Gender differences in information behavior concerning Wikipedia, an unorthodox information source?

by Sook Lim, Nahyun Kwon
Library & Information Science Research ()


This study examined gender differences in information behavior concerning Wikipedia. Data were collected using a Web survey in spring 2008. The study used a convenient sample that consisted of students who had taken an introductory undergraduate course at a large public university in the Midwestern United States. A total of 134 out of 409 students participated in the study. As information consumers, male students used Wikipedia more frequently than their female counterparts did. With respect to the purposes of Wikipedia use, male students used Wikipedia for entertainment or idle reading more than their female counterparts, while there were no gender differences regarding Wikipedia use for other purposes. Male students were more likely to discount the risks involved when using Wikipedia information compared to their female counterparts. Furthermore, male students had higher ratings than female students regarding most aspects of Wikipedia, including outcome expectations, perceptions about its information quality, belief in the Wikipedia project itself, emotional states while using Wikipedia, confidence in evaluating information quality, and further exploration. Finally, there was no gender difference regarding the number of years of Wikipedia use. However, male students reported having more positive experiences with the information quality of Wikipedia than their female counterparts. Overall, the findings of this study were consistent with those of previous studies concerning gender. Given the acknowledgment of the knowledge value of Wikipedia in recent literature, it seems that there are more advantages to using Wikipedia than there are disadvantages. The current study shows that male students seem to enjoy such benefits more than female students and may have more opportunities to develop their information literacy skills than female students by actively using Wikipedia. This suggests that educators need to encourage female students in particular to explore Wikipedia strategically as an initial information source so that they can develop their information literacy skills for unconventional sources.

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