When it comes to pop culture, sports or finding a recipe for great chicken parmesan, the Internet’s limitless ability to find information is a godsend. However, when it comes to researching journals and sources for your average English class, resources drop exponentially.
As our level of education increases, so does the strictness of works cited and the reliability of our sources. Gone are the days when teachers would accept “google.com” at the conclusion of a somewhat grammatically correct paper. But while I sometimes long for the laid back high school projects, I can see where our current professors are coming from. This follows in my agreement on their view of Wikipedia.
As some may recall Stephen Colbert’s infamous call to arms against African Elephants, the site’s vulnerability was ever present as users changed article’s information on a continuous minor scale. But in addition to the occasional pranks that Wikipedia experiences, no one who frequents the site can exercise an unbiased, neutral stance on everything known to man. This is proven by typing searches for any common controversial subject. Results for Evolution, George Bush, Islam, African elephants, Palestine and abortion are commonly semi-locked and restricted articles in which only senior members may edit the information.
As you might expect, someone somewhere will differ from your point of view and Wikipedia helps to concentrate every debatable subject within an effortless reach. Never has starting an argument been easier than to click the word “edit” on a Web site and rewrite history, science or a current event. Who says the United States landed on the moon first? I am pretty sure it was Russia. JFK was never assassinated; I’m to assume he lives a carefree life with Elvis and Tupac in the Florida Keys. Are these extreme examples? Well, sure, as Wikipedia has hundreds of users at work on the site to counter malicious Internet fiends that take joy in momentarily disrupting articles. But the fact remains that anyone may anonymously add to, subtract or alter existing pieces of information within seconds. Imagine if the Pirate Rants were in charge of controlling all information that existed on the newest version of Wikipedia. Would you trust it? Actually, do not answer that.
Professors are well aware of the site’s nameless authors and as such, most will not accept Wikipedia as a valid source. What does that mean for students, besides the notion they may have to actually do some research?
Wikipedia has still served me well on many occasions. Some forget that Wikipedia articles must also cite their own sources, all of which are located at the bottom of every entry (unless the article is lacking citations, in which case Wikipedia makes sure to announce this). Simply taking an additional moment of your time to follow up on these sources may lead you to safe ground, with professors none the wiser. With a valid and sound source for your essay or journal, Wikipedia will never cross anyone’s mind.
Now if you will excuse me, I am off to alter East Carolina University’s entry. I think I can come up with a better school motto.
Yazid Finn East Carolinian Eastern Carolina University