I listened to Wired Magazine's Chris Anderson being interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air (available here The New Price Piont 'Free'
). I am a pretty big fan of Chris Anderson. He has done some good things to popularize technology-related trends.
A small portion of his Fresh Air Interview covered the topic of using Wikipedia and the difficulties it presented. He was super positive about how great Wikipedia is and how we should use it for research. Then he goes on to say:
The big question is how should Wikipedia be integrated into scholarship, into writing going forward? I think that's an unsolved question because the Wikipedia entries change and the authorship is diffuse. But I do think that we should find a way, and I do believe in citing Wikipedia well and often, and recognizing how much scholarship and thought you can actually find there as long as you check the sources.
(Chris Anderson, Fresh Air, July 2009)
Here is his argument broken down:
Wikipedia is great, but
You don’t know the author
You have check sources
But Wikipedia is great and we should use it…
I am not really anti-Wikipedia, but I spend most of my days teaching first-year students to research and Mr. Anderson's comments echo most of the concerns we raise with students. Wikipedia is still a pretty big question that we haven't quite solved. Our instructions to new college researches are to check Wikipedia as a starting point triangulate what you find. Most students check it but don't cite because it is too much work.
Anyway, I enjoyed this part because he was so positive and energetic about Wikipedia, but he ends up highlighting the major problems of authority that keep most of us from citing it.