Feb 182009
Authors: Glen Pfeiffer, Ryan Gibbons

It’s the first day of class. You walk in. Two things happen: You are handed a syllabus, and you are told not to go near Wikipedia with a 10-foot pole. Class dismissed./

Wikipedia has quite the bum rap among many students and teachers — they don’t trust it because of the fact that anyone can edit it. Its name has become almost synonymous with blatantly wrong statements stated as facts — “The United States was formed with the signing of the Declaration of Independence by leper monkeys in 1677.” They believe that this makes the great Wiki inherently evil./

However, everyone and anyone being able to edit Wikipedia is also what makes it so great. The project was originally started by the Wikimedia Foundation for the purpose of collecting all human knowledge in one Web site. Anyone with any interest in the subject of knowledge (you’re all in college) should at least be intrigued by the level of seriousness with which this project has been undertaken.

The vast majority of the information on Wikipedia’s 2.7 million-plus English articles is correct. The people who are dedicated to writing and editing the Web site make sure of that (studies have been completed which indicate that the occurrence rate of errors in Wikipedia articles are similar to that of Encyclopedia Britannica articles). But unfortunately, this is not enough to vindicate Wikipedia.

So now the burning question in most college students minds: How can I use the information that pops up on Wikipedia, usually high in the results on a search for my research paper topic, without having to cite it and lose credibility with my professor? Worry no more, young Padawan! The answer is easy: Wikipedia cites its sources too. Nice, credible sources that you can find through Wikipedia without having to spend so much time on Academic Search Premiere, or, God forbid, LexisNexus. /

To find a/source/on any Wikipedia/article, just look for the info in the article you want to cite and look for a little superscript number at the end of the section. This corresponds at the bottom of the page with numbered sources used in the article. These validate the information you’re reading. After making sure the links are legitimate, just copy and paste the URL into your paper (in proper MLA format of course).

Another tool that Wikimedia offers for those looking for/creditable/sources is Wikisource. This Web site give you/access/to over 122,000 texts, everything from Darwin’s “Origins of Species” to “The Iliad” for free to read at your/leisure.

Wikiquote is also a great resource for papers. This Web site contains thousands of quotes from all sorts of different influential people from around the globe.

These are just three of the nine services the Wikimedia/foundation/has to offer, so jump off that bandwagon of professors brainwashing and see what the interwebz can do for you!

Columnists Glen Pfeiffer and Ryan Gibbons can be reached at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Ask for the guys squatting in the Lincoln Bedroom.

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