Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wikipedia: Why It's altruism has built it up to become a diverse and accurate source for academia

Wikipedia is an excellent source that can and should be used by students. It has risen to the same level of the most respected academic references that are written by scholars by the efforts of millions of people across the world doing research for a single cause in every language.

Detail Offered Compared to Other Major Sources
By allowing people to add information as they learn it, wikipedia has become the largest and most up to date depository of knowledge ever. (Crovitz)

Ease of Use
    Wikipedia has several ways to delve into a subject. The most obvious is the search bar at the top-right corner of the page. Type in the name of the article and you will most of the time be automatically be sent to that page. This is the easiest way to do research and works for almost everything.
    Beyond that, there are other ways to retrieve specific information that can be useful when doing specific research. Portals give the most important links for popular topics. Categories are given at the bottom of every article with links to all articles dealing with a subject, from a year to a small field of science. Lists are given on every subject to existing articles and articles that still need to be created. Timelines are given on the most important events of all history. Another way to research bringing a total of six ways to search is the alphabetical list of all entries on each wikipedia.
    The most original way to use Wikipedia is via portal. Portals give the links to the most important articles on the subject making an excellent jumping off point to new research. Wikipedia allows people to get to articles specific to a small field quickly. These pages can then be used by students to quickly understand what their professors are saying through their concise language (Research by using Wikipedia).
    Thew most popular source that schools use, Proquest, has some major disadvantages to Wikipedia. Proquest gives the original texts on some but not all documents. Most of the time it does not include the sources that the author from “scholarly journals” used. Wikipedia always gives links to the original sources and the best site for that document. It may include that documents sources in its own links on popular articles. Wikipedia’s final advantage is that it’s free. Proquest is extremely expensive for academia and designed by “experts” (Comparing experience of proquest and wikipedia while writing this paper).

Accuracy via Linus’ Law AKA Open Source vs. Closed Source Websites
Wikipedia is closely related to the Linux philosophy known as Linus’ Law. Linus’ Law states: “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” This is the same way that Science papers are produced. (Russel Kay) A scientist starts an experiment and other scientists look for errors to help their friend and science which fixes all issues with the experiments. It has worked for over a hundred years and is how the Linux operating systems function, which has bade them as powerful as the expensive Apple and Microsoft operating systems. Wikipedia is no different. (Kutter)
    Perhaps the accuracy of Wikipedia is proven when academics occasionally test Wikipedia’s self-correcting  mechanism of Linus’ Law. According to Diane Skiba, A.J. Jacobs uploaded an article to Wikipedia with 15 deliberate errors. In 3 days volunteers had fixed all but one minor error.
    People watch Wikipedia’s pages to cancel bad edits and vandalism. Anyone can look at recent changes on the left hand side of the main page and see all the recent edits in reverse chronological order. Because the most popular languages have millions of users with somebody always combing the wiki, this makes vandalizing pages pointless. Another thing, scholarly sources on the internet will often have little information and have few links to check their sources. Wikipedia fixes these problems by having a lot of detail and all important pages have links so more information can be found quickly. (Experience while writing this paper)
    When compared to Britannica on random articles; Wikipedia hs four mistakes per article as opposed to Brittanica’s three (Brittanica). Since Wikipedia is fully written by volunteers this is an impressive statistic. This makes it practically equal.

Impact on the Publishing Industry
    The impact on publishing corporations is probably the biggest reason publishing houses are in a media war with Wikipedia. Having information on all important subjects makes basic research in printed sources wasteful of people’s time. This combined with the accuracy of Wikipedia decreases sales of books which is why Wikipedia’s competitiveness shrinks the sales of book companies. The only option they have is to go to a media war saying how Wikipedia is inaccurate by lying how it’s greatest strength is a weakness.

    Wikipedia has articles in 276 languages making it accessible to everyone who has a computer and can read. Wikipediai s free of use. It follows the freedom of information philosophy. (Wikipedia Statistics page)
    Encyclopedia Britannica is only in English. It is also expensive to purchase and unless you are a member of a library that has subscribed to it, you won’t be able to use it. (Experience while writing this paper.)

Usefulness as a Student
As a student, Wikipedia is a great source when learning a new subject. It’s articles are clear, concise, and well written. It presents every subject as if you have never been exposed to it, making it an excellent jumping off point on a new subject. (Interview with friends)
    Wikipedia gives students the best sites on every subject they will touch as an undergraduate student. This is superior to Google because Google doesn’t filter between accurate sources and inaccrate sources without some very specific searches. The websites presented on Wikipedia are often academic, giving reliable information. (See the page for “Bacteriophage” which includes links to four universities, a trend among science pages) This is also superior to sites you pay for because they are harder and take more time to navigate. (Crovitz; Original research)
    Wikipedia is also being used as a teaching mechanism in the classroom. Instead of writing identical papers on a common subject, students create accounts and add to Wikipedia’s information in some classrooms (Goodman).

Works Cited
Baytiyeh, Hoyta, and Jay Pfaffman. “Volunteers in Wikipedia: Why the Community Matters.”
    Ebsco. Web. 15 Nov. 2010

Black, Erik W. “Wikipedia and academic peer review: wikipedia as a recognized medium for scholarly publication?”
    Online Information Review. 32.1 (2008): 73. Platinum Periodicals, Proquest. Web. 17 Nov. 2010

Crovitz, D., and Smoot, W. “Wikipedia: Friend, Not Foe.” English Journal 98.3 (2009): 91-97/
    Platinum Periodicals, Proquest. Web. 16 Nov. 2010.

    The American Biology Teacher 70.3 (2008): 138-138. Research Library.

Russell Kay. “It’s the law!” Computerworld 12 Aug. 2002: Platinum Periodicals, Proquest. Web. 19 Nov. 2010.

Proquest. Web. 18 Nov. 2010

Skiba, Diane J. “Open Source: Will You Follow the Cathedral of the Bazaar Model?”
    Ebsco. Web. 15 Nov. 2010

Spence, Des. “A Wicked Encyclopaedia.”
    Proquest. 19 Sept. 2009. Web. 16 Nov. 2010

“Britannica attacks.” Nature 440. 7084 (2006): 582. Platinum Periodicals, ProQuest. Web. 17 Nov. 2010.

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