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Wikipedia: An Educator's Ally or Foe?

JohnWriter 13 | -   Freelance Writer
Jul 04, 2017 | #1
Doing research on the internet is fast and efficient. All necessary information can be gained by the click of a mouse. While Google is the search engine of choice for most, Wikipedia seems to be the go to place for information for most students. It has all the information they need about any topic assigned by their professor. It cuts the work time in half for students with a busy class workloads. Wikipedia gets the job done. Yet professors and teachers frown upon the use of Wikipedia as a primary source of research information for their students. Why is that? More importantly, does that mean that Wikipedia is not good for anything? Is it an educator's ally or foe?

Wiki EducationContrary to the popular educator's opinion, Wikipedia is a fantastic starting point for most students who are unfamiliar with their assigned reading topics or research work. It speaks in layman's terms that makes even the most complicated topic easier to understand. Sure, the content is editable by anyone, which makes the validity of the information presented on the website suspect. However, that does not negate the fact that underneath all of the information presented on the page, there are dozens of footnotes that have links to other external sites and sources. These footnote listings are what makes Wikipedia a useful research tool and a powerful information arsenal in the hands of a desperate student.

Wikipedia has never claimed to be the most accurate source of information. It only presents information. The validity of the information presented will depend upon the more accurate and intricate research that the student will be doing. In other words, Wikipedia is only a starting point for research. It is not the place for all the research information. It is true that the easily editable information creates questionable data, but that is why a person does research. Research is required to confirm any information that a person has. If one sees 2 supporting sources of the information from other sources either online or in print, then Wikipedia becomes a valid source of "starter" information.

Wikipedia helps the student get his research off to a good start. It allows for new information to be understood in a less complicated presentation that results in a student gaining the confidence to do more research and acquire more valid resources that can help him create an accurate paper. Sure, he will be doing research based on information gained from Wikipedia, the important thing is that he has some sort of information to go by. Without Wikipedia, most students would be lost, without a clue when it comes to how to get started with the research topic that they barely understand.

Wikipedia isn't an educator's enemy. Rather, it is an educator's ally when it comes to helping a student learn how to do proper research. Encourage students to use Wikipedia as a starting point for the research paper. It won't hurt. Just remind the students to get confirming information for anything they gain from Wikipedia that they use in their research because Wikipedia still, cannot be considered an accurate source of information because of its open-editing policy.

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