Wikis are not academic sources

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By Anny Chih, 24 hours Vancouver




As search engines improve and access to education grows, a debate has formed surrounding the definition of expertise. The sides can divide the Tom Nichols from the Edward Snowdens of the world, or EBSCOhost academics from Quora answer-seekers —but the gap is made smaller when people recognize that searches on sites like and generate different results.

Tom Nichols, Professor of national security affairs at the US Naval War College and adjunct at Harvard Extension School, is waging his own war against the “death of expertise” online where every opinion in the general public holds the same weight regardless of academic or professional background. In contrast, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is best known for supporting the wide release of previously private information so that every member of the public can form their personal opinions given all the facts.

Politics aside, neither person disagrees that it would take an impractical amount of time for everyone to read through all available information to form complete opinions. They simply disagree on how and to whom information is distributed.

EBSCOhost and Quora are examples of information resources that both distribute unclassified information on a wide scale but cater to different audiences. While academics are well versed in research search engines like EBSCOhost that provide results of studies performed in accordance with academic measures, sites like Quora are open wikis that allow anyone to contribute information and are popular among all types of information seekers. Research articles found on EBSCOhost provide supporting facts and or references to their statements while contributors to Quora are not held to the same standard.

Since it is nearly impossible to digest all available information about a topic, and open wikis by their very nature do not discriminate between contributors or their sources, post-secondary professors must scrutinize references in academic papers and reject wiki references to save time fact-checking each source. Wikis are not acceptable sources for most academic submissions because while it may be impossible to absorb all available information on a topic, it is a student’s responsibility to look into at least one aspect of their research on their own. After all, the difference between typing and is only one word.

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