248-1722 Wikipedia as an Academic Reference: Faculty Perspective Abstract



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4. Statistics on Wikipedia Usage

As a first step in exploring how to manage Wikipedia as an academic reference, a survey instrument was developed in the spring semester of 2009 and distributed to 321 full-time, part-time, and adjunct faculty at a medium sized western college. This survey is an initial attempt at measuring how faculty view, use, and manage Wikipedia in their classes, research, and personal life. The survey is included as Appendix A. As a starting point, faculty perceptions, viewpoints, and group consensus are explored using the reported statistics from the survey. Issues to be explored are contained in the following lists.

Faculty awareness of

a) article controversy affects Wikipedia usage and trust.

b) article vandalism affects Wikipedia usage and trust.

c) protected pages affects Wikipedia usage and trust.

d) article rank feature affects Wikipedia usage and trust.

e) article revision history affects Wikipedia usage and trust.

f) article editing policies affects Wikipedia usage and trust.

Faculty discipline affects:

a) Wikipedia usage and trust

b) viewpoint as to student usage of Wikipedia in classes

c) grade on assignment due to Wikipedia usage.

5. Survey Results

There were 80 surveys returned, for a return rate of 25%. From these 80 surveys, 24 faculty members reported that Wikipedia is not used, while 56 faculty members reported that they use Wikipedia in some fashion. The demographics between the Wikipedia users and non-users are remarkably similar and are summarized in Table 3.



Table 3

Demographics between Wikipedia users and non-users


Demographic

Wikipedia Users (n = 56)

Wikipedia Non-Users (n = 24)

Age (in years)

= 49.7

= 49.6

Non-controversial discipline

35.7%

29.2%

Controversial discipline

28.6%

33.3%

Discipline not reported

35.7%

37.5%

The discipline classifications as “controversial” and “non-controversial” follows the Wikipedia article classification set forth in the papers by Brandes and Lerner (2007) as well as Halavias and Lackaff (2008). In other terms, this classification could be between Humanities and Natural Sciences, where articles in the Humanities classification generate more controversy due to the presence of interpretation and opinion, while the articles in the Natural Sciences follow sets of rules, or laws. The reasons given for not using of Wikipedia are summarized in the Pareto chart labeled Figure 3.



Figure 3

Reasons for faculty not using Wikipedia

Figure 3 establishes that faculty surveyed who do not use Wikipedia believe the information to be unreliable and untrustworthy. Some of the specific comments given included no peer review, anyone can edit, and no trust in the site.

The group of faculty that use Wikipedia reported usage statistics of:


  • using Wikipedia three times per week (on average) during the school year (with a standard deviation of 4.0)

    • Science faculty (n = 19) had a mean of 3.10 and a standard deviation of 3.65, while Humanities faculty (n = 16) had a mean of 2.06 and a standard deviation of 1.69. There was no statistical difference in usage between the groups

  • using Wikipedia three times per week (on average) during semester breaks (with a standard deviation of 4.3)

    • Science faculty (n = 19) had a mean of 2.58 and a standard deviation of 3.13, while Humanities faculty had a mean of 2.44 and a standard deviation of 3.81. There was no statistical difference in usage between the groups

Further, Table 4 summarizes the type of Wikipedia usage during the fall semester of 2008.

Table 4

Faculty usage of Wikipedia


Type of usage

Yes

No

for an academic paper

5

51

for other research

38

18

for independent learning (pleasure)

50

6

alternate types of usage:

  • initial research on a topic

  • general topic review

  • external links to topic

32

38



22

24

18



34

Table 4 illustrates that faculty shy away from using Wikipedia as an academic reference, but are increasingly likely to use it as a general information source and for pleasure. Some of the general statistical results from the survey are summarized in Table 5.



