Two researchers at the University of Arizona performed a study to determine why some Wikipedia articles rate high in terms of quality, while others score lower. Eller College of Management Professor Sudha Ram and Jun Liu, a graduate student, have found that entries on Wikipedia – the world’s largest open-access online encyclopedia – gain greater quality with contributions from people in many different roles. Sudha Ram, a UA’s Eller College of Management professor, co-authored the article with Jun Liu, a graduate student in the management information systems department (MIS). Their work in this area received a “Best Paper Award” at the Workshop on Information Technology and Systems held in conjunction with the International Conference on Information Systems, or ICIS.

Wikipedia has an internal quality rating system for entries, with featured articles at the top, followed by A, B, and C-level entries. Ram and Liu randomly collected 400 articles at each quality level and applied a data provenance model they developed in an earlier paper. “What was missing was an explanation for why some articles are of high quality and others are not,” Ram said. “We investigated the relationship between collaboration and data quality.”

To generate the best-quality entries, she says, people in many different roles must collaborate. Ram and Liu suggest that the results of this study should spark the design of software tools that can help improve quality. “A software tool could prompt contributors to justify their insertions by adding links,” she said, “and down the line, other software tools could encourage specific role setting and collaboration patterns to improve overall quality.”

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