Research:Women and Wikipedia

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Duration:  2014-January — 2014-June
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This page documents a research project in progress.
Information may be incomplete and change as the project progresses.

Key Personnel[edit]

Project Summary[edit]

The purpose of this study is to understand better the participation of women in Wikipedia by conducting interviews with women who are active Wikipedia editors, contributors, and administrators.


This is a qualitative, interview-based study. The interview questions are informed by existing research regarding Wikipedians' motivations for contributing to the online encyclopedia, but the interview protocol may be revised during iterations (we will apply for Modifications as these occur) and abide by Wikipedia's research guidelines for interviews. Also, we will gather publicly available data about participants (e.g., username, edits made, contributions to Wikipedia, etc.) to triangulate interview data.

A key informant who works at Wikimedia Foundation will introduce the lead researcher to potential interview participants. We will then use snowball sampling to recruit participants for interviews. If we do not have enough interviewees after identifying them via personal introduction and snowball sampling, we will use WikiWomen's Collaborative to identify additional participants and then post invitations to a screening survey to selected individual's Wikipedia user talk pages. We will use the survey to screen for interview participants. Surveys will be used for screening purposes only to ensure potential interview participants are active Wikipedians and self-identify as women. We will abide by Wikipedia's research protocols to identify and contact potential participants.

For the online screening survey, we will post invitations to the survey to selected individual's Wikipedia user talk pages and to the WikiWomen's Collaborative. The online survey will include an introduction explaining the purpose of the research, that the research is voluntary, that all personally identifiable information will be redacted prior to publication, and indicating whom participants may contact if they have questions. The survey will be used for recruitment/screening purposes only.

For the interviews, the lead researcher will approach potential interview participants via personal introduction (via email and in person). We will provide participants with an overview of the study procedures and the aim of the research through a consent form, provide time for answering any questions subjects may have, and ask participants to sign a consent form. This information will be provided verbally and in written form via the consent form. The interviews will be semi-structured.

We will tell all participants the aim of our research: to understand better women's participation in Wikipedia. We will also inform participants that participation in this research is voluntary, and that personal identifiers will be redacted prior to publication of results.


Interview Protocol[edit]

A high-level summary of the interview protocol as related to the primary research questions follows. The interviews will be semi-structured; therefore, some questions may be rephrased or omitted.

RQ 1: What motivates women to contribute to Wikipedia?

Sample Questions:

  • Tell me about the first time you edited Wikipedia. Tell me about the second time you edited Wikipedia.
  • Why did you come back? What continues to bring you back to Wikipedia?
  • Which Wikipedia community projects and/or initiatives interest you (do you work on)?
  • Which article(s) did you like authoring and/or contributing to the most? Why?
  • How do you choose the pages and/or projects you participate in?
  • Which contributions are you most proud of?
  • Do you participate in other kinds of online communities? Which ones?
  • What’s your level of participation compared to your participation in Wikipedia?
  • Do you use social media? Which sites or apps?

RQ 2: How do women who are active female Wikipedians view their participation and the Wikipedia community?

  • Tell me about why you did/didn’t indicate your gender on your user page.
  • Tell me about a recent conflict you had with another Wikipedian. Can you tell me how you resolved the conflict?
  • What do you consider to be conflict?
  • Can you tell if a Wikipedian is a man or a woman?
  • Are there any differences between your interactions with women and your interactions with men on Wikipedia? What are they?
  • To whom do you look up to in Wikipedia?
  • Can you remember a situation when another Wikipedian told you you were not competent? Tell me about it.
  • How would you characterize your level of “Wikistress”?

Screening Survey[edit]

The following survey will be used only if snowball sampling does not result in 20 participants. The survey will be manually posted to individuals' user talk pages. The questions below may be revised based on feedback from initial interview participants.

  1. Do you self-identify as female offline?
  2. How long have you been editing and/or contributing to Wikipedia?
  3. Would you be willing to participate in a 45-90 minute interview?
  4. What is your preferred method of contact?

IEG Women & Wikipedia Survey[edit]

Related to this research project, I will be conducting a large scale survey in support of my IEG Women and Wikipedia. I will use Qualtrics to design and deploy the survey, inviting all interview participants to respond as well as posting a link to the Gender gap mailing list, WikiWomen's Collaborative, a dedicated Wikimedia Foundation blog post, my IEG project page, various WikiProjects (e.g., Countering systemic bias, Feminism, etc.), the Village Pump, and other appropriate, yet respectful community venues.

The survey will use a five point Likert scale, and all data will be anonymized. The questions below are a sample of the kinds of questions that will be included in the survey. Participants will also be asked for general demographic information.

Using the Likert scale 1-5, please respond to the following statements.

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neither agree nor disagree
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree
  • Wikipedia is a safe space.
  • Other Wikipedians value my contributions.
  • The gender gap on English language Wikipedia is real.
  • The gender gap on English language Wikipedia needs to be addressed.
  • Other language Wikipedias have a gender gap.
  • Editors who self-identify as female online are more likely to be criticized.
  • Editors who self-identify as female online are more likely to be sexually harassed.
  • Editors who self-identify as female online are more likely to be stalked and/or trolled.
  • My Wikipedia experiences have been influenced by other editors’ perceptions of my sex (e.g., male vs. female).

I have received the following IRB approval from the University of Washington to conduct this survey.

Date: July 14, 2014

PI: Ms. Amanda Menking, PhD Student, Information School

RE: HSD study #47849

“Wikimedia Individual Engagement Project: Women and Wikipedia”

Exempt category determination: Category 2

Determination period: 7/14/2014 - 7/13/2019


We will share final results with all participants, post a link to a summary of our research, and submit our findings for publication in appropriate journals.

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

Date: November 21st, 2013

PI: Ms. Amanda Menking, PhD Student, University of Washington Information School

HSD study #46400 “Women and Wikipedia: A study of women's participation in Wikipedia” The University of Washington Human Subjects Division (HSD) has determined that your research qualifies for exempt status in accordance with the federal regulations under 45 CFR 46.101/ 21 CFR 56.104. Details of this determination are as follows:

Exempt category determination: Category 2 and Category 4

Determination period: 11/21/2013 - 11/20/2018

Benefits for the Wikimedia community[edit]

Sue Gardner, among many others, has made it a priority to increase women's participation in the Wikipedia community. This research project seeks to understand better what motivates women to participate in Wikipedia. The output of this project may provide benefits for the community by sharing the voices of active female Wikipedians in a way that helps the community to consider both design decisions and social interactions.


January - May 2014: Data collection and transcription

May - June 2014: Data analysis

June - July 2014: Draft findings

July - August 2014: Share findings

Preliminary findings[edit]

Preliminary findings are available via



amenking at