say what?

A dead-tree book is about the most cost-efficient possible way to get an education. Beats the heck out of forking over (assuming you take 8 courses a year, tuition is half the total cost of college, and each course has about 30 one-hour lectures) roughly $1-2 a minute to listen to a lecture on the subject.

I only wish it were possible to buy the books, do some original research in the field (e.g. visit Rome, the National Archives, a farm, or a GM plant for yourself), discuss with your fellow students electronically -- and then turn up at the college for two weeks to take final exams. That'd save me (with two kids) a cool quarter of a $million...

Why are college students citing encyclopedias? (5, Interesting)

uber_geek9 (879433) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772656)

We learned in elementary school that you aren't supposed to use an encyclopedia as a source! Especially one freely editable.

Re:Why are college students citing encyclopedias? (1)

Vengeance (46019) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772712)

Because college students are teh lazy.

Re:Why are college students citing encyclopedias? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773058)

Well, we didn't learn that in my elementary school. All throughout school, I used and properly cited encyclopedias for my reports.

With that said, I went to school in California, so it's remarkable that I can tie my own shoes or go to the bathroom without assistance.

Fuck you twofo (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17772658)

Twofo [] Is Dying

DC++ []

It is official; Netcraft confirms: Twofo is dying

One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleagured University of Warwick [] filesharing community when ITS confirmed that Twofo total share has dropped yet again, now down to less than a fraction of 1 percent of all file sharing. Coming hot on the heels of a recent Netcraft survey which plainly states that Twofo has lost more share, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. Twofo is collapsing in complete disarry, as fittingly exemplified by failing dead last in the recent Student comprehensive leeching test.

You don't need to be one of the Hub Operators to predict Twofo's future. The hand writing is on the toilet wall: Twofo faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for Twofo because Twofo is dying. Things are looking very bad for Twofo. As many of us are already aware, Twofo continues to lose users. Fines and disconnections flow like a river of feces [] .

N00b Campus users are the most endangered of them all, having lost 93% of their total share. The sudden and unpleasant departures of long time Twofo sharers fool_on_the_hill and Twinklefeet only serves to underscore the point more clearly. There can no longer be any doubt: Twofo is dying.

Let's keep to the facts and look at the numbers.

Sources indicate that there are at most 150 users in the hub. How many filelists have been downloaded? Let's see. 719. But 1621 IP addresses have been logged, and 1727 nicks have been sighted connecting to one user over the last term. How many searches are there? 600 searches in 3 hours. The highest sharer on campus, known as "firstchoice", or in real life, was sharing over 1 TiB, despite working in ITS and not being on the resnet. He's only there so people off campus who think they're too good for bittorrent can continue to abuse the University's internet connection.

Due to troubles at the University of Warwick, lack of internet bandwidth, enforcements of Acceptable Usage Policies, abysmal sharing, retarded leechers, clueless n00bs, and ITS fining and disconnecting users, Twofo has no future. All major student surveys show that Twofo has steadily declined in file share. Twofo is very sick and its long term survival prospects are very dim. If Twofo is to survive at all it will be among p2p hardcore fuckwits, desperate to grab stuff for free off the internet. Nothing short of a miracle could save Twofo from its fate at this point in time. For all practical purposes, Twofo is dead.

Fact: Twofo is dying

teach them a lesson (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17772660)

Professor should log on, edit something in the wikipedia reference to the current project so it is wrong, and wait for the papers to come in. Then they can give poor marks to the unquestioning students. Hopefully they'll remember to think, check and not just lazily take someone else's word for it for the rest of their lives.

Primary vs. Tertiary Sources (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17772662)

From what I've seen, the whole point of being an academic historian is to promote a particular point of view (bias). At first, I thought that the Middlebury history department was objecting to wikipedia because it was "not accurate" (i.e. biased) which seemed to be a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

On further reading, the objection seems to be that wikipedia is not a primary source. Encyclopedias should not, in general, be cited as references. Like other encyclopedias, wikipedia is not a place for primary research articles with well-defined methodology nor can not be cited as the opinion of a specific individual expert - being written somewhat anonymously by the general public.

Re:Primary vs. Tertiary Sources (1)

iSeal (854481) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773104)

Yep, that's pretty much it. You'll notice that most professors will also disallow the citing of their assigned textbooks as well. University textbooks themselves typically being probably the most informed compilation of research into any one field.

