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PSY 2012 (Ciesko) - General Psychology Honors Class: The Pros & Cons of Wikipedia

A research guide for students' of Professor Ciesko's General Psychology Honors course

What's GOOD about Wikipedia?

What's good about Wikipedia is that much of the time, the information is quite good.  It is well-suited for gathering background information on an unfamiliar topic and learning about key elements and stakeholders.

What's BAD about Wikipedia

Well -- let's talk about what's bad for COLLEGE-LEVEL RESEARCH.

Wikipedia articles just don't look good on your list of Works Cited for a college paper.  In fact, many professors at Valencia will not allow students to use Wikipedia at all. That's because:

(1) You never really know where the information is coming from. Is the author an expert on the subject? How do they know this information, and are they the best person to ask? It's usually impossible to know or verify.

(2) Even if you're certain the information is good today, you can't be sure it will be the same when your professor, or someone else, goes back to look at the article later.

War is over: Imaginary ‘Bicholim Conflict’ page removed from Wikipedia after five years

Stephen Colbert demonstrates the perils and folly of relying on Wikipedia

What's CREDIBLE in Wikipedia?

Wikipedia can be useful for two things: key words and the references.

Key Words

Wikipedia is a great way to get a feel for a topic you know very little about. Type in virtually anything and you get a lengthy article explaining it in usually very uncomplicated terms. Keep a piece of paper nearby and make a list of all the words you find that might make good search terms later. Use them when searching the library databases for more scholarly sources to cite.

Behavioral neuroscience


Wikipedia is not itself a source you should cite, but usually it contains links to some very good web sites! Look near the bottom of a Wikipedia article at the References, Further Reading or External Links sections. You still need to evaluate these for yourself, as you do not know exactly who is recommending them, but often they are a very good starting point for your web search.

Peace And Conflict Studies

Subject Guide

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Erich Heintzelman
Valencia College - East Campus
701 N. Econlockhatchee Trail
Office: Building 4-217
Phone: 407-582-2886
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