Love it or hate it Wikipedia is a big part of our lives and its certainly a big part of our online browsing experience. Whether we admit to it or not many people consult Wikipedia on a regular basis to answer their questions. A large part of this is due to the fact that Google loves Wikipedia more than any other site on the Internet. In fact it gets presented as the top search result to more search queries than anything else, even Google itself.
Anyway, one of the challenges for educators using Wikipedia is trying to get students to use it appropriately and really to understand what it is and what it can do.
This series of posts should give you a few ideas.
7 things you didn’t know about Wikipedia (5 of 7) – It is easy to reference
Wikipedia is surprisingly easy to reference.
But a bigger and more important question from a teaching and learning point of view is,
“Is it appropriate to use tertiary sources such as encyclopaedias as a sole source for any information?”.
The answer is of course that it is ‘probably not’ appropriate – but how many of our students really understand this and why? Do they also understand that tertiary sources (such as Wikipedia) can be used as a springboard to other secondary and primary sources of information?
Indeed when working with students to assess the reliability of a Wikipedia article as well as exploring the various tabs they should also make sure they have explored the references at the end of each article.
Exploring the references at the bottom of an article with students is an important exercise in digital literacy in itself. It is particularly useful to help students understand how digital sources should be referenced. Most importantly by emphasising that the date the digital source was retrieved (viewed) should be cited.
As the title of the post indicates it is very easy to reference a specific Wikipedia Page. In fact Wikipedia will do this automatically for you in a number to styles. You can find the citation tool in the ‘tools’ menu. The tools menu is displayed on the left hand side of most Wikipedia pages.
To cite / reference a page click on the ‘Cite this page’ text in the tools menu and you will be taken to a citation page for the article that you are viewing.
From here you will see that Wikipedia automatically generates a number of citation styles for your chosen page. The advantage of each citation style should be discussed with your students. There is also a useful note about the accuracy of Wikipedia and a warming about citing tertiary sources.
Key Message: Educators should work with students so that they understand that it is not really appropriate to use tertiary sources such as encyclopaedias as a sole source for any information. But tertiary sources (such as Wikipedia) can be used as a springboard to other secondary and primary sources of information.