Students 'tend to be more accurate when they write for Wikipedia'

Washington, June 1: A new study has found that students tend to be more accurate and less likely to plagiarize when they know their essays will be posted on Wikipedia, rather than just read by a teacher.

Brenna Gray, an instructor at Douglas College in New Westminster, said that Wikipedia, despite its faults, promotes solid values for writers, including precise citations, accurate research, editing and revision.

"Those ideals are the ones we espouse as English instructors," she said.

Gray asked first-year students to write short biographies of Canadian writers that would then be posted on Wikipedia.

She found that the moment the students realized their work was going public in a forum over which they had no control, they took the work a lot more seriously. They became concerned, for example, with the accuracy of facts.

Gray said that this behaviour was not only because their work was going public, but was also that they were acquiring valuable skills.

The result was presented at the 2011 Congress of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.

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