Use and Perception of Wikipedia among Medical Students in a Nigerian University

Use and Perception of Wikipedia among Medical Students in a Nigerian University

Esharenana E. Adomi (Department of Library and Information Science, Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria) and Samuel Emeka Adigwe (Department of Library and Information Science, Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/ijdldc.2014040101


This study explored the use and perception of Wikipedia among medical students in a Nigerian university. Descriptive survey design was adopted using questionnaire as instrument to collect data from 60 medical students who were in their fourth year at Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria. Data obtained were analysed with frequency counts and percentages. The study revealed that 91.7% of the medical students have used Wikipedia; 76.4% of them could not indicate precisely the number of times they have used it; 50.9% of the students use Wikipedia to complement lecture notes, 43.6% for research project as well as to complete class assignment, 14% of them use it to modify content of articles; a majority have good knowledge of the structure and content of the site; the challenges faced by the students are scantiness of information of some articles, unavailability of/inability to obtain articles on some topics from the site, and inaccuracy/unreliability of content of articles.
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Launched January 15, 2001 by Jimmy Wales, an entrepreneur, and Larry Sanger, an academician, Wikipedia is a collaboratively edited, multilingual, free-access, free content internet encyclopedia which is supported and hosted by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Volunteers all over the world collaboratively write Wikipedia's 30 million articles in 287 languages, including over 4.5 million in the English Wikipedia (Sidener, 2004; Wikipedia, 2014). Anyone that registered on the site can create an article for publication, but registration is not required to edit articles. The site's name comes from wiki, a server program which enables anyone to edit website content through their Web browser (Rouse, 2008).

There is nothing more convenient than Wikipedia if a person is looking for some quick information, and when the stakes are that he may get what he needs from Wikipedia. In fact, some lecturers even advise their students to read entries for course concepts on Wikipedia as a way to begin understanding those concepts. However, when doing academic research, one should be extremely cautious about using Wikipedia because, as stated by its own disclaimer, information on Wikipedia is contributed by anyone who wants to post information and the expertise of the posters is not taken into consideration. Users may be reading an outdated information or that has been posted by someone that is not an expert in the field or by someone who wishes to provide misinformation (President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2014).

The pedagogical benefits of Wikipedia are now becoming more deeply understood as more and more universities are using it and Wikipedia site has been regarded as a platform to develop learners’ digital literacy, critical understanding and collaborative skills (Poulter, 2014). Students extensively use the web to extend their understanding of concepts and supplement course material. Search engines and information sites such as Wikipedia are frequently used by them (Conole, de Laat, Dillon & Darby, 2008). Students are completing university degrees without reading a single book due to the availability of information on the internet. Many undergraduates no longer see the reason of wasting time with book when they can access facts using websites such as Wikipedia (Paton, 2014).

In a study which investigated how and why college students use Wikipedia within the context of using other resources for course–related research, Head and Eisenber (2010) discovered that students’ driving need for background context makes Wikipedia one of the predictable workarounds that many students use, especially during the first stages of their research process; that course–related research may begin with Wikipedia, but it rarely ends there; that students employed a complex information problem strategy in their research processes, reliant on a mix of information resources that were from scholarly sources and public internet site; that the combination of coverage, currency, comprehensibility, and convenience drives Wikipedia use, in a world where credibility is less of a given — or an expectation from students — with each passing day; they use Wikipedia because it is a quick way to get started and it has some, though not deep, credibility. The students use Wikipedia to obtain background research information though also conscious of the possibility of some inaccuracies of information.

Wikipedia has become the most popular general reference site on the internet and a popular source of health care information (Hasty, Garbalosa, Barbato, Valdes, Powers, & Hernandez, et al., 2014). It is the single leading source of medical information for medical students, patients and healthcare professionals. On the average, the top 100 English Wikipedia pages for healthcare topics have been accessed 1.9 million times during the past year (IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, 2014).

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