Whenever you put the words “Wikipedia” and “research” into a sentence together, there are people who will bristle.  And rightly so.  At it’s heart it’s a website where information is added by anyone and fact checked by volunteers.  However, it has a certain advantage too, in that it’s a website where information is added by anyone and fact checked by volunteers, who are often experts in their chosen fields.  I want to say that I agree with teachers and professors who are against the citing of Wikipedia by students, however on the site there is an expectation of citation that can serve as a fantastic jumping off point for further research.

And research is exactly what I’m talking about in this post.  Yes, I often use Wikipedia as a first source when looking up information.  While it’s impossible to immediately determine what information on the site is fallacious, a vast overwhelming massive majority of the information isn’t, and so long as you use the resources provided in citations to verify the information there’s a wealth of knowledge that a writer can pull from.

Let’s actually practice with an example.  I want everyone to go to wikipedia right now and…oh.  So, um, this is awkward, but you can’t right now.  Wikipedia is joining the online blackout protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act currently working their way through the US House and Senate, respectively.  While there have been news stories over the past week that SOPA looks dead in the House, there is still talk of the bill being brought back up in February, so in the words of Twain the reports of its death may be greatly exaggerated.

I’m not going to tell you that you should be against SOPA and PIPA, though in the sake of fairness I will state that I am, to the point that my own blog has joined the blackout.  What I will tell you: if you are reading this site and you are a writer, know that you are a creator of intellectual property, and while motion pictures and music are at the heart of the protection these bills are promising, all creators of intellectual property are represented.  Therefore, you should at least be aware of the provisions of the bills, the intentions, and the implications know what is being done in my name, your name, and the name of all IP creators everywhere.  Educate yourself, then decide accordingly where your support lies.  At the end of the day this bill has the potential of affecting everyone world-wide, both through the US domination of the internet and providing potential sample legislation for other nations.

So read.  Understand.  Ask questions.  Form opinions.  Get involved.  That’s what democracy lets you do.

The opinions stated in this post are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the owners or operators of Unleaded – Fuel for Writers.  They may, I don’t know, I didn’t ask them.