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Middlebury's history department bans citing Wikipedia as a source.… 
23rd-Feb-2007 09:03 am
space spinster
Middlebury's history department bans citing Wikipedia as a source.

In addition, there's some discussion of the article on the "talk" page of the Wikipedia article in question here.

I have a feeling some of you will be shoving a copy of the Times under your department chair's nose and demanding the same sort of ban.
Comments 
23rd-Feb-2007 02:17 pm (UTC)
I had a student last term who'se only source was WIKI...and it was a 9 page paper. It almost made my head explode! I think WIKI can be useful, but there are limits.
23rd-Feb-2007 03:12 pm (UTC)
One of my fellow students did that, despite the fact that on the first day of class the professor said, "No citing Wiki. Ever."
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23rd-Feb-2007 02:21 pm (UTC)
We've not banned it - because it can be a useful starting place.

We have, however, said not to use it as the ONLY source....
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24th-Feb-2007 12:45 am (UTC)
AW man that is amazingly annoying and ridiculous.
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23rd-Feb-2007 02:24 pm (UTC) - Convenience as a double-edged sword...
Easy to rip off, and mercifully just as easy to check.
23rd-Feb-2007 06:04 pm (UTC) - Re: Convenience as a double-edged sword...
Exactly--once you know what to look for, tracing plagiarized material to an Internet source is often absurdly easy.

As for Wiki use in general, it can occasionally direct one to some fairly good real sources (depending on the author of a given article and how much citation he/she provides), but it's frustrating how so many students use it as a one-stop research source.
23rd-Feb-2007 02:25 pm (UTC)
"He continued: “Basically, they are recommending exactly what we suggested — students shouldn’t be citing encyclopedias. I would hope they wouldn’t be citing Encyclopaedia Britannica, either."

right there - and if by thend of first year kids are still citing it, we should look at our own practices and how we teach research and try and figure out how to improve them. A reference text, in this sense, should not be a works refferred to.
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23rd-Feb-2007 02:33 pm (UTC)
whatever happenend to teaching students how do properly conduct research and then cite said research? students at the university level should not even think of using Wikipedia in an academic paper. If departments notice a rise in the number of students using "inappropriate" source material, should not efforts be made to counter act this by providing instruction?
23rd-Feb-2007 02:44 pm (UTC)
I don't know that there's anything like a department-wide ban where I teach, but I think pretty much everyone agrees that we don't allow Wikipedia to be cited as a source. I tell students it's a good way to get background info on something they don't know much about, and a good place to find some leads for actual research, but definitely not a source! Basically, what kataplexis said. I guess I'd be surprised to find someone who thought differently about the issue.
23rd-Feb-2007 02:45 pm (UTC)
I don't see why anyone would use this as a reason to demand similar bans. Middlebury's making a statement, but not dealing with the actual problem. I have students try to cite wikipedia all the time, and I tell them to knock it off all the time. But then, my research based classes make very clear what a scholarly article is and where to look for one.

It's the students I suspect of reading wikipedia pages about films and basing their in-class comments around it that I don't know what to do with. There's nothing wrong with reading up a a little extra about a film, but making one pat comment that only tangentially relates to the discussion at hand and then sitting quietly the rest of class is annoying.
23rd-Feb-2007 04:39 pm (UTC)
I don't see why anyone would use this as a reason to demand similar bans.

It was slightly flippant - I wanted to have at least another sentence beyond the two links, and I thought a joke about further bans wasn't too bad, considering the general comm attitudes about Wikipedia. But that's me trying to be interesting before coffee.
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23rd-Feb-2007 03:02 pm (UTC)
I don't see any reason why citing Wikipedia either for basic propositions that are hard to find elsewhere but where you want a cite or for general society/culture stuff is a problem as long as you cite to the link that's fixed at a specific point in time. There's a lot of traditionally authored stuff out there that's worse. Obviously, no, it shouldn't be an only or even a primary source, but if a student turned in a paper like that, I'd assume they'd have a hard time getting a passing grade - why ban it?
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23rd-Feb-2007 03:04 pm (UTC)
References should be tracable - at least that's what my university taught me right back at the start. Anything that you can't point to as 'this is where it's in print, and this is where he got it from' (unless it's a primary source, of course) should be viewed with suspicion, and even primary sources ought to be reviewed for their authenticity...

