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March 16, 2018, 11:30 a.m.
Audience & Social
LINK: blog.wikimedia.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Shan Wang   |   March 16, 2018

What’s motivated people to visit the Wikipedia pages they’re reading? Wikipedia recently tried to answer that question at scale by asking a sample of Wikipedia readers last June, “Why are you reading this article today?” It seems a lot of people go to Wikipedia for earnest, serious, information-seeking reasons.

The study collected 215,000 responses from visitors to Wikipedia pages across 14 languages (Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Dutch, English, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Japanese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, and Ukrainian).

The survey offered readers choices from seven types of motivations for why they were reading the Wikipedia page they were reading (e.g., “I have a work or school-related assignment, I need to make a personal decision based on this topic, I want to know more about a current event”).

Thirty-five percent of Wikipedia users sampled across the 14 languages in this study said they were on the site to find a specific fact. Thirty-three percent said they were looking for an overview of a topic, while 32 percent said they wanted to get information on a topic in-depth. (The graphs are broken down by language.)

Intrinsic learning was the top motivator for Wikipedia users! Followed by wanting to know more about a topic that had come up in media of some sort, or in conversations. (And yeah, people self-report in ways that reflect well on themselves, but this does seem to line up with how I personally use Wikipedia.)

The study also asked readers a follow-up question about their overall familiarity with the topics of the articles they were looking up: The average familiarity was 55 percent across all languages (for reasons not researched in this version of the study, Bengali and Chinese Wikipedia users reported much lower-than-average familiarity with the articles they were reading, while Dutch, Hungarian, and Ukrainian users reported much higher-than-average familiarity).

There were a few outliers to the above general findings:

— Hindi readers’ overall lookup and overview reading is the lowest among all languages (at 20 percent and 10 percent, respectively), while in-depth reading is the highest (almost 70 percent).

— Hebrew Wikipedia readers have the highest rate of overview readers (almost 50 percent).

You can read the full study here.

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