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How Students Use Wikipedia 170

Posted by kdawson
from the must-be-true dept.
crazybilly writes "First Monday recently released a study about how college students actually use Wikipedia. Not surprisingly, they found, 'Overall, college students use Wikipedia. But, they do so knowing its limitation. They use Wikipedia just as most of us do — because it is a quick way to get started and it has some, but not deep, credibility.' The study offers some initial data to help settle the often heated controversy over Wikipedia's usefulness as a research tool and how it affects students' research."
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How Students Use Wikipedia

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  • Hate (Score:3, Insightful)

    by s1lverl0rd (1382241) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @08:19AM (#31506912) Homepage

    Lots of my fellow students copy sentences and whole paragraphs from Wikipedia verbatim, without citing sources. I hate that.

    • Re:Hate (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ta bu shi da yu (687699) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @08:21AM (#31506928) Homepage

      I'd imagine they hate it worse when the marker uses an automated plagiarism detection program and fails them.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Inconexo (1401585)
        You can always copy literally and then change Wikipedia.
      • by Jurily (900488)

        Or fails them without any special software because of all the facts they got wrong.

        Wikipedia is meant to be informative, not definitive. You need the Hitchhiker's Guide for that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Yeah, college students use the Internet to cheat on research papers.

      News at 11.
    • Re:Hate (Score:5, Funny)

      by smitty97 (995791) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @08:56AM (#31507178)

      Lots of my fellow students copy sentences and whole paragraphs from Wikipedia verbatim, without citing sources. I hate that.

      [citation needed]

    • Re:Hate (Score:4, Funny)

      by 986151 (986151) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @09:03AM (#31507246)
      Lots of my fellow students copy sentences and whole paragraphs from Wikipedia verbatim, without citing sources. I hate that.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      If you're only copying sentences, what's wrong? Many times I find Wikipedia has some of the most concise summaries of complex topics.

      When it comes to papers where you analyse data, why not avoid the stupid stuff (definitions) and offload it on wikipedia, and get to the heart of the topic? Wouldn't that be a much more efficient way of writing?

      This obviously won't work for persuasive papers, because wikipedia tends to be neutral and fact based.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by stewbacca (1033764)

        The definition of plagiarism isn't merely "copying sentences"--it's copying sentences and not citing the source when it's not your own, original thought. Many times I've had an original thought and wrote it as my own, only to find hundreds of other people have had the same thoughts, and put them in papers. Just because I wrote the same thought doesn't mean I plagiarized it--only that human minds often come to the same conclusions.

        Other times I read tons of background information and then use that mashed up

        • by jim_v2000 (818799)
          I think schools and universities have the focus on the wrong thing when they talk about citing sources. It shouldn't be about proving that you didn't plagiarize something, but showing that you have some evidence to support whatever your point was. In other words, I'm more interested in where you found your information vs where you found the wording.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by stewbacca (1033764)

            That is exactly correct. By citing a source, I'm not saying "I'm too dumb to have figured this out myself, so I'm just copying this guy". Instead, it says, "My findings are supported by the credible research of these other people as well". Or they just show your readers that you've adequately reviewed existing materials in the field of study that lends more value to your findings.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Tacvek (948259)

          Specifically, the concept of plagiarism (which is really only meaningful in an academic context, the rest of the world is only concerned about legal matters like Copyright infringement) is the use of specific ideas that are not your own without citing the source of the idea.

          A paper that consists entirely of a long verbatim quote from some other source, but where the source is cited, and it has been made clear what was an exact quote is not plagarism. It would almost certainly fail to meet the requirements o

    • by omnichad (1198475)

      Why do that when Wikipedia lists the sources at the bottom for you to cite? And then when the teacher sees that you copied Wikipedia, you say that you're the very person who posted those sentences. You figured since you were doing so much research, that you might as well update Wikipedia. It's the cheater's dream!

    • Uuuum, is that even allowed?

      My friends all told me, that here in Germany, Wikipedia is not allowed at all, and if you miss out even one citation, you’re seriously getting in trouble. Some professors even want to throw you out from the university for it. (But I doubt they actually can.)

