Collaboration in context: Comparing article evolution among subject disciplines in Wikipedia

  • Katherine Ehmann McGill University
  • Andrew Large McGill University
  • Jamshid Beheshti McGill University
Keywords: wikipedia, open source, encyclopedias, reference materials, information resources, reference resources, article quality, article development


This exploratory study examines the relationships between article and Talk page contributions and their effect on article quality in Wikipedia. The sample consisted of three articles each from the hard sciences, soft sciences, and humanities, whose talk page and article edit histories were observed over a five-month period and coded for contribution types. Richness and neutrality criteria were then used to assess article quality and results were compared within and among subject disciplines. This study reveals variability in article quality across subject disciplines and a relationship between Talk page discussion and article editing activity. Overall, results indicate the initial article creator’s critical role in providing a framework for future editing as well as a remarkable stability in article content over time.

Author Biographies

Katherine Ehmann, McGill University
Katherine Ehmann graduated from McGill University's Master of Library and Information Studies program in 2008. She was awarded a Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) in 2006, which funded this research on Wikipedia. Previously, she attended Queen's University at Kingston, Ontario, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in English Literature and Sociology.
Andrew Large, McGill University
Andrew Large currently holds the CN-Pratt-Grinstad Chair in Information Studies at the School of Information Studies, McGill University, and from 1989 until 1998 was the School's Director. He has been actively involved in funded research for many years, and his research over the last 15 or so years has focused upon the information-seeking behavior of children and the design of information technologies to support this behavior. He has authored, co-authored or edited a number of books and published extensively in refereed journals.
Jamshid Beheshti, McGill University
Jamshid Beheshti has taught at the School of Information Studies at McGill University for more than twenty years, where he was also the Director for six years. He was appointed the Associate Dean (Administration) of the Faculty of Education in 2004, and currently holds the position of Interim Dean of the Faculty.
How to Cite
Ehmann, K., Large, A., & Beheshti, J. (2008). Collaboration in context: Comparing article evolution among subject disciplines in Wikipedia. First Monday, 13(10).