rigelan wrote:The high school students are not producing peer-reviewed literature. They are typically producing essays, opinions, summaries, and background information on lab reports of what they find. Is Wikipedia (or any other encyclopedia for that matter) appropriate to cite a source for this? Or perhaps a better question - what types of sources are appropriate for writing about science (or other subjects) at the high school level?
By high school, students shouldn't be citing encyclopedias of any kind as a general rule. There can always be exceptions to a rule, but I think here they would be few and far between.
It could be reasonable to cite an encyclopedia when providing information that's simultaneously trivial and esoteric in a general sense, but non-trivial with respect to the argument of the paper. For instance, I might write an essay arguing that numerology is dishonest hogwash in which I use dates of certain events in the lives of historical figures to construct satirical illustrative examples. In this scenario, the dates are likely not common knowledge and are non-trivial as part of the argument of the paper; but they are essentially trivial and reasonably esoteric in a general context. Depending on how
esoteric, you might even have to consult a biography of the historical figure rather than an encyclopedia entry (the year in which Thomas Jefferson was born vs. the year in which Thomas Jefferson first ate red meat), which just makes this particular hypothetical exception to the rule that much less realistic. And I'm sure there are many who would argue in such a situation that any date which is commonly accepted and easily verified in any number of encyclopedia entries doesn't require a citation at all. I think I might be one of them, in fact.
gorcee wrote:Let's say that a student is going to do a paper on the Rutherford experiment. What's a reasonable source for this paper? Although this was breakthrough science for its time, it's actually quite trivial in the modern era, and its implications are frequently taught to students in HS. Obviously, you're not going to cite anything from a scholarly journal, since that's years ahead of their abilities to understand. At the same time, what's a reliable source at this point?
Probably some combination of history books about science, biographies of scientists involved, and textbooks. There's also a surprising amount of information on university websites, and when the author is identified, those would seem to be as credible as any secondary internet source could hope to be.
The concession that some of my instructors have made in the past is to require e.g. a minimum of 6 sources of which a minimum of 3 must be credible (or peer-reviewed) and a maximum of 1 from an internet source. If I met that goal I could include as many additional citations from internet sources as I liked (though going overboard with sources merits point deduction on its own right, in some situations).