Monday, June 29, 2009

and the Librarian Clue by Four of the Day Award goes to:

Chris Anderson, author of Free and The Long Tail and editor in chief of Wired.

Plagiarism? Lame.
Plagiarizing from Wikipedia, which openly grants re-use of its content as long as you follow straightforward Creative Commons licensing rules? Lamer.
Using this as your defense: "All those are my screwups after we decided not to run notes as planned, due to my inability to find a good citation format for web sources..."

That's beyond lame and into actively stupid. There does not EXIST a recognized citation format that DOESN'T address web sources; if the Modern Language Association has taken to assuming online as the default (which it has) then there really is no excuse.

(Okay, "good" is subjective. But good god, man. The citation formats for web sources are no more egregious than those for print. If you can do one, you can do the other.)

(On the upside, this'll make a great object lesson in library instruction sessions for freshman writing seminars.)


Glomarization said...

I followed a couple of bouncing links and was amused to find that Wikipedia will give you a Bluebook style for citing a Wikipedia entry. If I'd tried to cite to a Wikipedia entry in any paper I'd written in law school, I'd probably have been docked an entire grade.

Maybe I'm a snob, and maybe law scholarship is a different creature than other areas of scholarship, but I think it's a lazy, sloppy researcher who goes to Wikipedia and stops there. I mean, I use it all the time to get a general understanding of something. But if I intend to reference something to explain or provide attribution for a fact or thought, I go to an original source.

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia -- hence its name. It wasn't acceptable to cite only to encyclopedia articles when you wrote papers in high school, and it's not acceptable to cite only to Wikipedia now.

datamuse said...

I agree entirely, in an academic context at least. My answer when students and faculty alike ask about Wikipedia is similar to what you're saying here; if they aren't allowed to stop with or cite an encyclopedia from the reference collection, they shouldn't do so with Wikipedia either.

I'm moved to wonder if anyone's ever done a comparative study of reference lists between Wikipedia and other encyclopedias. Wikipedia famously suffers in terms of accuracy (though not as much as one might expect), but IME its reference lists are often better and much more extensive.

Which gives those who'd stop at citing Wikipedia (or not!) even less excuse, really.