Citation Needed

Greg Ingersoll

Tue 04 June 2013 - 11:00:32 CDT


You may have noticed in some recent posts that I’ve linked several times to Wikipedia. This maybe raises two questions. First, is Wikipedia a legitimate resource for scientific citation? Then, is Wikipedia a learning tool?

To the first question, I would say “yes, but…” Certainly, you have to be careful of any source, and you have to review the standards of your particular medium if they exist. To wit: I have no issue referencing accurate info in Wikipedia for a blog post, but I may reference a standard text instead for an article in a refereed journal. (In the latter case, reluctance stems from the mutability of Wikipedia; it can change at any time and the reference may no longer make sense.)

To the second question, I say “no, but…” Unfortunately, the same can be said of most textbooks. They are less learning tool and more reference volume primarily due to lack of context. I use Wikipedia as an always available reference for:

So in a way, I am learning things, but not always with context. Not in a way where I can see the application and the path forward. Adding some context is part of what I am trying to do with this blog; not just regurgitating facts from Wikipedia. Leave some comments if it isn’t–or is–working.

(And xkcd fans, don’t miss the citation gag in the recent what-if.)

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