That’s the word from the Wikipedia founder, according to a post on The Chronicle’s Wired Campus blog. According to the post, “Wikipediaâ€™s founder, Jimmy Wales, says he wants to get the message out to college students that they shouldnâ€™t use it for class projects or serious research.”
In an interview, Mr. Wales said that Wikipedia is ideal for many uses. If you are reading a novel that mentions the Battle of the Bulge, for instance, you could use Wikipedia to get a quick basic overview of the historical event to understand the context. But students writing a paper about the battle should hit the history books.
Needless to say, such statements tend to get folks like academics, librarians, and students a little fired up. The comments of the post are an interesting read as well.
Hmm, they did get a little fired up, didn’t they? I particularly found amusing the whole “history/his-tory” debacle. Bottom line is, always be sure you can verify your sources. Question them. Are they reliable? Authoritative? Who do they cite? So on. You know, the basics we often teach in information literacy classes. I will say I do use wikipedia for overview kind of things, but I would not dream of citing it as something authoritative. Part of it is the anonymous nature. In a way, I do agree with one of the commenters, “if you are not willing to stick your neck or reputation. . .. ” And yes, I know other sources should be questioned too. In the end, educate them well, and they will likely do well.
Don’t use Wikipedia… PERIOD.