Research:The role of citations in how readers evaluate Wikipedia articles/Trust taxonomy

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This set of categories represents the reasons given for trusting, or distrusting, the content of Wikipedia articles provided by over 400 readers between January 7-9 2019. Two researchers independently analyzed samples of responses, discussed common themes, and iteratively refined the emerging categories and heirarchy based on additional examples.

The reasons listed in the taxonomy below...

  • can be multivalent: one person might call out a specific reason to explain why they trust an article, while someone else called out the same reason to explain their distrust.
  • are not mutually exclusive: many survey responses called out multiple reasons for (dis)trusting the article they were reading.
  • are not equally represented within the source data: some reasons were much more common than others
  • reflect the researchers' own understanding: some reasons are based on researchers' interpretations of ambiguous survey responses

Taxonomy of reasons for (dis)trusting Wikipedia articles[edit]

Prior experience: Assessments based on the reader's personal experience with the content of Wikipedia

  • Direct familiarity: Degree that info the reader was looking for, or other info in the article, matches their prior knowledge of the subject
  • Wikipedia familiarity: Degree that info on Wikipedia in general matches reader's prior knowledge

Citations and external links: Assessments based on the prevalence or characteristics of cited sources or other external links

  • Presence of sources: Whether the article contains (any) sources
  • Number of sources: How many sources the article has
  • Perceived authoritativeness of sources: the reputation or ethos of cited sources
  • Accessibility of sources: The degree to which the information in the article may be independently verified by checking the cited sources

Prose style: Assessments based on the textual characteristics or writing style of the article

  • Authoritative tone: Degree to which the tone of the article is professional or suggests expertise
  • Neutral tone: Degree to which the article contains biased or opinion-based language

Risk of incorrectness: Assessments based on the reader's judgement of the likelihood that this information could be wrong or misleading

  • Topic coverage: Perceived availability of reliable information on the topic in external sources
  • Atomic information: Degree to which the information sought is simple or unambiguous
  • Motivation for bias: Perceived likelihood that an unknown author would want to present wrong or misleading information on the topic
  • Potential for bias: Degree to which information on this topic could be presented in a wrong or misleading way

Article structure: Assessments based on the overall size, coverage, or structure of the article

  • Perceived comprehensiveness: Degree to which the article presents all relevant information on the topic
  • Raw size: The length of the article
  • Structural features: Visual or organizational elements of the article content or user interface

Wikipedia process: Assessments based on reader's prior knowledge (or beliefs) about how Wikipedia content is created

  • Open collaboration: Perceptions around the impact of low technical barriers to contribution and voluntary participation
  • Evidence of gatekeeping: Observations of specific indications that the article is actively monitored and moderated by people with decision-making authority
  • Transparency: Degree to which the reader believes they can inspect the article development history

Reputational measures: Assessments based on reputation or perceived popularity of Wikipedia

  • Popularity: Perceptions about how many people consume or contribute to this article
  • PageRank: Observation of the ranking of this article in search engine results pages
  • Hearsay: General perceptions about how much other people trust this article, articles on this topic, or Wikipedia as a whole
  • Specific incident: Indirect knowledge of specific incident(s) that influence credibility judgements

Other measures: Assessments based on no clear or specific criteria

  • Blind faith: Unquestioned belief in the trustworthiness of the content without supporting rationale
  • Common knowledge: Perception that the information in this article is widely or universally known and accepted