Monash University Caulfield Library – Brutalist Tower (Stairs really)
Reading: Why first-year college students select online research resources as their favorite by James P. Purdy, First Monday, Volume 17, Number 9 – 3 September 2012
You can read the full article here: http://www.firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/viewArticle/4088/3289
Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-Wikipedia, I use it all the time. It is really useful when you are looking for a quick definition or as a springboard to additional sources of information beyond Wikipedia. However, during my course I would have never used it as a source for a reference (no matter how relevant) in an assignment. I would have felt ashamed. Definitely, not the done thing. Also, I have never attempted to edit/improve Wikipedia, although it might be fun to try. Wikipedia admits it needs help, and has a WikiProject dedicated to adding references to over 230,000(!) unreferenced articles.
Apparently, I am not the only one reluctant to reference Wikipedia, this was contrary to my expectations. The Purdy article reports on the results of a questionnaire that asked over 500 American first year university students,
“which research resources they used and why certain online research resources were their favorite. The study found that students most frequently reported favoring resources for reasons of ease, quality, and connectivity. These results present a more complex picture of student motivation than popular accounts of NextGen college students as disinterested, lazy, and ignorant” (2012). In other words, using Wikipedia.
Purdy argues that many of the students surveyed valued scholarly sources above relevant ones, regarding the scholarly classification of the information as more important than the content. The article argues that students need to be more discriminating when using scholarly databases or journals. Students are having difficulty discerning that a scholarly source appropriate for one assignment may not be suitable for another. For instance, “a source returned by Google Scholar may work well for non–academic research into side effects of a medical procedure. Yet it may be inappropriate for an academic essay on that procedure, despite it being scholarly ” (2012). The study surmises that students may be over reliant on how “teachers, librarians, database providers, or others designate scholarliness” (2012). And I thought librarians could do no wrong.
The article concludes that students could learn and benefit from conducting their own primary research in order to better understand the practices involved in academic research. We can all benefit from learning how to evaluate the “expert information” that is used to shape the governmental policies, and legislative decisions that affect us.
Thankfully we have The Conversation in Australia taking a part in providing this education.