Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Banning Wikipedia

According to this story in the New York Times last week, the history department at Middlebury College has decided to prohibit students from using Wikipedia as a source for research papers submitted in history classes. Welcome to the club.

As I've noted before, Wikipedia is a remarkable web phenomenon. It has much to recommend it, especially for those who need a quick, online source of information to serve as a starting point for research. In this respect, it's like other encyclopedias. But there are problems with using any encyclopedia as a source for a research paper in college.

Professor Thomas Beyer of the Russian department at Middlebury could be speaking for me and most of my colleagues with whom I've discussed student research when he said, "I guess I am not terribly impressed by anyone citing an encyclopedia as a reference point, but I am not against using it as a starting point."

Students, take note.