Critical Thinking

Instructions: Read the following passage. Answer the ethical question following the passage. Respond to the question in 5-7 complete sentences.

Since its creation in 2001, Wikipedia has grown into one of the top ten Web sites used worldwide, offering over 30 million articles in 285 different languages. According to the Wikimedia Foundation (2015), the English language section alone features over 4.5 million articles. Because it is […] edited collaboratively mainly by anonymous volunteers, many educators discourage their students from using it as a research tool.

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But some educators argue that to simply dismiss Wikipedia as a “bad” source misses the opportunity for students to think critically about how to do authoritative research. A study of Wikipedia conducted by Roy Rosenzweig for The Journal of American History actually found that many Wikipedia entries were “as accurate or more accurate than more traditional encyclopedias” (Jaschik, 2007). Moreover, Mesgari, Okoli, Mehdi, Nielson, and Lanamaki (2014) call it the “best-developed attempt thus far of the enduring quest to gather all human knowledge in one place.” But even Wikipedia supporters caution that, like any encyclopedia, it, should be a regarded only as a starting point for research and not a primary source.

Many university librarians suggest that instead of simply banning its use, today’s college students need to be taught to develop information literacy skills that will help them navigate an increasingly complex information environment. Steven Bell, associate librarian for research and instructional services at Temple University, says students should be taught “how to ‘triangulate’ a source like Wikipedia, so they could use other sources to tell whether a given entry could be trusted” (Jaschik, 2007). For example, instead of simply accepting the Wikipedia entry as “fact,” students should, at the very least, verify the information by clicking on the sources in the “Notes” section at the end of an entry to see if it comes from a primary and trusted source, such as books, magazine, newspaper, and journal articles, original interviews, and court decisions. Darren Crovitz and W. Scott Smoot (2009) write, “Talking with [students] about how the site operates is essential in helping them move from passive acceptors of information to practicing analyzers and evaluators.” So rather than summarily dismissing Wikipedia, perhaps educators should be teaching students how to use it as a starting point and how to evaluate the information and sources provided in its entries.

Why should Wikipedia be used only as a starting point for research rather than a primary source?

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