Wednesday, October 20, 2010

to quote wikipedia or not to quote, that is the question - referencing

Luxor -2008
Using wikipedia - to quote or not to quote that is the question

I've received this query:
Am i allowed to quote wikipedia or should I find their sources?

I hear a lot of arguments about using Wikipedia.
Some academics say it is fine to use it, others will not tolerate it.

The real issue a little different:

Basically: you can quote anyone and anything there is no limit to this.
The key in academic writing is to clearly state who you are quoting and where and what.
i.e. full references.

But the question is really: is Wikipedia  an adequate authority ?
For general background and introduction to a topic it is excellent.
I personally like it and use it a lot

The core question is really:  What is the best source to support my argument ?

if you are going to argue seriously for an idea you need to go to serious authorities.
ie.: you can't base your serious PHD research about micro-controllers or diabetes on THE AGE newspaper, MX magazine or wikipedia.
In others words you can't say: "its true because it's in "THE AGE" or Women's weekly, or Wikipedia, you need to go the the appropriate authority and source.

If you are looking for an introduction to a topic Wikipedia is great.
When I had to quickly get up to speed on chip design, leakage currents, etc... Wikipedia was excellent in giving a good introduction.
If I'm going to do breakthrough research I can't base my arguments on Wikipedia, I would use the original sources.