Wiki

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Wikipedia, happy birthday to you!

On Jan. 15, our good friend Wikipedia turned 10 years old. Wikipedia is known as the free online encyclopedia that anyone can contribute to and edit. However, to students, it is better known as the website that saves their lives when writing those last minute research papers.

Students have been told since high school that they are not to use Wikipedia as a cited source in their papers. College professors agree.

Communication professor Kim Kline was asked why students like to use Wikipedia. She responded, “because it’s easy.”

This is the same response juniors Rita Rodriguez and Katie Durkin had. Durkin states, “It’s a much quicker way to obtain information rather than looking through scholarly journals. Also, the research has been done for them when they look at Wiki.”

Students have all been taught how to use the university’s library database. It’s a long process; the databases are ultra sensitive, so even the slightest incorrect word choice can throw your research off.

Not to mention, it is very time consuming to have to sit and go through several articles to get exactly what you’re looking for. It is human nature to look for convenience, and Wikipedia does the trick for research papers.

The next issue addressed was why teachers frown upon using Wikipedia for research.

“You don’t know who put the information up there, if it is correct information, or even credible. You should always go to the original source,” Dr. Kline said.

Rodriguez agrees and states, “Anyone who can operate a computer can update Wikipedia, even a 12-year-old. It’s not a valid source.”

With this said, what are students to do when they have what they need, but they can’t put www.wikipedia.com on their works cited page? The answer is to simply use it as a place to start off. Teachers can’t frown upon that!

In fact, Dr. Kline, along with National Public Radio (NPR) reference librarian Kee Malesky, both agree that while Wikipedia isn’t a trustworthy site, it is an excellent starting point.

Malesky states, “The site can be a good starting place for reference links or to get the gist of a topic.” Believe it or not, most of the information posted has a reference source that you can look at that might even be legitimate enough to use for a research paper.

Dr. Kline agrees, “Wikipedia is a good starting point, if used with caution.”

Dr. Kline admits to actually liking Wikipedia to look up fun facts like character analyses of the hit 1970s TV series “MASH”. NPR asked fans on Facebook and Twitter to tell the most interesting things they learned on Wikipedia.

“Switzerland is roughly the size of San Bernardino County in Southern California,” says Josh Winn of San Diego. A very random fact, but could come in handy on Jeopardy.

“The legend of the Cactus Cat, which is a prickly, catlike beast who cut open cacti and drinks the fermented juice, becomes drunk and howls through the night,” says Ashley Sapp of Evansville, Il. Bet you didn’t know that till now!

So what’s next for Wikipedia after celebrating its 10th birthday? Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s founder, tells NPR that there are some new projects in the works. Wales says “the dream of Wikipedia is to create a free encyclopedia for every single person on the planet, in their own language.”

He continues to tell NPR host, Robert Siegel, that Wikipedia plans to expand it’s employment this year.

“We have about 400 million visitors to the website every month. So, each of the employees is responsible for about eight million people. That’s pretty amazing if you think about it,” Siegel said.

 

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