Close menu


Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

Authority of knowledge: historians on Wikipedia in Higher Education

Doucet, Delphine (2023) Authority of knowledge: historians on Wikipedia in Higher Education. In: LILAC, 19-21 April 2023, UNiversity of Cambridge. (Unpublished)

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


Authority of knowledge: historians on Wikipedia in higher education

This paper will present results from a qualitative research project which explored the relationship between history academics’ conceptions of knowledge and authority in their fields of research and their assessment of Wikipedia’s authority and credibility as a teaching resource. The author, herself a history lecturer, conducted in-depth interviews with eight historians from UK universities to investigate their views on the topic.
As universities move forward from the pandemic and engage more and more in the development of digital learning and teaching (JISC, 2022), Wikipedia appears ever more like an opportunity to enhance students’ digital skills and literacy and some institutions have embedded Wikipedia in their teaching (Ball, 2019; The University of Edinburgh, 2022). These initiative recognise the status of Wikipedia as the largest internet encyclopaedia and a well-established feature of people’s search for knowledge (Cummings, 2020a; Wikipedia, 2022b).As the site’s prominence grew, its relationship with academia remained fraught although it has evolved from suspicion and rejection to tolerance if not full acceptance (Jemielniak, 2019; Cummings, 2020a; Konieczny, 2021b). History seems to be a case in point. This is particularly poignant as historical articles in Wikipedia are amongst the most consulted (Samoilenko et al., 2018). Nevertheless, history lecturer’s attitudes to Wikipedia have not been explored in depth.
Through the interviews, historians reflected and explored their understanding of Wikipedia in relation to notions of authority in their fields of research. From this exploration, they considered whether Wikipedia could be used in teaching to benefit students. These interviews lead to fascinating conclusions on the tensions between a discipline such as history and potential use of Wikipedia as a tool for teaching.
This presentation will outline the results of the research. These can form the basis of further reflection on the ways in which the notion of authority can be discussed and made more explicit to students. This notion is all the more important since understanding authority is at the heart of stemming the rise of misinformation and disinformation in our societies (O’Connor & Weatherall, 2019).

Arazy, O., Morgan, W., & Patterson, R. (2006). Wisdom of the Crowds: Decentralized Knowledge Construction in Wikipedia (SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 1025624). Social Science Research Network.
Ball, C. (2019). Wikiliteracy: Enhancing students’ digital literacy with wikipedia. Journal of Information Literacy, 13(2), 253–271.
Cummings, R. E. (2020). The First Twenty Years of Teaching with Wikipedia: From Faculty Enemy to Faculty Enabler. In J. M. Reagle & J. L. Koerner (Eds.), Wikipedia @ 20: Stories of an incomplete revolution. The MIT Press.
Jemielniak, D. (2019). Wikipedia: Why is the common knowledge resource still neglected by academics? GigaScience, 8(12), giz139.
JISC. (2022). Learning, teaching and assessment. Jisc.
Konieczny, P. (2021). From Adversaries to Allies? The Uneasy Relationship between Experts and the Wikipedia Community. She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation, 7(2), 151–170.
O’Connor, C., & Weatherall, J. O. (2019). The misinformation age: How false beliefs spread. Yale University Press.
Samoilenko, A., Lemmerich, F., Zens, M., Jadidi, M., Génois, M., & Strohmaier, M. (2018). (Don’t) Mention the War: A Comparison of Wikipedia and Britannica Articles on National Histories. Proceedings of the 2018 World Wide Web Conference on World Wide Web - WWW ’18, 843–852.
Sanger, L. (2007). Who Says We Know: On the New Politics of Knowledge. In Essays on free knowledge: The origins of Wikipedia and the new politics of knowledge (pp. 151–172).
The University of Edinburgh. (2022, January 17). Wikimedian in Residence. The University of Edinburgh.
Wikipedia. (2022, February 1). Main Page. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.

PDF (Conference paper slides)
Delphine Doucet - Authority of knowledge historians on Wikipedia in higher education LILAC2023.pdf - Presentation
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (1MB) | Preview

More Information

Uncontrolled Keywords: History, Wikipedia, Authority
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Delphine Doucet


Item ID: 16587
Official URL:

Users with ORCIDS

ORCID for Delphine Doucet: ORCID iD

Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 13 Sep 2023 10:59
Last Modified: 16 Jan 2024 11:15


Author: Delphine Doucet ORCID iD

University Divisions

Services > Library & Study Skills


Education > Higher Education
Librarianship > Librarianship

Actions (login required)

View Item (Repository Staff Only) View Item (Repository Staff Only)