Academic Research

I am part way through Exporting Democracy by Bob Rae. The early part is a survey of the British, American and French Revolutions, the abolition of slavery, and the expansion of the European economies into Asia and Africa. He quotes extensively from Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine and he sounds very scholarly.

Then he quotes from some British envoy to China and his footnote says “as quoted in Wikipedia” and I went WHAT?

Don’t get me wrong. I like Wikipedia. I use it often.

I’m just surprised that “a former Rhodes Scholar and leading politician of his generation” (book jacket) would use Wikipedia instead of the original journal where the quotation is supposedly found.

Yeah, that’s pretty weak.

I use Wikipedia all the time, because it’s a great place to find sources. Usually at the bottom of the articles :smile: It’s like any other encyclopedia, though, and should usually be considered a secondary source. Maybe good background material, but not a primary source.

One failure of wikipedia, though, is that it is hard for original work to be properly identified. If I’m an expert in the burrowing tree frogs of the Skeena River, I can’t just edit the relevant Wikipedia article and claim “original research” or something like that. You can’t also put in “interview with subject” and that kind of thing.

But overall Wikipedia is an overwhelming success, in my opinion.