      • The first thing anyone should be taught about collage level research is that an encyclopedia is not a primary source but it's an excellent starting point to find primary sources.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by exploder (196936)

          The first thing anyone should be taught about collage level research is that an encyclopedia is not a primary source but it's an excellent starting point to find primary sources.

          Most appropriate typo ever .

      • by Gilmoure (18428)

        Some professors even want to throw you out from the university for it.

        Depends on how high the window is off the ground.

    • by iLogiK (878892)

      Some of my teachers do that too. I'm in a non-english speaking country, but I'm studying in english, so teachers have to translate their courses.
      Once I was having problems understanding something from a pdf from my teacher, so I thought I'd look up the subject on wikipedia. It was the exact same text.

      I should have figured it out sooner since a lot of the words in the pdf were underlined (they were links from wikipedia)

    • I have never understood plagiarism. I mean, I understand being lazy, but damn. Do these people have such a low grasp of the English language that they cannot re-write, even trivially re-write a passage?

      If Wikipedia says:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Train [wikipedia.org]

      "A train is a connected series of vehicles for rail transport that move along a track (permanent way) to transport freight or passengers from one place to another. The track usually consists of two rails, but might also be a monorail or maglev guideway."

      W

  • by kiehlster (844523) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @08:20AM (#31506922) Homepage
    that you must be gathering your information from Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]. I'm pretty sure that's what that Wikipedia article is saying.
    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      Yeah, well, according to conservapedia, wikipedia has a strong liberal bias, was founded by two atheists, and is edited mostly by teenagers and unemployed people.

      http://www.conservapedia.com/Wikipedia
      • by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @08:43AM (#31507100) Homepage

        Well, as recent events [economist.com] in Texas have demonstrated, a minority conservatives think it's better to change reality to suit their ideology than to change their ideology to suit reality. Which was exactly the same motivation for Conservapedia.

        • by dkleinsc (563838)

          Err, that's "a minority of conservatives", obviously.

          • That's ok...I liked your quote so much I posted it as my facebook status (and didn't cite you), but I changed it simply to say, "Conservatives think it's better..." to avoid the awkward "a minority conservatives" structure.

        • conservatives think it's better to change reality to suit their ideology than to change their ideology to suit reality

          That’s what founded this country. England sucked, and rather than changing their ideology to fit in, people left and created their own reality that fit their ideology.

      • Yeah, well, according to conservapedia, wikipedia has a strong liberal bias, was founded by two atheists

        So they are giving it a huge thumbs up in the eyes of many people. :)

      • I had never heard of Conservapedia before. I am still trying to decide if it is a satire site.

    • Well I'm pretty sure this wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] says the opposite!
  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @08:21AM (#31506932)

    The list of sources at the bottom of most entries is a great starting point for research.

    • by OnlyJedi (709288) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @08:37AM (#31507068) Homepage

      Definitely true. I've used Wikipedia many times to get a heads-up on the topic and learn what sources are good for further reading. I would never cite Wikipedia itself; it's a bit too unreliable and, more importantly, changeable to use directly as a source. But with the amount of citations good articles have I can easily track down whatever source the Wikipedian used, read the relevant chapters, and cite that.

      Then again, that's how all encyclopedias are supposed to be used. That's why they're usually considered tertiary sources, as opposed to primary and secondary sources. Wikipedia is no different than Britannica or Encarta in that respect. Most of my college classmates have understood this, and the instructors have stressed the importance of a good bibliography.

      • by k.a.f. (168896) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @09:01AM (#31507226)

        Definitely true. I've used Wikipedia many times to get a heads-up on the topic and learn what sources are good for further reading. I would never cite Wikipedia itself; it's a bit too unreliable and, more importantly, changeable to use directly as a source

        That's why you cite not WP:Monkey, but http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Monkey&oldid=345367034 [wikipedia.org], which is guaranteed never to change again.

      • by g253 (855070)

        ... it's a bit too unreliable and, more importantly, changeable...

        Its changeability doesn't prevent you from citing it though: in the toolbox section on the left side of any page, there's a "cite this page" link, which gives you a link to the specific revision you're currently looking at. The main article may change, but that revision is immutable.

