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View Full Version : Are teachers being unreasonable in their hate of Wikipedia?


FreakyLocz14
July 3rd, 2011, 11:23 PM
We all know what Wikipedia is. Many of us who have pursued higher education also know that teachers seem to hate Wikipedia.

The most common reason they give for doing so is that Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, so it is unreliable. While that may be true sometimes, the large majority of the time, a Wikipedia article is a good article. The WikiPolice are usually very good at catching and reverting vandalism. Also, articles that are frequent targets of vandalism can be set so that only registered users with a good history can edit them. Lots of online sources that are not open to anonymous editors can be unreliable. Even printed sources can be unreliable, though at a lesser rate than online sources

Some high school and college teachers I've talked to have admitted that they don't like Wikipedia because it makes thing easier for their students. My question is, why is that a bad thing? As long as the student learned what needed to be learned from the assignment, why should it matter how long it took or how much digging the student had to do to complete it? That argument hold less merit than the first one, imo. I can see where this can be a problem if the assignment requires very specific, technical research; but for general information, Wikipedia is often reliable.

I'm not talking about plagiarism, btw. I know that lazy students will plagiarize Wikipedia. Intentional, uncited plagiarism is unacceptable, but it can come from other sources than Wikipedia. I'm talking about when a student references Wikipedia for information and does cite it, not when a student plagiarizes from Wikipedia.

What are your thoughts on this?

Discuss.

Careful With That Axe, Pichu!
July 3rd, 2011, 11:28 PM
I don't think teachers hate Wikipedia per se, they hate the fact that people cite Wikipedia as the source of information for their work, when most info doesn't really originate from there.

I have used Wikipedia in college as a site where I can find information from different sources, and if I cite/research those sources instead of attributing all the info to Wikipedia, it's all fine.

FreakyLocz14
July 3rd, 2011, 11:30 PM
I don't think teachers hate Wikipedia per se, they hate the fact that people cite Wikipedia as the source of information for their work, when most info doesn't really originate from there.

I have used Wikipedia in college as a site where I can find information from different sources, and if I cite/research those sources instead of attributing all the info to Wikipedia, it's all fine.

Why would they hate when students cite Wikipedia, though?

Myles
July 3rd, 2011, 11:45 PM
Wikipedia doesn't count as a primary or secondary source since it's an encyclopedia. Universities at least (I dunno about high schools) will not let you cite any encyclopedia.

If people have objections other than that, I don't like it. Wikipedia is generally reliable and a study (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4530930.stm) was done that found that Wikipedia has almost as few errors as the Encyclopedia Britannica.

FreakyLocz14
July 4th, 2011, 12:38 AM
Wikipedia doesn't count as a primary or secondary source since it's an encyclopedia. Universities at least (I dunno about high schools) will not let you cite any encyclopedia.

If people have objections other than that, I don't like it. Wikipedia is generally reliable and a study (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4530930.stm) was done that found that Wikipedia has almost as few errors as the Encyclopedia Britannica.

My school doesn't have a campus-wide ban on citing encyclopedias. That is a decision made by individual instructors. Even when the instructor permits or doesn't expressly prohibit the use of encyclopedias, Wikipedia is still looked down upon.

Careful With That Axe, Pichu!
July 4th, 2011, 05:14 AM
Why would they hate when students cite Wikipedia, though?

Like Myles said, it's not a primary nor secondary source of information. If you're in college already, you must understand the sheer importance of citing proper sources for your work.

While encyclopedias in general aren't the best option, teachers tend to favor printed published work than online (unless it comes from a reliable source) which takes us back to them favoring Wikipedia less.

Also, if you're serious about your paper, and serious about the information you're using in it, you wouldn't just trust Wikipedia anyway. As reliable as any study proves it to be, any self-respecting researcher always wants to know where the information came from. It never comes from Wikipedia; it's just paraphrased there.

Alternative
July 4th, 2011, 05:20 AM
In my eyes, the way I see it is that Wikipedia can be a reliable main source of information, so long as you can back it up with either proper written documents or soem other form of information, which matches whatever it is you're researching on Wikipedia. So to answer your question, within reason, I think it's not being too hard on anyone that the teachers feel this way, so long as you can back up your "wikipedia source".

~*!*~Tatsujin Gosuto~*!*~
July 4th, 2011, 11:51 AM
At first I did not see why teachers hated it and never wanted us to use it as a source of information but when I got a C+ from my paper, my professor told me why it was wrong. I would have gotten an A- on the paper but because of me using Wikipedia. She explained it to me that many people can change information, and there as a page that she showed us that she put false information up four years ago and the information is still up there until this day today. The information sometimes doesn't give you what you need exactly so thats why my professors don't want me to use it.


:t354:TG

Esper
July 4th, 2011, 12:02 PM
In general I think they prefer printed material because it can't change. Anything on the web can change, or be removed, or only have limited access. So let's say your wiki article cites the Oxford English Dictionary. Unless you have access to a physical copy of it you're going to need a subscription to get to their website. Ain't got neither of them and you basically can't use it. If you get enough cases like this Wikipedia's usefulness drops considerably.

