Saturday, April 01, 2006

Wikipedia, the study aid

In six days I’ll be defending my Ph.D. proposal. In our department, it’s called a Candidacy Exam, and it requires me to not only show that I am fully knowledgeable in my research area but also very knowledgeable in every area of computer science. The committee gets to ask me any question they want and expects a well-informed response.

In preparation for the exam, I have come to realize just how invaluable Wikipedia is for a study tool. I’ve also become somewhat addicted to updating resources in my field of study. I recently updated entries on digital libraries, OAI-PMH, and digital preservation. I also found a comprehensive section on the Churches of Christ; I’m a member of this church and learned some things I never even knew about it!

A recent study published in Nature showed that the accuracy of information found in Wikipedia is nearly equal to information found in Britannica. Britannica responded to the findings with many criticisms, pointing out that many articles in Wikipedia are poorly written and give too much attention to controversial scientific theories. I have personally found many Wikipedia articles to be very readable and somewhat complete, at least in the areas of computer science. Considering the accuracy level is not too far off from Britannica, I consider it invaluable for any student needing a crash course in the field.