Submissions:2016/Transforming Wikipedia into a Legitimate Academic Resource for Undergraduate Students

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Transforming Wikipedia into a Legitimate Academic Resource for Undergraduate Students
Academic Peer Review option
Type of submission
Marci Mazzarotto
E-mail address
University of Central Florida
What can we do to reduce the bad reputation that Wikipedia has as an academic resource?

I, along with many of my colleagues, often tell my undergraduate students that, while Wikipedia is a wonderful source to use for preliminary research, it should never be cited as a legitimate source on any paper whatsoever. Now, due to Wikipedia’s online omnipresence, popularity and ease of use, it is often difficult to get students to understand what is good (versus) bad information and they may cite an online encyclopedia despite being told not to.

As an educator, I’d like to find ways in which Wikipedia, the teacher and the student can create a relationship that provides for a winning situation to all parties involved. In other words, I would love to be able to have my undergrads use Wikipedia as a legitimate source in their essays, but the information they obtain on the site needs to be of higher quality. And I’d like to find ways to foster that relationship, by opening up the dialogue with and about Wikipedia to my students, other colleagues and the site itself.

Firstly, I propose to open up dialogue about Wikipedia in the classroom itself, by discussing the pros and cons of Wikipedia information directly with students. More specifically, by analyzing and talking about the general trends of what is “good” versus “bad” information on the site. For example, historical data related to the U.S. presidency is likely to be correct, not only due to the fact that the powers that be would not allow bad information to seep about regarding current affairs, and older information (i.e. about George Washington) can be easily verified across the board.

Secondly, place the general course subject matter into context in relation to what is available on Wikipedia. For example, if I am teaching a course about avant-garde art, how accurate does the information about Cubism appear to be? Or what general trends, if any, can be found on what information would likely be incorrect?

Thirdly, incentivize students to look outside of Wikipedia for additional sources and information, as this should not be the only source of information, even if the information found is academic legitimate.

Lastly, have an open dialogue with students, as well as fellow colleagues, regarding their own experiences, such as likes and dislikes, about using Wikipedia for their personal and professional research projects. What do they think works? What could be improved?

Length of presentation
15 min
Special schedule requests
Cannot present on Friday or Monday
Preferred room size
Likely a smaller room
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