Are Wikipedia Citations Important Evidence of the Impact of Scholarly Articles and Books?

Authors : Kayvan Koush, Mike Thelwall

Individual academics and research evaluators often need to assess the value of published research. Whilst citation counts are a recognised indicator of scholarly impact, alternative data is needed to provide evidence of other types of impact, including within education and wider society.

Wikipedia is a logical choice for both of these because the role of a general encyclopaedia is to be an understandable repository of facts about a diverse array of topics and hence it may cite research to support its claims.

To test whether Wikipedia could provide new evidence about the impact of scholarly research, this article counted citations to 302,328 articles and 18,735 monographs in English indexed by Scopus in the period 2005 to 2012.

The results show that citations from Wikipedia to articles are too rare for most research evaluation purposes, with only 5% of articles being cited in all fields. In contrast, a third of monographs have at least one citation from Wikipedia, with the most in the arts and humanities.

Hence, Wikipedia citations can provide extra impact evidence for academic monographs. Nevertheless, the results may be relatively easily manipulated and so Wikipedia is not recommended for evaluations affecting stakeholder interests.