        (I had to explain that to a friend of mine who's a teacher, not long after explaining him - to his amazement - that yes, anyone can actually modify it)

      • by mizhi (186984)

        I use it for two purposes mainly. (1) To refresh my memory on a subject I've not touched in a while, (2) As a jump off point for an area of research I'm unfamiliar with. As long as you realize that you need to cross-check the wikipedia article, you should be fine.

        11 years ago, when I started doing research, breaking into a new field was a bit more work. Instead of being able to look up high-level overviews via wikipedia, I'd spend a lot of time trawling publications looking for possibly relevant articles

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by FoolishOwl (1698506)

        Then again, that's how all encyclopedias are supposed to be used. That's why they're usually considered tertiary sources, as opposed to primary and secondary sources.

        That's exactly right, and I wish more people would understand that.

        Another use I put Wikipedia to: when an assigned text has an unclear explanation of a concept (e.g., the differential of a function [wikipedia.org], I go to Wikipedia for an alternate formulation. Often the writing is better and clearer on Wikipedia, but even when it isn't, it's at least as good, and a slightly different perspective helps a lot.

    • by ircmaxell (1117387) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @08:54AM (#31507170) Homepage
      I agree 100%. And as for the "it's not accurate enough for research", I find that it's rarely REALLY wrong. And so long as you go through the sources and don't use it exclusively, it can be a great help. Especially when researching an unfamiliar topic, the Wikipedia page can typically give you a decent 10,000 foot view of the subject, and then you can base your research from there. While I wouldn't use it as a direct reference, you can usually gain enough knowledge from it to at least know what you're looking for when you look at bonafied sources. But then again, it seems like everyone's saying that Wikipedia isn't to be trusted, but that traditional encyclopedias are. From where I'm standing, the only difference between them is the fact that Wikipedia is up front about the "don't trust us". Traditional encyclopedias are typically outdated as soon as they are purchased (for any kind of an active field at least), and typically only show the "opinion" of one or two editors in each subject. Wikipedia at least has the benefit that it's constantly updated and is "peer reviewed" by a significant number of people in the field (at least for the more popular topics). Both have their limitations, but at lest Wikipedia is upfront about theirs...

      Well, actually, now that I think about it, you probably could use it in direct situations, depending on what you're researching. If you're doing research into a highly debated subject, Wikipedia usually does a very good job of highlighting the fact from the opinion, and has subsections for each contested part. While this wouldn't be good for a physics research paper, it would likely be very good for a sociology, literary or even a psychology research paper... Subjects that the inherent inaccuracies in a system like Wikipedia would be useful.
      • by clickety6 (141178)

        But then again, it seems like everyone's saying that Wikipedia isn't to be trusted, but that traditional encyclopedias are. From where I'm standing, the only difference between them is the fact that Wikipedia is up front about the "don't trust us". Traditional encyclopedias are typically outdated as soon as they are purchased (for any kind of an active field at least), and typically only show the "opinion" of one or two editors in each subject. Wikipedia at least has the benefit that it's constantly updated and is "peer reviewed" by a significant number of people in the field (at least for the more popular topics). Both have their limitations, but at lest Wikipedia is upfront about theirs...

        But you're comparing apples and oranges, on-line encyclopaedias vs dead wood encyclopaedias. The on-line Britannica is also updated more regularly than the print version. Also, the way Wikipedia is set-up, in many cases it also shows ony the "opinions" of a single editor who controls that particular entry. As for peer reviews, it is reviews after the fact, not before, leading to published errors that are then reviewed. And there are cases of "peers" being complete charlatans (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Es

      • by mooingyak (720677)

        you look at bonafied sources.

        Sorry, but the typo made me giggle.

        Did we bonaf this one? No? Okay, what about this one? It's been bonafied? Great!

  • My workplace has one, that explains various esoteric concepts like how to get that ancient Windows 3 test program to run on XP, but as far as I know it's only a local resource.

    Is there public version of Wikipedia designed for engineers & technicians?

  • Procrastination tool (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rijnzael (1294596) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @08:24AM (#31506966)
    I use it as a means to quickly learn the essence of a chapter whose homework problems are due in only hours, the subject matter of which I haven't yet learned (e.g., due to skipping class). It's a quick and easy way to cut through a lot of a textbook's fluff and get to concrete examples of common problems and have the critical formulas for solving these problems displayed clearly.