Table 5

Statistics for awareness and view categories


Category

N

Minimum

Maximum

Mean

Std. Deviation

View_Gen_Ed

46

1

5

2.85

1.032

View_Major

49

1

5

2.47

1.260

Aware_Controversial

56

1

5

3.52

1.489

Aware_Vandalism

56

1

5

2.98

1.590

Aware_Protected_Pages

56

1

5

2.57

1.683

Aware_Article_Rank

56

1

5

2.07

1.373

Aware_Article_Revision_History

56

1

5

2.98

1.567

Aware_Edited_Anyone

55

1

5

4.02

1.472

Table 5 highlights that faculty are most aware of Wikipedia’s editing policies that have stemmed from the high profile (and negative) cases in the media. The second largest awareness average is from the Aware_Controversial category. All other awareness categories have averages of less than three, indicating that faculty are not very aware of the quality issues of current concern with Wikipedia. The category that faculty are least aware of is that of Article Rank (see Table 2) which is a primary indicator of how appropriate a Wikipedia article is for use as an academic reference. Table 5 also illustrates that faculty view the use of Wikipedia in their general education classes neutrally (mean = 2.85) and usage of Wikipedia in their major classes more negatively (mean = 2.47).

In order to more fully evaluate awareness, a measure of consensus was added to Table 5

and is given here as Table 6.



Table 6

Statistics for Wikipedia use in an academic paper with consensus


Category

N

Minimum

Maximum

Mean

Std. Deviation

Consensus

View_Gen_Ed

46

1

5

2.85

1.032

0.73

View_Major

49

1

5

2.47

1.260

0.63

Aware_Controversial

56

1

5

3.52

1.489

0.54

Aware_Vandalism

56

1

5

2.98

1.590

0.51

Aware_Protected_Pages

56

1

5

2.57

1.683

0.44

Aware_Article_Rank

56

1

5

2.07

1.373

0.59

Aware_Article_Revision_History

56

1

5

2.98

1.567

0.50

Aware_Edited_Anyone

55

1

5

4.02

1.472

0.56

A measure of consensus is added to the results (see the paper by Tastle and Wierman (2007) for a complete description of the consensus measure used) to measure the strength of the faculty group viewpoint toward each issue. A value of 0.00 indicates no consensus in the group, while a value of 1.00 indicates complete consensus, or agreement, within the group. There is no fixed boundary for determining consensus, but it is generally believed that a consensus score of 0.80 signifies consensus (Tastle, 2009).

The largest consensus value is that belonging to the View_Gen_Ed category, indicating that faculty members are somewhat in agreement about the usage of Wikipedia in their general education classes. Other than that, the lack of consensus identifies a trust issue with Wikipedia and will be the subject of further research.

Table 7 divides the faculty into science and Humanities categories and evaluates differences in the awareness issues present in the survey.


Table 7

Differences in awareness


Awareness Category

Science Faculty

Humanities Faculty

Statistics (t-test)

Aware of Controversial Articles

3.35

s = 2.24


n = 20

3.06

s = 1.73


n = 16

t = 0.53

p = 0.603



Aware of Vandalism

2.75

s = 2.72


n = 20

2.38

s = 2.25


n = 16

t = 0.71

p = 0.481



Aware of Protected Pages

2.45

s = 2.58


n = 20

2.06

s = 2.60


n = 16

t = 0.72

p = 0.477



Aware of Article Rank Feature

2.05

s = 1.63


n = 20

1.50

s = 0.67


n = 16

t = 1.57

p = 0.126



Aware of Article Revision History

2.95

s = 2.05


n = 20

2.69

s = 2.76


n = 16

t = 0.50

p = 0.620



Aware that Articles can be Edited by Anyone

3.35

s = 3.08

n = 20

4.60

s = 1.26

n = 15

t = -2.56

p = 0.016

Table 7 indicates no difference in awareness between the faculty groups except in the “Aware that Articles can be Edited by Anyone” category. This is not surprising as faculty from the Humanities rely on more controversial types of work from which to harvest information. More interestingly and corresponding to the previous result is Table 8, which summarizes the feelings of faculty on the use of Wikipedia in their general education classes versus their major classes.



Table 8

Faculty view of Wikipedia in their classes


View of Wikipedia in:

Science Faculty

Humanities Faculty

Statistics (t-test)

General Education Classes

3.12

s = 0.86


n = 17

2.17

s = 0.24


n = 12

t = 2.88

p = 0.007



Major Classes

2.68

s = 1.34


n = 19

1.77

s = 1.53


n = 13

t = 2.11

p = 0.043


Table 8 illustrates a difference in how faculty from the Natural Sciences and Humanities view Wikipedia in their classes. It is uniformly seen that faculty from the Natural Sciences view Wikipedia in a more positive light than do faculty from the Humanities.

