Wikipedia’s information utility is tied to the five C‘s it delivers – currency, coverage, comprehensibility, convenience, and credibility. Head and Eisenberg (2010) suggested, “Wikipedia’s hyper currency combined with a sheer range of coverage that is brief and easy to understand and access that makes Wikipedia useful and distinct from so many other sources…Wikipedia’s breadth of coverage is something that was unfathomable a short time ago.” 

While Head and Eisenberg found credibility was less of a criterion for Wikipedia usage, as a ‘pointing application’ there are few to rival it. Rather that scouring online and offline libraries, and journal article repositories, a user can conduct a Wikipedia search for a topic which could produce dozens of scholarly articles and professional books and publications which were already mined and used to support the Wikipedia topic. Researchers who use Wikipedia to ‘point’ the way to peer reviewed articles, and other publications can save time and other resources, and achieve more with less.

A researcher need only locate the article referenced by the topic, and analyze it for themselves. Perhaps their analysis will agree with the Wikipedia author, or perhaps they will find a different take-away from the publication. Regardless, the researcher can cite the article as a source and never need mention how they were led to it. From this vantage point, Wikipedia is an attractive source for pointing researchers to information considered by mainstream academicians as validated sources.

Consider for example the term ‘Boomerang.’ A Wikipedia search would reveal 27 supported points of information for consideration (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boomerang) and the researcher can pick and choose which direction they wish to look to gain more knowlege. To be sure, current academic rigor largely shuns using Wikipedia itself as a source. But as a hound dog pointing the way to valuable information, it can be very effective.

Reference

Head, A., & Eisenberg, M. (2010). How today’s college students use Wikipedia for course-related research. First Monday, 15(3). doi:10.5210/fm.v15i3.2830
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Dr. Matthews