[Air-l] Wikipedia warning -- Wikipedia is not a reliable information source
ken.friedman at bi.no
Sun Dec 4 11:02:17 PST 2005
This letter is a suggestion that you address the problem of bad
information in student papers from an increasingly poor source:
Wikipedia. Wikipedia is not getting better. It is getting worse. One
reason for this is the apparent case that the status of Wikipedia as
a much-used reference resource makes it the target of opportunity for
hoax efforts that would never enter an edited reference text.
There are now enough serious incidents of false and defamatory
information in Wikipedia biographies to warrant prohibiting this as a
reference source in universities and university-level professional
schools. The same is true of inaccurate or false assertions in many
The problem with Wikipedia is not that the Wiki system MAY develop a
solid and reliable reference work, but that in the current form, it
DOES NOT. It is as easy to change an article for the worse as for the
Nearly any university student today has access to a decent library
and good on-line reference texts. In addition, anyone willing to
search a bit will also fine outstanding SIGNED references sources by
major scholars in many fields, as well as useful albeit older
versions of respected references source no longer covered by
The current scandal concerning a false and defamatory biography of
Robert Kennedy aide and friend John Siegenthaler (see below) and
similar recent cases lead me to conclude that Wikipedia has no way to
prevent problems like this from happening. This is made worse by the
fact that Wikipedia is an automatic flow-through resource for other
Wikipedia is unacceptable as a research tool.
I have informed my students that they may no longer use Wikipedia as
a reference or source on papers in my courses. I urge you to consider
a similar statement. While Wikipedia may be a useful first step in
seeking information, I no longer accept it as a credible source.
Therefore, I advise students to look further when a project requires
a reliable source.
Use of Wikipedia by students and researchers is an important
validation mechanism for Wikipedia.
If enough of us prohibit Wikipedia as a reference source in our
courses, programs, and schools, the message will eventually get
When it does, Wikipedia will find an appropriate way to monitor
contributions. If they do not, the reputation of Wikipedia will sink
to that of another crank web site.
The Siegenthaler case in the New York Times and USA Today via Yahoo:
Professor of Leadership and Strategic Design
Institute for Communication, Culture, and Language
Norwegian School of Management
Design Research Center
Denmark's Design School
email: ken.friedman at bi.no
More information about the Air-L