Sep 282006
Authors: SAM CROSS The North Wind Northern Michigan U.

(U-WIRE) MARQUETTE, Mich. – When the James Bond classic Dr. No graced the silver screens of America in the early summer of 1962, many people remember Ursula Andress as she emerged from the water in her two-piece bikini holding a seashell. What many probably forget, however, is one line in particular that she utters to Bond: “I learned everything I know from encyclopedias.”

But is basing one’s knowledge off nothing but encyclopedias such a good idea? In particular, is the most popular encyclopedia of the Internet, also known as Wikipedia, a valid site for information?

The site is advertised as “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit,” with a reported 1.4 million articles as of Sept. 27. While visiting the site, users can click on the “anyone can edit” section for a detailed account about the editing process, and the freedoms the users are given. Many people are constantly improving Wikipedia, making thousands of changes an hour, all of which are recorded. Inappropriate changes are usually removed quickly, and repeat offenders can be blocked from editing. With an assortment of available languages, it’s almost the perfect site for students to use in their daily studies.

The site is considered by many to be one of the greater tools on the Internet for researching information. It’s not uncommon for some users to spend hours browsing through articles. With the “random article” link, it’s simple enough to learn about a variety of subjects, from the Campbelltown City football team to the debut album “Black Snake Diamond Role” by Robyn Hitchcock.

Wikipedia is, more often than not, a valid tool for researching materials for school projects or even just for curiosity’s sake. But the key idea here is that it should only be used as a research tool. When students use Wikipedia as their only source of information, problems arise.

As Stephen Colbert said, “Any user can change any entry, and if enough other users agree with them, it becomes true.” But since I borrowed that quote from Wikipedia and didn’t write it down verbatim from the episode, then how do I know if that’s what he actually said?

Wikipedia does have its good points; it saves students time and energy while researching information for essays, labs and so forth. It’s also a time killer for those that just want to learn random facts.

So use Wikipedia to your hearts’ content. But don’t forget that visiting the library is also an essential tool for information. The process may be longer, but the information is much more trustworthy in the end. If that isn’t enough incentive to spend some time in the library, just remember that you’ll be able to visit friends and check out all of the beautiful people while you’re there as well.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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