Home News Pilot comparative study of online encyclopaedias yields insights into Wikipedia’s accuracy and quality

Pilot comparative study of online encyclopaedias yields insights into Wikipedia’s accuracy and quality

Posted on August 2, 2012
Pilot comparative study of online encyclopaedias yields insights into Wikipedia’s accuracy and quality

Epic announces the release of a pilot study conducted in collaboration with the University of Oxford: ‘Assessing the Accuracy and Quality of Wikipedia Entries Compared to Popular Online Alternative Encyclopaedias: A Preliminary Comparative Study Across Disciplines in English, Spanish and Arabic.’ The study compared a sample of 22 English Wikipedia articles to equivalent articles in Encyclopaedia Britannica; Spanish Wikipedia to Enciclonet; and Arabic Wikipedia to Mawsoah and Arab Encyclopaedia.

Each of the articles in the sample was blind-assessed by two to three native-speaking academic experts, both quantitatively and qualitatively. The study was commissioned in 2011 by the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit that operates Wikipedia, and was undertaken as a preliminary step for defining whether a methodology could be applied to a much bigger comparative study in the future. The study also offers Wikipedia some valuable insights into how it might design its future quality assessment mechanisms.

Epic was chosen by the Wikimedia Foundation to conduct this research following a series of meetings between Epic’s former Director of Learning, Dr Naomi Norman and Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia. After looking at Epic’s previous research and exploring our proposed approach, Wales was convinced that Epic, in conjunction with the University of Oxford, would make an ideal partner for conducting the initial pilot study.

“To lead this exciting and challenging research project is a great affirmation of Epic’s learning research and consulting expertise,” said Epic’s CEO Jonathan Satchell.  “Our long standing collaboration with University of Oxford’s Education Department has been an essential aspect of our success.”

One year later, the pilot study has been released and Epic is delighted to have contributed to this exciting research. A small sample of articles were studied for the purposes of piloting the study’s approach and methods, and the findings cannot therefore be generalised to the wider output of the online encyclopaedias.

Nonetheless, Wikipedia articles in general emerge commendably in a number of respects, and it was possible to identify a pattern of qualities: Wikipedia articles were generally seen as being more up to date than other articles and were generally considered to be better referenced. Furthermore, they appeared to be at least as strong as other sources in terms of comprehensiveness, lack of bias and even readability.

“We’re very encouraged by the results for this small sample of Wikipedia articles,” said Dario Taraborelli, Senior Research Analyst at the Wikimedia Foundation. “It affirms the quality of the editing community’s collaborative work and it provides valuable methodological insight for future studies.”

The methodology used in this pilot study yielded useful results, but the team identified serious logistical problems which would need to be overcome before replicating the research on a larger and wider scale and indeed suggested some alternative avenues of study.

At Epic, we see Wikipedia as a typical starting point for just-in-time learning.  As a multi-authored online reference source, Wikipedia is also a great example of social and collaborative learning.

Read more about the findings of the pilot study and access the full report.

To learn more about Epic’s research and consultancy services, click here.

If you’d like more information about this topic, contact Jessica Engler at 01273 728686 or email pressoffice@epiclearninggroup.com.

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