Even when instructors advise against it, over half of college students admit to using Wikipedia “always” or “frequently” in their course-related research, according to a recently published study in the online peer-reviewed journal First Monday. Even more alarming, “most students also said they do not tell their professors they use Wikipedia; they simply avoid citing it in their reports.” Such heresy! Or is it?
The study, “How today’s college students use Wikipedia for course-related research,” is part of Project Information Literacy, an ongoing national research project based in the University of Washington’s Information School. Given the debate about whether or not college students should use Wikipedia – and the lack of understanding about how and why students actually do use it – the authors turned to the students and asked.
The majority of surveyed students said they use the online, peer-produced encyclopedia as a “presearch” tool to “obtain a summary” (82%) or “get started on an assignment” (76%). But, according to the authors, “while course-related research may begin with Wikipedia… it rarely ends there.” The good news is that students know Wikipedia‘s limitations and rely on a mix of more appropriate, scholarly resources, too.
Among other conclusions, the authors point out that the need for “context-sensitive presearch sources and coaching services appears to be in high demand.” At Scholar’s Secret, we couldn’t agree more! Contact us today for 1:1 presearch coaching on your next assignment!