    As an aside, when I had a class freshman year on electrical engineering, the chair of the department actually suggested we heavily use wikipedia to improve our understanding of the topics at hand.
    • Works after you graduate too, as in I do the exact same thing, but get paid a salary for it now.

  • by Vario (120611) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @08:27AM (#31506976)

    In the natural sciences Wikipedia is an important tool in research. In independent reviews the accuracy was on an equal level as other encyclopedias (Britannica), see for example: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b5/Wpausstellung-18.pdf [wikimedia.org] (german language).
    It provides a free source with fulltext search. In many cases the original research is cited, so that you can look for more detailed information.

    Just imagine trying to get quick information about something without. I am currently working on Quantum criticality. A quick google search provides you with tons of information, the wikipedia entry is a accurate one-page document which cites the most important theoretical papers from the past few years.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ShakaUVM (157947)

      >>In independent reviews the accuracy was on an equal level as other encyclopedias (Britannica)

      Sure, but the real problem with wikipedia is with editor bias, not factual accuracy. In any vaguely politicized article on wikipedia, you'll see long running edit wars, which only get kinda/sorta resolved when they take a majority rules vote on it, which basically means that the majority of whoever is monitoring a page gets their bias put in.

      If you don't agree with the groupthink, then your voice is excluded

      • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @09:00AM (#31507220)

        Sure, but the real problem with wikipedia is with editor bias, not factual accuracy.

        Every information source created by human beings is subject to the exact same problem, so I don't see how that in itself would make Wikipedea worse than other resources.

        The reader is always responsible for estimating the bias of any document's author(s) and interpreting the information in that light.

        If you don't agree with the groupthink, then your voice is excluded.

        This is true for everything in life. In an old-style paper encyclopedia, it just happened that the groupthink was hidden from public view and confined to a small group of the publisher's employees.

      • In almost all encyclopedias, and other information sources each article is written by one person, and edited by one person.... is this not *more* likely to be biased ?

        In wikipedia an article may be biased but is less likely to be so (unless it is a one person article), and is more likely to be only moderately biased

        Wikipedia like most sources of information are accused of bias, and like many information sources it is accused of bias in opposite directions at the same time, sometimes for the same article ...

        • by ShakaUVM (157947)

          >>In almost all encyclopedias, and other information sources each article is written by one person, and edited by one person.... is this not *more* likely to be biased ?

          An EB employee or a random freeper or huffpo troll? I think the EB employee is probably going to be less biased.

      • "If you don't agree with the groupthink, then your voice is excluded. This means that wikipedia, in a certain and very real sense, controls the cultural gestalt for, well, most of the civilized world."

        Yeah right, because if you get your "group think" from elswhere Jimmy will send a few editors around to your house, bust your door down, smash your PC, gouge your eyes out, break all your fingers, burn down your book shelf, and shoot your paper boy.
    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      Yes. I don't understand the implicit criticism in the article. *All* reference works are a "quick way to get started." No serious college student would write a research paper that cites an encyclopedia article as a primary source (maybe in ENG 101, but certainly not at anything above that). Encyclopedias, including both Britannica and Wikipedia, are meant to give a broad overview of a topic and suggest some additional sources for further research. IMHO, Wikipedia does a fine job of that (and I used to be in
  • reverse plagiarism (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fph il quozientatore (971015) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @08:27AM (#31506978) Homepage
    What if I write an essay for my class, and then include parts of it into Wikipedia? Will the automated cheating detectors mark me as a cheater? Sounds unfair.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by s1lverl0rd (1382241)

      Wikipedia keeps history. You can use that history to prove the edit was made after the essay was written.

      Plus, if you include parts, you'd probably list the essay as a source.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by getuid() (1305889)

        Good luck with getting your own essay recognized by the wikipedia admins as a "credible source" for a wikipedia article you're writing...

        • by hrvatska (790627)

          Good luck with getting your own essay recognized by the wikipedia admins as a "credible source" for a wikipedia article you're writing...

