Opinions of Reliability In a January 2011 Time article, reporter Josh Sanburn reported on this study. The prestigious encyclopedia seemed to win the trophy of accuracy just by a margin. “The journal found eight serious errors in the articles,” Sanburn wrote. “Four from each side. However, they also discovered many more minor factual errors, like omissions and misleading statements – 162 in Wikipedia and 123 in Britannica.”However, Purdue professors are reluctant to allow their students to use this website as a source. Sorin Matei, a communication professor studying the collaboration aspects of Wikipedia, said the biggest problem is the disparity in level of truth to each article.“It’s really hard to tell if that article is completely or 80 or 90 percent true,” Matei said. “If I don’t know how credible that article is, I cannot really give you the credit you deserve.”However, Matei said if you think of Wikipedia as a search engine as he does, it is a much smarter search engine than something like Google because it has human rather than computerized minds operating the system.“Wikipedia is using the trained and untrained minds of people like you and I and we are much smarter than a computer,” Matei said. “The difference between Google and Wikipedia is that Google presents it in an unrefined manner.”Nancy Peleaz, a biology professor, said although she does use Wikipedia in her classroom with her students, she does not find it to be a reliable source.“In my discipline at least, the people who have the knowledge are not writing for Wikipedia,” Peleaz said. “It’s written by people who are not experts.”Information ProcessOne of the most questionable aspects of the site is the process by which the ever-changing content is presented.Anyone can change any content on the page at any time to correct the information, within three clicks, according to Matei. However, there is an editing process – a very unusual editing process at that.“The editing process is of me editing you, and a third person editing the both of us, and us getting upset at what the editor did and editing the editor. It’s a bit like a circular execution squad,” Matei said. “There are a bunch of people who have bigger guns and they’re very concealed and they end up taking out the other people … because they can sit in front of the computer the longest and win the argument.”However, for additions, subtractions and other alterations, Wikipedia asks for outside, citable, easily accessible sources according to Matei. These sources cannot be from personal experience but need to be from scholarly articles. These are the sources users find at the bottom of the page.In the classroomElizabeth Angeli, Purdue Online Writing Lab’s coordinator and communication professor, said some professors have called the site “evil” because of its propensity for being copy and pasted directly into papers.“Professors are like, ‘It’s just a paper-generating machine!’ and students are like, ‘No, it’s a really good place to start researching!’” Angeli said.However, Angeli thinks there is a place for Wikipedia depending on the context of the professor and what is being searched, such as the difference between popular culture topics and arguments on rhetoric. Although Angeli said she has heard of professors allowing Wikipedia to be a source, she recommended, as many professors do, to use the site as just a starting point.Other professors, such as Peleaz, integrate it into the coursework. Students are expected to update the class wiki page. A wiki page is a read and write page, meaning students can update without needing to cite sources.“We have biological wikis, which we use for students in an evolution class,” Peleaz said. “What we know about biological evolution is changing because new information is coming out all the time and they use the biological wiki to point each other toward useful, relevant information on things learned in class.”Student UsageUnlike their professors, some students have a lot more trust in the information they find on Wikipedia. Benjamin Ulrich, a senior in the College of Science, said he has homework readings assigned from Wikipedia, which has increased his faith in the site.“Actually, the professor of that course is the dean of the department of biological science,” Ulrich said. “If he lets us use it, it gives some credibility to it.”Ulrich said he is trusting of the site because of its editing processes and he thinks more professors should see the site as a reliable source.“I feel like Wikipedia has everything. Everyone contributes to it but there’s a lot of people who edit and make sure it’s sound info,” Ulrich said. “I think they should go look at it for themselves and, you know, have their own opinion, but I think it’s getting better over time.”Krystina Coakley, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts, said she’s a bit more skeptical of the site.“Sometimes (I trust it), like half the time, depending on what it is,” Coakley said. “If it’s about books and stuff yes, if it’s about people, maybe not.”For further coverage, go to purdueexponent.org to see a video of other students’ reactions.