Originally Posted by reallynotnick
Wikipedia is the greatest thing that has ever happened in the advancement of information since the original encyclopedia...It has become my #1 research site for all my projects...
The idea of using Wikipedia as one's main source of scholarly info is shortsighted and frightening. After all, the Wikipedia's "authors" are ANONYMOUS. For a somewhat extreme example, a homeless person living on the streets can sit down at a public library Internet station and literally put anything he/she wants on a Wikipedia entry. People are not even required to be subject-area experts in order to post something on the Wikipedia, so WRONG INFORMATION can and does get posted there.
The Wikipedia isn't a horrible starting point for getting ideas or finding links to other sources on a given topic, but I certainly wouldn't use it as an actual source. Using online subscription databases paid for by public libraries, K-12 school libraries and/or university libraries is far more wise than relying on Wikipedia, which is essentially just an interesting, anonymous blog. Among other things, online subscription databases such as InfoTrac and many others have actual newspaper and magazine articles written by real journalists whose works need to go through an editorial process prior to being published.
And contrary to popular belief, not everything is on the Internet. Books (which also require an editorial process) are still very useful, and they'll continue to be useful for quite some time. In fact, it's often easier to get reliable information from a library book than the Internet. The publicly accessible World Wide Web is not the end-all and be-all of research. It's a powerful tool, but it's often not the most reliable one.
Many people are unable to differentiate between a quality, reliable Internet source and a really bad Internet source -- especially impulsive K-12 students who just want to click and print the first result they see in Google. I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "Oh, but the kids are so good at using technology." Sure, most of them are great at pointing and clicking a mouse, operating cell phones, text messaging, etc. But when they get on the Internet, so many of them turn off their brains altogether when it comes to critical thinking. I see students heading to Google's "Sponsored Links" on a routine basis; many of them don't realize that a sponsored link is a link to a site that mostly just wants to sell them something, so I have to explain this to them. Or I'll notice someone about to print a Geocities personal page with no references as to the name or credentials of the author, and I'll have to explain to them that it's not a good source.
Oh, and just the other day I saw a student looking for info on chemotherapy for a health class literally type the following in the Safari address line:
I've even had doctors and nurses tell me they see self-diagnosing patients walk in with Web printouts that have bad info from unreliable sources. There's yet another example.
When it's all said and done, you need to pick the right tool for the job, depending on the topic. Sometimes the Internet is the best tool, but other times it can be the worst tool. Using Wikipedia almost exclusively is a very bad habit to get into.
Many people think libraries and librarians are obsolete because of the Internet. That couldn't be further from the truth. The fact is that librarians are needed now more than ever to 1) help differentiate between reliable and unreliable sources of information and 2) point people in the right direction.
Finally, on a lighter note...The Onion - "Wikipedia Celebrates 750 Years Of American Independence: Founding Fathers, Patriots, Mr. T. Honored"
July 26, 2006