          Why would the essay need to be cited in the Wikipedia article? If the original essay cited sources those same citations could be included in the Wikipedia article.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by tixxit (1107127)
          I doubt you'd be using your essay as a source. Rather, you'd realize you wrote a pretty good summary of some subject in your intro with proper sources. You copy/paste this to Wikipedia, along with your sources.
    • I’d wait until after the essay was graded, just to be on the safe side.

    • If you are worried about that, then state upfront that you have added to the Wikipedia entry, providing a hardcopy (or at least a screenshot) of the history page. Most instructors will accept that, some might check the history page themselves to make sure you really did make a contribution that wasn't merely cosmetic, and a few might still mark you for plagiarism simply because there are bullies amongst teachers as well.

      Long story short, if you're worried about that, then hold off on editing the Wiki entry

    • by dbolger (161340)

      When I was a student, we had to sign away the rights to anything we wrote to the college, so I'd imagine you'd have to get permission from the college to submit it to Wikipedia in the first place.

    • Well, that would mean that you add a [citation needed] in there, or do it yourself, and cite your own work.
      And then you can cite your old work in your new work. ;)

      Of course, citing Wikipedia is illegal on any self-respecting university anyway.

    • What if I write an essay for my class, and then include parts of it into Wikipedia? Will the automated cheating detectors mark me as a cheater? Sounds unfair.

      It would be unfair... On the other hand, if you altered wikipedia to agree with what you wrote in your own paper, you might also be doing something unfair. If your additions legitimately improve the quality of the article, that's one thing. But I can also see a student updating wikipedia, and then pointing to it and saying "Oh look, wikipedia confirms what I'm saying in my paper."

    • What if I write an essay for my class, and then include parts of it into Wikipedia?

      A close friend of mine who is a professor in the humanities actually gave his students an assignment a couple years back to contribute new articles on significant works in the field that hadn't yet been covered in Wikipedia (or were just stubs). He checked them for accuracy once they were submitted. Everybody wins.

  • credibility (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mugurel (1424497)
    In part the credibility of information maybe an external factor, determined by its origin and the media through which it is transmitted. But I think that part of the credibility is due to the information itself. By reading a wikipedia article, you typically get quite a good impression of its credibility, by the stylistic quality of the text, it's structure, presence/absence of references, and most importantly, the quality of the argumentation.
    • In part the credibility of information maybe an external factor, determined by its origin and the media through which it is transmitted.

      Translated: I saw it on the intertubes, so it must be true.

      Its 'credibility' is also no doubt helped by it's high rank in searches. (In Google's case particularly, you'd have a hard time designing a site better suited to spamming the search engine results.)

      But I think that part of the credibility is due to the information itself. By reading a wikipedia ar

  • Euler Angles (Score:5, Insightful)

    by professionalfurryele (877225) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @08:28AM (#31506998)

    I know that if I go to wikipedia, type "Euler Angles" in the search box and hit enter, then all the information I need to get me started solving whatever problem I'm working on in rigid body dynamics is right there.

    If the page was wrong, I'd recognise it. I know what Euler Angles are and can recognise the z-x-z convention. If it has been weeks or months since I last used them however, I go and I look them up. It's faster than a textbook or trip to the library and more likely to pay off than a google search.

    Likewise if I need a quick overview of a subject, I fire up wikipedia. It's the equivalent of asking your mate 'Dave' who did a bit of work in the topic a while back about something. Sure you might not be able to trust everything he says because his memory is a little cloudy but he knows this really good text on the subject that is authoritative and he knows you are a lay person so he mentions the bare basics that aren't always in the more advanced texts.

    I'm glad we have a study now which suggests this is how students are using this resource. The reason you don't cite wikipedia or use it as a serious reference text is the same reason you don't cite Britannica. It's an encyclopaedia! A really, really, really good encyclopaedia but none-the-less an encyclopaedia. The reason it's popular isn't because it is being misused, it's because unlike most encyclopaedia it actually contains a decent amount of useful information on a broad range of topics. The only reason we haven't had this 'problem' in the past is that until wikipedia encyclopaedia were, due to technical limitations, pretty crappy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by radtea (464814)

      I'm glad we have a study now which suggests this is how students are using this resource.

      So am I, but I'm also waiting for studies that show college students eat, sleep, and worry about money and love just like the rest of us.

