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I'm really starting to hate the elitism teachers have against Wikipedia:
Nemesis@myrdschaem: Wikipedia articles do definitely have authors, and you can track using the history which user added what, but there's no requirement for those authors to use their real names. However, this has an advantage, too: Wikipedia articles are not relying on the author's reputation, but on the quality of the sources used. Of course, assessing those is hard. "Peer-reviewed" isn't quite as strong a thing as many laymen appear to think. It just means experts in the field have read it and found no obvious errors or omissions. That's a fairly low bar, and lots of things that will turn out to be wrong are published in journals all the time.
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Inadequate law studentMy experience is that it's university policy not to permit students to use Wikipedia, because it suggests that limited research has been carred out. According to my Constitutional Law syllabus, that's one of the skills they're trying to impart - the ability to access and use a wide range of sources - and it's not going to develop if the student in question gets all their information straight from a Wikipedia page. It's down to the individual lecturer, though. In tutorial groups it's fine to use it to gather information for group debate, but you can't include it as a coursework citation. I've no opinion myself.
@Morven The point isn't about whether Wikipedia is an excellent/easy source for information though. It's about what counts as a source you can cite. The thing is that with primary sources (unless your topic precludes the use of such things) you can produce new useful work. If you're simply regurgitating established views created by others, you offer very little to the field. Academic research was once very inclusive of secondary material because they felt it unnecessary to look again at an event, and simply go on with what people have already said of the subject. It resulted in persistent errors in many fields, especially history or anthropology. The rationale is like this. If you wanted to see if a math theorem was correct, would you ask someone about whether he thought (say the man was Euler or Einstein, just so that it's not some random fool) it was correct and then use that to prove the theorem was correct or would you actually go get the theorem itself and test it rigorously?
edited 23rd Feb '11 12:55:46 PM by breadloaf
The difference between Britannica and Wikipedia is pretty obvious: One is written by reputable authors and matches the information from its sources, while accurate information in the other could have been subtly compromised at any point by some later dipstick who didn't consult the source and simply edited over the correct information by writing off the cuff. That's why it's best to just spend an additional click to read the original source. Wikipedia IS a fantastic collection of (mostly accurate) synopses of sources, which makes it great for getting a high level view before diving into the details of a subject.
Over 10,000 dead.:<Wikipedia is indeed not a good source. As indeed, "anyone can edit it". Aside from of course, the locked articles. A wikipedia entry is only as good as it's sources. Using sources from a wikipedia page as your own source is a good idea(if it's a good source) is a good idea. Using wikipedia itself as a source, is not.
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