Why Wikipedia? Parents Ask

“Why use Wikipedia?” adults often ask. What they are really asking is, “Should my kids use Wikipedia, and is it a real reference?” For adults who grew up in the age of multiple volumes of well-documented encyclopedic information — of course, you remember those well-used, bookmarked, or even dog-eared pages — it’s hard to wrap our minds around Wikipedia. It’s even harder to understand just how we should use it as a reference.

Twenty-first Century learners, however, consult Wikipedia all the time, and the number of users and the content is increasing. According to a 2006 review in School Library Journal, “The popular online encyclopedia, whose entries are written and edited by any user, may inspire trepidation, even fear, yet the behemoth is impossible to ignore.” So just who is writing for Wikipedia? A March 2010 MSNBC article Who Writes Wikipedia, describes a research project that aimed to develop profiles of writers who contribute content.

Question: So, how does any user — student or adult — cite Wikipedia?

Answer: Give credit just as it’s given for any other reference.

Continue reading

Grammar Support for the Student Writers in Your Family

Just about every day I have a grammar question, despite that in junior high school I was an ace at diagramming sentences. Most commonly I need to figure out how to punctuate something I have written. I search for an answer, and I want to remember the information — if possible — so that I can use it the next time the same question arises. Yes, I could consult The Elements of StyleOn Writing WellThe Chicago Manual of Style, or countless other good grammar books.


These days, however, when I am puzzling over a comma or a particular word, I almost always go online to find a podcast at Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty TipsI listen to the explanation, usually accompanied by music and amusing examples, and even days later I still remember the rule or the spelling or usage — even if the topic has not reappeared in my writing.

If you have not checked out the Grammar Girl podcasts, take some time to do so. They are great fun — two words that I never associated with sentence diagrams.

Continue reading