      The premise of the article is sad: that out default assumption should be that anyone who deviates from white-bread middle-aged middle-American in any respect should be treated as if they were irresponsible, dishonest, or stupid.

      I live in a university town, my company has offices on campus, I'm a technical mentor on a program where most of the other mentors are university

  • Credibility (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bromskloss (750445) <auxiliary,address,for,privacy&gmail,com> on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @08:28AM (#31507000)

    it has some, but not deep, credibility

    Then again, what sources do?

    • Re:Credibility (Score:5, Informative)

      by FroBugg (24957) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @08:49AM (#31507148) Homepage

      Established, peer-reviewed journals?

    • This is an argument that I frequently make when people say that using wikipedia is bad because anyone can edit it, so it could easily be incorrect.

      I returned to college a few years back after many years working in the real world as high level support and a software developer. One of the most entertaining things for me is to go through my college textbooks on technical subjects and see how many incorrect statements I can find. I've got a college textbook sitting around here somewhere that claims JavaScript
    • it has some, but not deep, credibility

      Then again, what sources do?

      Established journals (peer reviewed or not as appropriate to the field) and/or news sources relative to the field. Acknowledged experts within the field. Acknowledged texts relative to the field.
       
      If Wikipedia has any credibility at all, it's because it has cribbed from these sources (among many others).

      • by winwar (114053)

        "Established journals (peer reviewed or not as appropriate to the field) and/or news sources relative to the field. Acknowledged experts within the field. Acknowledged texts relative to the field."

        And how do you know that these things have credibility on a specific subject covered by a paper? Sure they may have credibility in the aggregate but that is rarely what we are interested in. And how does someone with little to no knowledge of the field tell the difference?

        "If Wikipedia has any credibility at all

    • Primary sources.
  • when screenwriters use it

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Treasure:_Book_of_Secrets [wikipedia.org]

    or bookwriters

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lost_Symbol [wikipedia.org]

    i can live with some students with shallow term papers. but aren't some books and movies, like the ones linked to above, nothing more than the condensation from a late night session of following wikipedia links? worse than bookwriting/ screenwriting by committee of frat boys

  • The China Problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BlueBoxSW.com (745855) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @09:25AM (#31507458) Homepage

    My issue as of late with Wikipedia is the infiltration of Chinese history into the pages.

    Most major inventions are credited to first being invented by the Chinese, regardless how little evidence there is, or whether the invention was anything more than a dream, drawing, or element in a painting.

    Moveable type? Invented by the Chinese.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moveable_type [wikipedia.org]

    The automobile? Invented for a Chinese emperor.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automobile [wikipedia.org]

    The Roman Abacus? "May have been inspired by" the Chinese.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abacus [wikipedia.org]

    In fact there's a whole list of claims of Chinese "inventions" on Wikipedia that I kind of find dubious, since most of the reference don't exist or suggest otherwise.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_inventions [wikipedia.org]

    If our students are using Wikipedia as a basis for papers, they are likely just repeating subtle propaganda without knowing it.

    Try looking up the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Did you mean the "Tiananmen Square protests of 1989"?

    • by H0p313ss (811249)

      On one hand the "West" has a long history of overlooking the contributions of China (and India, and Japan...) to science and culture.

      On the other hand the current Chinese administration has absolutely credibility and anyone who is paying attention has seen the results of their attempts to rewrite recent history.

      Meanwhile the "Western" governments bend over backwards to avoid offending the worlds fastest growing economy and we go on buying everything they throw at us.

      What will the historians be saying one hu

    • Re:The China Problem (Score:4, Interesting)

      by digitalhermit (113459) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @10:30AM (#31508264) Homepage

      Exactly.. It's not specific to Chinese though, as just about every culture makes claim to great inventions. In the US, many believe Henry Ford invented the automobile. Many believe Edison invented the light bulb. Entire cultures believe that reading Hamlet in the original Klingon is the only way to appreciate the nuances of revenge. The thing is that you can qualify the inventions as much as you want. There are incremental changes, early failed prototypes; we stand on the shoulders of giants, after all. Maybe Ford was the first to mass produce automobiles or Edison was the first to make a bulb that lasted, but to claim that they were the original inventors is wrong.

