Research:The role of citations in how readers evaluate Wikipedia articles
As part of an ongoing effort to assess and improve the integrity of the knowledge captured in Wikimedia projects, this project will involve research into how Wikipedia readers use the citations (references) to external information resources in order to achieve learning goals—i.e. the ostensible reason that they have chosen to read a Wikipedia article in the first place.
Previous research suggests that citations can help readers achieve their learning goals in at least two ways:
- by providing them with evidence that the information about a particular topic on Wikipedia is credible, and
- by providing them with signposts to additional information resources about that topic
Learning more about the role that citations play in readers' experience of Wikipedia can help Wikimedia contributors focus and prioritize their sourcing efforts, and help Wikimedia Foundation Product teams build improved features and functionality to support readers’ learning goals and their digital literacy.
This study will begin with a review of existing academic literature related to reader perceptions of the trustworthiness of web content (including Wikipedia content) and the ways that readers use Wikipedia content to learn in both formal and informal learning contexts.
Subsequent to that analysis, the researchers will develop a survey instrument, based on the the one developed for Research:Characterizing Wikipedia Reader Behavior, with the question list slightly altered and supplemented with additional questions focused on gaining insight into how readers perceive and interact with the citations in Wikipedia articles. A link to the survey will be deployed to a sample of readers on English Wikipedia, when they view articles.
Additional research qualitative methods--such as ethnographic interviews and lab studies--may also be employed to gain a deeper understanding into the factors (e.g. information needs, available technology, profession, education level) that mediate a reader's perception of citations: when, how, and why they use them; and what characteristics of a Wikipedia reader or their context of use are associated with likelihood to engage with citations and evaluate them critically.
- background research, study plan
- deploy and analyze first survey on English Wikipedia; begin recruiting for follow-up interviews
- deploy second-round survey on English and analyze data; conduct follow-up interviews; translate and deploy on X other language editions
- analyze multilingual survey results; analyze interview results; perform cross-wiki analysis; report and publish project findings
Related project pages
- Towards Modeling Citation Quality
- Characterizing Wikipedia Reader Behavior
- Characterizing Wikipedia Citation Usage
- Investigating Wikipedia's role as a gateway to medical content
- Student use of free online information resources
- Citation Practices in Wikipedia