Promoting Thinking and the Growth of Thinkers
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Module Six
The Pros and Cons of Secondary Sources

In direct contrast with the primary sources we just consulted, the Net is cluttered with commentary and speculation about famous people. Some of the speculation is written by so-called scholars and experts while much of it is offered by amateurs, crackpots and idiots. Sometimes it is difficult to tell them apart.

Wikipedia (written by amateurs) dominates the search results for many topics:

  • China - Wikipedia = #1
  • acid rain - Wikipedia = #4
  • Montreal - Wikipedia = #3
  • Charles de Gaulle - Wikipedia = #1
  • Virginia Woolf - Wikipedia = #1

Imagine you want to see if Matthew was arrogant or humble. Go to Advanced Google and enter Matthew Flinders in the exact phrase box with the word arrogant in the top box. The repeat the process with the word humble in the top box. Compare the results. How scholarly and trustworthy are the pages that emerge?

© Jamie McKenzie, 2007, all rights reserved. No copies can be made or distributed in any format without the express written permission of the author.

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