Wikipedia, a publicly edited online encyclopedia, is accessed by millions of users for answers to questions from trivial to high-stakes topics like health information. This new type of information resource may pose novel challenges for readers when it comes to evaluating the quality of content, yet very little is known about how Wikipedia readers understand and interpret the material they find on the site. Do people know that anyone can edit the site? And if so, what does this fact lead them to believe about the reliability of Wikipedia or particular articles therein? This study analyzes the information-seeking behavior of a diverse group of 210 college students from two Midwestern US universities as a first step towards addressing these questions. This paper found that a few students demonstrated in-depth knowledge of the Wikipedia editing process, while most had some understanding of how the site functions and a few lacked even such basic knowledge as the fact that anyone can edit the site. Although many study participants had been advised by their instructors not to cite Wikipedia articles in their schoolwork, students nonetheless often use it in their everyday lives. This paper lays the groundwork for further research to determine the extent of Wikipedia knowledge in the broader population and in additional diverse contexts.
- Digital literacy
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Library and Information Sciences