Selwyn, N., and Gorard, S. (2015) Students' use of Wikipedia as an academic resource - patterns of use and perceptions of usefulness. The Internet and Higher Education. 5 September 2015 doi: 10.1016/j.iheduc.2015.08.004
Wikipedia is now an established information source in contemporary society. With initial fears over its detrimental influence on scholarship and study habits now subsiding, this paper investigates what part Wikipedia plays in the academic lives of undergraduate students. The paper draws upon survey data gathered from students across two universities in Australia (n=1658), alongside follow-up group interview data from a subsample of 35 students. Analysis of this data suggests that Wikipedia is now an embedded feature of most students’ study, although to a lesser extent than other online information sources such as YouTube and Facebook. For the most part, Wikipedia was described as an introductory and/or supplementary source of information – providing initial orientation and occasional clarification on study topics. While 87.5 per cent of students reported using Wikipedia, it was seen to be of limited usefulness when compared with university-provided library resources, e-books, learning management systems, lecture recordings and academic literature databases. These findings were notably patterned in terms of students’ gender, year of study, first language spoken and subject of study.
- Draws on survey data examining 1658 undergraduate students’ uses of digital technologies for academic purposes.
- 87.5 per cent of students report having used Wikipedia to find information for their academic work, with 24.0 per cent of these considering Wikipedia to have been ‘very useful’.
- Use and perceived usefulness of Wikipedia is most prevalent amongst students who are male, in advanced years of study, from non-English speaking households, and those studying engineering, science and medicine subjects.
- Rather than constituting a primary source of information, students report Wikipedia mainly playing introductory or clarificatory roles in their information gathering and research.
See: Citing Wikipedia in Academic Work