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Posted at 12:40 PM ET, 11/13/2009

How well do kids do research today? Should they ever look at Wikipedia?

By Valerie Strauss

Readers had some interesting responses to yesterday’s post from high school senior Adam Turay about how unexpectedly difficult it was for him to do a research paper using books rather than the Internet.

Parents: How extensively do your children do research for school papers? Does anyone still own encyclopedias?
Teachers: What sources and how many of them do you require when you assign a research paper? Is Wikipedia acceptable as a source?

Posted by: jane100000
Adam, some would say (and I would agree) that neither conducting an on-line search nor consulting an encyclopedia counts as doing a research paper. Google and wikipedia can give a student a great start in gaining some grasp of the issues s/he is planning to address in a paper, but only reading entire chapters (or entire books) and being able to consult journal articles can get you even close to confidence that you’re not missing the boat.

Posted by: Rob63
It isn’t so much the mode of research (electronic v. paper bound) that matters, but rather the types of sources one uses. Wikipedia isn’t to be avoided because its articles can be changed easily; it is to be avoided because it is by nature a tertiary source. The same is true for the World Book or the Encyclopedia Britannica. In order to do true research, you must, at a minimum, use secondary sources, but preferably primary sources. If all you’re using is an encyclopedia, then you have more problems than just dealing with the horrors of no Google.

By Valerie Strauss  | November 13, 2009; 12:40 PM ET
Tags:  research papers, wikipedia  
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Does anyone ever recall being told put down that encyclopedia, use something else? Study after study has shown Wikipedia as reliable as other encyclopeias, that does not mean it is perfect it just compares favorably to other print resources, meaning they also have errors. Too many people get caught up in the idea of Wikipedia or no but the point of most research work is not to look at one source, so its a start and if you are doing a research project you look at additonal resources like print books, articles and primary resources. The problem is that we are not teaching student to research and write, it is not that they are using Wikipedia.

Posted by: Brooklander | November 13, 2009 8:23 PM | Report abuse

If you look past the research paper itself, it all comes down to fulfilling the coure objectives. I always have some students say they can't accomplish something, or it's hard, but when 30 other students do it, it turns out to be less about the assignment and more about the individual.

Posted by: ericpollock | November 14, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Wikipedia is a huge boon to research papers. I would never recommend a student actually cite it in the final paper, but it gives students a big picture overview of what it is they are researching, then gives citations that can lead students to proper sources that they should be using (most of the time; these still need to be filtered, but no differently than randomly finding books at a college library, which is what I did in high school).

Posted by: someguy100 | November 14, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

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