Young Adults' Credibility Assessment of Wikipedia

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Citation: Menchen-Trevino, E. & Hargittai, E. (2011). Young Adults' Credibility Assessment of Wikipedia. Information Communication & Society. 14(1):24-51. Bibliographic entry

Abstract

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 they evaluate the quality of content, yet very little is known about how Wikipedia readers interpret the material they find on the site. Do people know that anyone can edit the site? And if so, what does this lead them to believe about the reliability of the material they find? This study analyzes the information-seeking behavior of a diverse group of 210 college students as a first step toward addressing these questions. We find that a few students demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the Wikipedia editing process, while most have some understanding of how the site functions and a few lack even the basic knowledge 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 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.

Keywords

Internet, Web use, Wikipedia, credibility, trust, college students

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