How and why do college students use Wikipedia?

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How and why do college students use Wikipedia?
Authors: Sook Lim [edit item]
Citation: Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 60 (11): 2189-2202. 2009.
Publication type: Journal article
Peer-reviewed: Yes
Database(s):
DOI: 10.1002/asi.21142.
Google Scholar cites: Citations
Link(s): Paper link
Added by Wikilit team: Added on initial load
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How and why do college students use Wikipedia? is a publication by Sook Lim.


[edit] Abstract

The purposes of this study were to explore college students' perceptions, uses of, and motivations for using Wikipedia and to understand their information behavior concerning Wikipedia based on social cognitive theory (SCT). A Web survey was used to collect data in the spring of 2008. The study sample consisted of students from an introductory undergraduate course at a large public university in the midwestern United States. A total of 134 students participated in the study, resulting in a 32.8% response rate. The major findings of the study include the following: Approximately one-third of the students reported using Wikipedia for academic purposes. The students tended to use Wikipedia for quickly checking facts and finding background information. They had positive past experiences with Wikipedia; however, interestingly, their perceptions of its information quality were not correspondingly high. The level of their confidence in evaluating Wikipedia's information quality was, at most, moderate. Respondents' past experience with Wikipedia, their positive emotional state, their disposition to believe information in Wikipedia,and information utility were positively related to their outcome expectations of Wikipedia. However, among the factors affecting outcome expectations, only information utility and respondents' positive emotions toward Wikipedia were related to their use of it. Further, when all of the independent variables, including the mediator, outcome expectations, were considered, only the variable information utility was related to Wikipedia use, which may imply a limited applicability of SCT to understanding Wikipedia use. However, more empirical evidence is needed to determine the applicability of this theory to Wikipedia use. Finally, this study supports the knowledge value of Wikipedia (Fallis, 2008), despite students' cautious attitudes toward Wikipedia. The study suggests that educators and librarians need to provide better guidelines for using Wikipedia, rather than prohibiting Wikipedia use altogether.

[edit] Research questions

"RQ1. How do college students useWikipedia? RQ2. How do college students perceive the information quality of Wikipedia? RQ3. To what extent are college students confident in evaluating the information quality ofWikipedia? RQ4. Why do college students useWikipedia?"

Research details

Topics: Reader perceptions of credibility, Domain-specific student readership [edit item]
Domains: Communications, Education, Journalism [edit item]
Theory type: Explanation [edit item]
Wikipedia coverage: Main topic [edit item]
Theories: "The purposes of this study were to explore college students’

perceptions, uses of, and motivations for using Wikipedia, and to understand their information behavior concerning Wikipedia based on social cognitive theory (SCT). This study employed social cognitive theory to understand why students usedWikipedia. SCT served as the basis of the study’s hypotheses. The variables of past experience, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, emotional state, and outcome expectation were directly drawnfromSCT, while the two variables of disposition to believe information and information utility were drawn from the trust/credibility literature and were integrated into SCT. Among the SCT variables, the respondents’ vicarious experience and verbal persuasion were not related to their outcome expectations, which was unexpected. However, SCT still provides plausible explanations for this result. That is, according to SCT (Bandura, 1989), people do not perform everything that they learn by observing others’ behaviors..." [edit item]

Research design: Statistical analysis [edit item]
Data source: Survey responses [edit item]
Collected data time dimension: Cross-sectional [edit item]
Unit of analysis: User [edit item]
Wikipedia data extraction: N/A [edit item]
Wikipedia page type: N/A [edit item]
Wikipedia language: English [edit item]

[edit] Conclusion

"The major findings of the study include the following: All of the students reported having used Wikipedia. A majority of students tended to use Wikipedia for finding background information. Students tended not to expect to find the best information, but only to look for reasonably good information, demonstrating thatWikipedia sufficiently satisfies users’ information needs. Students tended to have positive past experiences withWikipedia, but did not have comparably positive perceptions of Wikipedia’s information quality, which is one of the most interesting findings of the study. Rather, they held moderate perception levels of information quality and of confidence in evaluating its information quality. Students’ past experiences with and emotional statestoward usingWikipedia, as well as their tendency to believe unfamiliar informationin Wikipedia, along with information utilitysuch as ease, convenience, and usefulness were positively related to their outcome expectations ofWikipedia. A simple regression analysis showed that outcome expectations were positively related to Wikipedia use. However, only information utility and respondents’ positive emotions toward Wikipedia use were related to Wikipedia use. Furthermore, when all of the independent variables including the mediator, outcome expectations, were considered, only information utility was significant. SCT still provides plausible explanations of the results. Nonetheless, the results may imply a limited applicability of SCT to Wikipedia use. Overall students had positive experiences withWikipedia, which supports the epistemic (knowledge) value of Wikipedia, as noted by Fallis (2008). Nonetheless, students’ attitudes towardWikipedia tended to be cautious, as they were aware that it may include inaccurate information. In other words, it seems that students did not use Wikipedia blindly. Furthermore, this study showed that there were some positive consequences of using Wikipedia. The respondents discovered new information inWikipedia articles, and they tended to follow the links on these articles to find more information (see Table 1). These results support the view of authors who have acknowledged the usefulness ofWikipedia as an initial source that can lead to the discovery of other sources (Shaw, 2008). On the other hand, the study did not show strong evidence that students made special efforts to verify the accuracy of the information. This result is consistent with the findings that students’ expectations about finding reasonably good information were much higher than those of finding the best information, and that information utilitywas a factor affecting their use of Wikipedia. The study suggests that educators and librarians need to provide better guidelines for using Wikipedia, rather than prohibiting its use altogether. In addition, various efforts to improve Wikipedia itself are needed."

[edit] Comments

"" All of the students reported having used Wikipedia [but] tended not to expect to find the best information, but only to look for reasonably good information, demonstrating thatWikipedia sufficiently satisfies users’ information needs... Students tended to have positive past experiences withWikipedia, but did not have comparably positive perceptions of Wikipedia’s information quality, which is one of the most interesting findings of the study." p.2200"


Further notes[edit]

"Wikipedia page type" should N/A. It is a survey among students with no Wikipedia data

"Unit of analysis" set to "user" as this is a survey with no Wikipedia data

"Collected data time dimension" should be "cross-sectional" as the survey is cross-sectional.