But I object to your concept of linking biasness to pure inaccuracy, as a means to validate the former. Wikipedia, despite reports that suggest it more accurate than Encyclopaedia Britannica, is user contributed. The process of reviewing the contributions isn't exactly the most stringent on Earth, especially when you get to the lesser known topics. So the people that contribute might make mistakes. These aren't due to their biasness, but just because they don't know better. They might say things which aren't actually so. Essentially, the information might be wrong. This isn't because the user promoted a certain point of view, but because they didn't know otherwise. It's like citing any odd website on the Internet in general. Wrong information, is, wrong information. If it's remotely likely to be questionable, it shouldn't be included.

A Wikipedia pointer... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772670)

What role, if any, do you think Wikipedia should play in education?

The same role as a library index cards (yes, I'm old, so shoot me), pointing students to resources for further evaluation. Doesn't anyone chase after citations anymore?

Re:A Wikipedia pointer... (1)

Brunellus (875635) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772722)

Please. People don't even RTFA most of the time--and that's HYPERLINKED.

Uni students shouldn't be citing encyclopedias. (1)

Brunellus (875635) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772674)

Encyclopedias are meant as guides to further, substantive reading, not end-sin-themselves. The last time I was permitted to rely on an encyclopedia's authority alone was in middle school (age 13).

Re:Uni students shouldn't be citing encyclopedias. (2, Funny)

udderly (890305) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772754)

Encyclopedias are meant as guides to further, substantive reading, not end-sin-themselves.
Good thing that they don't end sin; what would we do on the weekends?

Re:Uni students shouldn't be citing encyclopedias. (1)

Brunellus (875635) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772832)

comment endlessly on /.?

Sources (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772682)

IMHO, NO single source is trustworthy. Wikipedia is a source, but it shouldn't be used as THE source.

Re:Sources (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17772880)


I mean everyone knows THE source is an old man with a beard and a monotone voice. Duh.

Re:Sources (2, Interesting)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772950)

One major problem is that with all the WP mirrors, it's easy to find half a dozen "sources" that back WP up (being copies of a week-old version of WP)

Good! (1)

Thansal (999464) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772698)

Wikipiedia (or any encyclopedia) is a good STARTING place for information, however fom there you sohuld really look through the links that are cited in the article itself, see what you think of theri validity, and possibly cite them directly if that is where you info ends up coming from.

And remember, Wikis get vandalized, if you read somethign that SOUNDS acurate, it could just be a good trick that no one has caught yet.

Citing encyclopedias? (5, Insightful)

MyNameIsEarl (917015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772700)

Citing an encyclopedia was frowned upon back when I was in college. Wikipedia is like an encyclopedia but with an even worse feature, the information can change at any given time. I would not want to cite something and have a professor or his assistant look it up and see that it was different from what I wrote in the paper.

Re:Citing encyclopedias? (2, Insightful)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773068)

if you reference the current revision from the page history rather than the named article you don't have to worry about your professor seeing He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named

Re:Citing encyclopedias? (3, Insightful)

aj50 (789101) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773156)

Always cite the date.

The bigger problem (4, Insightful)

grungebox (578982) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772704)

Why the hell are COLLEGE students citing encyclopedias in papers in the first place? That's what you do for those papers in sixth grade on why Tony Hawk is awesome or whatever, but if you're older than 14, you shouldn't be citing an encyclopedia (or *pedia) of any sort. That's just a sign of poor research skills.

Re:The bigger problem (2, Interesting)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772852)

Exactly, everytime I hear of this I wonder what sort of shit college this must be. Encyclopedias should be banned period, they are a reference to find other sources not a source themselves. Hell, even in middle school we were told that encyclopedias are not a proper source and not to use them as such.

Wikipedia and the student (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772708)

Most well-written Wikipedia articles cite sources. These sources are usually authoritative in their own right. Students should use these.

Some pages, such as autobiographies or pages written by experts using first-hand information, may lack such sources. These may make good primary sources but the burden of proof is on the student to show why they are authoritative. If the primary author is a well-known authority that should be good enough for any professor.

Professors should encourage students to contribute to Wikipedia and submit the contributions for academic credit.

