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Wikipedia as a valuable research tool: yes or no?

DON’T USE IT | Matthew Kriese

There is no better evidence on this Earth that all humans crave to be the foremost experts in everything better than the swamp of misdirected and oftentimes blatantly wrong information known as Wikipedia.

Allowing non-experts to speak authoritatively over any and every topic imaginable on the broadest reaching stage known to mankind is the death of knowledge as we know it. The legends of Wikipedia’s illegitimacy speak for themselves; so it will be valuable not to demonstrate why Wikipedia is so bad for research, but why other forms of research are so valuable.

The University of Colorado Denver is just that—a university. It is the mission of universities everywhere to equip their students with the knowledge necessary to become active and participating members of society.

This means teaching about the ways in which students can come across accurate knowledge. For this, all students must complete a Core Composition requirement that teaches them how to access the research tools in the Auraria Library.

Among the most valuable of these tools is the massive online database of scholarly reviewed articles, journals, and full texts that the school possesses.

Articles in this database are written by people who are proven professionals in their field. That is to say they can speak authoritatively about their fields, unlike the vast majority of Wikipedia contributors. All of these articles can be refined while searching for them by using Boolean filters to reduce the source material down to the proper language, field of research, and type of publication.

Perhaps most useful to the researcher is the works cited at the end of all of these publications. Many students use the works cited of Wikipedia to start their research, but even the works cited at the end of these scholarly publications are far superior in length and depth of knowledge than what is to be found at the end of Wikipedia entries.

Wikipedia is a wonderful idea on paper, but other forms of research are simply far superior.

DON’T USE IT STUPIDLY | Elina Leshchinskaya

Every student has been taught at some point in time how to decipher what constitutes a reliable source. Students are taught that websites ending in .com are not nearly as reliable as sites ending in .gov or .net and are encouraged to use primary sources.

One repeatedly listed unacceptable source is Wikipedia. A majority of students are not allowed to use Wikipedia as a source for various reasons. Anyone can go onto Wikipedia and edit information on any article. Although most students have been told not to trust Wikipedia as a source, it can be a valuable resource for many students.

Wikipedia should be considered an appropriate research tool to be used in class because it establishes a great foundation for students who know nothing about a topic. It allows them to read a general overview regarding a topic and helps narrow down other research routes. Wikipedia is a great starting point to gain a better understanding for a new subject.

In addition to a gaining a better understanding of a new topic, Wikipedia contains useful citations that a student can click on to find other sources they can use. The citations listed in Wikipedia can allow students to access other information and research tools quickly and efficiently.

In order for Wikipedia to be considered a useful and appropriate research tool in class, students need to use their best judgment when reading information on the site.

While Wikipedia is a great starting point, it is perhaps not the best ending point. It is a great resource tool to gain an overview understanding on a particular topic, but further research should be done in addition to information read on Wikipedia.

Fact checking Wikipedia with other credible sources is a great way to make sure that the information obtained on Wikipedia is reliable.

Despite having been told that Wikipedia is not a credible source, it should be considered an acceptable research tool for students who are willing to critically engage with every source they read, and analyze it independently of its host website.

Taylor Kirby
Taylor Kirby

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