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Wikipedia in Academia

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The rapid evolution of the digital age has vaulted education into the 21st century, thus making it easier for online information databases such as Wikipedia to inundate the halls of academia. College students are adopting the self-proclaimed "free encyclopedia that anyone can edit" (Wikipedia: Main Page) as a convenient and reliable fact-finding information retrieval tool. However, as popular as Wikipedia is becoming amongst students, it has come under notable scrutiny by higher-learning educators and critics as not being a credible primary source of reference. This kind of scrutiny raises questions about the accuracy of content edited into Wikipedia articles by anyone, and it presents a challenge for college students conducting research who may be accessing biased articles. With Wikipedia becoming a new reality in academic researching, it is now essential for students to responsibly use the online site with caution due to a significant amount of educators who rebuff Wikipedia as a citable reference source.

The idea that Wikipedia is a credible primary reference for college level researching is a subject matter of countless arguments against the online site. It is believed that because Wikipedia is an open-source encyclopedia and anyone can edit articles, it would suggest that content can change regularly. Opinions like this are brought to attention in the article "A Stand Against Wikipedia," Roy Rosenzweig, director of the Center of History and New Media at George Mason University said "College students shouldn't be citing encyclopedias in their papers. That's not what college is about. They either should be using primary sources or serious secondary sources" (Jaschik). Educators like Rosenzweig are echoing this sentiment in classrooms hopeful that students will take note of their concerns regarding Wikipedia as a primary reference. To substantiate their concerns, we can depict a scenario where a student cites Wikipedia as a primary reference, and later the article is either no longer in existence or the information in the article was edited to read in a different way; giving no weight to the cited source. Educators have a right to be concerned about how Wikipedia is cited; telling students not to use Wikipedia is not the answer, but teaching them to use the sources that are available critically.

Besides educators, the Wikipedia site itself acknowledges inaccuracies of articles and goes a step further by offering step by step instructions for correcting inaccurate content. However this process does not make articles any less inaccurate because Wikipedia is open to edit by anyone and most likely the individual editing is not an authority on the subject. Also, Wikipedia's own creators have criticized its usefulness in an academic environment. In an article written by The London Times, Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger was quoted saying "I'm afraid that Mr. Johnson does not realize the many problems afflicting Wikipedia, from serious management problems, to an often dysfunctional community, to frequently unreliable content, and to a whole series of scandals. While Wikipedia is still quite useful and an amazing phenomenon, I have come to the view that it is also broken beyond repair;" Mr. Sanger's comments were in response to Alan Johnson, British Education Secretary speaking on Wikipedia at the annual conference of the National Association of Schoolteachers and



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