Re:Wikipedia and the student (1)

arkanes (521690) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772896)

Wikipedia has a "no original research" policy - it's intended to model the encyclopedia, not to be an authoritative source on its own. Even articles written by experts should cite other sources (you don't become an expert in a vacuum - you learned from something, and things you discovered yourself should be published somewhere). So there should never be a case where you cite Wikipedia, any more than any other encyclopedia, directly. The summary (I confess I haven't RTFA yet) makes it sound like they're approaching it from the direction that wikipedia is too inaccurate to be a trusted source and that they thought about banning it entirely, which means that while this may be the right action they did it for totally the wrong reason.

Frankly. . . (1)

Bastian (66383) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772710)

. . . I'm amazed Wikipedia isn't already covered under some sort of ban on citing any sort of encyclopedia in a term paper. I know when I was in college that wound never have flown with any of my professors. All it succeeds in showing is that you were too lazy to find some decent sources for your work. Citing Wikipedia is particularly egregious in that a decent Wikipedia article will cite sources (with those blue clicky things, no less), making it really easy to get to the good stuff.

Look... (1)

p0 (740290) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772714)

Even if you do not approve Wikipedia itself, it's concept and success story is something the educational institutes should learn from.

Re:Look... (1)

MenTaLguY (5483) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772762)

Yeah, that's fine. But Wikipedia isn't a primary source and shouldn't be treated as one, same as any paper encylopedia.

This is not unique (1)

oddman (204968) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772718)

I teach argumentative writing to freshmen, and they aren't allowed to cite wikipedia for me either. In fact, unless someone is writing about wkipedia, I can't see any reason to use it as a bibliographic source in an academic paper. And I don't know anyone who would sanction wikipedia as an acceptable source.

Everything! (3, Insightful)

AutopsyReport (856852) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772724)

In education? Everything. I've learned so much about topics I never had the means to easily research, or things I never knew existed. The amount of knowledge on Wikipedia is fascinating and a dream for someone who loves to learn. It can be a blessing for students.

In academics? It is obviously not suited for citing factual information, but it certainly helps students formulate and nurture ideas and theories. It can help point them in the right direction, and it can also lead them towards more factual sources.

A ban on citing Wikipedia is expected, but Wikipedia is far too powerful to dismiss as not having a role in education.

For those of you in Grad school... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17772726)

or have gone to Grad school or will be going to grad school (I don't know about undergrad)...

internet cites are NOT permitted.

B-school is different. As an MBA (flame away!), internet cites are permitted...because most corporate information and research is available and ONLY available (in many cases) via the internet.

So, it's up to your professor or advisor if you can use internet cites.

Next question.

Banned? No, but fail the student (1, Redundant)

RaboKrabekian (461040) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772732)

Wikipedia should never be cited as a source. It's a good way to start getting some information on a topic, but that's it. Do these professors allow students to use encyclopedias as sources? This isn't elementary school.

Stop Citing wikipedia! (2, Interesting)

Darvin (878219) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772740)

I don't cite from Wikipedia, however i do use the sources and citations used from Wikipedia without mentioning the wiki article itself.

I know many of my peers that use it religiously, and many of those papers are practically clones. However, if my lecturers started to try and stop the use Wikipedia for material, I'll be the first to point out that little hypocritical rule. My lectures use Wikipedia abundantly in their hand-outs, notes and references to their own work when lecturing!

Inaccuracies (or not) (1)

adambha (1048538) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772748)

Wikipedia -- the user-created encyclopedia that's full of great stuff, and also full of inaccuracies.

Honestly, how accurate (or inaccurate) is any online source?

There's an official MLA citation format for online sources and using online sources is commonly encouraged. The question is, is Wikipedia any more inaccurate than the multitudes of other sources online?

Re:Inaccuracies (or not) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17773128)

I agree! In terms of accuracy, online sources have the possibility of being inaccurate. But, for many subjects it is still the best source. In the early 90's when I was in college, many professors disallowed internet sources. This made it extremely difficult to find source material on subjects that were current. By the time a book gets written/published and winds up in the library it is outdated and possibly irrelevant. Newspapers can be filled with just as many inaccuracies as wikipedia.

Uh oh (4, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772764)

You mean the Everywhere Girl is not responsible for the German bombing of Pearl Harbor?
I feel disillusioned.

