Research:The Information Behavior of Wikipedia Fan Editors: A Digital Autoethnography

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(LIS PhD student at Emporia State University)
Duration:  2022-February – 2022-December

This page documents a research project in progress.
Information may be incomplete and change as the project progresses.
Please contact the project lead before formally citing or reusing results from this page.

Building off my past research on Wikipedia,[1][2] this qualitative study seeks to document and discuss the information behavior of "fan editors" (that is, individuals who edit articles related to pop culture topics, such as films, TV shows, comics, etc.) on the site Wikipedia. Despite fan editors being among Wikipedia’s most active editors, hardly any attention has been paid to them by either library and information science (from here on, abbreviated as LIS) or fan studies. This is a surprising omission: For LIS researchers, Wikipedia is of paramount importance, given that it is one of the world's most heavily used reference sources. Likewise, for fan studies scholars, encyclopedic texts such as Wikipedia articles are, for many fan communities, important archives that enable information to be preserved and passed onto others.

Research questions[edit]

The broad research question guiding this project is as follows: What is the information behavior of fan editors on Wikipedia? In a more detailed manner, the question can be broken down as follows:

  1. How do fan editors on Wikipedia seek out, select, and share information when editing the site?
  2. What information hurdles do these editors encounter?
  3. How do fan editors overcome these hurdles?
  4. What implications do these findings have for the Price (2017) model[3] of fan information behavior?


This project is a digital autoethnography, which will require me to engage in prolonged fieldwork editing Wikipedia, while also interviewing key informants—i.e., fan editors—whose insight will enable me to better understand their information strategies. As an autoethnography, this work requires critical self-analysis, which necessitates that I situate my own experiences alongside those of the people whom I am studying. Data collection for this project has three major components: fieldwork/participant observation, case study analysis, and interview methods.


This project commenced on February 2022, and I plan to work on it until the end of the year. Intensive fieldwork will occur from February until August, and I will conduct interviews with select editors during the spring of 2022. Coding and thematic analysis will be conducted in the fall and winter of 2022.

Policy, Ethics and Human Subjects Research[edit]

This project is IRB-approved, and I plan on following Staeiou's ethnographic research protocol in order to reduce potential harm. Since this project is autoethnographic, I have largely been interacting with editors on Wikipedia like I always have (in other words, I have not done anything "out of the ordinary" that could be disruptive).


As I am still in the fieldwork portion of this project, results are pending.


  1. Thomas, Paul (2016). "Wikipedia and participatory culture: Why fans edit". Transformative Works and Cultures 22. ISSN 1941-2258. doi:10.3983/twc.2016.0902. 
  2. Thomas, Paul A. (2018). "Canon wars: A semiotic and ethnographic study of a Wikipedia talk page debate concerning the canon of Star Wars". The Journal of Fandom Studies 6 (3): 279–300. doi:10.1386/jfs.6.3.279_1. Retrieved March 2, 2022. 
  3. Price, Ludovica (2017). "Serious leisure in the digital world: exploring the information behaviour of fan communities". Humanities Commons. City, University of London. Retrieved March 2, 2022.