Wikipedia boosts visibility and readership of your research

March 21, 2019

A few minutes editing a Wikipedia page can expose your research to hundreds or thousands of views a day, and potentially double the readership of your publication, according to NZ Wikipedian-at-Large Dr Mike Dickison who visited Massey University recently, hosted by Research & Enterprise and the Library.

Some of the highlights from his presentations are particularly relevant to researchers.

Wikipedia articles appear at the top of Google results, often with a preview in the sidebar. It’s the fifth most visited website in the world, with 70 million visitors a day. Everyone uses it and anyone can edit it. So why wouldn’t you put your own research there to reach a wider audience?

For effort vs. impact, Dr Dickison says that Wikipedia may be the most effective use of time spent on outreach, compared to websites, social media, and other ways of disseminating research.

Some practical steps for researchers to take advantage of Wikipedia’s huge reach are:

  • Get your publications online and preferably open access. They are most likely already in an online journal – but be aware that many readers will hit a paywall, which isn’t always obvious to Massey users who connect seamlessly when signed in. Most articles, grey literature and other outputs can be easily made open access via Massey Research Online – your subject librarian can help with this. Even a blog post can be a suitable output for something not yet at article stage.
  • Cite your publication in an existing relevant Wikipedia article, and link to the online version. This is the bit that might double your readership. It might only be a sentence. We don’t advise creating a whole new article if you’re a beginner wiki editor.
  • Add a a couple of other statements (with relevant references) to the Wikipedia article while you’re there, to help improve it. You’ll know what’s important in your area of expertise so it should be quick and easy. Just self-citing isn’t really in the spirit of Wikipedia and might be seen as spamming.

You’ll need to get familiar with editing Wikipedia, but it’s reasonably quick (hence the name – Wiki means quick in Hawaiian). There is plenty of help on the site, and here are a few tips:

  • Find a relevant article, click on edit, and in the top right of the article you may want to set to Visual Editing (unless you are familiar with Source Editing).
  • Edit as an individual, not an institution – but it can still be anonymous.
  • No conflicts of interest – you can’t write about yourself, family, employers or employees. But you can write about other researchers to help raise their profile (they might return the favour) and you can definitely write about your research.
  • All information added to articles must be based on references to reliable published sources. Your qualifications, job title, institution and reputation don’t count. Your publications do.
  • If someone edits or undoes the information you added, take a deep breath. Discuss it with them on the article’s Talk page.
  • Further help is available on Help: Wikipedia editing for researchers, scholars and academics.

Other Wikimedia projects include Commons and Wikidata. Wikimedia Commons is Wikipedia’s huge open licence image library, where anyone may upload and/or use images (with the appropriate attribution), including in teaching and publishing. Uploading your own photos makes them available for wide use, and possibly increases the visibility of your research. Mike was key in getting photos related to the Mosque attacks freely available here, including the widely-shared image of Jacinda Ardern by Kirk Hargreaves.  Wikidata (the fastest-growing project) is the database of structured data supporting the Wikimedia projects (such as Wikipedia).

Dr Dickison spoke about many other aspects of Wikipedia, for example:

  • Students… will find Wikipedia useful at the start of information searches for assignments, and the reference list may have suitable items to include in their own assignment reference list, but Wikipedia itself should not be referenced. He encourages them to be critical consumers of information. Librarians can help with information literacy teaching in courses.
  • Teachers… may want to try setting Wikipedia editing as an assignment – it can be more engaging that an essay and has been done very well (and also badly) by some universities. More about this is on Wiki education.
  • Wiki editors… there are often editing workshops held around the country, where people get together (maybe at the pub) to improve a particular subject area. If you’re interested, look out for these, or Mike can put you in touch with locals.

Our thanks go to Dr Dickison for his enlightening presentations. We recommend you go along if you have the chance to hear him speak in future.

Artists: Moana Woods & Roslyn McGill, Massey University Library

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