Tuesday, February 13, 2007

OBVI 1101

So I saw a news story that I found rather disturbing. A college in Vermont has banned students from citing Wikipedia as a source. Isn't that rather obvious? Are other colleges allowing Wikipedia as a source? You shouldn't be citing Wikipedia or any other encyclopedia in your papers. You should only include real source material. Am I wrong on this? Maybe it's different for you arts types but we science folk look down on that sort of thing. Citing an encyclopedia is very likely to at least drop a letter grade on any paper you turn in.

Edit: I went ahead and made that leap into the 90's and changed the quarter-system-esque "OBV 101" title over to its semester equivalent "OBVI 1101." Any credit you received under OBV 101 will equate to OBVI 1101 on your academic transcripts.

5 comments:

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

After reading some of the stuff on Overheard in Athens, I'm not so sure what is obvious anymore...

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Sorry, the actual link is here.

Nathan said...

What is the big problem with using encyclopedias? In your mind should you only use books on the subject of your paper.

Dante said...

Encyclopedias are never a definitive source in their own right. They are always a summary of one or more sources. When making an argument, you should always cite the material that's as close to the actual research as possible. There are several reasons for this. The biggest two I can think of off-hand are:

1. To keep reviewers from having to trod through a source of a source of a source just to get find the original research if they want to fact check your work (especially important in the peer review phase of a research paper).

2. To prevent a paper from misinterpreting the original research by summarizing the summary and inadvertently creating a Chinese whisper effect.

And it's not "my mind" that came up with that one. It's what I had to do to keep from failing on the papers I wrote for Computer Science.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

What Dante said. Encylopedias are good as refrence material and making general points, but if you're writing an academic paper, much more is needed to support your work.

Especially Wikipedia, which is - in addition to being an encyclopedia - is also wiki, which anyone can contribute to whether they have pertinent information or not. That's why they have a disclaimer warning of unverified information.

You can view that information here. To quote: "Because Wikipedia is an on-going work to which in principle anybody can contribute, it differs from a paper-based reference source in some very important ways. In particular, older articles tend to be more comprehensive and balanced, while newer articles may still contain significant misinformation, unencyclopedic content, or vandalism. Users need to be aware of this in order to obtain valid information and avoid misinformation which has been recently added and not yet removed."