Submissions:2021/Wikipedia as Information Literacy Vector: Authority and Undergraduate Students

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This submission has been accepted for WikiConference North America 2021.


Wikipedia as Information Literacy Vector: Authority and Undergraduate Students


Relationship Building & Support

Type of session:



We are two librarians who teach an undergraduate Introduction to Information Studies course. In this presentation, we will argue that using Wikipedia in the classroom helps students develop information literacy skills. In particular we’ll focus on the concept that Authority is Constructed and Contextual, which is a foundational concept from the Association of College and Research Libraries’ Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education ( We’ll explain how we incorporate Wikipedia in class with students working to improve one article over a series of three scaffolded projects.

We see students’ work with Wikipedia as especially rich for grappling with authority because of the variety of roles students undertake as they edit. Initially, students must integrate into the Wikipedia community, which has its own measures of authority that may differ from academia’s traditional notions. We see students grappling with preconceived ideas of Wikipedia’s acceptance in the classroom, with many of our students reporting that previous teachers had banned Wikipedia “because anyone could edit it.” As students unpack this during our course, they begin to be able to see and understand the process behind a Wikipedia article rather than just the product. For example, they evaluate the article’s degree of authoritativeness based on markers like sources, editors, and history. When editing, students must also decide what sources are authoritative and understand how source authoritativeness varies depending on context. What is appropriate for a Wikipedia article may not be appropriate for an academic essay and vice versa. As students step into the author role themselves, there’s more at stake here than a traditional research essay. As they become public scholars, their work is immediately available to anyone looking at their article, including opening their work up to evaluations from the Wikipedia community rather than just their instructor. Wikipedia as a platform offers a unique opportunity for students to step beyond academic research and into real-world application.

Academic Peer Review option:


Author name:

Glenn Koelling & Adrienne Warner

E-mail address:

Wikimedia username:


Affiliated organization(s):

The University of New Mexico

Estimated time:

20 min plus 10 min discussion

Special requests:

"Times in Mountain: Friday after 3:30, Saturday after 11, any time Sunday."

Have you presented on this topic previously? If yes, where/when?:


If your submission is not accepted, would you be open to presenting your topic in another part of the program? (e.g. lightning talk or unconference session)