ASIS&T 2006 START Conference Manager    

Researching Wikipedia – current approaches and new directions

Phoebe Ayers

ASIS&T Annual Meeting - 2006 (ASIS&T 2006)
Austin, Texas, November 3-9, 2006


Wikipedia (, an international, multi-lingual collaboratively-produced free online encyclopedia project, has experienced massive growth since its inception in 2001. The site has become the world’s single largest encyclopedia as well as one of the world’s largest online communities. Because of these factors, the site provides a unique view into the processes of collaborative work, as well as insight into how wiki software can work. To date, there has been no unified review of the current research that is taking place on and about Wikipedia, and indeed there have been few formal studies of the site, despite its growing importance. This project is an effort to categorize research methods that have been used so far for studying Wikipedia and wikis in general and outlining the research questions that have been raised, focusing particularly on the social aspects of Wikipedia. Academic studies of Wikipedia have focused primarily on the social dynamics of contributors (such as how disputes are resolved and why contributors participate), the content of Wikipedia (such as whether it is an accurate source), and the technical aspects of the wiki software (such as how recent changes can be visualized, or software design), with a wide variety of techniques being used to study these questions. Classifying and examining research methods particularly can help researchers understand how to study new Internet applications, as well as help inform potential future research projects, for instance on the users, content validity, and contributor dynamics of Wikipedia. While techniques used for studying wikis are related to other Internet-based research, creativity is required to collect data from these completely anonymous and highly dynamic sources which have specific unique features (such as edit histories) that may be utilized. Wiki and Wikipedia-based research is a nascent field, with much current work being done. The first wiki research conferences occurred in 2005, and there are several more occurring in 2006. The research presented in these venues will help shape this project and the final version of this paper.

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