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WIKIPEDIA: A RELIABLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION?

WIKIPEDIA: A RELIABLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION?

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11/05/2012

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WIKIPEDIA: A RELIABLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION?
 Michael Vergel Chavez S13chavz_0918@yahoo.com Jim Manansala S13triz817@yahoo.comVeronica Eve Dae Serra S13evedaeserra@yahoo.com Jamie Ann So S13 jamie_jst14@yahoo.com
College of Computer StudiesBachelor of Science in Information and Communications Technology Management
ABSTRACT
This research paper focuses on the credibility of Wikipedia with regards to students using it as a referencematerial. But can the emergence of this reference websitecope up with the scandals and credibility of its contents?How do people accept Wikipedia and what are the effectsof it to the users? Wikipedia perhaps is a good “steppingstone” for the researchers but questionable still. Thepreliminary findings suggest that Wikipedia is not a goodreference for educational references but as a quick sourceof information on something, a general overview on thesubject matter so academic papers must get their sourcesfrom real sources like published books, articles etc.
1. INTRODUCTION
Everyone in the society - students, teachers, professionals,and even some of our parents always tend to find answersfrom the questions that some might already know or bragto share in his or her own way. The old fashioned andtraditional ways of some will still probably research it bymeans of going to a national library or a campus libraryand search manually all the related or the exact topics of what he or she is looking for. A bit tiresome, but, still aprobable solution to the many – importantly, to those whotake their thesis project to the highest point of research.But because of innovation of technology andtrends, the people tend to cope up with the situations thatengulf them today. It is because they want to live theirlives differently or as others say, convenient and easy tohandle. That’s why the internet was born and so to manywebsites that provides services to the target market itself,the society.Ms. Kiran Budhrani [1], a college professor,said:
“Humans are very social, they interact in every possible way by means of expressions, gestures,written and spoken words”
Humans do everything in order to be known andto know something. In order to know something lays theaction of “doing what is acceptable and not acceptable byeveryone”. With the social behavior and the technologytoday, professionals today had formulated a tool in orderto supply the needs of the society with the convenienceand usability of technology today. That need is called“Social Computing Tools”.Social Computing Tools are used by the presentgeneration in order to create social conventions with theuse of software and technology of today [1]. Socialconstructors like identity and presence, helps the societyreach so many things. In terms of education itself, onesocial computing tool that all of the people aware is thepower of Wikipedia and its thousands of articles that isshared by the public.With the rapid advancement of the technology of Internet, its uses and functions had also increased.Because of this, people found an alternative way inbroadening their knowledge and searching for moreinformation. Internet had made it possible to shareinformation through certain websites and one of them isWikipedia. Wiki comes from the Hawaiian word whichmeans quick or fast.
 
Wikipedia is one of the best known wiki whichcontains millions and millions of entries and started inJanuary 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, hired byJimmy. Basically Wikipedia’s entries and articles aresubmitted by different users. Wikipedia gradually relieson the readers in order to create and verify its contents.Moreover, it is a free online encyclopedia and beingreferenced by most students for their research papers.Currently Wikipedia has entries and articles in hundredsof different languages and millions of contributors.The use of Wikipedia has been beneficial inproviding quick facts to its users. One of the most popularreason could be, Wikipedia being a free onlineencyclopedia, ease of usage. Once reaching the site of Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org), users can start searchingor use other Wikipedia’s sister projects such asWiktionary (dictionary and thesaurus), Wikibooks(collection of editable online manuals and textbooks),Wikispecies (directory of animal and plant species),Wikisource (online source-document site) etc. [2]. Uponsearching for something over the internet on Google,Wikipedia is usually the first result to show up thusstudents use it as their reference. Eventually there aremany issues raise regarding this emerging referencewebsite especially its credibility.The popularity of Wikipedia did not always havethe same positive impact on all of the people. Due to itsfunction that lets users to edit and create articles on theirwebsite that are considered as reference by other users,issues have risen that gave negative impact not just onother people but on other countries. As to the early yearsof Wikipedia, they had experienced their first scandalwith a certain known man in China and certain topics thatare not meant to be published like the Tiananmen Squareprotests of 1989 and the Beijing Olympic Games andsince that China had adapted to blocking websites in theirterritory. The Syrian and Tunisia Wikimedia versions areblocked within their country. As to countries likeUzbekistan and United Kingdom the block was onlytemporary [3].
2. BEHIND THE SOCIAL COMPUTING SITE
According to educause.edu [4], Wikipedia is a free onlineencyclopedia that any people can add information or edit.Launching in the early year of 2001, it includes million of articles in dozens of languages. Despite of the flaws andthe quality of the information given in a certain topic, ithas been one of the most popular online resources.Statistics put it today as the eight most visited Web site inthe whole state of America, not for long, in the wholeworld. It also contains many numbers of external links inwhich it is connected to the main topic instead. Theexternal links are also the most probable sites that aperson can go to whether information is either incompleteor not yet clear to the Wikipedia discussions. The site alsoorganizes the information by means of certain chaptersand glossaries in which the reader can understand itclearly, piece by piece.Wikipedia has become one of the tools that manycollege students used to work on. At the same time, somefaculty and researchers doesn’t accept it yet, but, due tomore collaborations and revision of information, in themere future, it can be a reliable source of research foreveryone to see. Statistics shows that as of today, 85% of the information in Wikipedia are yet fixed and true to thepoint of explanation. Developers are making it up to theperfect digit in order to be one of the most trusted sites tooffer quality reference and consistent information.As an online search function, Wikipedia’ssearches are done through keyword searches, locate andread articles, access some copyright photos and othermedia, and lastly, follow hyperlinks to some resourcesrelated to the topics at hand. To avoid the danger of reliability and out-of-date of information, Wikipediaadded a function that alerting the users that the specificcontent that might be less trustworthy to the public.
3. GOOD THING ON WIKIPEDIA
According to an article written by Dayle Turner inassociatedcontent.com, Wikipedia today can be used asthe source of writing assignments or materials for withinclasses [5]. The fact that, students can write new articlesor edit existing articles on Wikipedia as part can be awriting assignment that gives the students the opportunityto learn more about topics like language arts, history,economics, political science, biology, math, at any level-elementary middle school, high school or college.Wikipedia can be used as a tool for learning more whileoutside of the class as concluded by the article on thewebsite.Wikipedia’s major feature of open source writingoutcomes about the concerns about the accuracy, quality,validity, objectivity, and usefulness of the contents inWikipedia that made some intuitions ban the students touse this website. Turner said that these institutions doesnot realize the very nature of Wikipedia which is to makereal-world writing excellent point for students a studentsabout issues of accuracy quality, validity, objectivity, andusefulness. This can offer students’ opportunities to"write for real" and to engage in critical thinking whichthe primary goals of education are [5].This was strongly agreed by the creator of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales. As Wales quoted on articlenews in BBC “We are the Red Cross of Information”. He
 
