The Days of Academia Prohibiting Wikipedia as a Resource May be Coming to an End

LONDON — You know that annoying rule that professors give regarding research papers – the almost haughty, always-capitalized declarative in the course syllabus or research assignment that “YOU MAY IN NO CASES USE WIKIPEDIA AS A RESEARCH SOURCE”? Well – hopefully those days are coming to an end.

A group of students and professors at Imperial College London – “Wikipedians,” they call themselves – has come together in an effort to legitimize the content on Wikipedia and eventually promote it as a valid academic resource.

In April, the Wikipedians will hold an event at Imperial to improve editing and vetting Wikipedia pages. Further, the event aims to officially recognize Wikipedia’s place in student research, compare Wikipedia’s reliability with other types of reference sources, and explore ways Wikipedia can tailor its articles to the standards of the academic community.

While it’s probably impossible for a mere conference on the academic value of Wikipedia to affect immediate change, hopefully it’ll be a good start.

“Wikipedia is here to stay — it’s a question of whether we come up to speed with it or try to ignore it,” said Wikipedians president Vinesh Patel.

One of the most significant reasons academia generally prohibits students to use Wikipedia as a source is because ‘rogue editors’ can edit individual entries to contain factually inaccurate, biased, and/or unverifiable information. Another concern is the fact that Wikipedia isn’t peer reviewed by professionals in the field. Both are valid, reasonable worries concerning Wikipedia as a legitimate research source.

But now that Wikipedia has over 18 million articles and receives over 365 million visitors each month, it’s become a sort of “elephant in the room,” as Patel described it. “[I]t’s a place where you can orientate yourself when you start a topic… The quality has improved and the readability is often second to none,” Patel said.

Some academics are already on board. Most notably, former Cambridge math professor Charles Matthews has edited over 200,000 Wikipedia entries, becoming one of the most prolific editors on the website. Moreover, Wikipedia itself made efforts last year to get universities involved in editing and creating entries. The approaching conference at Imperial in April will shed more light on the issue, and hopefully – one day – you might be able to start using Wikipedia as a source for your papers. TC mark



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  • Grandmagramma

    gotta stop using 'hopefully' that way, homie. incorrect. A person can look at the sky hopefully, but you can't feel that “hopefully, this will happen…”

    • shoehorn

      hopefully you still understood what he was getting at

    • Brandon scott gorrell

      feel like that's like correcting someone if they use 'kinda' or 'sorta'

    • eric

      oh no sentence adverbs oh no oh noo

  • Brandon Silverman

    I think Wikipedia is a great source to find out info, but the better part about Wikipedia is that the well-written articles cite their sources. Why can't students just use these sources that Wikipedia provides instead of just quoting Wikipedia?

  • Jesser

    Honestly, the days when Wikipedia couldn't be used as a resource ended when professors decided not to look up Wikipedia articles to prove the student didn't just copy the citations. Anyone who isn't already using it as a resource probably hasn't even heard of easybib, or else they're in the 4th grade. I would recommend only that noone rely on the page for the movie City of Angels, because someone keeps changing the plot to say Nic Cage jumps into a puddle of piss to become human.

  • Omar De Col

    i applied to imperial and got rejected, had to go to sheffield uni fml

  • EmiliaBedelia

    Wikipedia was really great when I studied for the English Lit GRE. As for it being a resource, I don't know. I have never used it. But Wikipedia *does* has a bibliography section, which can be interesting — why not go to it and *actually* read the works referred to?

  • popvox

    It's an encyclopedia; and I learned at least by high school that encyclopedias just are not the stuff that reports are made of. It's like quoting the dictionary to explain your topic — it provides a useful, concise summary, but follow the sources and use THEM to write your paper.

    • EmiliaBedelia

      I quote the dictionary to explain my topic all the time.

  • andreaypich

    About fucking time

  • Librarianna

    In higher education, the same standards that apply to publishing research should apply in the classroom. Wikipedia cannot be used as a reference work in published research because Wikipedia articles are dynamic content. The only way to provide a usable bibliography for future researchers in one's field is to include works that are either in print or are assigned a DOI number.

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