Wikipedia is informative. It is easy to find on the Internet and it is easy to understand. It can be quite helpful when readers need to gain a basic understanding of a concept or idea. However, it is not credible and not intended for use in midterm and research papers.
The reason college professors assign research papers is to make sure students understand how to compile information for research, how to choose which articles to use, how to develop a thesis, how did incorporate main ideas, and how to correctly cite the information they choose to use. One of the most important aspects of writing a research paper is making sure the information gathered for the paper is accurate, factual, and that it comes from a reputable source. Because Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia with information compiled by different groups of people, it may not be considered accurate or factual. Some of the information comes from volunteers and it would be hard to determine the validity of their information.
However, the main reason I believe Wikipedia is not an appropriate source for research papers is because the owner and founder also agrees. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education (2010), Jimmy Wales (the sites founder) wants to get the message to college students that they shouldn’t use this site for class projects or serious research. Mr. Wales goes on to say that leaders of Wikipedia have considered implementing a fact sheet that professors could go over with their classes in order to explain why Wikipedia is not a definitive source (http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/wikipedia-founder). If the founder is refraining students from using it as information, shouldn’t we?
Don’t get me wrong, Wikipedia is a valued source of information. If you needed a quick definition of a term or event, it would be wise for you too check Wikipedia. If you needed a quick explanation of a procedue or policy, again, it would be wise to get that information from Wikipedia. However, if you are writing a research paper for a class or for publication, you should refrain from using Wikipedia and try to obtain your information from books, journal articles, and other reputable sources. College students need to understand the process of using books, magazines, newspapers, journal articles, etc. to write research papers. It is the process that professors usually grade on and the better the research, the better the paper.