Inside Higher Ed :: A Stand Against Wikipedia

By reeset / On / In Uncategorized

 Classic…Middlebury College’s history dept. is banning the use of Wikipedia as a source for papers.  Not that noteworthy given the academic community’s general dislike for the resource.  What I don’t understand is why the department banned it.  So its not authorative[1] — who cares.  Part of the job of faculty is to teach students to:

  1. understand and do research
  2. discern primary and trusted sources

If wikipedia is such a problem in this department — obviously one of these two things haven’t been sufficiently taught — or — there are no consequences to ignoring 1 and 2. 

Again, this falls under the category of things I hate seeing legislated.  Students are at universities to learn — this is a good learning opportunity.


Source: Jobs, News and Views for All of Higher Education – Inside Higher Ed :: A Stand Against Wikipedia

[1] Sandra Ordonez, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail interview. “Wikipedia is the ideal place to start your research and get a global picture of a topic, however, it is not an authoritative source.”

5 thoughts on “Inside Higher Ed :: A Stand Against Wikipedia

  1. Terry –

    I think you jumped to the same conclusion that a bunch of others did. Middlebury said, “don’t cite Wikipedia in your papers.”
    The article says, “There was some discussion in the department of trying to ban students from using Wikipedia, but Wyatt said that didn’t seem appropriate. Many Wikipedia entries have good bibliographies, Wyatt said. And any absolute ban would just be ignored.”

    More to the point, they’re saying exactly the same thing librarians and faculty have been saying for years: don’t use an encyclopedia as a central source for your paper. It’s just that now, it’s super-easy to use Wikipedia. So students are doing it more than they were doing it with World Book or Encyclopedia Britannica.

    I think this is a non-story because it’s so obvious. It’s just the fact that it has the word “wikipedia” in it that worth reporting.

    But they’re not “banning” use of it — they know that’s impossible — they’re trying to make it clear to students that they must go beyond Wikipedia, Wikipedia, and Wikipedia as the three sources they use in their papers. Makes sense to me.

    Peter McCracken

  2. Well, kindof Peter. Yes, the point is to get students to look beyond a single encyclopedia as the source of information, but you’d be fooling yourself if you didn’t also concede that this is partly about wikipedia itself. At best, the academic community tolerates it. Online versions of the OE and others have existed for years and are nearly as accessible for students — yet this is only now a problem because of Wikipedia. Right.

    But I know a few folks at Middlebury (though not in the history department) and have been having some fun the past few days poking some fun at them about this. The fact is, there are a number of faculty (and its not just Middlebury) that will heavily penalize students for using Wikipedia in their work. I just think that they lose a teaching moment by simpling encouraging students not to use the resource or out and out “banning” its use (as some have). Part of what a student comes to a university to learn is how to do research — for some, its just a harder lesson than for others.


  3. Terry,

    I agree with your response about universities being at odds with Wikipedia. Initially, I felt uneasy with regard to using Wikipedia based upon its editable function. However, there is research out there to support the accuracy of the content, yet the bigger issue at hand is with students citing this as a source. I believe both the institution and the students are in the wrong in this case.

    First, it is the job of the institution to instruct students to become critical consumers of knowledge. Just as we teach students to be critical of information they see on any webpage, they need to be cautious with the material they find on Wikipedia. Like it discussed in the article, the best method of research is always cite from the first source. For this reason, I believe banning the use of Wikipedia altogether is not solving the problem since it is a great resource for students to begin the research process.

    At the same time, students must take on some of the responsibility of their learning. While there is a lot of “junk” out there, it’s only going to continue to get worse. Students must learn the skills of filtering information throughout their research process. At some point there is no longer going to be an instructor looking over their shoulder telling them where they should and shouldn’t be getting information.