Today, I’m talking about Wikipedia:
Yes, is Wikipedia really the scourge of higher education?
Controversial, I know!
But a lot of lecturers and tutors get very hot under the collar and frustrated when students cite Wikipedia as a reference in their essays and assignments. And with good cause!
This topic stems from a conversation I had with a colleague a few weeks ago who said Wikipedia "was the scourge of Higher Education!". Scourge is a word that's not often used every day and being a #wordnerd I decided to look up its synonyms...
affliction, bane, burden, curse, evil, menace, misfortune, nuisance, pest, plague...
The list goes on, but you get the picture!
I see students citing Wikipedia in essays and assignments far more often than I'd like too. So, what is the problem with Wikipedia and what was this person complaining about?
Now, don’t get me wrong, Wikipedia does have its place. If you are completely brand new to a subject and you know nothing about it then Wikipedia can be a useful place to look up some basic facts and get a grasp of the topic. However, there are a number of problems with using Wikipedia more extensively in your University work.
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The first problem with Wikipedia is its level of reliability. Whatever the claims made about its reliability, the information on it hasn’t been tested to the rigourous standards of academic work which has been published. If you cite an academic journal it will have been reviewed by the scholar’s peers and a lot of time and effort will have gone into making certain that the information is as accurate as possible. Not so with Wikipedia.
Another problem with Wikipedia is the content might be plagiarised. While references are always included at the bottom of articles on Wikipedia, this does not mean all the information on there has been referenced correctly. There have been cases in America where students have been caught for academic misconduct and plagiarism when they have used Wikipedia. This was because the source material on Wikipedia had not been referenced correctly. This is another reason not to use it in your essay!
The third reason is that using Wikipedia doesn’t really demonstrate a whole lot of effort! If in your essay and assignment you’re not using definitions from a textbook, you’re not citing and quoting other books and articles you’ve read on the topic but you’re simply looking it up on Wikipedia, then that tells the tutor a lot about you. And unfortunately, it’s not very good! It will demonstrate a lack of effort, a lack of imagination and a lack of understanding that you get what University study is all about.
While Wikipedia has its place, I know I’ll be doing you and your tutors and lecturers a favour if I say DO NOT USE IT!
Take this on board and that you make sure you don’t use Wikipedia in your University work in the future!
Remember - Study hard, stand out and start right NOW!