said that educators that do not allow their students toaccess Wikipedia are “bad educators”. As he hadexplained in Online Information conference at London'sOlympia, students should be allowed with the access of this site as an online encyclopedia. He said that Wikipediais the stepping stone of the students to other sources."You can ban kids from listening to rock 'n' roll music,but they're going to anyway," he added. This mentalitygoes with information to, so why not let them? And that iswhy the creator had created new editing and checkingprocedures that made Wikipedia a trustworthy site. Oneof the procedures used is real-time critic review. The factthat technology has advanced, still the creator of Wikipedia prefers the use of peer critique (volunteerscheck new and updated articles for accuracy andimpartiality). This theme is taken from the CreativeCommons scheme which would "bring Wikipedia intoline with the rest of the free content culture". Ascompared to Encyclopedia Britannica with its 239 yearsof history and rigorous fact-checking procedures,Wikipedia is still prone to article vandalism [6].But still Britannica and Wikipedia should not beseen as direct competitors. Both have different way of delivering information to the learners and Wikipedia, hadmade the use of encyclopedias "trendy and popular" withyoung people, which could only benefit Britannica'ssubscription-led service [6]."
Wiki wants to give people the maximum freedom to do good.
” the last thing Jimmy Wales said tothe conference; this shows the clear goal of the website toreach out and give the learners, students the freedom toexplore and share more and more information [6].Meanwhile, different views rise with the use of Wikipedia. On the blog post of Nicholas Carr, he wrote,“Wikipedia articles have become the default external link for many creators of web content, not because Wikipediais the best source but because it’s the best-known sourceand, generally, its “good enough.” Wikipedia is the lazyman’s link, and we’re all lazy men, except for those of uswho are lazy women” [7]. This is also true with thementality of a student trying to cram for a research not just because of the summarized contents of Wikipedia butalso the way internet or web browsers behave whensearching for information. Most of the results in theinternet points to Wikipedia, this deprives the student onhaving an in- depth search of the information, research ortopic.
4. CREDIBILITY ISSUE
Wikipedia is a good source of information especially forstudents who are searching for the general overview of the topic. However, it is not a recommended for collegestudents for their research and class projects, example of which writing a paper about a battle, students should referto history books not Wikipedia it only suggests quick facts, from the creator of Wikipedia himself, JimmyWales [8]. Also to quote from Chronicle of HigherEducation:
Speaking at a conference at the University of Pennsylvania on June 9, 2006 called “The Hyperlinked Society,” Mr. Wales said that hegets about 10 e-mail messages a week fromstudents who complain that Wikipedia has gottenthem into academic hot water. “They say,‘Please help me. I got an F on my paper because I cited Wikipedia’” and the information turned out to be wrong, he says. But he said he has nosympathy for their plight, noting that he thinks tohimself: “For God sake, you’re in college; don’t cite the encyclopedia.”
As written earlier, Wikipedia is the “steppingstone” when researching for links on the internet, but thebad thing about this is that, when the student sees theinformation written on Wikipedia, he or she stopssearching for more and just be contented on the contentsthat Wikipedia has. The outcome of this is that the use orvisits of specialty sites will be less. Just like the author of the blog post “Wikipedia-Side Effects”, he starts usingwebsites MathWorld which consists of the largecontributor pool with little editorial control, to referencehis studies. As the speed of technology increases, moreand more websites had come out and one of this was abetter math reference site which is PlanetMath. For yearshe had used these sites to help his studies until a bettersite with a better web structure rises which is Wikipedia.Comparing Wikipedia to two Math specialist sites,PlanetMath and MathWorld, the popularity of Wikipediagrows faster that it overlaps the use of such sites. NowWikipedia is more visited by the author becauseWikipedia summarizes the contents of the two sites butwithout the better explanations of course and the topicswere copied referencing the two sites only as a link. Eventhough the two specialty sites are free to be copied, thechance of the student and the author to visit this site islesser [9].As to Wikipedia being widely used as areference to research by the students, many educatorswere alerted whether Wikipedia is a credible source ornot. According to Dave Taylor, recognized as an expertboth on technical and business issues wrote an articleregarding what Wikipedia is lacking. In his article “WhatWikipedia Lost: Credibility” sums up the credibility issueof Wikipedia. As he was editing a paper of his student, hesaid “It really hit me as I was editing the student papersand reading passages like this:

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