Wikis: Why and Why Not? Can we use Wikis for Academic Research?

AnnReichPresAnn Reich, Kaplan University, Composition Faculty

On May 28, 2013, I gave a presentation entitled “Wikis: Why and Why Not?” at the 2013 Conference of the IJAS, The International Journal of Arts & Sciences  The conference was held at Harvard Medical School, Boston.   I talked about the definition and history of wikis, and some educators’ wariness over wiki use by students.   I looked at changes, current trends, and sample uses for jump-starting undergraduate student research.

This was truly an international conference; many different countries were represented by scholars and educators from all over the world.

In my presentation to the IJAS at Harvard Medical School on May 26, 2013, I presented an argument that we should allow wikis, especiallyWikipedia, to be used for some undergraduate research, at least as starting points for some research.  I acknowledged that while wikis continue to be regarded as “iffy” sites in the academic world, there is some praise out there.    We looked at some quotations from academic journals about the viability of wikis.   Additionally, we looked briefly at the wiki wiki (Hawaiian for “quick”) history of wikis, some good wiki sites for wiki-building, AND screen shots of the worst and most biased and racist wiki currently online, Metawiki.   Additionally, and probably most helpful for teaching use, I showed some helpful shots of Wikipedia samples and guidelines for use in undergraduate research.

 A key point is that Wikipedia entries have long source lists at the bottom of each entry; many of the sources are primary, secondary, and often linked.  Using a wiki source list alone is a time-saving way to begin research on some topics.   For my talk at the IJAS, I used “Vitamin C” as the example of how viable, richer sources can be found using key terms in a Wikipedia.    I also noted that there is full information on legalities that Wikimedia (the umbrella company of Wikipedia) details on its sites.    Some of this information on wikis I reprised in my presentation at the Kaplan University General Education Conference this year.   

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