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 Posted: Tue Jul 25th, 2006 02:03 am
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javal1
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I notice many people, on this board and others, have no problem using  Wikipedia as a source. That, of course, is up to them and up to the readers to judge how reliable it is. I'm curious how others feel about it though.

My personal opinion: as the father of a few kids, the youngest 17, they are/were forbidden to use it as a source. As a matter of fact, they knew it was a week's grounding if they used it as a source in a school paper. That may be harsh, but the developer of Wiki himself has publicly asked people NOT to use it as a source because of its unreliabilty. On top of that, many college professors will now flunk a student for doing so.

So what do others think about using Wiki as a source?

Last edited on Tue Jul 25th, 2006 02:05 am by javal1



 Posted: Tue Jul 25th, 2006 02:27 am
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TimHoffman01
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Personally, I think it wise to take anything found on the internet with a grain of salt.  Just how BIG a grain of salt depends entirely on the source of course, and what information you are using.  Example:  National Park Service, or Historical Society of Virginia would hold more weight than, say, Civilwar.yahoo.net (if there was one, just an example).  I've always put the least weight on the encyclopaedic sites.  Even the dedicated sites such as NPS or HSVA can make a goof once in a while, since they are run by human beings.  Sites that produce much higher quantities and are often also lower in quality.  Mainly I've found them much too general for anything besides getting an idea of what to look for.  If I find the same thing on multiple sites, I start putting more faith in it.

My question to the developers of wiki would be, if it's so bad you won't even stand by it....why do you bother with it still there?

I didn't know any college professors would actually flunk a student using it (but then I generally ignore it and so may not have noticed).  All I can say to the students would be that I sure wouldn't base my entire paper on it.  I work in a Community College computer lab (I'm the lab manager) and I DO see students using it all the time.  I've mentioned that (and cross referenceing with resources from the library) and they often look at me as if I've just started speaking Ancient Persian to them.



 Posted: Tue Jul 25th, 2006 04:57 am
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susansweet2
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I rarely use it .  When I am doing the daily trivia it is a last resort search . I use it for listing of Governors of states or other such list, then go from there to other sites  I would never use it as the only souce for information.  I found so many mistakes in postings I know something about so can imagine how many mistakes are in things I don't know about..  Of course I had professors when I was in school in the dark ages that would not accept encyclopedia entries as sources for papers back then. 



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 Posted: Tue Jul 25th, 2006 02:53 pm
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aphill
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I have found the Wikipedia fairly useful as an encyclopedia. I would never cite to it for a scholarly work, but as far as providing general background information on a topic or as a starting point for research, I think it’s a decent source.
 
As far as other websites go, of course they are going to vary widely. Anyone who wants to do so can publish a Civil War website. On the one hand, I think this is good. Folks who might not otherwise ever get published have the chance to share their views and research. Professional historians and authors are not the only ones who make sharp insights; sometimes a person coming from a different perspective or profession can offer a different and intriguing twist. The web provides an avenue for the “common person” to get involved in historical research and writing. I think it may also provide a place for authors to write and share information on topics – such as an obscure regiment, for example – that might not otherwise be able to fly commercially.
 
Of course, given that anyone can publish a site, the quality is going to vary widely. You have to be careful and evaluate the source. Then again, the quality of what you find in print also may vary and just because it is published in a book does not mean you should take it as the almighty truth. As Allan Nevins noted, “Every historical work of any scope contains inaccuracies; the scrupulously careful Douglas Freeman once told me with pardonable pride that he had found only about fifty slips in his four-volume Lee.” Along these lines, I recall a recent book on Gettysburg had Stonewall Jackson dying on the wrong day. Just an example.
 
You always should be careful and evaluate your sources – whether they come from the web or print. You need to consider who the author is (background, other writings, etc) and what they based their work on (primary sources, other published works). Equally important though, I think, is also trying to figure out a particular author’s biases. History is written by human beings and once you step away from just the recitation of cold facts and into the realm of interpretation, biases become a factor. No one is perfectly objective. It’s just not possible – we are too affected by what we’ve read in the past and our own up bringing. For example, to pick on Southall Freeman, it is well-known that he absolutely revered Lee. That does not mean we should throw out Freeman’s work or completely discount his interpretations and opinions, but I think it does mean that anyone reading Freeman should give that due consideration.



