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Open Access Chemical Information Media in the Chemistry Lecture Hall: A Comparative Assessment of Two Online Encyclopedias

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The chemistry encyclopedia Römpp Online and the German universal encyclopedia Wikipedia were assessed by first-year university students on the basis of a set of 30 articles about chemical thermodynamics. Criteria with regard to both content and form were applied in the comparison; 619 ratings (48% participation rate) were returned. While both encyclopedias obtained very good marks and performed nearly equally with regard to their accuracy, the average overall mark for Wikipedia was better than for Römpp Online, which obtained lower marks with regard to completeness and length. Analysis of the results and participants' comments shows that students attach importance to completeness, length and comprehensibility rather than accuracy, and also attribute less value to the availability of sources which validate an encyclopedia article. Both encyclopedias can be promoted as a starting reference to access a topic in chemistry. However, it is recommended that instructors should insist that students do not rely solely on encyclopedia texts, but use and cite primary literature in their reports.
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Keywords: CHEMICAL INFORMATION; QUALITY ASSESSMENT; RÖMPP ONLINE; STUDENT SURVEY; WIKIPEDIA

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Chemistry Biology Pharmacy Information Center, ETH Zürich, Wolfgang-Pauli-Str. 10, CH-8093 Zürich 2: Laboratory of Physical Chemistry, ETH Zürich 3: Chemistry Biology Pharmacy Information Center, ETH Zürich, Wolfgang-Pauli-Str. 10, CH-8093 Zürich;, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 01 May 2010

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  • International Journal for Chemistry and Official Membership Journal of the Swiss Chemical Society (SCS) and its Divisions

    CHIMIA, a scientific journal for chemistry in the broadest sense, is published 10 times a year and covers the interests of a wide and diverse readership. Contributions from all fields of chemistry and related areas are considered for publication in the form of Review Articles and Notes. A characteristic feature of CHIMIA are the thematic issues, each devoted to an area of great current significance.

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