Friday, January 26, 2007

Wikipedia Protest

According to Inside Higher Education, the Middlebury College history department has voted to "bar students from citing [Wikipedia] as a source in papers or other academic work. All faculty members will be telling students about the policy and explaining why material on Wikipedia--while convenient--may not be trustworthy." I think the real issue for college-level students--and certainly for graduate students--is whether they should be citing encyclopedias at all, even print or online sources of high quality, such as the Britannica. Yes, encyclopedias are useful for getting a quick introduction to a subject, but students should cite to primary sources and make use of more analytical secondary sources. This was the subject of a vigorous discussion in my Advanced Legal Research class this week, and a useful springboard to a discussion of the quality of research sources in general, and the quality of free Internet sources in particular.

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