Big data and Wikipedia research: social science knowledge across disciplinary divides

R. Schroeder, L. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines research about Wikipedia that has been undertaken using big data approaches. The aim is to gauge the coherence as against the disparateness of studies from different disciplines, how these studies relate to each other, and to research about Wikipedia and new social media in general. The paper is partly based on interviews with big data researchers, and discusses a number of themes and implications of Wikipedia research, including about the workings of online collaboration, the way that contributions mirror (or not) aspects of real-world geographies, and how contributions can be used to predict offline social and economic trends. Among the findings is that in some areas of research, studies build on and extend each other's results. However, most of the studies stay within disciplinary silos and could be better integrated with other research on Wikipedia and with research about new media. Wikipedia is among few sources in big data research where the data are openly available, unlike many studies where data are proprietary. Thus, it has lent itself to a burgeoning and promising body of research. The paper concludes that in order to fulfil this promise, this research must pay more attention to theories and research from other disciplines, and also go beyond questions based narrowly on the availability of data and towards a more powerful analytical grasp of the phenomenon being investigated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1039-1056
Number of pages18
JournalInformation, communication & society
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


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