      Movable type though? Probably Chinese. Fermented beverages? Probably not. Well, at least they probably weren't the only "inventors". Use of salt? Hmmm. Probably some over-zealous folks elsewhere tweaking articles to match the history they learned in school. Or a government tweaking folks to match their world view. Either way, history is mutable.

    • Re:The China Problem (Score:5, Interesting)

      by furbyhater (969847) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @10:46AM (#31508502)
      Movable type: Definitely first invented by the Chinese, see sources.

      Automobile: A (western) jesuit designed a steam-powered vessel for the emperor, nobody knows if it has ever been built (clearly stated in the article).

      Abacus: What should I say? Seems like the Chinses were first.

      Do you have a problem admitting that the Chinese made some inventions before the west?
      Let's just give credit where credit is due.
      Just because your history class told you otherwise because it ignored inventions made by other civilisations than the "west" doesn't mean that the wiki articles aren't true.
      You call it "infiltration of Chinsese history", I call it "accurate and complete information".
    • by russotto (537200)

      Most major inventions are credited to first being invented by the Chinese, regardless how little evidence there is, or whether the invention was anything more than a dream, drawing, or element in a painting.

      You mean someone's auto-replaced "Russian" with "Chinese"? Those bastards!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I'm a little shocked. Just going through, lots of claims, little evidence. Some of them don't cite a claim, and the article doesn't say its not completed, or that it needs citation for that part.

    • by Eevee (535658)

      Moveable type? Invented by the Chinese.

      Because it was. You have a source for movable type earlier than the 11th century, step right up.

      The automobile? Invented for a Chinese emperor.

      By a Belgian. You know, by somebody who isn't Chinese. In fact, if the Chinese were to use Ferdinand Verbiest as propaganda, they would be going the wrong way because he showed the Chinese that western astronomy was superior to Chinese astronomy.

      The Roman Abacus? "May have been inspired by" the Chinese.

      The wikipedia article o

    • It's the same problem that appears in pretty much any article on China from a western newspaper. Like clockwork, a significant chunk of the comments will be from Chinese who claim that the article, and therefore the newspaper, is biased against China, that whichever country in which the newspaper is published in never gets criticized even though it committed far worse sins, and that China in general is much better and that no one who is not Chinese cannot fully understand China and the Chinese.

      I fully expec

  • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @10:26AM (#31508178) Homepage

    I consider Wikipedia to be just as credible as a face-to-face interview with an expert in a given field. Given how articles are (generally) written by citing field experts, this makes sense.

    The basic information will be entirely correct, but the most arcane details should be verified elsewhere. Furthermore, it will now and then include some crazy detail that nobody else agrees with, which should be passed off as fringe theories. It is credible, but not infallible.

    I'm sorry if this comes as an insult to experts who think they are infallible.

    • by rwv (1636355)

      I'm sorry if this comes as an insult to experts who think they are infallible.

      It comes off as a statement that the term "expert" is often misapplied. True experts will tell you went they aren't sure about something or when they are sharing their own biased opinions that aren't specifically backed up by research.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Timmy Long
    Professor Martha Taco
    English 201

    Mark Twain

    Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910),[3] well-known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. Twain is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), which has been called "the Great American Novel",[4] and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). He is extensively quoted.[5][6] Twain was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty.

    From 1901, soon after
  • I hate the faux-intellectual discussions and critiques of Wikipedia. This morning I wanted to figure out which Rolling Stones singles would have been better song choices on American Idol last night so I fired up Wikipedia. There's more information there (and easier to find) than on The Rolling Stones' own web site.

    Wikipedia is used for non-academic endeavors as well as being a decent starting point for finding primary sources.

    Kids (high school or college) who plagiarize anything from the web by copying and

  • I find Wikipedia to actually be a useful source of information when doing research. Its essentially a summary of anything useful to you. If you go to Wikipedia and find 'factual information' that is useful to your research then follow it up with the cited source. If the source proves to be reliable then cite that on your own work and not the Wikipedia article you located it on.

    Wikipedia is my modern librarian. I go there looking for a summary of resources that I can use for my paper then look them up onl

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