WIKI TRAP: Research In Ignorance

Published Date
01 - Jul - 2008
| Last Updated
01 - Jul - 2008
WIKI TRAP: Research In Ignorance

What does the Internet generation do when they need to find something out? Like something for a research project or an examination. Going to the libraries and reading through zillions of pages of voluminous text in black and white—naah that’s for the ancients. For students and other folks in search of knowledge it’s so very simple to find out what they want: Wikipedia. However they would be advised not to jump their guns immediately, because there is some disconcerting news. Wikipedia might make you fail the exams.

Boasting over two million articles, Wikipedia is used by about 6 per cent of internet users, significantly more than the traffic to more authorised sites. However, it isn’t the most reliable one owing to the fact that it allows entries to be logged or updated by anyone and is not verified by researchers, as the main source of information.

The Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC) has rather surprisingly blamed such Web sites for the falling passing rates in the state. (We believe those students need to get back to the ‘Paathshala way’). Students rely on Web sites and other Internet resources that may contain inaccurate or deliberately misleading information and there is no second thought (was there ever a first thought in place?) before implementing copy-paste and proposing it as their own work.

Eleanor Coner, the SPTC’s information officer, acknowledges that Internet plagiarism is a problem. Pupils seem to believe that they won’t be caught. However the Scottish Qualifications Authority has robust ways of checking for plagiarism and parents are worried their children will fail their exams.

Amassing information online is no-brain task now, but what is more important is to develop the skill of challenging what was presented as ‘fact’. It is a skill that has to be learnt, and which many internet users won’t have. Next time you thing of using Google or Wikipedia or for that matter any online resource, think of the authenticity before relying. Or better go back to libraries and surf the pages!

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