Don't students today get taught _anything_?
23rd-Feb-2007 03:51 pm (UTC) - Tangential observation.
"Wiki" is one of those 21st century words which looks and sounds increasingly ridiculous the more one reads or hears it used.

;o)
23rd-Feb-2007 04:30 pm (UTC) - Re: Tangential observation.
I keep getting it mixed up with "wicca."
23rd-Feb-2007 04:15 pm (UTC)
I know a professor that uses wikipedia as source material all the time...of course his research speciality is internet culture, the sociologic aspects of wikis, and how technology influences society.... :-)

Otherwise, using a wiki as source material is no different than using encarta or the encycolpedia. It's lazy research. I believe most students are taught not to do that, but laziness often takes over when doing mid-semester homework assignments.
23rd-Feb-2007 04:44 pm (UTC)
I know a professor that uses wikipedia as source material all the time...of course his research speciality is internet culture, the sociologic aspects of wikis, and how technology influences society.... :-)

This distinction is crucial though - there is a huge difference between collecting data from a source and using it as a reference. For example, I've used LJ to collect data for linguistic analyses, but I'd certainly never cite an entry as if it were an authoritative scholarly source!
23rd-Feb-2007 04:45 pm (UTC) - Re: Tangential observation.
For computer science, the wiki articles tend to be highly reliable. However, a quick trip to your local U's library will get you a paper version of same, in one of the (recognized,if the library's any good) books on the field.
23rd-Feb-2007 05:12 pm (UTC) - Re: Tangential observation.
It's not horrible for history, either, though the point that students should have stopped citing encyclopedias as sources in middle school still stands.
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23rd-Feb-2007 04:52 pm (UTC)
I was really glad to read this article, though I agree that it does not solve the problem of teaching undergrads research skills.

Amusingly enough, a few months ago I saw someone defend Wikipedia and its unreliability as representing "the postmodern nature of knowledge."
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23rd-Feb-2007 04:53 pm (UTC)
I also have that rule in my classes. Not because of any concerns with the reliability of Wikipedia--because I expect my students to use materials that are peer reviewed or from books/texts published from academic publishing houses.
23rd-Feb-2007 05:09 pm (UTC)
Too right.

The first time one of my students tries that, I am going to edit wikipedia so that it says something different, and then take off points.

They will soon learn.

*insert evil cackle*

Don't get me wrong, wikipedia is great when you want to know things like how they get sugar to go into cubes, or what the difference between a Cathedral and a Minster is, but for genuine historical research??
23rd-Feb-2007 05:13 pm (UTC)
Again, though, to state what's been said before, if the student lists the date of accession, wikipedia's archived.
23rd-Feb-2007 05:09 pm (UTC)
Wikipedia is good because as long as students plagiarize it, and not print encyclopedias, they're easier to catch, and we have less work.
23rd-Feb-2007 05:15 pm (UTC)
Hear, hear. :)
23rd-Feb-2007 08:40 pm (UTC)
I only allow students to cite Wikipedia articles that I have written, or have edited. Seriously. This usually means that they don't cite any because they don't know my Wikipedia ID.
23rd-Feb-2007 11:16 pm (UTC)
I'm a yr3 BA student & I cite Wiki as a source (*not* my only source).

I'm doing CIT with tourism/Leisure and certainly for some of the IT/internet based concepts its a good starting point to look at wiki... and from there I'll branch to books/journal/ .ac. websites...

But I know that facts in wiki always need to be double checked!
24th-Feb-2007 12:45 am (UTC)
I automatically assign zeros to all assignments that cite an Internet source (meaning anything that begins www.xxx.xxx).
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24th-Feb-2007 01:38 am (UTC)
My faculty bans using Wikipedia as a source, and the unit I just taught insists that at least half of the references for an assignment must be non-electronic. I don't know if this is university-wide, though.

I've told my students that if the only place they can get access to a particular journal or book by the deadline is by looking at scans or pdfs on a website, I'll accept that as a non-electronic source if they can give me page numbers and publication info for the print version. I've had to do the same myself.

I've also cited Wikipedia once (so far) in my thesis, saying simply that it lists 65 pop-culture homages to a film I'm discussing. I'm not saying there might not be more, but it's not the sort of list you'll find anywhere else. I also agree that Wikipedia is a useful starting point for students, even if only for its references at the end of each entry.
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