A Wikipedia editing project conducted in a summer anthropology course at SMU recently won the $1,000 SMU Libraries Information Literacy stipend. Yes, Wikipedia! Actually, a project of this type is an excellent way to foster information literacy, critical thinking, and collaborative writing skills in your students.

First, some background

Wikipedia’s reputation in academia has been a mixed bag over the years. However, there’s no denying its popularity among student researchers. The notion of Wikipedia’s viability as an encyclopedic source began to gain momentum after a 2005 study in the journal Nature, which showed that Wikipedia had approximately the same number of errors in its content as the Encyclopedia Britannica. Twelve years later, Wikipedia continues to gain wide acceptance as additional studies have supported claims of its viability as an efficient, useful method for building background knowledge and context.

What SMU is doing

Building on the growing success of Wikipedia as a trusted encyclopedic source, an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education encouraged academics to contribute to Wikipedia in order to improve it even further. Many universities worldwide have since heeded the call, including here at SMU.
You can read about our Summer 2017 project and reflections/results through the report authored by Jessica Lott on the Faculty Information Literacy Stipend website. Our assignment didn’t use Wikipedia as a source, but rather as a place for students to work their creative thinking muscles as editors and creators of content.

With all that positive press, it’s easy to see how and why Wikipedia has a place in research. Want more convincing on the benefits of your students as editors?
In the spirit of David Letterman, here are the Top Ten Reasons why a Wikipedia editing project is an idea worth pursuing in your course:

Top 10!

10. Wikipedia is an excellent way to authentically incorporate the required IL tag into your course.
09. You can avoid the dreaded term paper grading pileup!
08. It encourages creativity and critical thinking in research and writing online, and requires students to write with a neutral point of view.
07. It fills gaps in Wikipedia’s content, giving more exposure to typically underrepresented groups and content areas.
06. Wikipedia gives students first-hand experience with the peer-review process– Yes! There is a peer review on Wikipedia via the “talk” pages.
05. It allows students to participate in a strong global community and practice effective public engagement.
04. Adding content to Wikipedia ensures your field is accurately represented in this go-to resource.
03. It gives students the opportunity to “give back” to a resource they’ve benefitted from
02. Wikipedia editing promotes active-learning, motivation and engagement with research and course content.

…and finally, as we mentioned
01. A Wikipedia editing project won the SMU Libraries $1,000 Information Literacy stipend award!

If you would like to discuss ways that you can incorporate a Wikipedia editing project into your curriculum or otherwise create an assignment that can win the $1,000 IL stipend prize, contact your librarian. We’re ready to talk!

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