Friday, 19 March 2010

How do students use Wikipedia?

It's no great surprise that a lot of students use Wikipedia as part of the research process and also not surprising that teachers generally discourage its use. It's easy, has very broad subject coverage and ranks VERY highly in Google searches...but how do students actually use it when researching for an assignment?
Stephen Abram has a post linking to a new paper that is based on research on a group of US college students. The conclusions:

1. Students’ driving need for background context makes Wikipedia one of the predictable workarounds that many students use, especially during the first stages of their research process.
2. Course–related research may begin with Wikipedia, but it rarely ends there. In our study, students employed a complex information problem strategy in their research processes, reliant on a mix of information resources that were from scholarly sources and public Internet sites.
3. In our study, we found the combination of coverage, currency, comprehensibility, and convenience drives Wikipedia use, in a world where credibility is less of a given — or an expectation from students — with each passing day.
4. Overall, college students use Wikipedia. But, they do so knowing its limitation. They use Wikipedia just as most of us do — because it is a quick way to get started and it has some, but not deep, credibility.

There's also some discussion about what the opportunities are here for librarians and educators. The full article:

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