Role for Wikipedia in academic research? (5, Insightful)

heretic108 (454817) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772770)

This is what I see as the place of Wikipedia in tertiary education:
  1. Quick rough primer
  2. Source of links, some of which may end up being citeable
  3. Inspiration for finely-honed Google searches for authoritative sites
  4. Absolutely nothing else

None (1)

darthlurker (663459) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772792)

I don't recall ever being allowed to cite from any encyclopedia because it was itself a summary of done by someone else. And a reference was only considered "good" if it was from a seminal source. Wiki is a good start to track down information (like most any encyclopedia) but stopping there is laziness.

Ideas for sources (1)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772800)

Wikipedia is certainly a good place to get ideas for sources, but a source itself? It may have changed by the time you submit your paper! How do you even accurately cite it?

Re:Ideas for sources (1)

ampmouse (761827) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773148)

How do you even accurately cite it?
Using the Cite this article [] link?
But, even Wikipedia says not to cite it as a source:

IMPORTANT NOTE: Most educators and professionals do not consider it appropriate to use tertiary sources such as encyclopedias as a sole source for any information -- citing an encyclopedia as an important reference in footnotes or bibiliographies may result in censure or a failing grade. Wikipedia articles should be used for background information, as a reference for correct terminology and search terms, and as a starting point for further research.

Re:Ideas for sources (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17773168)

It may have changed by the time you submit your paper! How do you even accurately cite it?

go to the article history page, then click the top datetime link and you will have a frozen copy of the page

Wikipedia is often a good starting point... (3, Informative)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772806)

And when all I'm interested in is a general overview of something, it's often a good place to go. But I agree that using it as a source for a college paper is unwise. Not just because of the innacuracies, but because when you are doing research, you need to get to original sources. Wikipedia by its very nature is not an original source.

One thing I impressive about Wikipedia is just how obsessively detailed some of the entries are. Some of those details may or may not be correct, but the level of detail is far greater than any encyclopedia I've ever used. And even a detail that's wrong or innacurate still gives you something to look for when you're going over original sources.

Encyclopedias bad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17772808)

I don't know about your universities, but at mine our professors always told us to never, ever cite from any form of encyclopedia...

Which Wikipedia falls under. So I don't see any problem in banning it, because it's bad practice anyhow.

The whole point of work at university level is to gain a deeper understanding which an encyclopedia isn't going to give - you'll only get an overview. You need to hit those journals and get as close to the primary sources as you can. Prove you understand the stuff by constructing your arguments from those sources.

Wiki should be the starting point (1)

RazorDaze (570566) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772818)

Asking wiki is like asking a fact-hoarding know-it-all roommate; it might give you a direction to look, but you're not going to anchor a paper to his off-hand comment.

For any kind of college-level research, citing a wiki as important fact is a recipe for disaster; it's simply does not have the level of trust and depth that true academic sources require.

That doesn't undermine its importance as a starting point though, giving a rudimentary outline of a subject and some initial sources to follow up on. E.g., if I know nothing about the First Nations of Canada and how they've been affected by modernization, then looking at a wiki would be the first step, followed by extensive research to verify and find "real" information. It wouldn't be the last step.

Reasonable (1, Redundant)

AeroIllini (726211) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772846)

Repeat after me:
"Encyclopedias are not a source."

Now repeat again after me:
"Encyclopedias ON THE INTERNET are not a source."

Encyclopedias are a place to start.... (1)

Peyna (14792) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772850)

They shouldn't be using encyclopedias in this way at all. They are a good place to start your research and point you in the right direction, but you probably shouldn't actually be using them as a source in your writing...

use original sources (1)

lazarus corporation (701348) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772856)

Wikipedia is a great starting point for any research, but it should never be cited in a university-level term paper (and the same applies to any encyclopedia, online or paper)! The best wikipedia articles link to the original sources for their information and a good researcher should always be using original sources.

Why is this an issue? (1, Insightful)

hachete (473378) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772862)

Wikipedia aspires to be an encylopaedia. From the front-page:

Welcome to Wikipedia,
the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.

It's for background reading and finding primary and secondary sources. As such, this is how I use it.

Interesting that the profs contribute. Part of the reason why wikipedia is better than Brittanica.

