Wikipedia as a Scholarly Source (recent note to one of my professors)

Hi Professor [name],

A questions on quiz one concerned scholarly citation. The correct answer allowed for “even blogs with proper citation” (paraphrasing) but not citation to Wikipedia. I got the question right, because I’m plenty aware of the overall animus against Wikipedia by academic gatekeepers. However, given the permitting of “blogs with proper citation,” I wanted to mention what you may already know: when it’s not, it’s not — but Wikipedia is consistently an awesome gateway to primary sources and solid secondary sources.

For example: Common knowledge inaccurately has it that Hitler famously “snubbed” elite Olympian Jesse Owens, because Owens is black. However, Owens himself publicly declared that he was snubbed not by Germany’s Nazi head of state but rather by USA’s democrat head of state, Franklin D. Roosevelt. See Wikipedia, Jesse Owens, § 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics (accessed Sept. 20, 2019) (citing The St. Joseph News Press, ‘Snub’ from Roosevelt (Oct. 16, 1936); Jeremy Schaap, Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics (2015)). Both citations to which Wikipedia refers contain Google-preserved, scanned versions of the verifiable text.

Of course, I’m not advocating that you unilaterally start allowing students to cite Wikipedia articles. After all, permitting citations to Wikipedia arguably would requires quite a bit more clarification about what constitutes a good source; and certainly you’d risk being a pariah among all but all of the academic anointed, who can agree (if on nothing else) that citation to Wikipedia is for losers and dummies. But I just wanted to mention that the standard of categorically forbidding citations to Wikipedia (particularly, in our case, given the flexibility of Bluebook citation) cannot possibly be as much about preserving academic integrity than about autocratic academicians indulging in the logical fallacies variously of appeal to tradition, snobbery, and slipper-slopes.

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