By Josh Compaan
If Google is the church of information, then Wikipedia is the god.
I grew up in an academic society where I have never had to open a book in order to complete a research paper.
Instead, I would plug my subject into the Google search bar and wait anxiously for the loading bar to hit 100 percent. I knew that somewhere on that front page would be a sacred link to Wikipedia, that holy grail of information.
However, when I hit college, my professors quickly spoke blasphemy toward Wikipedia. They would spout lies about the open editing of the subjects and how there was always a chance of hitting bad information. They explained that Wikipedia is not recognized as a legitimate source by the academic society and should not be trusted as a resource for papers. Instead, it should only be referenced to gain access to primary or secondary sources.
Well, I now have a bit of predicament on my hands. You see, I still start every single paper at Wikipedia. It is always the first article I read. Every paper that I write should have Wikipedia listed in the “Works Cited.” But I don’t cite it because it would be detrimental to my grade. Let’s be honest; I am committing some sort of plagiarism simply because my professors have decided to dock points for one of my sources.
Why is this the case, though? I’m not stupid; I know how to fact check a Wiki article. I know what is good information on a Wiki page and what isn’t.
The International Weekly Journal of Science (Nature.com) did a study in December of 2005 that found much of Wikipedia’s content “comes close to” the accuracy of Encyclopedia Britannica’s content. That was six years ago!
The process that Wikipedia uses to validate information has improved significantly since 2005.
In past years, Wikipedia has implemented new software and filtering methods, which prevents users from changing content that is regarded as common knowledge. In order for users to change content that has been cited and proven, changes are submitted to peer review. These new tools have significantly reduced the amount of misleading edits on the Wiki articles.
If a malicious edit does make it through to the live page, it is often fixed within a few seconds. This is because Wikipedia has programs that fact check the changes against the sources provided. If the changes go against what is regarded as common knowledge, these programs will revert the malicious change.
The Encyclopedia Britannica is regarded as one of the best academic sources online. However, it is a pay-to-use website. Sadly, writing a general English paper doesn’t warrant me paying a pretty penny for the same information available on Wikipedia.
Prior to coming to GRCC, I worked an office job. I was a purchasing assistant to a factory that did metal work. Every few weeks, my boss would ask me to give him a summary of specific types of steel. Every single time, Wikipedia was my primary source in doing this. That is how the working world works. You don’t get time to sift through 30 websites to find the right information. You simply plug the subject into the wonderful Wiki machine and then fact check it against a book in the office.
If college professors are meant to prepare us for the working world, they are doing it wrong.
It is only a matter of time before my generation is setting the rules. We see the value in an encyclopedia that contains the most relevant information on a subject. Books quickly become outdated and can contain bias. Wikipedia is fact checked against an entire population of people and is updated as new information presents itself. It does not contain bias and it is not outdated.
Until the academic institution allows students to utilize Wikipedia as an acceptable source for papers, I will be committing plagiarism by excluding it from my works cited. Will you?