Wikipedia is the new Google (1)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772884)

Wikipedia critics -- and even the fans -- compare it to the Encyclopedia Britannica, when in fact it should be compared -- favorably -- to Google. When you search for something in Wikipedia, you get a synopsis and a bunch of links. The content can change over time. Sound familiar?

Wikipedia is presently unsuitable for citation because citing means citing an author, not a web page (that can change, I might add). Even if the person doing the citing has the foresight to cite a deep link to a specific version of a page (i.e. "oldid" is encoded in the Wikipedia URL), Wikipedia does not offer a direct way to know who wrote what within the article. Wikipedia does not even guarantee the identity of contributors.

Remember, when explaining the usefulness of Wikipedia to your friends, just say "Wikipedia is the new Google."

I like that idea being tossed around by the school of outright banning Wikipedia -- might as well ban Google and the entire Internet and just stick to dead trees.

Why dont they fix it then. (1)

Dimentox (678813) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772886)

This sounds like a good way for thoes people who are tired of it being wrong to go fix it. Dont ban something you can edit!

Already unwritten rule (1)

gatesvp (957062) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772902)

My gf is in her 4th year of Classical Studies and it is simply recognized that Wikipedia is not a citable source. Just like you shouldn't cite encyclopedias.

The department should not need to put a ban on Wikipedia citing. That's almost like recognizing that it may, in some way, be acceptable, but that this University won't allow it. Really, it's already recognized that citing primary sources is important and that citing an encyclopedia is unacceptable.

Now, if the Uni has a published ban on using certain reference types. Then I agree that they can add Wikipedia. However, if such a ban does not exist, then there's not point in creating one. Just tell students that Wikipedia is an unacceptable source along with many others.

Use Wikipedia to start research, not end it (1)

DBCubix (1027232) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772906)

Wikipedia is a great place to start your research, get in, get your feet wet, learn a general feel of the overall topical area, and give the student enough information to pursue subareas of interest. After all there are references at the end of most Wiki's to help out. But I would have to agree with the History professors that it should not be used as a sole reference.

Accuracy is an illusion, genuinity double so! (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772920)

How can you say a piece of information is accurate? Only if you create it in first person and use it!
Othewise if you have the original source, you can accurately cite it. If you have not, you end to cite a source claiming to cite an original source. And so on.
In regards to the History, most of the sources either are not original or have a quesitonable genuinity.
Wikipedia is great as it doesn't claim to have accurate information and allows everyone to modify almost everything.
Just like the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy [] ! (Sorry for the inaccurate infos!)

Yes and no (1)

sammydee (930754) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772930)

Sciece students at university should be taught the value of citing reliable and verifiable sources. Wikipedia is an incerdible resource - whenever I want to find out more about a particular topic, I go straight to wikipedia to get an overview, and it can act as an excellent springboard towards more and better sources of information.

However, I can also understand the professor's attitudes - although they may contribute to wikipedia themselves, this does not assure the accuracy of every statement made there. Whilst wikipedia is making a valiant effort to cite all of its references and backup every point, it is clearly unrealistic to expect a collaborative encyclopedia to cite reliable sources for every statement made. Unfortunately, the sciences are extremely rigorous about making verifiable claims, and the collaborative nature or wikipedia automatically excludes it from this list. It should never be cited as a primary resource in a real world scientific paper.

The role wikipedia should play in education is... education, surprisingly! If I ever want to find out anything about any topic in the world (or even off-world!) my first stop is wikipedia. It is an incredible tool for giving oneself a rough education in any topic, but for an in depth education about said topic, wikipedia is not sufficient, and unfortunately, it is not reliable enough to count as a valid source in scientific papers.

mpo3 down (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17772936)

sur?prise to 7he

grading... (1)

eleuthero (812560) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772956)

As someone who grades graduate level research papers, I've had to make comments on wikipedia citations before. Students who do cite wikipedia get a book from me in the margins. It is, as noted above, completely inappropriate to use any encyclopedia for reference. It isn't amazing to me that the school has made a statement against use of wikipedia but it is continually shocking that any student (including the one's I've graded) actually continues to use it.

GOOD. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17772970)

Wikipedia is like a moving car; it's a crappy reference.

