Why you should
There is a great deal of factual
information here, much of it written in an interesting and engaging style which is quite different from a dull academic text. Research on E2
can be much more interesting than research in another source of information
and can bring you a number of different perspective
s on the same subject.
Why you shouldn't
The Everything credibility problem. Noder steev states it well:
"The problem is... that a lot of factual noding here is not adequately supported."
Amen to that. I can say that most of the writeups I've read ,on topics I know well, have been accurate, but here's a counterexample.
I will use Agent000's example of Buddhism, since said node demonstrates my point extremely well. There is a lot of information on Buddhism, with a number of different perspectives, under that one heading.
Some of those writeups are wrong. I don't mean that they take sides on a debatable issue, I mean they're w-r-o-n-g, factually incorrect, made up.
Pi says "Buddhist practice involves meditation", and his/her assertion is not countered elsewhere in the node. S/he is wrong. Amida Buddhism does not require meditation from its followers; some schools hold that saying the name of Amida Buddha just once is enough to achieve salvation, if the speaker truly means it. cordin's statements on Mahayana Buddhism are also inaccurate; s/he is describing Pure Land Buddhism, not Mahayana in general. Brian Feldman's information is broadly accurate, but he(?) doesn't go into the many and varied schools of Buddhism. Kaytay's metanode has good brief descriptions of various Buddhist concepts and is reasonably accurate. The linked writeups have more information, but...
Not one of the writeups refers to any outside source. There is no way of telling whether they are accurate.
Did you catch my error? I'm not giving independent verification for my assertions either. It's my word, based on what I've learned in my East Asian history classes, against all the others.
I use Buddhism as an example partially because I had to write a paper on it for the aforementioned class. My professor was a stickler for accuracy and detail, and he specifically warned the class against relying on Internet resources for its research. He, an internationally renowned expert in his field, warned us that there is a great deal of nonsense about Buddhism on the Internet. He said that if we chose to cite online resources, we would be required to verify their information in a legitimate source.
Had I handed in a paper based on what I learned here, with all my E2 citations neatly typed in proper MLA style, I would have failed nonetheless, because I would have been relying on blatant falsehoods.
Agent000's homenode states that he is in high school. Perhaps such a low standard of accuracy will pass in high schools, but it will not work in any decent college or graduate school.
What can be done about this?
Cite your sources. Please and thank you. Some factual noders cite their sources admirably well, to standards that would pass muster with a strict professor. Others (far too many, myself included) do no such thing. Their writeups might be accurate, or they might be a bunch of made-up shit. If you're doing research into a topic, then the chances are good that you don't know the difference.
So... IF a writeup cites reliable outside sources by reliable authors, and IF you confirm what the writeup says independently, then it's safe to use E2 for homework. Do not treat factual writeups that do not cite their research as good sources of information; they might be right, and they might be wrong, but you don't know which it is. The voting system does help weed out the crap, but if the voter does not understand the topic, then eir vote says nothing about the quality of the node.
So. Cite or die! Can you do any less?. All factual knowledge is built on previous knowledge, and there is no shame whatsoever in doing research.
Note: The Buddhism node has since been updated with excellent writeups by Spasemunki and the E2_Religion group. However, the purpose of this writeup was not to comment on the truth or falsehood of the information on Buddhism; I meant to make a point about trusting what one reads here on E2, and I think that point still stands.