“Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject. So you know you are getting the best possible information.”
Though those words were spoken by a bumbling television character, there is some truth to his musings: The website is slowly gaining legitimacy...and not just within the walls of a fictional paper company – in college classrooms.
While many professors have banned students from citing information from the free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project, Wikipedia is gaining some academic traction. "I do encourage [my students] to use it as one of many launch points for pursuing original source material," said Karl Kehm, associate professor of physics at Washington College. Peter Shulman, assistant professor of history at Case Western Reserve University, agrees it's ok for basic facts but tells his students they shouldn't be referencing the site for anything further. "Saying it's off-limits won't stop students from using it, so I've switched to helping students understand when it's useful and when it's not," he said.
Strides are being taken to further legitimize Wikipedia – faculty members and students from more than 20 colleges are helping site editors clean up errors and broaden articles directly applicable to specific college classes – but its status as a 100-percent trusted source is still a long way off. Do you use Wikipedia in your classes? If so, is it frowned upon or somewhat accepted?