Academia brings Wikipedia in from the cold

Paul Raven @ 22-03-2011

Better late than never – via BoingBoing, The Beeb reports that Imperial College London is finally bowing to the inevitable as it stops warning students off of using Wikipedia for research and instead sets out methods for using it properly:

“The issue of how it’s used needs to be explored, it’s the most widely-used resource among students,” says Mr Patel, a medical student at the university.

“Wikipedia is here to stay – it’s a question of whether we come up to speed with it or try to ignore it.”

Mr Patel says he wants to co-ordinate the way pages are edited by students and staff and to make the most of Wikipedia, rather than pretend it’s not there.

“Students know there is an inherent unreliablity, as it’s open edited. We’re not trying to hide that.

“But it’s a place where you can orientate yourself when you start a topic.

“The quality has improved and the readability is often second to none,” he says.

But Mr Patel says there is a real gap in knowledge about how this free resource is being used.

Rather than swapping anecdotes about the use of Wikipedia, he says his group wants to move to a more evidence-based discussion about the place of Wikipedia in universities.

Evidence-based discussion, eh? In academia? Someone fax the creationist biology departments, stat!

In the meantime, if you’re doing some research with Wikipedia as a starting point you might want to take a look at TheFullWiki, which appears to be an online service that uses Wikipedia as a baseblock for building topic trees and sourcing citations. [via Lifehacker, who are still on linkback probation until Gawker provide links that actually guarantee to take you to the article they purport to describe]