; Assignment 2 A Better Wikipedia
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Assignment 2 A Better Wikipedia


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									                       Assignment 2: A Better Wikipedia
                     spring 2008 | english 250 | mr. (matt) morain

Introduction and Rationale
With more than 75,000 active contributors working on some 8.7 million
articles in over 250 languages, Wikipedia’s influence on today’s base of
human knowledge cannot be ignored. Wikipedia the free, multilingual online
encyclopedia that anyone can edit at any time—has issued several disclaimers
about the proper use of its articles as reference works for academic
research. Despite this, thousands of students rely on Wikipedia every day to
inform them on their assignments and personal pursuits.

I could simply tell you to “never use Wikipedia when researching a topic,”
but that would be ignorant and fruitless on my part. Wikipedia does have an
amazing collection of human knowledge, all of it generated and edited by
volunteers. It is a true digital landmark of the Internet Age, and as a
starting point for research it can be most helpful. Still, in spite of its
impressive article count, many of Wikipedia’s articles are incomplete,
misleading, or just plain inaccurate.

You’re going to make them better.

Rhetorical Situation
Audience: Your primary audience will be the hundreds of thousands of users
who visit Wikipedia every day. These people are beyond the walls of our
classroom; your improvements will affect very real people in a very real way.

Context: You will be writing and researching in a digital learning
environment, occupied by numerous other online researchers. Many, some, or
none of them may contact you or give you feedback on your edits. Do not stew
over any criticisms you don’t agree with; Wikipedians are used to providing
lots of feedback during the continuous editing process, and there’s no
guarantee that all of it will be positive. Look at it as practice for the
workplace, where you’ll receive (and give) honest reactions to your work all
the time. This assignment will also provide foundational work for the
document research essay later in the semester.

Purpose: Your purpose in this assignment is to strengthen the verifiability
and reliability of an article found on Wikipedia by enhancing it with
scholarly sources from established peer-reviewed resources.

Goals and Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this assignment, you will:
    Understand the nature of conducting collaborative research in a digital
    Enhance your digital information literacy skills
    Gain experience in using wiki markup, a new simplified computer
      language of the 21st century

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      Learn more about what the scholarship says on a topic of your choosing
      Contribute, in a meaningful way, to the growing body of digital
       information available online
      Become a Wikipedian and (hopefully) continue to improve the largest
       single collection of human knowledge ever created

Assignment Components
      Initial article analysis (3 paragraphs)
      Relevant annotated bibliography on article topic (4-5 sources, 1
       paragraph summary for each)
      Reflection (3 pages)
Here’s how this process will work:

   1. Create a Wikipedia account. This is simple and takes less than a minute
      to do.
      NOTE: Do not choose your real name or university login ID as your
   2. Log in with your new username and password.
   3. Find an article of interest to you that falls into one of the following
         a. Articles lacking reliable references
         b. Articles needing additional references
         c. Articles lacking sources
      TIP: I would strongly recommend you read the “Discussion” page of each
      article you consider improving. You may gain valuable insight into why
      it was marked for improvement in the first place.
   4. E-mail me a three-paragraph summary of the article you plan to improve.
      Include the following:
          title and URL of your article
          why you chose this article over the more than 5 million-plus
             articles found on English Wikipedia
          how you plan to locate verifiable, third-party sources to improve
             the accuracy of this article
      NOTE: I will either approve your selection or ask you to find a new
      article. Upon receiving my approval, proceed to the next steps.
   5. Research sources to verify the information presented in the article.
      Use the University Library’s website to:
         a. search for credible, peer-reviewed sources on your article’s
             topic, ones that:
                i. support the validity of the information in your article, OR
               ii. challenge and refute the validity of the information in
                   your article (if you find substantial contradictory
   6. Compose an annotated bibliography on 4-5 sources you found in your
      Library search. For each source, write a paragraph that explains:
          what the article or essay is about

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            what makes this article or essay a scholarly, trustworthy
          which section of your Wikipedia article you will support or
            refute with it
      NOTE: All bibliographic entries should conform to proper MLA or APA
citation format.
   7. Add these sources to the appropriate passage of your chosen article.
      Insert as both in-text citations and footnotes, then include the
      appropriate sources in the “References” section. Notify me when you
      have edited your article and I will log in to see the results of your
      handiwork. section
   8. Write a 3-page reflective essay on using—and improving—Wikipedia as a
      research tool. Focus your reflection as you see fit, but think about
      the following as you compose your essay:
         a. What do you think about Wikipedia as a resource for academic
            writing? What is its best use for research? Should there be a
            class policy that covers Wikipedia?
         b. Your work is on display in the public forum, easily accessible to
            anyone with an Internet connection. How do you feel about working
            in a “real-world” environment? How did you approach this
            assignment differently from research assignments in the past
            because of that context?
         c. What kinds of issues did you run into as you researched your
            sources, or as you tried to add them to your article? How did you
            get around them?
         d. What makes a “good” Wikipedian? Did you meet the criteria? Will
            you continue to edit articles after this assignment is over? Why
            or why not?
Before You Start Editing
Check the “Relevant Wikipedia Links” page on the class website for useful
articles about how to navigate, use, and edit Wikipedia.

An Important Reminder
I am not condoning the use of Wikipedia as an academic resource for any
research project you author in this or any class; it is, after all, an
encyclopedia designed for general use. Wikimedia, the organization behind
Wikipedia, has authored multiple articles in Wikipedia, urging its users to
review what Wikipedia is good for (a starting point for research topics) and
what it isn’t good for (scholarly research).

From the encyclopedia itself: “Students should never use information in
Wikipedia for formal purposes (such as school essays) until they have
verified and evaluated the information based on external sources. For this
reason, Wikipedia, like any encyclopedia, is a great starting place for
research but not always a great ending place.”1


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Or, if that’s not enough for you, take to heart this reminder from Jimmy
Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, in an article in The Chronicle of Higher
Education: “For God’s sake, you’re in college; don’t cite the encyclopedia.”2


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