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Thread: Using wkipedia and wikiquote

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Using wkipedia and wikiquote

    Would the public view a nonfiction work less seriously if author uses, or frequently uses, Wikipedia or Wikiquote?

    To cite the source, Wikipedia, should the original source also be cited, or is it sufficient to simply cite Wikipedia?

    Thanks for any thoughts you might have.

  2. #2
    Formerly Phantom of Krankor. AW Moderator Torgo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kousa View Post
    Would the public view a nonfiction work less seriously if author uses, or frequently uses, Wikipedia or Wikiquote?

    To cite the source, Wikipedia, should the original source also be cited, or is it sufficient to simply cite Wikipedia?

    Thanks for any thoughts you might have.
    Anything that's on Wikipedia ought itself to be cited, or it should be removed, or tagged [[citation needed]] - but in any case disregarded by you. So I'd cite the source rather than the Wiki.

  3. #3
    empty-nester! shadowwalker's Avatar
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    In any research I do, I use Wikipedia as a starting point to find original sources and other avenues to the info I need. Just because of the nature of the beast, I'd never fully trust Wiki-anything as a reliable source in itself.
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  4. #4
    figuring it all out Lia_joy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shadowwalker View Post
    In any research I do, I use Wikipedia as a starting point to find original sources and other avenues to the info I need. Just because of the nature of the beast, I'd never fully trust Wiki-anything as a reliable source in itself.
    yup. same with blogs. I know some blogs that have great information & if they use references, i will follow the reference and use that -- otherwise I'll use them to come up with better search terms to find more sources.
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  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW
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    Anything in wiki that peaks my interest during research I will check the reference, then cite that reference in my book rather than wiki. Once I purchased a book (2nd hand from Aldibris) that was referenced and what it said was completely different than what wiki was making it out to be.

    If you're in the US you get "Fair use" law which is a bonus, you don't have to ask permission so long as you don't use too much and fit the amendments criteria.
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  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW cornflake's Avatar
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    I'd dismiss anyone citing Wiki as a source - instantly.

    It's not that it can't be correct, it's that it says to me the person doesn't know what a source is and thus I don't trust him or her as to research at all.

  7. #7
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kousa View Post
    Would the public view a nonfiction work less seriously if author uses, or frequently uses, Wikipedia or Wikiquote?
    Yes.

    In fact I just recommended that a chapter be declined for this reason. If the author is citing specific material, they should know and have inspected the primary source. And so they should cite that source.

  8. #8
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I think you need to define who you mean by "public". The average person off the street probably wouldn't blink an eye if you cited Wiki-something. But the people who you probably want to think you are credible will not be impressed. Or even worse like cornflake said (and I agree), you risk being immediately dismissed.


    I think there is some leeway here, depending on what kind of nonfiction work and where you are publishing it. If it's a free web article for a young, non-specialized audience, you might get away with it. If it's print media and/or is likely to be read by specialists or scientific types, don't even think about it.

  9. #9
    . Pup's Avatar
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    It also depends on what you're citing Wikipedia for.

    Public perception of John Smith shifted as knowledge of his misdeeds became widespread. While some authors have claimed the news was not widely known until the New York Times broke the story on November 5, 2008, an anonymous editor added it to his Wikipedia page on October 27, 2008. ("John Smith," Wikipedia, editorial change October 27, 2008, accessed January 10, 2013.)
    I think that would pass muster up to and including a doctoral thesis.

    John Smith claims he was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1956, though he was actually born in Havana, Cuba. ("John Smith," Wikipedia, accessed January 10, 2013)
    Not so much.

    (Edited to add: Quotes are, of course, just hypothetical examples.)

  10. #10
    Just the facts, please
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    Citing Wikipedia as a source of any information tells me the author has no research skills, and thus should not be trusted.

  11. #11
    . Pup's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JournoWriter View Post
    Citing Wikipedia as a source of any information tells me the author has no research skills, and thus should not be trusted.
    I think "any" may be too broad.

    Do you think my first example in the post above would show a lack of research skills and be evidence that the author shouldn't be trusted?

  12. #12
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Don't use Wikipedia as a source.
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  13. #13
    Just the facts, please
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    Do you think my first example in the post above would show a lack of research skills and be evidence that the author shouldn't be trusted?
    Splitting hairs. Wikipedia thus becomes a primary source, so of course you would go to it. But the number of times that would happen would be incredibly tiny.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pup View Post
    I think "any" may be too broad.

    Do you think my first example in the post above would show a lack of research skills and be evidence that the author shouldn't be trusted?
    It used Wikipedia, therefore it is amateurish. You can't use Wikipedia in a credible, professional way. And it wouldn't escape the notice of a graduate committee unless it was at a diploma mill where they don't have graduate committees.

