Research Buzz is one of the blogs I track to keep up with the new, weird, or even possibly useful, sites on the web. Two items appeared this week one of which is under the "possibly useful" category; the other is more on the weird part of the continuum.
One of the hardest things for any student researcher to do is to find a focus when doing a library paper. Faculty sometimes fail to realize that students have not yet found their interests, their passion. Nothing is more fun for an academic than to hunt and find overlooked or new info on a subject with which they are intimately familiar. They already have a built in skeleton on which to place the new bit.
What happens when a student is assigned a paper in a course about which they only have some rudimentary conceptual framework, if that. They flounder; they doubt; they despair; sometimes they plagiarize. (At least that's the part the librarians see.) I think that anything that will help students find a focus and think about ways to narrow an idea into a workable, researchable, and maybe even interesting, subject is worth mention. Sometime ago I mentioned EBSCO's visual search as one way for a student to find focus. Now someone has found a way to mine Wikipedia for broader, narrower and related concepts. It's called Wikimindmap (http://www.wikimindmap.org/). Here's the "About." Try some general topic like "advertising" and play with the ways one can use it to brainstorm a concept.
The other app is Wikirage--a website that compiles a list of the most edited Wikipedia entries. Like those sites that rate the most frequently accessed or emailed websites, it tracks the Zeitgeist of the hour, the day, the month.
While exploring these sites I also ran across this webpage: Ten Things You Should Know About Wikipedia. Number 6 should probably be on every syllabus.
"#6 We do not expect you to trust us.
It is in the nature of an ever-changing work like Wikipedia that, while some articles are of the highest quality of scholarship, others are admittedly complete rubbish. We are fully aware of this. We work hard to keep the ratio of the greatest to the worst as high as possible, of course, and to find helpful ways to tell you in what state an article currently is. Even at its best, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, with all the limitations that entails. It is not a primary source. We ask you not to criticize Wikipedia indiscriminately for its content model but to use it with an informed understanding of what it is and what it isn't. Also, as some articles may contain errors, please do not use Wikipedia to make critical decisions."