However, it has some very valid aspects that make it a good research tool. First, it is up to the minute. The Milgram Experiment page was last edited on March 17, only a little more than a week ago, and often the most immediate current events are already on the site when the researcher goes to look for them. Thus, it is much more up-to-date than any comparable print media, which go out of date nearly as quickly as they are printed. It can be updated from anywhere in the world on a moment's notice, and there is a large group of readers and editors who are quite involved in critiquing and editing articles to ensure their authenticity and accuracy.
The site would probably be more academically correct if the editors were experts in their field, professors, or other professionals, and if certain respected academic resources were used as references. It would also help if the authors were experts, drawn from a pool of experts in many different areas. In an encyclopedia, the editors and authors are the top people in their fields, which is another complaint about Wikipedia. Anyone can add anything, so there is not as much control as there is in print media. However, because of the requirement of citations and further reading, the site acts as a wonderful place to begin researching just about any topic. The researcher can get an overview of the topic, find more information, and come to a broader understanding of just about anything by visiting Wikipedia at the beginning of their research project.
The article could use the addition of some insight from the professor himself, but other thank that, it is an accurate article that mirrors the many other articles, journals, and books that discuss the experiments. The most detailed of these articles, from "Psychology Today," magazine, looks at the experiments in today's world, and gives more information on what they actually meant. The author writes, "They demonstrated with jarring clarity that ordinary individuals could be induced to act destructively even in the absence of physical coercion, and humans need not be innately evil or aberrant to act in ways that are reprehensible and inhumane" (Blass). While the article does discuss some of the implications of the experiments and what they said about humanity, more of that detail would only add to the article's overall impact and information.
Yes, I believe Wikipedia does have a place in student research. It offers comprehensive information on a wide variety of topics, and when the information is shallow or questionable, the site offers an explanation or warning to the researcher. While anyone can edit the site, and there have been some outrageous hackers involved in some incidents, it is a valid tool because it requires citations and references, and it requires a balanced and professional writing tone. There are editors that monitor the site, and they do take down offensive or highly inflammatory articles. It does have standards, even though it is open to anyone anywhere. It is an excellent place to begin researching a topic, because it offers more information on just about every topic on the site. If the student is looking for a brief, concise, and helpful tool to start researching, Wikipedia is certainly the place to begin. In the future, it seems that as Wikipedia becomes more respected, it may be recognized as a legitimate research tool. With some oversight by professionals, it could turn into one of the world's greatest research tools, because the information is immediate, and it is constantly being updated. It is a useful tool, and it is too bad more people cannot use it now because it is not respected in the academic world.
Blass, Thomas. "The Man Who Shocked the World." Psychology Today. 2007. 26 March 2009.
Editors. "The Milgram Experiment." Wikipedia.org. 2009. 26 March 2009.
Levinson, Martin H. "Crazy Talk, Stupid Talk-Redux." ETC.: A Review of General Semantics 63.1 (2006): 67+.
Miller, Arthur G., ed. The Social Psychology of Good and Evil. New York: Guilford Press, 2004.
Stafford, Tom. "Milgram's Notorious Conformity Experiment Replicated." Mind Hacks. 2008. 26 March 2009.