English 518 Course Blog

January 26, 2007

Against Wikipedia

Filed under: Uncategorized — chutry @ 4:39 pm

Interesting article from Inside Higher Ed on the decision by the Middlebury College hsitory department to prohibit their students from citing Wikipedia in papers and in other academic work.  Obviously we won’t be talking about Wikipedia until much later in the semester, but it’s interesting to see an entire department taking such a clear stand against Wikipedia as a source.



  1. I read the article from Inside Higher Ed and thought it was very interesting. I don’t think the History department should have to take such a stand against Wikipedia. You would think that a college student would know not to use Wikipedia as a sole source of reference. I mean, I would expect this from my 8th graders but not someone in college. The department should probably take the approach of some of the professors from other universities, and teach the students how to use and retrieve other sources. They seem to be taking on a big job, because someone is bound to use the Wikipedia and be able to justify the information. Taking a stand against Wikipedia does not seem to be the best answer to getting students to stop using it as a reputable citation. However, it will be interesting to see the outcome of such a bold stand from Middlebury College’s history department.

    Comment by natb07 — January 28, 2007 @ 10:52 pm | Reply

  2. I think the stand is slightly excessive, but you’d be surprised at how many students turn in papers that rely on Wkipedia for most, if not all, of their research. I can see the motivation behind such a stand, especially in a field such as history that relies so heavily on “primary” research. We’ll discuss information literacy quite a bit later in the semester, so perhaps then we can revisit some of the issues at stake in this article.

    Comment by chutry — January 29, 2007 @ 12:32 am | Reply

  3. Why are reactions typically negative in scope, often asking for and resulting in bans and complaining, and not instead focused on intent and improvement? Today, the primary purpose of the web is to bring information to your fingertips, eliminating travel time and time spent on actually finding a resource. Dot org (.org) websites are informative in nature, (as opposed to .com, .gov, etc) and attempt to allow a surfer (or student or researcher, for that matter) to research and learn in a time effective manner. If a student has one hour, a trip to the library stacks isn’t possible, but a surprising amount of research can be conducted via the Internet–not only on encyclopaedic sites like Wikipedia (and pay sites like Britanica and others) but also within databases like J-Stor for scholarly articles and journals, written and peer reviewed by professionals.

    A much better reaction to errors in Wikipedia, or a lack of secondary or primary support, would have been to improve Wikipedia. It is fairly simple to contribute to the site, and the History department could have made it an assignment for students to create entries that are accurate and supported by primary and secondary sources, or to find and correct current errors, providing primary and secondary documentation as support. These pages could then bring primary and secondary sources to the searches of millions of students, and over time, begin to serve as a scholarly resource.

    The current state of Wikipedia cannot support a graduate level paper on its merit alone, but it falls on the shoulders of instructors to spell out expectations to students, that a paper should be supported by varied sources. But Wikipedia should’t be banned–verified perhaps, and improved, but not dismissed. And if Wikipedia isn’t accurate, then maybe students and instructors should create a website that is–one supported by the right sources, peer-reviewed for accuracy, and soon a valuable tool for millions of researchers.

    Comment by shenra — January 29, 2007 @ 2:36 am | Reply

  4. I am really surprised to learn that the Middlebury College hsitory department prohibited their students to use Wikipedia, for in last semester, even in this semester Wikipedia is nearly my main source to get the information about literature, history or anything that I can find in Wikipedia. I’ve never questioned about the reliability of this websource, for when I searched something on Google, Wikepedia usually comes first, and it really offers a lot of information. So I think maybe some students share my ideas and they don’t know some information is inaccurate.
    I agree with both natb07 and shenra that taking a stand against Wikipedia is not a good way to deal with inaccuracy of Wikipedia, for at least Wikipeida offers a lot of good materials and it has potential to be a good source.
    What I am thinking which is coincidentally similar to shenra’s idea is that instructors can make use of Wikipedia to be the materials to let students be critical of some texts, question them and then guide students to improve them so that Wikipedia can be more and more academic.

    Comment by sophiesun — January 31, 2007 @ 3:32 am | Reply

  5. As we discuss Wikipedia, I find Wikipedia is a big problem that people should pay more attention to, for there are a large number students like me using Wikipedia and they should be told of the problem of Wikipedia (I am thinking it is whose responsibility to tell students it, maybe mostly the instructors).
    I’ve also got some questions which I need your help to get the answers:
    1. Who edit the Wikipedia or who have the right to edit or improve it?
    2. Are the information been proved by some kind of authority before they are posted in Wikipedia website?
    3. If anyone who find inaccurate information and have the correct materials, can they improve it?

    I ask these questions, for I think maybe we can learn something from Wikipedia so that we can do better the establishment of our Wiki.

    Comment by sophiesun — January 31, 2007 @ 3:57 am | Reply

  6. I believe that students should have freedom of choice in regards to the resources they select, but they should be guided and taught how to evaluate resources and practice good research skills. If these were in place, perhaps they would not just ignore the quality of the information they collect, make convenience a high priority for themselves, and place themselves in jeopardy of failure of their courses, or suspension. Quite frankly,these students are not good decision makers when they may be in jeopardy of failing. Shouldn’t the focus be more on receiving a quality education and adherence to rules and polices? This dilemma seems to be blown out of porpotion and into left field. There must be another way to resolve this and not risk students failing and being passive in school, dropping out of school, and breaking the sense of community of the college staff and its students. The results should be evident in a “win-win” resolution and not an ultimatum or a “win-lose” resolution.

    Comment by spiders8 — April 17, 2007 @ 12:44 am | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: