by Tyler Clark
Lately I have seen quite a few online blog entries “citing” Wikipedia for their information. While Wikipedia contains a wealth of information, there is a right and a wrong way to utilize Wikipedia. I fear that this trend of citing Wikipedia is going to begin to cloud people’s judgment and cause them to use Wikipedia inappropriately.
Consider sketching a proof of a theorem. You will have scratch work, sidebar comments, and inevitably mistakes. In your end project, this precursor work, although important, is not evidently obvious when looking at your proof. Wikipedia is much the same way. You can use Wikipedia to get a general idea of what you are researching and to see what sources are used for their article. However, in the end, you should rely upon the sources written solely by the experts.
Wikipedia should be a means for finding additional experts that you may not have known before. From there, use your university library to find journals with articles written by these mathematicians. If your university does not subscribe to a journal that you need, interlibrary loan is available to you. Talk with the faculty at the library to discover how to take advantage of this option. It may take a bit of work, but never settle for less than the best sources. Putting the extra energy into the process will make your research so much more credible.
What other websites do you tend to use for an overview to mathematics topics and to find resources to cite?