Wikipedia citations

Student use of Wikipedia citations debated

The interaction between Wikipedia and academia was revisited in a blog entry last Monday, entitled "Who's afraid of Wikipedia?" by Clay Shirky, a New York University professor who frequently writes about the Internet. Shirky discussed the ever more common situation of students citing Wikipedia articles.

In contrast with other academics, who often oppose the use of Wikipedia citations, Shirky said that "the Wikipedia is a fine resource on a large number of subjects, and can and should be cited in those cases". He compared the situation to students citing Encyclopædia Britannica, and said that in both cases, citing a primary source might sometimes be better, but saw no general problem with Wikipedia citations.

Contrasting views on Wikipedia citations

The post prompted several responses, and among those who weighed in was Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia. Sanger continued his recent trend of commenting negatively on the current state of Wikipedia. "I always recommend that my students not use Wikipedia as a source for philosophy papers", he said. He went on to criticize Shirky for having a "misguided faith" in the way Wikipedia works, and predicted that a different way of creating an open-source encyclopedia would soon arise to "blow Wikipedia out of the water", and that academics would be happy to see citations from this new source.

Pursuing a similar story angle, a reporter for the Wayne State University student newspaper, The South End, [1] interviewed several professors for their comments on the issue of citing Wikipedia. Their responses varied depending on the situation and context of the citation. "For an undergraduate class it's just fine", but "for my graduate class I don't expect them to use it", said one. Others noted concerns with the lack of a formal peer review system on Wikipedia.

Citations continue in press coverage

Academics may worry about using Wikipedia as a source, but major news outlets continue to reference Wikipedia articles. Mentions this week include ABS-CBN citing our article on the Sony Walkman, making use of the entry on phishing, Dutch newspaper citing Total Football in an article on the death of Rinus Michels, and the New York Sun discussing stakeholder in an article about corporate takeovers.

Meanwhile, in other press coverage, the feature about Wikipedia in the March issue of Wired Magazine, "The Book Stops Here", which has already been on some newsstands for a couple weeks (see archived story), was finally published online last week.

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Discuss this story

With all due respect to Sanger, you Wikipedians had better make a sober assesment of the true costs of "fixing" Wikipedia's alleged bias against the elite. Any changes along such lines will fundamentally change, and IMO, ruin the project.

The egalitarian nature of this encyclopedia definitely has a price. Some of the articles, to put it bluntly, suck, due to lack of expertise or bad writing or both.

But we must remember, Wikipedia will always be a work in progress. I've been amazed to see the headway that's been made in the Opportunity cost article, since I began to help edit it two years ago. The work done, before and since by many hands, has transformed it from a meandering discussion into what is becoming a seminal treatment of the subject. This experience has proven to me that Wiki, in all its egalitarian glory, works.

Of course, to maintain NPOV, contributions offered by experts who care to weigh in have to be given their due weight. But such experts are already free, on the discussion pages, to detail both their expertise and their reasoning. What more is it that they really need? And perhaps more to the point, what more is it that they really want?

I am, by nature, suspicious of the so-called experts, especially academic experts, who complain when forced to explain themselves terms that laymen -- such as Wikipedians devoted to NPOV -- can understand, appreciate, and go to bat for.

In my experience such complaints often mask a desire to be considered expert in fields -- especially fields involving society and politics -- that are, in reality, beyond the expert's true field of expertise. An example currently in the news, regarding Professor Ward Churchill of the University of Colorado, is discussed in a recent column by Thomas Sowell, who is himself an academic and professor.

No matter how many doctorates she or he may hold, an expert outside of her or his own field -- like it or not -- is just another layman. ô¿ô Mar. 09, 18:08:14 UTC

Possibly relevant link

Perhaps this should link to Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia, which discusses some of the relevant issues? -- Jmabel | Talk 01:02, Mar 10, 2005 (UTC)

Sanger's comment

As for Sanger's recent comment:

I'd prefer he stopped commenting on Wikipedia if he's going to do it like that :) Don't leave us hanging like that, o philosopher. Tell us what solutions you've discovered with all your creative thinking. But I suppose it's the same old semi-elitist set of ideas. More restrictions, more deference to "experts", more formal processes. Something more like Nupedia.

I don't personally think any of that will be helpful. At least not at this stage in the game. But by all means, fork the project and use "creative thinking" to "blow it out of the water". Let a thousand flowers bloom.

Haukurth 01:39, 13 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Doesn't say "Wikipepedia" anymore

I'm very embarrassed about it, but I've fixed it so the article online doesn't say "Wikipepedia" anymore. Please change it here accordingly. - Alonso del Arte


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