For many students, research has always started in the library. In elementary school, teachers would assign projects and suggest books for students to use in order to help them complete their research. In most cases, the same applies for college. However, professors now have to provide parameters for the research; especially when it comes to the Internet.
Now, students can use search engines such as Google and Yahoo to find Web sites providing research information. Many professors will say a few sites are acceptable for a bibliography, but many prefer the use of textbooks and other printed resources that correspond to the topic of the paper.
There is one site that can receive either praise or scorn, depending on the professor. That site is wikipedia.org.Wikipedia is a site that is designed to allow any person to add or edit information on any given subject. Anyone can access the site, create an account, and decide to add information on a subject, such as the American Revolution, if they wanted. In addition to the vast information supplied about a subject, most articles provide links at the end of the article that will lead the reader to more specific and reliable information on the topic he is researching.
However, because of its dependence on public input on the site, professors feel that it is not a credible source. One of the credibility problems that Wikipedia faces is that the mass input allows for misinformed individuals to rewrite history. Which brings about the question, what would make the site credible?
It is doubtful that every article in Wikipedia could be submitted by a recognized authority in any field to satisfy a professor’s concern over the article’s credibility.
In the defense of Wikipedia and other sites similar to it, the sites do provide the necessary information upfront and excludes some details that may not be pertinent, as opposed to wordy texts that many students usually do little more than skim.
If professors allow students to use various Internet sources found via search engines like Google and Yahoo, why are students not allowed to use Wikipedia, a site that sells itself as an encyclopedia for the 21st Century?
The Internet can be a valuable research tool, but ultimately it is up to the student to verify information found on Wikipedia or anywhere else on the internet, through supplementary, and reliable sources, including the old-fashioned books found in the University library.