Wikipedia used as authoritative source

Steve Rubel's Micropersuasion cites a recent Pew report suggesting high Wikipedia usage.

I have been appreciating Steve Rubel's micropersuasive information for providing updates on technology and many useful tools. Now, Micropersuasion brings to our attention that:

According to a new report from the Pew Center for the American Life Project, some one-third of online Americans (36% to be exact) regularly consult Wikipedia. This reflects 8% of the broader population.

Drilling down further, Wikipedia is more popular among the well-educated. Some 50% of those with at least a college degree consult the site, compared with 22% of those with a high school diploma. Pew also looked at demographics: 44% of Americans ages 18-29 use Wikipedia to look for information, while just 29% of users age 50 and up.

Teaching in the Caribbean this year, I was astonished to see how many students cited Wikipedia in their senior papers.

Maybe it's a generational thing, but in my day an Internet cite was considered unreliable. Now a citation might be considered incomplete without the corresponding Web address. Those who teach legal research and writing can get very nit-picky about citation format, the hobnob of law review editors too. My philosophy is, cite it so you can find it, and the citation ought to look academicaly respectable as well. A black bowtie is unnecessary, but the torn t-shirt is not acceptable either. The point is that most students seem to take Wikipedia as the Source and not look further to the sources on which Wikipedia relies (or beyond that, to the sources those collectors of scraps of Internet information may have used -- yes, even information on hard paper, as in books and articles, and certainly the law - statutes and cases - analyzed in those manuscripts).

So I am not suprised by high Wikipedia usage. It is a handy tool and often pops up first even in more esoteric searches. At the same time, it is a useful skill to know how to critically evaluate sources. Being a fundamentalist wiki-pedite perhaps means simply trusting another presumptive authority all too easily.

Maybe we should compare this Pew report to the one on religion.
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Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen offers general corporate legal services, litigation consultation, and expertise in health law with a unique focus on alternative, complementary, and integrative medical therapies. The firm represents medical doctors, allied health professionals (from psychologists to nurses and dentists) and other clinicians (from chiropractors to acupuncturists), solo entrepreneurs, hospitals, and educational and health care institutions.

Michael H. Cohen is Principal in Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen and also President of the Institute for Integrative and Energy Medicine (also known as the Institute for Health, Ethics, Law, Policy & Society), a forum for exploring legal, regulatory, ethical, and health policy issues involved in the judicious integration of complementary and alternative medical therapies (such as acupuncture and traditional oriental medicine, chiropractic, massage therapy, and herbal medicine) and conventional clinical care. The most recent published book by Michael H. Cohen on health care law, regulation, ethics and policy pertaining to complementary, alternative and integrative medicine and related fields is Healing at the Borderland of Medicine and Religion, which follows Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Legal Boundaries and Regulatory Perspectives (1998), Beyond Complementary Medicine: Legal and Ethical Perspectives on Health Care and Human Evolution (2000), and Future Medicine: Ethical Dilemmas, Regulatory Challenges, and Therapeutic Pathways to Health Care and Healing in Human Transformation (2003).

Health care and corporate lawyer Michael H. Cohen is licensed has been admitted to the Bar of California, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington D.C., and to the Bar of England and Wales as a Solicitor (non-practicing).
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