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Why using Wikipedia is ok, even for students


It’s sometimes hard to shake the perception that Wikipedia is somehow cheating, that it isn’t really the place you should go to for the finest information.  It’s a perception that I think is grossly unfair, and indeed a survey from last year found that the public trusted Wikipedia a lot (albeit not as much as the curated Britannica).

It’s equally trusted in work environments too, with a 2014 study finding that around 50 percent of doctors regularly consult Wikipedia for information on various conditions.

A recent study has explored the use of Wikipedia amongst the academic community.  It has come to the conclusion that the site is rather criminally under-used at the present time.

The joint Australian-British study, led by Monash University revealed that Wikipedia was a relatively popular resource for students, but that it had not really grown to supplant more traditional sources of information.

The results showed that around seven in eight students were using Wikipedia in amongst other sources, which included Google, library websites and even Facebook (oddly).

Given this relatively heavy usage, the authors suggest that universities and academics should be doing more with the site themselves, both to ensure the content is good (by editing pages on their expertise) and by integrating the site into their modes of teaching.

“There are clearly many ways in which universities need to engage more directly in supporting and enhancing the role that Wikipedia is now playing in students’ scholarship,” the authors say.

“The early alarmist fears that Wikipedia would lead to a dumbing down of university study was not apparent. But neither is Wikipedia ushering in a new dawn of enlightenment and students and teachers creating their own knowledge.

“Lecturers should be encouraging their classes to edit and improve Wikipedia pages. At the very least, more academics should become Wikipedia editors – writing on their areas of expertise.”

“Wikipedia is here to stay, and universities should be getting more engaged with it rather than just trying to deny its existence.”

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