Why this student says Wikipedia’s stigma is undeserved

Philip Marr is a student at Louisiana State University, where he completed a Wikipedia writing assignment in Dr. Josef Horacek’s English course last term. Here, he reflects on what he found most valuable about learning how to contribute content to Wikipedia articles.

All throughout high school, I was always told that Wikipedia should not be used as a source for academic work under any circumstance. Maybe it is the collaborative nature of Wikipedia or the stigma that anyone can put anything on the site that turned my high school teachers off to the site, but it led to me kind of distrusting Wikipedia.

Through the work in this class, however, I’ve learned that Wikipedia is a valuable resource for not only research but improving my writing as well. From the moment you start trying to edit Wikipedia, you are shown the right way and honest way to evaluate sources. Very similar to the C.R.A.P.P. system we used in class, a source for Wikipedia must hit certain benchmarks.

Before this class, I thought these articles were written by some random guy with a certain feeling towards a topic without any thoughtful research. But the collaboration aspect of Wikipedia is the true beauty of it. A community of knowledge seekers working together to ensure the intellectual integrity of the articles on the site and feedback is a vital part of this. I will continue to monitor my article after this class and use the comments left by other users to change my article for the better and use my own research to provide constructive and meaningful criticism to other articles on the site.

This has been a unique project in my college career. I have written numerous essays on a variety of topics and done countless hours of research, but the things I created only served one purpose: to get a good grade. Becoming a contributor to Wikipedia gave me an insight into something I had never given much thought to and changed my opinion entirely, while not only earning a grade but also helping fuel a website dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. The Wikipedia stigma is undeserved and wrong, and the truth is Wikipedia has the potential to become more than just how we learn about oddball topics. It is the first thing that you see on a google search and it is used by millions daily, but many people still distrust it. Projects like this allow people to see the truth about Wikipedia and once they know it should be trusted, they can use it to its full potential.

Thanks to this project, I learned the true nature of Wikipedia. It is not a small group of biased individuals writing articles to skew the view of the public nor is it a place where haphazardly done research can pose as viable and credible information. Although some of my past teachers would argue those points, I now know that the millions of Wikipedia editors around the world are seeking to improve the way we take in information in this increasingly digital and globalized age and these people use their own thoughtful research and collective criticism to provide us with well thought out and examined articles on just about everything.

Interested in incorporating a Wikipedia assignment into your own course? Wiki Education’s free assignment templates are easily adapted for all disciplines: teach.wikiedu.org.

Header image by Kkmurray, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.


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