  15. #15
    Hmmm... I think I disagree. Captcha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wandererer View Post
    It used Wikipedia, therefore it is amateurish. You can't use Wikipedia in a credible, professional way. And it wouldn't escape the notice of a graduate committee unless it was at a diploma mill where they don't have graduate committees.
    It's not amateurish if you're writing about Wikipedia, as the first example was.

    Wikipedia is, most of the time, a tertiary source. That's the whole goal of wikipedia - they're actually not ALLOWED to use information unless the information has already been published elsewhere. So, yeah, most of the time wikipedia is an unacceptable source, just like any other encyclopedia or tertiary source.

    But there are exceptions. In an article on popular culture, or on the way information spreads in our society, or something similar, Wikipedia could very well be a primary source, in which case it would be not only acceptable but advisable to use it.

  16. #16
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    Thanks everybody. Good spectrum of thoughts.

  17. #17
    Snow? Already? Shadow_Ferret's Avatar
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    I would never cite wiki. Ever. Even in the example above it just sounds amateurish to me. Don't do it. Find other, more reliable sources. Wiki just doesn't go through the rigorous getting process other sources do. Maybe they've improved, but there was a time when anyone could edit a wiki entry, not just "experts" in the subject.

    Use wiki as a springboard to other sources if you must, but I'm even leery of using them for that. I still prefer the old-fashioned method of a library to find sources.
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  18. #18
    . Pup's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wandererer View Post
    It used Wikipedia, therefore it is amateurish. You can't use Wikipedia in a credible, professional way. And it wouldn't escape the notice of a graduate committee unless it was at a diploma mill where they don't have graduate committees.
    Quote Originally Posted by Shadow_Ferret View Post
    I would never cite wiki. Ever. Even in the example above it just sounds amateurish to me. Don't do it. Find other, more reliable sources.
    That's absolutely mindboggling to me. I'm wondering if you're not understanding my hypothetical example (in post #9).

    If Wikipedia was the actual place where information first got out to the public, and the footnote is supposed to be evidence of when and where the information first got out to the public, then any other accurate source will, of necessity, be a secondary source talking about the Wikipedia article. There will be no better evidence of when it went public than the information appearing in Wikipedia on a certain date.

    To avoid that and quote someone else talking about Wikipedia instead, seems to be acting on a pointless prejudice against Wikipedia, rather than actually thinking about the purpose of doing original research and citing primary evidence in footnotes.

    What I'd encourage people to do is to think about what the best possible evidence is, and footnote that, regardless what it happens to be, rather than blindly follow rules like "never cite Wikipedia."

  19. #19
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    And where will your doctoral candidate be when an anonymous editor removes it from Wikipedia?

  20. #20
    . Pup's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wandererer View Post
    And where will your doctoral candidate be when an anonymous editor removes it from Wikipedia?
    Did you notice the way it was cited? The important point is the date it was added. Whether it remains there a year or two later is irrelevant. The standard way to deal with the problem of web pages changing is to add "(accessed January 12, 2013)" or whatever date to the citation. For a claim like my hypothetical one that challenges conventional wisdom, I'd expect the author to have a saved screenshot or other evidence also, in case she was challenged on it.

    Maybe this is just so much more obvious to me, because my research tends to be in history, social history usually, so a lot of my citations need to be for exactly this kind of evidence, except they're to the 150-year-old equivalent of Wikipedia: popular newspapers and magazines that were more interested in spreading exciting stories than digging out the truth.

    So if I want to cite evidence for a claim that people in an area were worried about a slave insurrection, for example, even if no slave insurrection occurred--even if no slave insurrection was even planned--an excellent citation would be to a period newspaper article published at that time and place, saying that the local slaves were planning to revolt, even though I know the information in the article is false. But it's an ironclad, primary source citation to provide evidence for the accurate fact that some people at that time and place thought there could be a revolt.

    Similarly, Wikipedia would be one of the best sources for what average internet users might be aware of at the time that a Wikipedia article contained certain information, regardless whether the information was accurate or edited out later.

  21. #21
    She who must be obeyed Amanda R.'s Avatar
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    You cannot use Wikipedia as a credible source of information. EVER. If you think otherwise you obviously don't know what a wiki is.
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  22. #22
    . Pup's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amanda R. View Post
    You cannot use Wikipedia as a credible source of information. EVER. If you think otherwise you obviously don't know what a wiki is.
    Yes, I know what a wiki is. By its very nature it's poor evidence for some things, but it's an excellent source of evidence for other things, like what the kind of people who edit wikis want to make public at the time they edit one. In fact, I can think of no better source of evidence for that, than what's in the wiki itself.

    Thinking of it in that way forces people to consider the actual purpose of citations, which will make all their choices of evidence stronger.

    The first of the following hypothetical examples is cited to a primary source, and accurate. The second is cited to a supposedly credible secondary source, and wrong. I'd want to be the author who wrote the first one, because that author did his own research and got it right.

