One of the most dreaded assignments any teacher can assign is a paper Even the thought of writing more than a paragraph length short answer is enough to make most students grumble and moan.
The thing about essays is that without a solid foundation and good research, it is difficult to score very highly. Many students abhor spending much time conducting in-depth research and choose to opt out by consulting sketchy websites that they can access easily.
In middle school, essays were easy enough to research and write. The hardest part about researching was typing your topic into Google and clicking on the first five links that showed up. One of the first links on almost any Google search will send you straight to Wikipedia, an on-line collaborative encyclopedia.
At the time when most of us were in middle school, Wikipedia was still a very sketchy information source because anyone with an account could edit the articles however they wanted. Many adolescents found a new pastime in editing crass words into random articles on the site. As such, many teachers deemed it a sin of the highest degree to use Wikipedia in researching for essays.
Now that Wikipedia has taken proactive steps toward putting out more legitimate content, some might argue that its use as a source should be allowed for essays.
The reality is that Wikipedia should not be referenced as an official source to be cited in high school and college essays, as it really is not a scholarly source.
Starting in high school we ought not be using such elementary resources.
Wikipedia is perfectly fine for getting a definition or a general knowledge of a subject but will not be enough to fuel a 10 or 20-page essay. As we mature in our thinking and knowledge, so should the content and depth of our writing.
We should be citing and referencing books and scholarly writings, which are easily accessible from online databases. Quotes should be gathered from established historians, scientists and other professionals rather than something that was potentially copied and pasted onto Wikipedia from another website by a thirteen year old.
While Wikipedia certainly has increased in legitimacy, it is still just an encyclopedia and should be treated as such when writing essays for school.