Looks like the kids will be alright after all.

Wikipedia, for the bootstraps.

It appears that this result is consistent with Head and Eisenberg’s (2010) finding, demonstrating that most students use Wikipedia anyway. That is, they merely do not inform their professors that they use Wikipedia and avoid citing it in their papers.

Because:

The two top reasons for not verifying information were Wikipedia use for obtaining background information and Wikipedia use for obtaining an idea of a topic. Other highly rated reasons were the following: overall good enough content, Wikipedia use due to easy accessibility, the need for time to check with other sources, Wikipedia use due to convenience, and need for mental effort to check with other sources.

Finally, students are not discouraged to use Wikipedia, despite their professors’ discouragement of Wikipedia use in general. Interestingly, students’ observing their peers’ experiences with Wikipedia was correlated to their use of Wikipedia, their consideration of Wikipedia as one of the top Web sources and their satisficing with Wikipedia. Despite the need for further empirical studies, it appears that the results are consistent with recent studies, demonstrating that peer endorsement increasingly becomes important in their acceptance of information sources to the Net generation, as opposed to formal authorities in networked environments (Flanagin and Metzger, 2008; Ito, et al., 2009). Further research is needed to examine whether and how social endorsement plays out in students’ credibility judgment of social information sources.

Is there really a need for further research, once you’ve verified what is generally true about information seeking behavior? I’m not a digital native/of the net generation (born 1981, if you have to know), but I feel like the focus on the specific resource misses the point. Students always learn from other students and in their own experience that using Wikipedia to get a quick overview works fine, and that they will get in trouble if they cite it. Alternatively, taking a hit on the paper might just be less important than other things they’re doing. They learn from their peers, much in the same way that if I have a question about librarianship, I ask other librarians around me before I consult the literature, because most of the time, peers and local practice matter more. Besides, we’re social creatures. We all love a good chat.


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