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Using wikipedia for presearch


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Ann Westrick explains how students can responsibly use Wikipedia to initiate the research process.

Ann Westrick explains how students can responsibly use Wikipedia to initiate the research process.

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  • 1. Using Wikipedia to initiate Presearch Presented by Ann Westrick Content provided and inspired by Rob Snyder Funded by a grant from the Jerome Library Bowling Green State University Bowling Green, Ohio, USA
  • 2. What is Presearch? Presearch happens when searchers initiate a research project or pursue an information need. Before you start researching, you need to get some perspective--this enables you to make connections between your topic or question and your prior knowledge which guides your research.
  • 3. What is Wikipedia? According to Wikipedia itself, “Wikipedia is a collaboratively edited, multilingual, free, Internet encyclopedia. Wikipedia's 30 million articles in 286 languages are written collaboratively by volunteers around the world. It has become the largest and most popular general reference work on the Internet; as of June 2013 Wikipedia has an estimated 365 million readers worldwide.”
  • 4. The bottom line: Use Wikipedia as you would any encyclopedia for presearch: As a starting place for research where you can begin to understand the issues involved in your own research question.
  • 5. Use Wikipedia to get an overview To get an overall sense of the topic, read the article under “Article.” Get a brief history of the topic by reading “History.”
  • 6. Wikipedia articles are supposed to be unbiased. Energy drinks have positive effects. Energy drinks have negative effects. Caffeine is harmful. Caffeine consumption is beneficial.
  • 7. Wikipedia can guide you toward the controversies surrounding a topic. There are regulations on energy drinks in some countries; some drinks are being rebranded to avoid FDA reporting requirements.
  • 8. Remember: Presearch does NOT take the place of research. Presearch allows you to: • begin to understand the issues involved in your research question • understand multiple sides of an argument • get an overview of theories related to the topic • see possible answers to your research question • decide what issues/information you need to continue researching.
  • 9. Use Wikipedia references to start your own research. Since all Wikipedia information is cited, accessing one or two of the “Reference” articles is a good way to jumpstart your own research.
  • 10. Wikipedia is a tertiary source—so don’t cite it. Even Wikipedia says: “Most educators and professionals do not consider it appropriate to use tertiary sources such as encyclopedias as a sole source for any information—citing an encyclopedia as an important reference in footnotes or bibliographies may result in censure or a failing grade. Wikipedia articles should be used for background information, as a reference for correct terminology and search terms, and as a starting point for further research.”
  • 11. Keep in mind that presearch is supposed to pique your interest and get the research process started. Once you have found your interesting, significant, debatable issue then the search for current, credible, academic sources begins.