January 17, 2022

New comparative study to re-examine the quality and accuracy of Wikipedia

From the Wikimedia Blog:

The Wikimedia Foundation has commissioned a new small-scale study to examine the quality and accuracy of Wikipedia articles. This study, currently being undertaken by Epic, a UK-based e-learning company, and Oxford University, employs greater rigor than the Nature study, involves academics and scholars, and will examine more than just English language entries, and subjects other than solely science. Our hope is that the study’s findings will inspire and inform more extensive, independently funded research related to the quality of information found in Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects.

This project will explore methods to define a baseline for the quality of Wikipedia entries and to help the community identify shortcomings, as well as strategies to address them. Wikipedia has several advantages over commercially available online encyclopedias – it is freely accessible to hundreds of millions of users worldwide, it is available in over 270 languages, and it is updated at remarkable speed, relying on the ability of a vast number of non-paid contributors rather than the academic credentials of a few paid experts. However, errors do exist and concerns have been raised that articles may be colored by contributors’ personal opinions or misunderstandings. A comparative analysis of the quality of Wikipedia’s articles and other popular alternatives is crucial to identifying avenues for improvement

Findings will be presented in April, 2012

Read the Complete Blog Post

Additional Details About the Project

Note: We look forward to reading the result but do have a few questions about the research.  Here are a few of them.

  1. The entry is accurate but important facts are missing or have been removed (for any number of reasons) by an editor even though they are accurate. Will accuracy over time be measured? An entry might be accurate on Monday but by Friday it could have been updated with inaccurate information or an editor removed valid material. Of course, the opposite is also true.
  2. Long tail entries. While entries on popular or major topics are getting constant review what about long tail entries that are not as popular in terms of readers but still might contain important information those who do access the entry. Are these entries being reviewed on a regular basis? For example: we often find outdated/inaccurate information is biographical entries. Are biographical entries being reviewed on a regularly scheduled basis?  For example, all biographical entries for people with the last name beginning with the letter B are (at the least) reviewed  in January and July.
  3. How will Wikipedia decide which entries to review?

From the Study Details Page:

Each student and expert academic will be asked to review two pairs of articles in their relevant subject domain and native language. In each pair, one article will be a Wikipedia entry and the other will an article from a popular alternative online encyclopedia. The students and expert academics will not be aware of the source of the articles. The articles will assessed for a number of factors relating to the quality of the article. These will include comprehensiveness, accuracy, verifiability by references and objectivity. Articles will be rated using a survey tool specially designed for the study. The participants will be asked to justify their judgments, citing relevant references, and suggest appropriate corrections.

+ Will reputation of a source also be considered or only that the citations can be verified?
+ Will “popular alternative online encyclopedias” be general encyclopedias or include subject-focused publications?

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.