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What leads students to adopt information from Wikipedia? An empirical investigation into the role of trust and information usefulness


Address for correspondence: Dr Xiao-Liang Shen, Department of Management Science & Engineering, Economics and Management School, Wuhan University, Mailbox 08-28, Wuhan, Hubei, 430072, China. Email:


With the prevalence of the Internet, it has become increasingly easy and common for students to seek information from various online sources. Wikipedia is one of the largest and most popular reference websites that university students may heavily rely on in completing their assignments and other course-related projects. Based on the information adoption model, this study empirically examines the effects of trust and information usefulness on Hong Kong students' information adoption from Wikipedia. We conducted an online survey and analysed the responses using partial least squares. Overall, the model explained 69.4% of the variance in information adoption, 59.1% of the variance in trust and 62.7% of the variance in information usefulness. Interestingly, deviating significantly from the information adoption model, trust played a major role in determining information adoption and fully mediated the relationship between information usefulness and information adoption. The implications of this study will provide important insights to both researchers and practitioners.

Practitioner Notes

What is already known about this topic

  • Current controversy is perpetuated by the use of Wikipedia in academic work, although it is heavily utilised by university students.
  • Information adoption is solely determined by information usefulness as proposed in Sussman and Siegal's information adoption model.
  • Prior studies on trust in online information environment primarily focused on issues such as security, technical reliability or e-commerce.

What this paper adds

  • This study provides preliminary empirical evidence regarding university students' motivations behind the use of Wikipedia.
  • Trust towards Wikipedia mediates the relationship between information usefulness and information adoption.
  • Completeness and format of online information determine university students' perceptions of information usefulness.

Implications for practice and/or policy

  • Educators should provide university students with more training on evaluating online information and instruct them to be critical learners.
  • Academic institutions should not simply prohibit the use of Wikipedia but instead incorporate it into the curriculum to develop students' digital literacy.
  • The administrators of online educational reference websites should create a reputation system and increase the completeness and format of information.