Using Wikipedia to initiate
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
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
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.”
The bottom line:
Use Wikipedia as you would any encyclopedia
As a starting place for research where you can
begin to understand the issues involved in your
own research question.
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.”
Wikipedia articles are supposed to be
Caffeine is harmful. Caffeine consumption is beneficial.
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.
Remember: Presearch does NOT take the
place of research.
Presearch allows you to:
• begin to understand the issues involved in your research
• 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
Use Wikipedia references to start your
Since all Wikipedia
information is cited,
accessing one or two of the
“Reference” articles is a good
way to jumpstart your own
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.”
Keep in mind that presearch is supposed to
pique your interest and get the research
Once you have found your interesting,
significant, debatable issue then the search
for current, credible, academic sources