Wikipedia and answers on the web

After a brief interlude involving the hectic end of semester activities I found myself snowed in today and watching C-SPAN from sometime after 9 am for the latter part of John Seigenthaler Sr. ‘s interview. The reason I stayed on the channel was the references that were being made to Wikipedia which I think is great. Understandably John Seigenthaler Sr. has a problem with the "anonymous" writers of Wikipedia. I did not understand what his actual problem was since I had missed the first part of the program. Nevertheless when I read the USA today piece I was both alarmed and glad. I was alarmed because I have been a big proponent of "Google" in my classes where Wikipedia and Answers.com frequently come up as a near the top hit. If there are inaccuracies like what John Seigenthaler Sr. mentions my students could be misled on occasion. I am glad that I have been asking my students to check out a couple of sites on the Web to have some kind of triangulation with conclusions. In addition, I have been vigorously advocating to become more specific by going into Library Search Engines like PROQUEST that allow you to search articles that are scholarly refereed. In the idea and theory building business of academe there is great comfort in knowing that what you are reading is a refereed scholarly article, vetted and sometimes brutally attacked and vigorously defended/adapted in the review process. The fact that this is now available electronically through library databases and can be downloaded into bibliographic software directly is a miracle of the Internet. Dubious anonymous authors and irresponsible folks can certainly be checked and Librarians and Profs. really need to tell students how.

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