Lastly, Figure 4 gives an indication as to the penetration of Wikipedia concerns into the syllabus, grading, and registered user categories as viewed by faculty. While faculty are willing to reduce a grade due to Wikipedia usage, many do not have a use statement in their syllabus, or an account on Wikipedia’s web site.

Figure 4

Syllabus, grading and registered user results

6. Conclusions

The net-generation is beginning to enter the academic arena, and with them come new tools and new uses for these tools. One of these tools, Wikipedia, has the size and popularity levels that make it a formidable knowledge base. Faculty need to manage the use of these web-based resources in an academic environment as a mechanism for quality control. Faculty are not using Wikipedia for academic purposes due to issues of trust in the site. However, as this paper and survey have shown, a lack of consensus on the quality issues and responses to these issues could hamper progress toward using Wikipedia as an academic reference. The results indicate another underlying construct, that of trust in Wikipedia that should be studied further.

Awareness of quality issues in Wikipedia also had a lack of consensus, with the negatively perceived issues which destroy trust such as


  • editing practices (anyone can edit)

  • controversy in articles

  • vandalism in articles

being the ones that faculty members are most aware of; while the positively perceived issues which can build trust such as

  • article rank feature

  • protected pages

  • article revision history

being the ones that faculty members are least aware of. Trust is enhanced in an online world via usage and knowledge of the site in question. Wikipedia is trying to build trust by ranking articles, by establishing more stringent editing practices, and by protecting pages that are being or are subject to being vandalized. Awareness of these quality issues will aid faculty in better managing Wikipedia as an academic reference in the future.

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Appendix A

STATE COLLEGE SURVEY ON WIKIPEDIA USAGE

Your participation in this study will require completion of this questionnaire. This should take approximately 5 minutes of your time. Your participation will be anonymous and you will not be contacted again in the future. By completing and returning this questionnaire you are giving your consent to participate in my research. Your responses on the questionnaire are anonymous and you should not put any identifying information on it anywhere. You can stop filling out this survey at any time. I will be happy to answer any questions you have about this study. If you have further questions about this project or if you have a research-related problem, you may contact researcher. If you have any questions about your rights as a research participant you may contact researcher.



Demographic Information

Gender:  Male  Female Year of birth:

Teaching area: (please list discipline) __________________________________________

1. Do you use Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia?

 Yes, please continue to the next question.

 No. Why not? __________________________________________________________________

Thank-you for your participation. Please fold, tape, and deposit in campus mail.



2. How often do you use Wikipedia in a typical

school week?



___________times in a school week

3. How often do you use Wikipedia in a typical

Summer or Christmas break (i.e. non-school) week?



___________times in a non-school week

4. Did you use Wikipedia for an academic paper in

Fall 2008?



 Yes

 No


5. Did you use Wikipedia for other research in Fall

2008?


 Yes

 No


6. Did you use Wikipedia for pleasure (independent

learning) in Fall 2008?



 Yes

 No


7. How do you use Wikipedia? Initial research on a topic General topic review

 External links to topic Other: ____________________________________



Please circle your response, where 1 = very negatively, 3 = neutral, and 5 = very positively

8. How do you view Wikipedia in your gen ed classes?

(100 – 200 level classes)



1 2 3 4 5

9. How do you view Wikipedia in your major classes?

(300 – 400 level classes)



1 2 3 4 5

Please circle your response, where 1 = not very aware, 3 = somewhat aware, and 5 = very aware

10. Are you aware of controversial articles in

Wikipedia?



1 2 3 4 5

11. Are you aware of vandalism in Wikipedia?

1 2 3 4 5

12. Are you aware that there are “protected pages” in

Wikipedia?



1 2 3 4 5

13. Are you aware of the article rank feature in

Wikipedia?



1 2 3 4 5

14. Are you aware of the article revision history in

Wikipedia?



1 2 3 4 5

15. Are you aware that Wikipedia articles, unless

protected, can be edited by “anyone?”



1 2 3 4 5

16. Do you include a “Wikipedia use statement” in

your syllabi?



 Yes

 No


17. Have you ever reduced a grade due to

using Wikipedia as an academic reference?



 Yes

 No


18. Are you a registered user of Wikipedia? (I.e. do

you have a login name at the Wikipedia site?)



 Yes

 No


Please fold, tape, and deposit in campus mail.
1   2


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