I’ll admit that I find Wikipedia to be a good supplement in my research efforts but like other Millennials my age, I wonder if Wikipedia has made today’s generation a little too lazy in their approach to gathering information. We know that anyone can make changes to Wikipedia articles and as a result some of the site’s content may or may not be legitimate. So how do we strike a balance between online research and traditional methods of fact gathering?
I would suggest that we rediscover the libraries and bookstores again. When I was in elementary school I visited the library to find books on topics I had to write about in class and by high school I was reading reference manuals since I had to format my essays and research papers a certain way. The libraries carry books by legitimate and legendary authors who spent decades in their fields of expertise. You don’t always get this wisdom from Wikipedia and other online resources. The same is true of independent bookstores.
At the same time, let us not dismiss Wikipedia and online resources. Most universities’ libraries and academic departments have websites that feature well-known nonfiction books, encyclopedias and vintage magazines. In addition to this, scholars often post their works online so the Internet can be beneficial for legitimate research.
Another disadvantage of Wikipedia as a main research tool is that you might start to build an argument or decide on your topic based on what you find on the site instead of starting off with Wikipedia then tapping into your own interests, expertise and creativity to decide what to do research on.
When we depend largely on Wikipedia and other online resources for research, we train our brains to read through large amounts of information quickly and we don’t learn the art of engaging the texts we read and asking ourselves questions about those texts. This is why reading complex and deep books are important in doing research because critical thinking skills are important in this kind of work.
In conclusion, we should utilize both the Internet and regular print sources for research. However, the most focus should be on traditional resources since they carry more weight and credibility than Wikipedia.