LLA 2014: Why Not Wikipedia?


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Many librarians view “wiki” as just another dirty four-letter word. And they certainly don’t feel any better about the word Wikipedia. However, Wikipedia can actually be a useful tool in research. It’s just a matter of knowing when and how to use it. We’ll teach you some tips and tricks about Wikipedia, as well as showing you similar, scholarly options your users are sure to embrace. Whether working on the reference desk, doing instruction for a class, or having a research consultation, Wikipedia can be a strong foundation for your users’ research.

Louisiana Library Association Annual Conference
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Lafayette, La

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LLA 2014: Why Not Wikipedia?

  1. 1. Why Not Wikipedia? Sonnet Ireland, Assistant Librarian Jennifer Jackson, Assistant Librarian Earl K. Long Library University of New Orleans
  2. 2. Why Wikipedia is Bad It’s a wiki, which means that it is a collaborative site with an openly editable model. That means anyone can write anything about anything, regardless of the person’s expertise or even basic knowledge on the topic.
  3. 3. Then How can Wikipedia be Good ? Wikipedia can actually be a great starting point for researchers. Sure, there are a lot of flaws, but… Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!
  4. 4. The Fast Answer Wikipedia is BRILLIANT for the fast answer to a question. If a student really doesn’t understand the topic of research, Wikipedia can help clarify.
  5. 5. Examples In a history class, the student might have problems understanding the correct order of French monarchs… List of French Monarchs http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_French_monarchs
  6. 6. Examples Or understanding the order of battles in the American Revolution… List of American Revolutionary War battles http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_American_Revolutionary_War_battles
  7. 7. Examples Or, in a biology class, a student might not know what a Tsetse fly is… Tsetse fly http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsetse_fly Or, in math, the student doesn’t know what a polynomial is… Polynomial http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polynomial
  8. 8. Duh… Now I’m sure you’re all thinking, “We already know that. Tell us something new…” Well, did you know that Wikipedia now offers references?
  9. 9. Cite your Work! Now, Wikipedia strongly encourages citing references within the article. This means that most articles now have a list of references. These can contain Notes, Citations, Sources…
  10. 10. Examples 2013-2014 Thai Political Crisis http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013%E2%80%9314_Thai_political_crisis Interstate 805 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_805 La Leyenda http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Leyenda
  11. 11. Unraveling the Sweater When showing a student how to do research, I like to talk to them about “unraveling the sweater.” Basically, it’s the idea of finding more resources through the bibliography of one source. This works with Wikipedia, too. Especially on a topic that you can’t find a lot on.
  12. 12. True Story A student was looking for resources on the legal dispute between the World Wildlife Fund and the World Wrestling Federation. This was not a U.S. case, so it was a little more difficult to find documentation for it.
  13. 13. True Story We found cases, but we also checked Wikipedia… WWE http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WWE World Wide Fund for Nature http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Wide_Fund_for_Nature It led to 9 more resources, including the text of the agreement.
  14. 14. The Bad Side…? As with everything on the Internet…sometimes the links in the References section die… And, of course, it should NEVER be cited on a paper…. But here are some resources that are easy to search (like Wikipedia) but are reliable and useful for papers. All are available at any public library.
  15. 15. Why even try Wikipedia? Because…it’s what people are using. According to the OCLC report Perceptions of Libraries, 2010: Context and Community: “Wikipedia is now used by 73% of Americans, with half of these users visiting the site at least once a month. This usage rate rivals both search engines and social sites, making Wikipedia an information staple for online Americans.” p34
  16. 16. Why even try Wikipedia? And don’t try to convince yourself that those 73% are all kids or older folks. Nope…88% of college students use Wikipedia to find information, second only to search engines (93%). p52 The library website? Only 57% of college students use that…and our online databases? 30%! Sadly, most people don’t even know that their library has a website. I kid you not.
  17. 17. But fret not! All is not lost… For those who are hesitant about or intimidated by using our resources…Wikipedia is the perfect gateway drug…to information! Show your users how to effectively use Wikipedia… and then show them some cool resources that are easy to use (like Wikipedia) but more reliable (unlike Wikipedia). After all, only 3% of Americans surveyed considered Wikipedia a trusted source. p41
  18. 18. Literati by Credo An all in one database Literati by Credo includes topic pages providing students an overview of the topic. Literati by Credo also identifies relevant source material from other databases and websites.
  19. 19. Literati by Credo
  20. 20. Gale Virtual Library Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL) offers an online collection of reference eBooks. You can search a single eBook, within a Subject, or across your library’s entire eBook collection.
  21. 21. Gale Virtual Library
  22. 22. Thank you! Sonnet Ireland Assistant Librarian Head of Federal Documents, Microforms and Analog Media sebrown3@uno.edu Jennifer Jackson Assistant Librarian Instruction and Learning Commons Librarian jmjacks9@uno.edu OCLC. 2011. Perceptions of Libraries, 2010: Context and Community. A Report to the OCLC Membership. https://www.oclc.org/en-US/reports/2010perceptions.html