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Education The Internet

Professors To Ban Students From Citing Wikipedia 507

Posted by Zonk
from the we-have-these-things-called-books dept.
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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Professors To Ban Students From Citing Wikipedia

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  • Seems Consistent (Score:5, Informative)

    by udderly (890305) * on Friday January 26, 2007 @02:45PM (#17772594)
    This seems consistent to me--when I was in college, citing any encyclopedias was strongly discouraged.
  • 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.

  • Re:check the sources (Score:5, Informative)

    by daeg (828071) on Friday January 26, 2007 @02:54PM (#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:My idea (Score:3, Informative)

    by mypalmike (454265) on Friday January 26, 2007 @03:05PM (#17773092) Homepage
    I'm tempted to plant some *really* wrong information on any given topic...

    There's a place for you on the internet. Uncyclopedia [uncyclopedia.org] is a fine source of misinformation.
  • Re:Seems Consistent (Score:4, Informative)

    by tinkerghost (944862) on Friday January 26, 2007 @03:50PM (#17774038) Homepage

    Strongly discouraged is a dramatic understatement. Prohibited is closer to the truth. I can't think of a single course I took in college that would have accepted an encyclopedia reference in a term paper. English, sociology, psychology, World Civ, science (72 crh phy, che, & bio) none of them would have accepted a cite from an encyclopedia for anything more than a copyright notice of a picture you might have included.

    In a college level science paper you include only 2 things, independent research - backed by methodology, and peer reviewed papers. The farther you get from hard sciences (where either A + B = C or it doesn't), the lower the peer reviewed requirement at lower levels - IE biographies are rarely peer reviewed, but highly helpful in understanding the importance of the personality traits of people involved in historical events. Even there, at higher levels if you're going to base a thesis on "The impact of GWB's syphalis on his behaviour reguarding the 2nd Iraq war", you're going to need a primary peer reviewed source reporting his syphalis, or independent discovery of his (verifiable) medical records. Bob's History of the Shrub isn't going to cut it.

  • by Jabrwock (985861) on Friday January 26, 2007 @04:13PM (#17774524) Homepage
    A "good" wikipedia article has it's sources cited as well, so a student who wants to cite something found on Wikipedia can just double-check the source material, and then cite THAT source. Wikipedia is a good tool to help with research, but I wouldn't use it as a source. You'd be citing the source of a source afterall, right?
  • by maxume (22995) on Friday January 26, 2007 @04:41PM (#17775088)
    It is perfectly possible to point to a specific version of a page:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Cite [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Cite?page=Cit ing+Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Citing_W ikipedia&oldid=75370506 [wikipedia.org]

    It still shouldn't be relied on as a source, but that's more due to reliability than it is accountability.
  • Re:Greatest minds (Score:5, Informative)

    by 644bd346996 (1012333) on Friday January 26, 2007 @05:08PM (#17775642)
    Wikipedia has a policy against being a primary source: No Original Research. [wikipedia.org]
  • by julesh (229690) on Friday January 26, 2007 @06:01PM (#17776572)
    Wikipedia does not allow original research, so all information on a page must be cited.

    While it's true that this is wikipedia's policy, it's only followed on approximately half of the pages on there.
  • by Explodicle (818405) on Friday January 26, 2007 @06:08PM (#17776708) Homepage
    No, cite the exact revision. The "permanent link" on the left is there for a reason!
  • Citation Needed (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kelson (129150) * on Friday January 26, 2007 @06:38PM (#17777156) Homepage Journal

    That contradicts my usual experience with every Wikipedia article I come across, which is a hundred or so "[citation needed]" markers.

    Think of it this way: those [citation needed] markers are the first step in getting those sources linked. Their purpose is to encourage people who know something about the issue to provide references. Once those sources are linked, not only does the article have more intrinsic value (as the claims at least have some supporting documentation), but it has more value as a research tool to help people find those sources.

    Every once in a while I've been reading a Wikipedia article on some subject, seen that marker, and said to myself, "Hey, I read that in XYZ!" I've then gone out, looked for the article, and replaced the citation marker with a footnote. If I hadn't seen the marker, I might not have thought of tracking down the half-remembered source.

  • Interlibrary Loan (Score:1, Informative)

    by petershank (463008) on Friday January 26, 2007 @08:05PM (#17778512)
    It's called an inter-library loan. One library gets a book temporarily from another library. Happens every day.
  • by Warg! The Orcs!! (957405) on Friday January 26, 2007 @08:31PM (#17778800)
    That came later. The war concluded with Germany still occupying French territory. They had not been beaten. The armistice was negotiated from a position of "let's stop fighting". However AFTER the fighting had stopped the US held an election that swept away Woodrow Wilson's power base and left him powerless to stop the French and British rounding on Germany. The French were absolutely paranoid about Germany as their traditional anti-German counterweight, Imperial Russia, no longer existed. The French decided that Germany should be territorially emasculated, made to bear the blame for the war (that Austria-Hungary started) and made to pay exorbitant war reparations. In Britain, David Lloyd George had been elected thanks to a "Hang the Kaiser" campaign and came into the treaty negotiations on the side of France. Germany did not expect a 'treaty' as harsh as the one they were presented with. At no point were the Germans consulted over the treaty - they were just told to sign it. The French and British had restricted aid to Germany and the Germans themselves had run out of allies. Their normal allies the Austro-Hungarian Empire had collapsed as had the Ottoman Empire.
    The French and British governments threatened Germany with a resumption of hostilities if the signature was refused. Germany had no option but to sign.

    So Germany did not lose the war, they lost the peace.

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