It goes without saying that student’s use Wikipedia extensively, probably more than any other social group. Although the website’s founder Jimmy Wales once warned readers not to use the website for academic purposes, American research shows that the majority of students browse its pages when researching essays.
Most universities and academics distrust the service, “Never cite Wikipedia.” But the question is: why is the academic world so hostile to this vast information resource? And why do students find it so hard to stay away?
The greatest strength of Wikipedia is that its contributors can chose which area they want to write about, which, in theory, means they only produce content where they are most qualified to do so. Harvard University’s Professor Yochai Benkler says this explains why Wikipedia has succeeded where other more traditional business models like Microsoft Encarta and Encyclopaedia Britannica have failed.
Academics discredit the website for several reasons: articles can be written by anyone, not necessarily a world expert; editing and regulation are imperfect and a reliance on Wikipedia can discourage students from engaging with genuine academic writing. Vandalism is also common. There are numerous examples of politicians and public figures amending articles about themselves to erase unfavorable material. Wikipedia’s own incomplete list of hoaxes makes interesting and comical reading.
Experts believe that like any information source, it can only be put to good use when it’s in the hands of a discerning and critical student.
Source: The Guardian