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Wikipedia and One Technical Writing Class

Wikipedia Image

Who hasn’t wanted to correct Wikipedia from time to time? If you’re a technical writer or just a fan of a certain celebrity, you might have noticed that not all of the Wiki entries are accurate. But who has time to fix them? One technical writing class at James Madison University decided that enough was enough. And the idea became a class project.

How to Fine Tune Wikipedia

In Cindy Allen’s Professional and Technical Writing class at James Madison University, she is having her students work on their writing and researching skills via Wikipedia. By examining the contents of Wikipedia to find errors, the students are then going in to correct those errors and make Wikipedia a more accurate research tool.

The trick with Wikipedia is that since it is user-generated, the information is not necessarily accurate. Though there are guidelines for submissions, Wikipedia is not a company, but a self-funded organization. They just don’t have the staff to check up on all of the entries. That’s where people like those in Allen’s class can help.

Not only are the students learning how to follow guidelines, but they are able to see how small errors can add up to big problems online. As a part of the Wikimedia’s Public Policy Initiative, started in 2010, other students are able to work in the Wiki setting and learn in the process.

Via the original article:

“People, especially students, may not understand the Wikipedia community or the processes which go into the site, but they trust it every day as a research tool,” Stinson said. “Wikipedia receives some great content. Students in our Public Policy classes contribute to areas in Wikipedia we would probably never get our volunteers to explore thoroughly. Their expertise in the field in which they are taking classes…allow[s] them to provide a thorough perspective on the topic, immersed in the topic already.”

Perhaps Wikipedia will become a more reliable resource for information – in part thanks to technical writing students and their drive to hone their craft.

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