 Posted: Tue Jul 25th, 2006 04:00 pm
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David White
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Indy and RR have it, trust but verify.  But I will say there is some darn intersting things on it and I sometimes find myself going from link to link seeing all kinds of fascinating facts.  Most of the time it is accurate and can be verified in other reliable places.



 Posted: Sat Jul 29th, 2006 03:18 am
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Shadowrebel
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If you use it for lists it is alright. You can find some links to other information that are useful. It is definately not a primary source. I have used it, but have several other sources with the same information to confirm the information. A recent post I used it in was for a SCOTUS case as it had all the detail I needed without getting too involved. I have found there is too much information that is unconfirmed they pass as historical. As with all information you should try to find as many sources on the information as you can. All source should be looked at asking these questions; What kind of document is it and what is the content, when was the document written, who wrote the document, why did the author write it, where was the document  written, and what is it's importance to the broader context of history.

I general will not question someone's source if I can find it contains readily known historical facts. If it is not a well known fact I would like a primary source or several secondary sources. With all the sources which have bias one way or the other, I think people tend to question the source more than the information presented.



 Posted: Mon Jul 31st, 2006 06:17 pm
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MAubrecht
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I agree. Wikipedia is a great source to identify OTHER sources, but like everything on the Internet - you are at the mercy of the individual that entered to data in the first place.

To me - the best benefit is the external links or "keywords" that point you in other directions. BUT I must say that incorrect information can be found in all forms of media whether it is printed or electronic.

All we can do is compare multiple sources and try to distinguish the truth. Sometimes we get it right - and sometimes we're as wrong as they sometimes are.

I look at ALL history the same way (mostly in reference to my own experiences in writing about baseball...) the ONLY people who know for sure - either did it themselves - or were present at that exact moment). The rest of us can merely research, speculate, - and put forth our best effort to do these individuals (and the events they witnessed) the "justice" they deserve.



 Posted: Sat Aug 12th, 2006 09:55 am
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Kent Nielsen
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Hi I think if the articles use sources that can be checked I think it's OK, especially on historical as opposed to current topics. But otherwise, I'd say DON'T trust and verify anyway.. Some articles have been known to be hacked by people with an agenda. I WON'T use it as a source on it's on. Never.

Last edited on Sat Aug 12th, 2006 09:56 am by Kent Nielsen



 Posted: Sat Aug 12th, 2006 05:44 pm
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James Longstreet
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I've also found Wikipedia as unrealiable.  And I'm not sure if I trust the article about Robert E. Lee.



 Posted: Thu Aug 7th, 2008 03:03 am
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Dixie Girl
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javal1 wrote:My personal opinion: as the father of a few kids, the youngest 17, they are/were forbidden to use it as a source. As a matter of fact, they knew it was a week's grounding if they used it as a source in a school paper. That may be harsh, but the developer of Wiki himself has publicly asked people NOT to use it as a source because of its unreliabilty. On top of that, many college professors will now flunk a student for doing so.


Javal, if i was your kid id be grounded all the time.....i use Wikipedia for almost everything.....whether im looking up a person or just a subject that im interested in, i sometimes use other sites but thats only if i dont learn what i want to know off of Wikipedia.



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 Posted: Thu Aug 7th, 2008 12:45 pm
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Johan Steele
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Wiki is useless, too easily found to be full of outright wrong data. I look at it as a waste of bandwidth.



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 Posted: Thu Aug 7th, 2008 02:30 pm
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susansweet
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Bama had to look back to see what I had said .  I have no idea what College Professors accept today but can't imagine they would accept encyclopedia references as a source material today anymore than they would in the dark ages when we were in school. 

I am pretty sure my college professor brother wouldn't accept either Wiki or an encyclopedia as a reference in any of his classes. 

Susan



 Posted: Thu Aug 7th, 2008 02:38 pm
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Texas Defender
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  As usual, I have a different view than some folks on this board. Wikipedia as a source is far from perfect, but what source is perfect? I have used it often and found it to be pretty reliable as a general source of information.

  I would say to the critics feel free to point out to me the factual inaccuracies in the Wikipedia articles I have used in the past or will use in the future. I'm always open to a review of what I post here.



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 Posted: Thu Aug 7th, 2008 05:21 pm
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Kernow-Ox
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When I was a kid I use to devour 'Big Books of FACTS' (emphasis mine - actually I don't recall one by that precise title, sadly). To me, Wikipedia is an extension of that. I'd never rely on it, but it quenches my thirst for knowledge and usually helps as an introduction to a topic.



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