I love the questions people send me (hint, hint, send more). This one came from an old friend:
The Topic: Is Wikipedia a reliable source? Is it as reliable as something like Britanica.com?
The Answer: Sort of. Tell your kids to treat wikipedia as a secondary or tertiary source - not a primary source. The neat thing about wikipedia is the history and discussion about each article. What about a topic is being debated? How is it being debated? how often is the article being edited? What is being edited? It is this characteristic that really makes wikipedia stand up as a great source for student research. I’d say wikipedia is generally as reliable as britanica.com. Most students write about a subject in breadth, not depth, and they need an overview of a topic (for example, they write a 3 page paper about Martin Luther King, not a 30 page paper).
I don’t think most teachers are wise to the “copy from wikipedia and call it my own writing” thing that kids do. We teach internet searching and plagiarism as related topics in our school. It is 2008, and the way our kids think about and access information has changed.
I’m sure you are talking about authoritative sources, and asking “how do we know something is true?”. We subscribe to several e-databases at our school, and teach our kids to use these as authoritative sources. We talk about triangulating data - using several different sources to support a point or thesis. Many teachers I know allow only 1 or 2 wikipedia references, and the rest from other sources (or a ratio, like for every 1 wikipedia source, you should have 4 other sources).
I usually use wikipedia to get an idea about a topic, and then research the topic further using more conservative or authoritative sources.
Published on Wednesday, December 03, 2008 (10 years, 2 months, and 3 weeks ago). Posted in: Educational Tech