Is Wikipedia a foe for students in a degree?

The first thing to know is what it is. It is a free encyclopedia that anyone can add to or edit. Launched around 2001, today it has millions of articles in different languages. Despite concerns about the quality of openly editable information, Wikipedia has become one of the most popular online resources with Google, Yahoo or MySpace. Almost any word (nouns) typed into Google produces a link to this site in the very five entries. The topics the web deals with range from broad to specific information. Each article has link to other Wikipedia or external resources.

Despite nagging doubts about its reliability, as I have pointed up, it enjoys a growing popularity. But the information findable there could be not so trustworthy. Because of that, some institutions have already limit the use to some students after several errors in students papers. That is the case of Middlebury College. Meanwhile, other academics accept and even applaud the site and its work.

It is fine to find some background research, a good point to start some work; but as it is written by unknown authors who want to contribute, it can not be used as a primary source for degrees as history, philosophy or philology. Trustworthy information for us, students, is in the library, where a large number of books can be consulted. It is a slower way, it takes up hours, a bit boring; but writers have a proven back record, they had been or are experts on the subject we are looking for -and not someone interested and who “knows” about it.

In conclusion, Wikipedia can be a helpful source for us, but only as a superficial knowledge. For a valid, suitable and real information it is essential to consult books, encyclopedias and articles. Would Wikipedia substitute traditional information resources? Probably, but could anyone turn all the written information in digital text? Impossible.

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