I cited Wikipedia when I was an undergrad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17772974)

Wikipedia was still new and not well known, I introduced numerous professors to it and I know many of them spend time editing articles about their subject matter to this day. I cited Wikipedia a few times for research papers. Never for anything vital, and typically only because what was written did a nice job of summarizing a major point and was backed up by good citations. Generally, I found Wikipedia incredibly helpful for first level research. You read the article(s) there on the subject you are researching, you read what the article(s) link to, then you dig through everything these articles cite. It's great for getting that first intro to what's out there and figuring out other good research sources. I only had one professor complain and that was because rather than go to the version of the article I cited they searched for the article and found an updated version which didn't match what I used. I explained how all versions were kept and showed them how to access the exact cite from my paper and they were happy with it.

The problem isn't Wikipedia, it's students who don't understand how to verify information or make a persuasive argument that the information they are citing is valid.

Surprising. (1)

mrseigen (518390) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772998)

My courses already have an outright ban on Wikipedia as a research source; most CS professors know how bad it is for edits and will reject it. Social science courses seem to allow it, but once you tell them it can be edited arbitrarily by anyone, they usually tell the course they can no longer use it.

Unfortunately, nobody seems to have told the local paper -- they repeatedly run sidebars on the front page with their citation attributed to Wikipedia. This is a paper with about 400k circulation, too, so not a country bumpkin paper.

They shouldn't ban it (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773002)

They shoud say:
"Every year we get people with inaccuracies from wikipedia. You might not want to use it exclusivly"

If someone tunrs in a paper with incorrect historic information, give them an 'F'.
By college, student certianly should begin seeing consequences like these.

That said. Wikipedia is purprisingle accurate most of the time.

The main exceptions is when someothing suddenly gain mind spaces, or controversial items.
For example, I just looked up the War of 1812, and it seemed to give pretty good information. Not a detailed paper on many of the interacasy, but anyone who reads it would ahve some basic fact.
Not that I mentioned it on /., I won't trust it for 2 weeks :)

Wikipedias plasticity discualifies it academically (1)

Knutsi (959723) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773010)

I remember a French professor named Alain Finkielkraut who held a seminar here in Norway once who stated in the newspaper that "the internet is garbage" (exact quote) because it consistes of accurate and inaccurate information (or outright lies) next to each other.

While we should not underestimate the value of Wikipedia as a tool for sparking interest, and public information, it is not an scietifict/academic source of information. The shear plasticity of the articles should make it obvious that it is not a good place to cite, contrary to reputed printed on online journals or works with a strict editorial regime and peer review system. (this relates a bit to a previous slashdot article about people not being able to see the difference between credible and doubtfull source of information online).

That said, Wikis in general can be wonderfull for science, especially if the people contributing are limited, but only for documentation and growing knowledge.

Seems Reasonable (1)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773032)

Seems reasonable to me. A well written Wikipedia article already cites its sources. Just follow the trail and in the process learn whether that particular article is accurate.

Wikipedia is way ahead of them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17773076)

You already aren't allowed to use Wikipedia as a source for Wikipedia articles!

Elephants (1)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773116)

Well, I think that Middlebury College had better deal with their burgeoning African elephant population. It's shot up tremendously there recently. I hear that elephants LOOOOVE "little ivies".

Kids could learn more by correcting Wikipwedia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17773118)

Other professors at the school agree, but note that they're also enthusiastic contributors to Wikipedia.

Am I the only one to see a great learning opportunity here?

"Ok kids, this week you each have to find five false information on the Roman Empire in Wikipedia, and correct them. You have 2 days to find the errors, 3 to submit me your corrections, and we will apply the changes using the school account on Friday".

Good teaching on history, computers, social share of knowledge, ...

Wikipedia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17773150)

The encyclopedia that's editable by admins who may or may not know what they're talking about.

A simple critical thinking assignment (1)

hexadecimate (761789) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773166)

I use Wikipedia practically daily. It's a great first stop for a random search, but it doesn't have any credibility as a primary research source.

I think the professors are taking the wrong approach by announcing a ban on it, however. A much better response would be to assign specific Wikipedia entries (or ask students to select their own) related to the course subject, and then make it the students' task to fact-check the entry.

This would force students to look beyond the superficial information Wikipedia offers and also test the accuracy of the information one finds on Wikipedia.

Banning it is just a variation of Eric Cartman's "Respect mah authorit-ay!", whereas using Wikipedia as the basis for a critical thinking assignment might actually teach students something.

My $0.02.

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