Part of a good education is learning how to research things. Wikipedia, for all it contains, doesn't cover everything or every nuance of a topic. If you get into the mindset that you can find everything on Wikipedia, that your one source fairly balances opposing views, then you're being intellectually lazy. With Wikipedia especially you can find an article that has maybe 6 or 7 sources listed at the end of the page, with larger articles having more. I'd bet there are more than 6 or 7 sources in the world on any topic so even if you go to those sources you're still going to sources that someone else put there and which may overall not wholly represent the topic fairly, or at the very least it could keep you from developing your own viewpoint. So, yeah. I can see why teachers would prefer if you didn't go to Wikipedia, though I know some teachers who are fine with it... as a starting point. They just don't want you limit yourself to that site and the ones it links you to. They also want you to do research that is whole independent of Wikipedia.

Actor
July 4th, 2011, 12:13 PM
I'm mixed on this. On the good side, Wikipedia has a huge about of information, and is pretty much a compilation of every single info site on the Internet, seeing how anybody can edit it.

This is also the main reason why teachers hate Wikipedia, seeing as people can and fake information to it. Plus, it's articles usually use words that most students (or even teachers) don't know the meaning of.

I do like Wikipedia, but I take care of the information I use so that it isn't absurd.

PokéSwimmer
July 4th, 2011, 01:26 PM
I don't necessarily agree with citing Wikipedia, but if I ever "need" to use Wikipedia as a source, I simply look to see if Wikipedia's own citations are available online. If so, I follow the link, check out the source, and if it looks accurate, I use it. If it's not cited, I probably shouldn't be using that information anyway. Wikipedia is a tool that, if used correctly, can be very helpful with research.

FreakyLocz14
July 4th, 2011, 01:33 PM
What do you guys think about this part of my OP?:
Some high school and college teachers I've talked to have admitted that they don't like Wikipedia because it makes thing easier for their students. My question is, why is that a bad thing? As long as the student learned what needed to be learned from the assignment, why should it matter how long it took or how much digging the student had to do to complete it? That argument hold less merit than the first one, imo. I can see where this can be a problem if the assignment requires very specific, technical research; but for general information, Wikipedia is often reliable.

Chairman Kaga
July 4th, 2011, 02:18 PM
Some claim that the nature of education will change in the future in that rote memorization of facts will be de-emphasized and that more emphasis will be placed on knowing how to effectively search for information. As a proponent of academics I find this generally abhorrent, but with the digitization of books, data banks like Wikipedia that seek to accumulate the sum of all human knowledge, etc., our culture seems to be moving inexorably in this direction.

My experience in college lead me to believe that there were three main reasons for professors refusing to accept Wikipedia as a source. These were 1.) questions over Wikipedia's accuracy because of its "anyone can edit" policy and a few high profile cases of article vandalism that have been in the media over the years, 2.) belief that ease of access to the site precluded even the possibility of any real effort going into research, and 3.) good old-fashioned technophobia. As more people who grew up with the internet enter professorial positions, I expect this to change, though. Going back to my first paragraph, if the acquisition of information pertaining to a subject becomes a trivial matter that can be done in seconds or minutes through the internet, the amount of "effort" that goes into compiling information for essays should become less and less relevant.

Purely informational essays may become a thing of the past and essays that emphasize interpretation of information and synthesis of ideas from information will become more important. People will be evaluated on how well they use information once they've acquired it. In my opinion good professors already evaluate students on how they synthesize ideas and reach conclusions (in addition to, not in place of, committing important facts to memory), but not every educator is there yet. I had college classes with tests consisting of "match term A to definition B" like I would have in junior high school. Widespread acceptance of Wikipedia as a legitimate academic source will eventually reach schools and universities, but it won't be in the immediate future. Online knowledge repositories must become even more common in all aspects of learning than they already are and Wikipedia must fade from its monopoly and be but one of many such vastly enormous repositories before educators change their stance.

Note to students: one way to get around prohibitions on citing Wikipedia as a source is to cite one of the external citation sources listed at the bottom of any Wikipedia article. If it's a site, just check it for information relevant to what you're trying to cite and most professors won't bat an eye. I only give this advice because I always hated citations with a burning passion. I understand why they're necessary, but it doesn't make them any less of a miserable chore, and it sucks when you have to formulate an entire essay around a few quotes when you just want your mind to run free.

PkMnTrainer Yellow
July 4th, 2011, 03:27 PM
Absolutely not. Wikipedia lists their sources. All you have to do is check the sources and use the source for the same info instead of listing Wikipedia itself. There is no excuse for not checking your sources, absolutely none at all.

Myles
July 4th, 2011, 03:32 PM
If it's a short article sometimes only 6 or 7 sources are needed. The idea is to get a view on the subject that is directly proportional to the prevalence of that view in reliable sources (yes, even Wikipedia won't let you cite an encyclopedia). If a page is too long and only has a few citations, it will be noted at the top that the article needs more citations. Having a look at a featured article, say today's featured article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Route_491) shows: 36 sources and four external links. And it only has five A4 pages of data (20 paragraphs and two tables).

You can't really count weak articles amongst the A-class articles, good articles, and featured articles (these are ranks Wikipedia has for articles), because most of those probably wouldn't even exist in a normal encyclopedia. Try putting false information on any high profile page and watch it disappear in seconds.