Wikipedia–A tool like any other

Wikipedia globe with figures building it

Image from Giulia Forsythe: Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/8174197748/ and used according to a Creative Commons Attribution License

Have you ever read an article that put words to something you’ve been trying to say?  I came upon one:

Calhoun, C. (2014). Using Wikipedia in information literacy instruction: Tips for developing research skills. College & Research Libraries News, ?, 32-33.

I’ve long thought of Wikipedia as a springboard to more scholarly material.  Calhoun (2014) details how to use it as a springboard:

  • Developing Topics

Wikipedia entries can help you refine a rough topic idea through the subheadings within an entry (Calhoun, 2014, p. 32).  For example I searched for the term “genre.”  There I saw the subheading of “audience,” a focus which could certainly apply to information literacy (Information sources have audiences, after all.).

  • Finding Keywords

Readers can also use Wikipedia to find keywords and names for further research (Calhoun, 2014, p.33).  To use the genre article again, I read the audience section and found the phrase “antecedent genre.”  Since new genres can spring from antecedent genres, this is another important concept: I was glad to be reminded of the term.   If an article has some inaccurate details, the search terms could help the researcher cross-check the facts.

  • Reading Further

Many Wikipedia entries include a list of references (Calhoun, 2014, p. 33).  Mine led me to a classic article on antecedent genres (Jamieson, 1975).   Some entries may have inaccurate or less-than-credible references, which could provide a teachable moment.

Of course these uses overlap with one another.  The additional reading can lead to additional search terms, etc.  Still, the article  outlines some appropriate uses of Wikipedia,  a tool like any other.  Let’s use it wisely.

 

Additional References

Genre. (2014). Retrieved January 29, 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genre

Jamieson, K. M. (1975). Antecedent genre as rhetorical constraint. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 61(4), 406-415. doi: 10.1080/00335637509383303