    Public perception of John Smith shifted as knowledge of his misdeeds became widespread. While some authors have claimed the news was not widely known until the New York Times broke the story on November 5, 2008, an anonymous editor added it to his Wikipedia page on October 27, 2008. ("John Smith," Wikipedia, editorial change October 27, 2008, accessed January 10, 2013.)
    John Smith's misdeeds first became publicly known when the New York Times published an article about him on Nov. 5, 2008. (Richard Roe, Life of John Smith [New York: Big New York Press, 2011], 199.)
    I can't explain it any more clearly than that, so we'll just have to agree to disagree.

  23. #23
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    So your doctoral candidate brings a screenshot of a now-gone Wikipedia page to his defense? He/she will be laughed out of the building and sent back to McDonald's.

  24. #24
    Hmmm... I think I disagree. Captcha's Avatar
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    I agree with Pup 100%.

    If I were writing a scholarly article on the spread of misinformation, I would need to show that misinformation had been spread. I could use a secondary source to show that, if such a source existed, but in general academics are encouraged to use primary sources, and in THIS case, Wikipedia would be a primary source.

    Wanderer, would you say that people studying the internet should not ever refer directly to internet pages? That makes no sense to me, but your concern about the "now-gone Wikipedia page" would apply to any internet source. Research is changing.

    If you want to refer to the actual population of African elephants in the world, you would cite some official source of elephant research. If you want to refer to the power of popular culture and the way different electronic mediums are becoming interconnected, you would cite the Wikipedia page on African elephants that showed the grossly inaccurate numbers after Stephen Colbert encouraged people to modify them. You aren't using the reference to show anything about elephants, merely something about Wikipedia.

  25. #25
    It's a doggy dog world benbradley's Avatar
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    A lot of the general public "knows" about Wikipedia, and knows that "anyone can edit it, so it MUST be wrong." Printed academic volumes are "wrong" in that they have errors as well (and often include errata sheets, even when first published), so the question then becomes "how wrong?" But even that isn't as important as public perception. Wikipedia is as good as many other online resources (even some for-pay resources) for research, but using references to it can give a bad impression. (Ref: http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...d.php?t=262579).

    Quote Originally Posted by Pup View Post
    Did you notice the way it was cited? The important point is the date it was added. Whether it remains there a year or two later is irrelevant. The standard way to deal with the problem of web pages changing is to add "(accessed January 12, 2013)" or whatever date to the citation. For a claim like my hypothetical one that challenges conventional wisdom, I'd expect the author to have a saved screenshot or other evidence also, in case she was challenged on it.
    I'd expect the author to know how to access the page as it was. Nothing is deleted in Wikipedia - when an edit is made, the previous version becomes part of the history and is easily available.
    Quote Originally Posted by Wandererer View Post
    So your doctoral candidate brings a screenshot of a now-gone Wikipedia page to his defense? He/she will be laughed out of the building and sent back to McDonald's.
    The OP was asking about the general public, but even so, I'd hope for something better than a screenshot of a no-longer-existing Internet webpage as evidence, whether from Wikipedia or not.

    But again, much stuff stays online, and a smart researcher knows how to get to it. Here's a vandalized Wikipedia webpage:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?...oldid=68260725
    and immediately after a revert to the earlier version was done (yes, I did the revert):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?...oldid=74933397

    Many other (non-Wikipedia) webpages are saved online and are available years after they have been deleted, such as ordinary personal websites:
    http://wayback.archive.org/web/20050...m/~benbradley/


    Quote Originally Posted by Wandererer View Post
    ...
    If you want to refer to the actual population of African elephants in the world, you would cite some official source of elephant research. If you want to refer to the power of popular culture and the way different electronic mediums are becoming interconnected, you would cite the Wikipedia page on African elephants that showed the grossly inaccurate numbers after Stephen Colbert encouraged people to modify them. You aren't using the reference to show anything about elephants, merely something about Wikipedia.
    You could also show how fast and how frequently such edits get reverted by regular Wikipedia editors who care that it is correct. Errors (and the inclusion of urban legends as fact) in print bppks only get corrected years later in later printed editions, leaving the earlier editions intact and (too) easily available, whereas popular Wikipedia articles have editors who get email notifications of every change of the articles they're tracking, and who revert vandalism within minutes.

    If you're going to use Wikipedia for anything "important," or something looks odd on the article page, it's easy enough to (in addition to doing OTHER, independent research!) click "View History" and see who changed what, and (if they're good enough to leave a comment, which they SHOULD be) why. If it has an edit every few days or months, but then has dozens of edits in the last day, then you know something like the "Colbert mention" is up.

    But to the OP, go ahead and use Wikipedia, but site the original source referenced in the Wikipedia article. A smart (arse) person like me might read your articles, look things up and see what you're doing, but most people wouldn't have a clue.
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