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Thread: Wikipedia and Referencing

  1. #1

    Default Wikipedia and Referencing

    Based on the paper another user posted about incontinence, and the questions that came up there, I thought I'd start a thread on wikipedia and referencing. This is really dorky, but bear with me.

    How do you guys feel about using wikipedia for serious research? An article in Nature about a year ago showed that Wikipedia is as accurate on the natural sciences as the Encyclopedia Brittanica (in some ways more so). On the other hand, anyone who wants to can edit it, regardless of what they actually know or what information they cite. While it's ultimately self-policing, any particular iteration might have inaccurate information. I'm inclined to think it's a good place for an overview. Sometimes it cites very useful peer-reviewed articles and research, though--it can point you in a good direction.

    Second, what referencing system do you like? I used APA and MLA in school, and use Oxford or Chicago footnotes at uni. Do you prefer footnotes, endnotes, parenthetical? Do you use endnote? Dork out--enjoy!

    I like Chicago best, as I think it provides the most information (Oxford doesn't include publisher, and while I haven't needed the publisher yet there are circumstances where it might be useful). I hate endnotes--they're a big fuck you to people using a text, although they make producing a book typographically simpler. I like to have references at the bottom of a page, where you can refer to it quickly. I hate author/date parenthetical systems. They aren't so dreadful for an article with a handful of sources, but for a book or for a great many sources, it's very tedious to keep track and refer back to the bibliography. That said, I like parenthetical referencing for referring to one text over and over. It's particularly useful for political theory, when you're examining one or two texts very carefully--you can just cite chapter and section each time. And if there are multiple translations or editions, the Chapter/Section reference is sometimes more useful than a page reference. Obviously page and chapter/section references ought to be used together.

    What do you guys think?

  2. #2
    Peachy

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    Wikipedia as a reference is an absolute no-go! I've graded enough theses in my life, and I remember one case where someone referenced Wikipedia for option payoff profiles (the pictures at the bottom of this article: Option (finance) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ) even though every text book on options/derivatives has the same pictures in it. Shouldn't take more than 2 mins to get one of those and find the pictures for a decent reference. I think I downgraded his thesis one or two notches just for that!

    I prefer to use footnotes for references, simply because that's what I'm used to. I recently wrote a paper in my normal referencing style, and now the publisher wants the Harvard style of referencing, so I ended up having to rewrite half the damn paper because both styles are rather incompatible (at least without constantly writing "Smith (2009) shows that...").
    My footnotes generally go "Last name, Initial: One word from title, year, page numbers". The rest can easily be found in the references list at the end.

    Peachy

  3. #3

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    Like you said, Wikipedia can point you in a good direction. I use it for brainstorming topic ideas. However, it shouldn't be used as a source.

    I use MLA most, since I'm an English major, but I do like footnotes in the things I'm reading. Makes things easier.

  4. #4

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    Even if it was accurate enough, referencing something like Wikipedia is less desirable due to the dynamic nature of the content. The information to which one referred might not be there when a reader decides to check it out. Same thing is true for pretty much any website, I suppose.

  5. #5
    Mako

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    Don't source wiki directly when it comes to research papers, but you can use wikis own sources if shown accurate.

    However, if your looking to give someone a basic concept and idea upon something; wikipedia is fantastic. Too many people attempt to dismiss it as false regardless of the page content. The more frequented the page the more accurate (in theory) the page becomes.

  6. #6

    Default

    I agree with Mako and Olivia on this -- Wikipedia is an outstanding, outstanding springboard, but that's where its usefulness should end. As a comprehensive collection of information, it not only provides good background, but also has a great number of sources towards which it can point a researcher.

    Scholarly writing requires deeper research than what Wikipedia could ever offer, but it's a good starting point. Google Books is also an invaluable resource. Citing Wikipedia, however, should always be an absolute no-no -- we were (or should have been) weaned out of using encyclopedic sources by early middle school.

  7. #7
    Error404

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    My Security and Database teacher was telling us a story about this. His son was doing something on Russia, I don't remember exactly what it was, and HIS teacher was using Wikipedia as a source for information. He argued about it not being a valid source for information and the teacher argued otherwise, so this kid goes home and edits Wikipedia to say Stalin liked a good Kebab or Pizza every Saturday after a game of strip poker.

    He then proceeded to tell his teacher that such was fact and when the teacher doubted him, he pulled up his edit on Wikipedia just to show the teacher he was a moron.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Olivia View Post
    Like you said, Wikipedia can point you in a good direction. I use it for brainstorming topic ideas. However, it shouldn't be used as a source.


    Quote Originally Posted by Mako View Post
    Don't source wiki directly when it comes to research papers, but you can use wikis own sources if shown accurate.

    However, if your looking to give someone a basic concept and idea upon something; wikipedia is fantastic. Too many people attempt to dismiss it as false regardless of the page content. The more frequented the page the more accurate (in theory) the page becomes.


    Quote Originally Posted by Dawes View Post
    I agree with Mako and Olivia on this -- Wikipedia is an outstanding, outstanding springboard, but that's where its usefulness should end. As a comprehensive collection of information, it not only provides good background, but also has a great number of sources towards which it can point a researcher.
    I like Google Books a lot. Have you used Google Scholar at all? I think that's a brilliant resource--particularly as it looks at Jstor, Isis, and a variety of databases along those line.

    I worry about kids who grow up using wikipedia as their source of information. I'm just old enough that I remember calling the reference librarian to ask for information, and looking things up in an almanac or encyclopedia.

  9. #9
    Peachy

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mingus View Post
    I like Google Books a lot.
    Is that where they scan "old" books and put them on the web?

    THe problem with Wikipedia isn't necessarily that what it says is unfounded. You'd think that 1000s of editors know more about a subject than half a dozen editors of a name-brand encyclopedia. The problem is what Error described: Everyone can edit it, and if you reference Wikipedia, I (as the person who grades your work) can go ahead, edit the Wiki article so that it says the exact opposite and then give you an F because you obviously lied in your paper.

    Peachy

  10. #10

    Default



    Quote Originally Posted by Peachy View Post
    Is that where they scan "old" books and put them on the web?

    THe problem with Wikipedia isn't necessarily that what it says is unfounded. You'd think that 1000s of editors know more about a subject than half a dozen editors of a name-brand encyclopedia. The problem is what Error described: Everyone can edit it, and if you reference Wikipedia, I (as the person who grades your work) can go ahead, edit the Wiki article so that it says the exact opposite and then give you an F because you obviously lied in your paper.

    Peachy
    Yes, at any given moment the information might be incorrect (although it might be corrected very quickly).

    Yes, they have old and new books. Oxford Scholarship online is brilliant for recent work, and Project Gutenburg for anything out of copyright. I still like paper books, though!

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