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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Wikipedia turns ten years old

Wikipedia turns ten years old

Wikipedia celebrated its 10th anniversary last month, and its evolution has turned what was originally a side project into the Internet’s primary online encyclopedia.

Casper Grathwohl, vice president and publisher of digital and reference content for Oxford University Press, argued in last month’s The Chronicle Review that Wikipedia could function as another reference tool. Grathwohl wrote that scholars should work with Wikipedia to improve the quality of its content for the benefit of students.

Wikipedia’s growing pains and controversies have left students and faculty members with mixed opinions about how useful and reliable its articles can be.

In the nutritional sciences department, faculty members and teaching assistants tell students that they cannot cite Wikipedia in their course work, according to Jennifer Ricketts, a lecturer in the department.

“”We want them to access the peer-reviewed literature,”” Ricketts said, who has had limited experience with the online encyclopedia. Nutritional sciences students are encouraged to cite articles they find through PubMed, a free database maintained by the National Library of Medicine that includes medical and clinical research.

“”What is a problem in teaching a (general education) course is that it is unfortunately common for students to plagiarize from Wikipedia,”” Ricketts said.

She said she advises her students to treat Wikipedia as a starting point in their research.

Applied mathematics graduate student Erica McEvoy said she uses Wikipedia all the time.

“”At one point, I became fascinated with the psychology of serial killers,”” McEvoy said. Her curiosity was piqued after watching a TV news story about John Wayne Gacy, the infamous serial killer from her hometown of Chicago.

“”I would read about what growing up was like for them, how many people they’ve killed, how they killed, how they were caught, and their patterns,”” she said, noting she often reads Wikipedia entries before going to bed.

“”The idea that it’s open to everybody and written by everybody, I think it works … When you have everyone’s participation, I think it’s better than having one person’s participation, even if (he or she is) an expert,”” McEvoy said.

Vicky Westover, director of the UA Hanson Film Institute, said she watched an interview with the site’s co-founder Jimmy Wales who talked about how Wikipedia works.

“”I learned that the majority of the editors are guys in their 20s, and that actually gave me pause,”” Westover said. “”It just made me start to think about (Wikipedia) slightly differently in that how much information isn’t there, what isn’t being written about, and how very little women’s perspective is actually represented in Wikipedia.””

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