The facts and Wikipedia

by andybechtel

You may have already heard about Middlebury College’s new policy restricting use of Wikipedia as a source for student papers, but this New York Times story is worth a read because it goes deeper than previous reports.

My academic department, probably like most, has its share of Wikipedia champions and Wikipedia detractors. I’m in the middle, at least for now. I use the site on occasion, but with an increasingly skeptical eye.

In class, I tell my editing students that when checking facts, Wikipedia is OK as a starting point in a search, but it must not be the last stop. (The list of original sources at the end of an entry can be a good trailhead.) But as I see more errors — not just factual, but also grammatical — on Wikipedia, I wonder whether I should follow Middlebury’s lead and forbid any use of the site in the classroom.

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