When discussing how to teach crap detection, of course Wikipedia always arises. There are those that absolutely, under no circumstances, allow their students to use Wikipedia. However, if students are made to research a topic on which they are not experts, isn’t a starting point going to have to be established? Can’t Wikipedia serve as a great place for students to educate themselves before venturing off into the unknown world of scholarly research? After all, how bad is Wikipedia?
An experiment had to be done. Heather and I opened up our handy print Encyclopedia Americana and found that “exorcism” needed a little love; it was pretty scarce with information. Additionally, it only discussed exorcism through a Christian religious lens. Wikipedia needed to be referenced.
When viewing Wikipedia, a much more detailed entry was found. It included history, several different religious ties to exorcism, a scientific view, notable exorcisms, etc. Even Britannica could not quite compare, although it was much more thorough than its print brother. How can this be? Even thought Wikipedia can be (and is) edited by anyone online, it is a source that should be looked upon as a great source of information and perfect starting point for students researching some topic which they know little to nothing about. Then scholarly research can build on that foundation of knowledge.
The fact of the matter is that there are too many people deleting incorrect information, but not just incorrect information; information is even removed if it is not proven with a scholarly source, as we saw with the exorcism entry. Wikipedia is starting to be able to keep up with the big boys on the research playground.