Research:Participatory Motivation to Commons-based Peer Production

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This page documents a completed research project.

Project Summary[edit]

This project is an integral part of my master's thesis, and its objective is to discover motivational factors that drive [commons-based peer production] (collaborative online production). Specifically, I would like to take Wikipedia as an example to investigate this inquiry, because there is a publicly available list of active contributors; this will allow me to calculate the response rate of the survey, which is a critical component in survey research. The key theoretical framework of this study is volunteerism, and I would like to administer an online survey to active Wikipedia contributors. The results will be analyzed through confirmatory factor analysis to deduce motivational factors that drive users to contribute to collaborative production online. (duplicate copy of the survey prepared for Wikimedia Research Committee review)

  1. The study has already been approved by the University of Minnesota IRB (study #1009E90052) including both the survey and consent form.
  2. First, participants will be asked to take the Volunteer Functions Index (Clary et al., 1998), which is a likert scale rating of various potential reasons why one might willingly contribute their time, effort, and labor for others. Second, I will ask the participants to rate eight (8) statements regarding their their perceived psychological distance between other contributors and the end users of their contributions (social identity theory; Tajfel, 1978; Dholakia, Bagozzi, & Pearo, 2004). Third, I will ask the participants to rate 13 statements regarding the gratifications they may seek to fulfill through contributing to Wikipedia and other forms of peer production with which they are involved (uses and gratifications). Finally there will be 3 statements regarding how much they enjoy making contributions, and demographic questions for the purpose of statistical categorization will be asked.

Recruitment Details[edit]

  • Stratified sampling will be conducted to determine the editors to be recruited via Wikipedia email.
    • A strata is defined as increments of 1000 most active users listed on the top 8000 list.
    • 100 users will be randomly selected from each strata.
    • Recruitment emails will be sent in batches of 50 in random order, and responses will be closely monitored before sending the next batch of emails.
    • To minimize disturbance, recruitment will be immediately terminated when sufficient number of responses is reached to conduct confirmatory factor analysis.
  • To prevent disturbance, follow-up messages will not be sent.

In addition:

  • Careful attention will be paid to skip those users who explicitly mention their preference to not be emailed.
  • Each email will be personally addressed to that specific user (Dear [username]), and my identity and affiliation will be immediately revealed.
  • Risks (minimal risk) and benefits (chance to win a $50 Amazon gift certificate, and an executive summary of the study upon request) will be clearly stated.

For your reference, below is a copy of the recruitment email:

Dear [username],

Hello, my name is Yoshi Suzuki, a graduate student at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Minnesota. I am sending you a message today to ask you to participate in an online survey about motivation to contribute to peer production (online collaborative production -- e.g., Wikipedia). I am contacting you because you were randomly selected from the list of top 8000 most active contributors of Wikipedia (

This survey research has been reviewed and approved by the Wikimedia Foundation Research Committee ( For more information, please refer to the project page (URL) and the discussion page of this research. This survey is an integral portion of my master’s thesis research. Through this research, I hope to formulate practical suggestions for existing websites and platforms of collaborative production so that more free and open innovations could be seen in the world.

The survey should take no longer than 15 minutes to complete. It involves minimal risk, and is completely confidential. You will also have the chance to win a $50 Amazon gift certificate. You can read more about the survey in the following informed consent page (the survey will NOT start until you provide a consent):

(Survey URL)

Thank you for taking the time to read this message. Your cooperation would be greatly appreciated.

Best Regards,

Yoshi Suzuki
Graduate Student
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
University of Minnesota

Benefits for Wikipedia[edit]

The theoretical aspect of this study is designed to investigate both personal and social motivations to contribute to collaborative production. Hence, the findings of this study will shed light on the motivational factors that drive user contributions from both an individual and collective standpoint. The researcher also has multiple years of industry experience in website development, which provides opportunity to make practical suggestions regarding how to increase participation and contribution among users by incorporating key participatory motivations into the actual structure of the website. This may benefit websites and services including, but not restricted to Wikipedia.

Sharing the Findings[edit]

I am interested in sharing the findings with the Wikipedia community. I am currently planning to:

  • Publish/present my findings in major mass communication conferences and journal publications.
  • Create an executive summary of the findings, link it to the project page.

Wikipedia Policies, Ethics, and Human Subjects Protection[edit]

This research is for my master's thesis, which is overseen by my thesis committee. The study has been granted approval by the Univesrity of Minnesota IRB (study #1009E90052); the study involves minimal risk to its participants, conforms to strict standards of informed consent and openness of data collection methods, and the raw survey data will be stored securely and confidentially.

Time Line[edit]

  • Data collection (~ early June)
  • Data analysis and thesis draft (~ early July)
  • Draft revision (July ~ August)
  • Committee member review (~ August)
  • Thesis defense (end of August --> end of November)

Contact Me[edit]

I welcome your input and feedback. Please feel free to leave a message on the Discussion page email me directly at


This project came to an end with a successful defense of my Master's Thesis. The thesis is available online.

I would like to express my gratitude for the Wikipedia user community. In particular, I would like to thank Dr. Dario Taraborelli, Mr. Aaron Halfaker, Mr. Oliver Keyes, and other members of the Wikimedia Research Committee for their invaluable advice and guidance. In addition, I would also like to thank the Wikipedia editors who took time out of their days to participate in my survey.