An analysis of topical coverage of Wikipedia

Just noticed the article Derek & I wrote is up on the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication site. In case the wording of the abstract makes you wonder: yes, we are both native English speakers :(.

An Analysis of Topical Coverage of Wikipedia

* Alexander Halavais (School of Communications, Quinnipiac University)
* Derek Lackaff (Department of Communication, State University of New York at Buffalo)

Abstract

Many have questioned the reliability and accuracy of Wikipedia. Here a different issue, but one closely related: how broad is the coverage of Wikipedia? Differences in the interests and attention of Wikipedia’s editors mean that some areas, in the traditional sciences, for example, are better covered than others. Two approaches to measuring this coverage are presented. The first maps the distribution of topics on Wikipedia to the distribution of books published. The second compares the distribution of topics in three established, field-specific academic encyclopedias to the articles found in Wikipedia. Unlike the top-down construction of traditional encyclopedias, Wikipedia’s topical coverage is driven by the interests of its users, and as a result, the reliability and completeness of Wikipedia is likely to be different depending on the subject-area of the article.

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7 Comments

  1. Posted 2/14/2008 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    english speakers? not if you ever visit illinois. here it is mandated that the language is called American.

  2. Posted 2/14/2008 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    I posted a link to wikien-l, with a suggestion people use this to fill out the red link lists – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Red_list

  3. Peter Jacobi
    Posted 2/14/2008 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Is it only me, or is there an error in the categories? Both “E” and “F” are labelled “Amer. History” in the graphs (and one of them is an under- the other an overrepresented category).

  4. alex
    Posted 2/14/2008 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    @David, thanks!

    @Peter: It’s not you–the labelling is unfortunately confusing. We probably should have combined them for the purposes of the graph. E is generally US history & Americana, F is history of the Americas. They are often listed together as E-F, but when we coded the articles, it was actually to the next level of specificity. (E.g, to two letters, not just one).

  5. Posted 2/14/2008 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Hm… the phrasing of the abstract did come out a bit… non-native. Next time, in some sense, for example, we’ll do better, as a result.

  6. Posted 3/2/2008 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    no interest at wikien-l, so I posted a link at the wikipedia talk pages for the wikiprojects for physics, linguistics & poetry. would you be able to make your lists of the redlinks you found from the print encyclopedias you used to wikipedia? All in the interests of making your research outdated ;)

  7. alex
    Posted 3/2/2008 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    David: that piece of it was mostly Derek, but I’ll make sure he gets the request.

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