Wikipedia thoughts from AMS
Posted from the AMS listserv discussion on Wikipedia...
As music history tends to fall under the "Writing Intensive" field, it is
important for us as educators to spend time with our students teaching them
how to find and critically determine good sources. For each course, I set
aside one (1) full class period where the students and I head to the library
and learn about sources.
The "problem" of students using Wikipedia or other Internet sites in general
seems to come from the expectation we have as educators that the students
should have already learned what makes a good bibliographic reference during
their jr. high and high school years (granted I graduated from a rural
northeast Iowan high school in 1988 - but I'd like to believe that
expectations haven't changed THAT much since I was a teenager).
This in mind I would like to paraphrase what my high school English teacher
In any encyclopedic refernce, be it Britanica, New Grove, or Wikipedia, (or
even the undergraduate texts such as the Grout/P/B, Stolba, Kamien or
Kerman), the primary benefit is to provide a brief synopsis of the subject
matter and bibliographic references to verify information through further
For this reason, I encourage my students to use any of those sources when
THEY BEGIN their research, BUT I do not allow them to be used in their own
If students find an Internet site they believe to be good, they must clear
it by me. I tell my students as a general rule of thumb, if they cannot
find a source on the Internet site, don't use it. [One of my favorite
things to do in the library trip is to go to Wikipedia, show the students
the "edit" feature, and show them how easy it is to alter the article]
So I will state it again, it is important to spend time with our students to
teach them how to find and critically determine good sources.
As scholars (This has been stated many times in this threadl)
Let us take up the task to find those articles on Wikipedia, in which we
have expertise, and ensure that the primary source and bibliographic
information is "correct" and that the article itself reflects the content of
Naturally there will be cases of conflicting theories and insight by
research specialists updating the same field, but I would expect the
scholars to police themselves and provide their viewpoint (and sources which
lead to their conclusion) as part of the broadening of the article to keep
the reader better informed.
As my primary field is 12th century Medieval Music (and British Heavy Blues
and Progressive Rock bands of the late 1960s early 1970s), I have taken it
upon myself to update at the very least the listing of primary source
materials (i.e. manuscripts and critical editions) and other bibliographic
information on Wikipedia.
Makes me wonder if ought to draw up some "offical AMS guidelines to updating
K. Christian McGuire
Instructor Music History
McNally Smith College of Music
19 Exchange Street East
Saint Paul, MN 55101-2220
(651) 291-0177 ext. 2203
(651) 291-0366 fax
----- Original Message -----
From: "Styra Avins"
To: "AMS moderated discussion list"
Sent: Wednesday, December 14, 2005 2:59 PM
Subject: Re: [Ams-L] Wikipedia again
> In response to Bob Judd, it seems to me that we trust Groves on Line
> because it is edited by people who have proved their scholarly
> and written, equally, by people we know were chosen because of their
> expertise. For me, personally, I would never have thought that its
> reliability comes from the fact that it was expensive. But its
> authoritative nature puts it way in a different class from the Wikipedia,
> seems to me, knowing personally, as I do, some of the people who manage
> Personally, I do not allow references to the Wikipedia in papers unless
> a student has also used acknowledged scholarly sources. In my view, we
> to keep the distinction between opinions and facts, or opinions and
> well-informed points of view, distinct.
> That being said, yes, Groves certainly has errors. I remember writing
> program notes for Lincoln Center dealing with Brahms biography that
> from the standard fare in Groves. I was questioned about that. When I
> mentioned that the old standard
> had to be revised in view of recent research, my interlocutor had a very
> skeptical look on her face, rather horrified, in fact, at my claim that
> Groves was in error. (The New Groves II has caught up to the new research
> here). I agree, caveat everything! But give your sources! And let us
> where your expertise comes from.
> Styra Avins