Webology, Volume 6, Number 2, June, 2009

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Wikipedia popularity from a citation analysis point of view

Alireza Noruzi, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief


This study aims to provide an overview of the citation rate of Wikipedia since its launch in 2004. It is worth noting that since its inception Wikipedia, the free international multi-lingual encyclopedia, has been subject to criticism (Fasoldt, 2004; Orlowski, 2005; Lipczynska, 2005). Wikipedia as a popular web resource appears in response to every keyword search on Google.

One way to test the popularity of a web resource is to use citation analysis method to predict to what extend it is cited by scientific papers. This study tries to identify and quantify the number of citations to Wikipedia in the papers indexed by the ISI Web of Science, studying the citation behavior of authors who have published papers in journals indexed by this database.

Materials and Methods

A simple search was carried out in June 2009, in the ISI Web of Science (WoS) in the Cited Work=(Wikipedia*) search for total citations. The total number of citations to Wikipedia in WoS was 263.

Table 1 reveals how many Wikipedia entries were cited in each year. The pattern shows the increasing or decreasing trends of Wikipedia citations as used per annum. Yearly distribution of citations gives an idea about scattering of citations. The total number of citations of the six year period is 263 of which the highest number of citations is 81 in the year 2007 and the lowest number of citations is 10 in the year 2004.

Table 1. The total number of citations per year
Publication Year Number of citations
2009 21
20/08 56
2007 81
2006 70
2005 24
2004 10

The first 18 Subject Areas citing Wikipedia are shown (by record count) in Table 2. Table 2 shows that Wikipedia is highly cited by Information Science and Computer Science.

Table 2. Subject areas frequently citing Wikipedia
Subject Areas Number of citations
Information Science & Library Science 19
Computer Science, Information Systems 16
Computer Science, Theory & Methods 16
Engineering, Electrical & Electronic 11
Literature 10
Computer Science, Software Engineering 8
Law 8
Communication 7
Humanities, Multidisciplinary 7
Management 7
Sociology 7
Chemistry, Analytical 6
Education & Educational Research 6
Education, Scientific Disciplines 6
Integrative & Complementary Medicine 6
Medicine, General & Internal 6
Political Science 6
Public, Environmental & Occupational Health 6

Table 3 shows the distribution of citations by place of publication (affiliation). It can be seen that Americans cite Wikipedia more than others.

Table 3. Countries cited Wikipedia
Country Number of citations
USA 106
Canada 14
Germany 13
England 12
Australia 9
Taiwan 8
France 7
China 7
Singapore 7
Austria 6

Table 4 shows the language distribution of citations. The authors of citing papers used Wikipedia in different languages. It is important to know the most dominant language citing Wikipedia. English language was found to be the most dominant language with 251 citations.

Table 4. Languages cited Wikipedia
Language Number of citations
English 251
German 8
French 1
Portuguese 1
Slovene 1
Spanish 1

Discussion and Conclusion

Another simple search was conducted in order to analyze the number of citations to Britannica in the Cited Work=(Britannica*) AND Cited Year=(2004-2009). The result showed that Britannica was cited only 10 times by 10 different subject areas and only in English language documents. The data show that Wikipedia is cited 26 times more than Britannica.

Although, the credibility and reliability of content of Wikipedia as an authoritative reference source was widely criticized (e.g., Lih, 2004; Andrew et al., 2005; Korfiatis, Poulos, & Bokos, 2006), it is cited more than Britannica. The significance of Wikipedia from a citation analysis point of view goes well beyond open access and enhanced opportunities for citation.


Bibliographic information of this paper for citing:

Noruzi, Alireza (2009).   "Editorial: Wikipedia popularity from a citation analysis point of view."   Webology, 6(2), editorial 20. Available at: http://www.webology.org/2009/v6n2/editorial20.html

Copyright © 2009, Alireza Noruzi.

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