Students and teachers at Britain’s Imperial College are banding together in an effort to legitimize Wikipedia as a resource for formal academic research.
For students that have grown up with the Internet, performing a split-second Google search has all but replaced hours in the library, combing through card catalog for references to write a paper.
Despite teachers’ best efforts to ban it, Wikipedia, the infamously convenient-yet-unreliable global encyclopedia, has become one of the top sources of information for student research.
Imperial College’s newly-formed group of Wikipedians is planning an event to address the often unspoken place of Wikipedia in students’ research, and discuss ways to improve editing on Wikipedia pages so that they can earn a more respected place in academia.
“Wikipedia is here to stay – it’s a question of whether we come up to speed with it or try to ignore it,” Vinesh Patel a medical student and the group’s president told BBC News.
“Students know there is an inherent unreliablity… We’re not trying to hide that.”
Mr Patel went on to say that he wants to co-ordinate the way pages are edited by students and staff and to make the most of Wikipedia, rather than pretend it’s not there.
The Wikipedians want to move past the fact that Wikipedia is an openly-edited resource, and start looking for actual evidence about how it compares in reliability with other reference sources.
Patel told the BBC that there is no reason to single out Wikipedia as a source for plagiarism.
“There are relatively sophisticated software systems to check for plagiarism.
“And is Wikipedia that different from other sources? You could plagiarise from a peer-reviewed journal. It’s no more easy to plagiarise from Wikipedia.”
Image Credit: edrugresearch.com