Tuesday, March 27, 2012

EB vs. Wikipedia

Over the past few weeks, you probably heard the news that Encyclopedia Britannica is ceasing publication of its print edition.  I found this infographic from Mashable comparing Encyclopedia Britannica with Wikipedia.  Now as a librarian, I tend to discount most information from Wikipedia as being a bit unreliable.  But after looking at this comparison, I must admit I had to pause and think. 

This paragraph is the most compelling:

The crowd-powered reference site (Wikipedia) is arguably the greatest knowledge experiment civilization has ever seen. And while its critics are the first to point out its unreliability, advocates would counter that a self-correcting collective is more reliable and scalable than a room full of scholars (who, on occasion, also make mistakes).

I never thought about the "self correcting" aspect of Wikipedia.  I always thought of it as being interesting but unreliable.  I do encourage my students to look at the external links with articles--those will lead a researcher to other sources of information.  And sometimes Wikipedia is the best source for "pop culture" or very current information--something Britannica or World Book can't always keep up with.

So here's the question......do you allow Wikipedia as a research source?  Is it acceptable as long as it is not the sole source? 

Once again, I'm finding myself changing my train of thought and trying to adapt to a "new world" in terms of technology.  Learning new things is supposed to grow brain cells and keep you young......I just feel old......

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