19.497 Wikipedia

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Sat, 10 Dec 2005 06:55:09 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 497.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Sat, 10 Dec 2005 06:49:19 +0000
         From: James Cummings <James.Cummings_at_oucs.ox.ac.uk>
         Subject: Re: 19.492 Wikipedia: not such a wonderful world

> Date: Thu, 08 Dec 2005 07:10:16 +0000
> From: Gabriel BODARD <gabriel.bodard_at_KCL.AC.UK>
> >Is anyone else uncomfortable with the idea of telling
students they can use a
>resource but not cite it, or equally for scholars to use a resource
>but not cite it?

I've argued on other lists with (mostly American, it seems) teachers
who forbid the use of wikipedia in specific for research. Though
this usually comes across as forbidding it to be cited, they
discourage its use entirely. While yes, I'm bothered by people using
a source and then not being allowed to cite it, I'm more
uncomfortable with a teacher forbidding the use of any source in
specific. Students should be allowed to use any source they want
(including encyclopaedias, to films, to hate propaganda)...one of the
things the teacher should be marking on is the student's ability to
distinguish types of source material and discriminate between them.

If I were a student I might want to use the Dictionary of the Middle
Ages, or the New Encyclopedia of Christianity as starting points to
help me understand a topic. Unless you are directly using the ideas
gained from there, or quoting the work etc., then I don't think I
would cite that. If it then allows you to read a much more advanced
article, understand and use it, then you cite the article. If I were
reading about Ancient Greek (which would be a feat for me), I would
not cite the dictionary I was using to help me understand the
secondary sources. If I was undertaking a linguistic analysis where
the dictionary I chose was of greater import, then of course I
would. Do I cite the OpenOffice Thesaurus when I use it to look up
synonyms for a word, certainly not.

As someone else has already said in this thread, if I did cite these
derivative sources (encylopaedias generally, whether online or off),
then I should be expected to be given less marks than someone who did
more in-depth research. If the encyclopaedia entry led me to some
research articles that then helped my work, then it is a useful tool,
but not worth citing simply because of that.

There are online encylopaedias (like www.literaryencyclopedia.com)
which have reputable signed articles on the topics they cover. I
think banning the wikipedia is even worse than the (still quite
draconian and ill-advised) banning of 'any online source' that takes
place in some courses. 'Protecting' students from poor sources does
them a disservice.

Received on Sat Dec 10 2005 - 02:10:15 EST

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