wasting bandwidth since 1999

Finding Value in Wikipedia

While browsing through an article in Wikipedia today a thought about the value of the material I was reading stuck in my warped little mind.

The real information on that page was not the words displayed on it but the links embedded in it.

In essence, the writers/editors of this Wikipedia document are providing me with an annotated directory to a larger body of knowledge surrounding this particular topic.

Compare that to sending the same term to Google (or any other search tool). The first page of hits are based on some formula of popularity, combined with other factors.

But as good as Google might be in finding links, there’s no organization. And no human has made any judgement as to the quality of the materials at the end of those links.

In fact, have you noticed that a Wikipedia article on your search terms often pops up as one of the first few links?

I’m not ready to recommend using Wikipedia as anyone’s primary search tool but it’s something to think about.

However, it’s also very possible that I’m the last person in the world to make this connection anyway. :-)

wikipedia, google, web search

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5 Comments

  1. I’m pretty much right there with you. I MIGHT even go as far as saying that I would search Wikipedia before Google to start a research process. The links are valuable as are the resource areas on the bottom of many entries. I believe that these articles provide students with the keywords that they can then take into Google or another search engine to refine their queries.

    Now, on the flip side, I would never allow students to site Google any more than I would allow them to site an encyclopedia for scholarly research. If they can’t cross reference the material with another primary source anywhere, the in my mind, the information isn’t valid for their use.

  2. In that first sentence of the second paragraph, I meant to say that I wouldn’t allow them to site Wikipedia. Whoops, it’s early.

  3. Brian, it’s “cite,” please. A site is a place.

    I love Wikipedia for quick info, and the fact that I can get around the firewall protection against images and at least show my students a picture. But it is not to be used as a source in an actual paper. I have much love for the links, though.

  4. Thanks, I knew that. Don’t know how that one got past me. Twice even…shame shame.

  5. tim

    This school year I’ve had this discussion with a number of teachers who have banned their students from using Wikipedia. Almost all say they allow them to use the printed encyclopedias in the library, usually with restrictions.

    And that’s just the point. Wikipedia is only a starting point. No one should use it as the final authority on anything, just as they shouldn’t use any single reference source – on paper or the web – in that way.

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