Friday, January 23, 2009

The History Department on Wikipedia

I found this gem in the Department of History Essay Presentation Guide

“A Note on Internet Sources”

“The Department of History recommends that you treat internet sources cautiously, as often the material available on the internet cannot be verified as proper scholarly material. With online sources, as for printed sources, you need to verify how the information has been made available. For example, scholarly journal articles are ‘peer-reviewed’, i.e. rigorously vetted by other experts. (Hint: most scholarly journals mention this peer review process on the first page/s or inside front cover of each volume.) An article in the Journal of American History is a scholarly source for that reason; and whether you encounter it in hard copy in the library, or online via J-STOR makes no difference to its scholarly status.”

“The online encyclopaedia Wikipedia is quite another matter. Anyone can contribute to it, and the content is not reviewed by experts. Thus, a Wikipedia entry is not a scholarly source (and thus not an acceptable source for a university essay) because it has not been subjected to rigorous expert assessment before being made available online.”

“Scholarly (and thus acceptable) internet sources include primary source material that has been placed on the web by a recognised academic, government or other institution (such as the Internet Modern History Source Book, which is hosted by Fordham University in the USA) as well as scholarly on-line journals, databases of academic journal articles (e.g. J-STOR), online collections of primary sources (e.g. ECCO) and, of course, internet sources recommended by your unit of study co-ordinator.”

If Foucault and the other post-modernists have taught us anything it is the relative nature of such things as “scholarly sources” and “experts”. We ought to be aware that claims of expertise may be politically or fashion related, privileging some trendy view point or defending some old establishment. Who has had the experience of being “rigorously vetted by other experts” pushing their own values and trying to get you to write the articles they want to write?

Perhaps the History Department of the University of Sydney should apply the analytical frameworks it teaches to its students to itself.

No comments:

Post a Comment