The Wikipedia Advantage!

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The Wikipedia Advantage!

The Wikipedia Advantage!


Welcome to tips and tricks for research. My
name is Silvia and I’m a librarian. I can show you a few things that may help with you
with your research. In this video tutorial, I’ll go over why some professors don’t
like seeing Wikipedia in your references and how you can use Wikipedia to your advantage.
So okay, we’ve all done it. “Wikipedia” something because we need to know just a little
more on a topic. Although Wikipedia can be a great starting point, it’s important not
to use Wikipedia in your references or bibliography unless noted otherwise by your professor.
There are a few reasons why some professors do not want students using Wikipedia as a
main source. The first reason is reliability. Can you find the author’s name in the Wikipedia
article with the credentials? Not likely, the writer/ writers of a Wikipedia article
is/are unknown and credentials are not provided, so the creator could be any member of the
public and this could make information inaccurate. Second, if a Wikipedia entry has accurate
information, that information may change from time to time as others can edit some Wikipedia
entries. If you go to the “Discussion” tab in Wikipedia, you’ll notice a discussion
of the entry and what people have deleted or added at different points in time. Even
in Wikipedia’s own Wikipedia entry, there is debate about the accuracy of the information
and changes made by different writers. Third, Wikipedia is not considered a scholarly source,
so if you professor indicates on an assignment that only scholarly sources should be consulted
and cited, using Wikipedia would go against that. In an article where Jimmy Wales, the
founder of Wikipedia was interviewed, he said that “It [Wikipedia] is pretty good, but
you have to be careful with it, it’s good enough knowledge depending on what your purpose
is. If you are reading a novel that mentions the Battle of the Bulge, for instance, you
could use Wikipedia to get a quick basic overview…but students writing a paper about the battle
should hit the history books.” But how can one find good basic information in scholarly
articles that are too specific in a topic area? Here are some tips that may help. Some
Wikipedia entries will have a “cited references list,” after reading the Wikipedia entry,
you can try to trace the source of the information and find books that may be in your university’s
library. Usually books can provide general overviews on topics. For example, for the
Wikipedia entry on Roman Art, the sources cite a scholarly journal article in the notes.
You can take that information and retrieve it from the library’s e-resources. In “source”,
a book is also cited, and you can find the book on the topic to use for a paper. Second,
if you find a Wikipedia entry that seems interesting, always verify it with your course readings
or textbook. A course textbook will provide general overviews on a topic and you can compare
Wikipedia’s information with information from your course to ensure accuracy. For example,
in the Roman Art entry, it states that Polygnotos was a famous Greek artist known for his wall
murals. In the book, History of Painting for a Roman Art History course, it states that
Polygnotos was known for painting, including wall murals. Third, Wikipedia can give a good
overview but it can also give you an idea of keywords you can try in the library catalogue
or databases. For example, in the Roman Art entry there is a discussion on periods for
paintings during that time, and I find a link leading me to a description and names of the
different styles during that period. So let’s do a recap, Wikipedia is a great tool if you
want to get a quick overview on a topic but not so great for citing in your course assignments
because the information may be unreliable and it is not scholarly. However, Wikipedia
can lead you to some books and articles that may be more credible in the reference or source
list. If you’re not sure about the information, check with your course materials and if you
want to find books in the library on the topic, read the Wikipedia entry and get ideas for
keywords. If you need more help, feel free to contact a librarian at your university,
they are more than happy to help!

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