Wikipedia in the Writing Classroom

On 28 May, 2021

Students view Wikipedia as a fast, easy place to find research material. Teachers need to be proactive in teaching students how to appropriately use this popular website.

Wikipedia in the Writing Classroom

Teaching Students How to Use the Popular Wiki for Credible Research

Wikipedia has become the website of choice for anyone who wants to find information quickly. And students with a looming research paper deadline obviously want to find easy-to-understand information as quickly as possible. However, the nature of Wikipedia as a site with user-generated content means that the information on Wikipedia pages may not be credible or verifiable.

Although some Wikipedia entries may contain specious information, online teachers and face-to-face instructors do not have to ban students from using the popular site altogether. With some class discussions and targeted activities, teachers can show students how to appropriately use Wikipedia for their research assignments.

Wikipedia for Topic Generation

When assigned a research paper, many students have difficulty coming up with a topic. Wikipedia can be useful for students searching for paper topics. In the classroom (or online), teachers can have students brainstorm a list of possible research subjects. Then, teachers can ask students to input each possible topic into a Wikipedia search.

Even if the information on a topic’s Wikipedia entry is biased or less than factual, by looking at the Wikipedia entry students will gain a sense of how other people have written about the topic and how they feel, and students can use the Wikipedia entry as a basis for information that needs to be supported or refuted by additional research.

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A Source for Additional Research


As students are used to being on the Internet on a daily basis, they are naturally inclined to turn to an Internet keyword search as their first place to find research sources. However, an Internet keyword search on a popular topic is likely to return millions of hits, leaving students to wade through a variety of sources that may or may not be useful. Anyway, students will find sources If they don't wanna beg someone to "write my essay please".

If students input their topic (or other keywords related to their topic) into a Wikipedia search, they may find a well-researched article on the topic. And while teachers will want students to regard the Wikipedia entry itself with some healthy skepticism, a well-researched entry gives students a ready-made list of research sources to explore own their own at the library or online.

While teachers should discourage students from using Wikipedia as a primary research source, some discussion about using it for topic generation and research source generation is a middle ground for teachers who don’t want to ban Wikipedia altogether, but who also don’t want to see research papers with Wikipedia entries listed prominently in the students’ lists of sources. Using Wikipedia as a starting point for my best quality essay is a discussion every teacher should have with students at the same time they discuss plagiarism, appropriate use/citation of sources, and appropriate use of the library and other research venues.

Wikipedia in the Writing Classroom
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