Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Wikipedia: A Class Tool

Students in Study of the Arab World or Theorizing Culture and Politics this semester will go where few professors have allowed them to go before.

Since the rise of the online, community-based encyclopedia Wikipedia, professors have warned against using the sometimes unreliable website as a source for academic research. But Professor Rochelle Davis, assistant professor of Arab Culture and Society at Georgetown, have integrated the Wiki-phenomenon into the curricula of both these classes.

Davis is one of nine public policy professors from prominent universities who have partnered with the Wikimedia Foundation to incorporate the user-generated encyclopedia into their curriculum. Beginning this semester, Davis plans to have students write and edit Wikipedia entries as an opportunity for them to share their expertise with the online community.

In an interview with THE HOYA, Davis described Wikipedia as a social phenomenon, saying that, as an anthropologist, the social aspect of the site sold her.

“I’m tired of my grad students saying, `All we ever do is critique and discuss and deconstruct.’ I’m going to make them create something that’s not just a thing for me to read, it’s going to go out into the community,” Davis told Inside Higher Ed, an online publication based in Washington, D.C.

After the initial publication of their entries, Davis’ students will be required to check up on their articles periodically, eventually writing a reflection paper on how their content was received and shaped.

Professor Davis made it clear that the aim of the assignment is to have her students researching and writing for Wikipedia, not simply reading its entries.

“I’m not assigning students to read Wikipedia; some of the interviews seemed to have missed that. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. I wouldn’t assign my students to read it, just like I wouldn’t assign them Britannica, ” she said.

Instead, Davis said that the Wikipedia assignment is meant to give students a chance to write an “academic review” or a fact-based description for the website, which will help them to construct an academic argument in a more formal research paper.

Professors and administrators have traditionally frowned upon the use Wikipedia in the academic world. In 2007, the history department at Middlebury College banned Wikipedia citations in any papers or other academic work. Then-Department Chair Don Wyatt described the opinion of many in academia in an interview with Inside Higher Ed.

“As educators, we are in the business of reducing the dissemination of misinformation. Though Wikipedia may have some value, particularly from the value of leading students to citable sources, it is not itself an appropriate source for citation,” he said. “

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