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Monday, February 19, 2007

The Continuing Adventures of Research Grrl: What do you do with an article from Wikipedia???

This week, let's talk about background research. Now, some topics you guys are looking into may prove difficult to find encyclopedia articles on, but I would still recommend this avenue if possible. Information found in good old Brittanica and the like are really solid foundations for undertaking research, getting definitions of key terms, and finding names.


Basically, anyone with a computer and access to the web can go on Wikipedia and fabricate information to be posted on this site that I can only describe accurately by using this analogy- Wikipedia is to Brittanica as the Weekly World News is to The New York Times (according to the Weekly World News, Oprah is worshipped by Aliens and Bat Boy was found in a Romanian orphanage).

Just avoid the site if possible. I think that anyone who saw American Dad last night probably got a good laugh about Stan and Steve posting "the truth" about the origins of peanut butter on Wikipedia.

In other words, Mister T pities the fool who uses Wikipedia because they're too lazy to crack a book! Stay tuned for the Continuing Adventures of ResearchGrrl! and check out my MySpace profile...


Blogger Melba Tomeo said...

You are wise beyond your years, Research Grrl! For a funny take on Wikipedia, check out this YouTube video of Stephen Colbert dissecting the "truthiness" of Wikiality.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Leigh Forbes said...

This is an interesting topic. I just attended an educational technology conference and everyone was touting the use of Wikipedia as a source. Of course it was emphasized that it is one of many resources, not the sole resource, for students to use. One of the presenters made some good comments about when, why, how to use Wikipedia in a geography lesson. She pointed out that Wikipedia works nicely with Google Earth and provides accurate longitude/latitude coordinates. I learned a lot and have to say that I am not as adamantly opposed to Wikipedia as I was in the past.

In addition, Will Richarson pointed out that, like Wikipedia, most traditional encyclopedias have errors. Then he pointed out that the errors in Wikipedia are corrected more quickly than errors in traditional media (including 9 planets instead of the current 8 was his example). I thought this was an interesting point.

12:30 AM  
Blogger Melba Tomeo said...

Library Director Phil Tramdack shares this article on Wikipedia today... Wikipedia ban is a slippery slope.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Dittman said...

Taking a moment away from grading papers to add:
I Must Take Issue With The Wikipedia Entry For 'Weird Al' Yankovic and Wikipedia Celebrates 750 Years Of American Independence
Founding Fathers, Patriots, Mr. T. Honored

1:47 PM  
Blogger Melba Tomeo said...

One more comment to answer the question posed in your blog post...what do you do with a Wikipedia article? Triangulate! Check two trusted reference sources (with a little more credibility and a lot less controversy than Wikipedia) and check the facts. Do two other sources agree with Wikipedia? Then you might have some "truthiness."

5:39 PM  
Blogger PJT said...

As an avid Wikipedia user I am very interested in the wiki phenomenon and sensitive to the quality of the results. I don't think is is as simple as saying that Wikipedia is not an authoritative resource because traditional vetting is not conducted according to the standards of peer review, or that articles are not written by experts selected on the basis of their credentials. For many topics, in particular political history, popular culture, cultural history and the history of technology I find that Wikipedia is usually very complete and accurate and what is sometimes more important, when there are differences of opinion among athorities, these are manifested in the comments pages. Read the article on "Slobodan Milošević" and you will see what I mean. I searched various references for a clear description of the articulated steam locomotive design called "Mallet", pronounced as in French, and Wikipedia has the best I have found. Why? Because people who really care about trains work up the articles, and when there are inaccuracies, they pounce. The biggest problem comes in articles that are on peripheral subjects which have not been reviewed by many people. I don't recommend starting with Wikipedia but it is a good supplemental source, and the principle behind it is worth investigating.

7:50 AM  
Blogger SRUResearchGrrl said...

As a result of recent controversy on this issue, I felt the need to do a bit more background on this. While Wikipedia may be a good reference for certain situations, the English Department faculty members that I asked about this all concurred that Wikipedia won't be accepted as an information source.

So feel free to get your bearings on a topic from Wikipedia, but you should realize that you can't rely on it as a source for writing a research paper.

12:01 PM  
Blogger SRUResearchGrrl said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:01 PM  

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