A decade of writing on Wikipedia

A comparative study of three articles


  • James P. Purdy Duquesne University




Wikipedia, writing, teaching, revision, collaboration


This article reports what observable writing activities characterized three Wikipedia articles, archive, design, and writing, over a three-year period from 2012–2014. It then compares these results to writing in these same three articles 10 years earlier, from 2002–2004. Results show that articles were longer and more referenced in 2012–2014. The most frequent written contributions in 2012–2014 were adding and deleting content, followed by vandalizing and reverting vandalism. Ten years earlier, content addition was likewise the most frequent activity, though vandalism and its removal were not found. The least frequent written contributions in 2012–2014 were organizing and formatting content. Both activities occurred more often 10 years earlier. The number of contributors grew significantly in 2012–2014, though during both time periods approximately ¾ of participants contributed only once. These results support that writing in Wikipedia continues to support notions of revision and collaboration valued in the discipline of writing studies. However, the revision and collaboration that occurred were limited. Thus, more robust approaches to these concepts are needed when using Wikipedia to teach writing. More broadly, Wikipedia contributors need to focus more on organizing and formatting article content for readers.

Author Biography

James P. Purdy, Duquesne University

James P. Purdy, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English/Writing Studies and University Writing Center Director at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pa. His most recent books are The effects of intellectual property law in writing studies: Ethics, sponsors, and academic knowledge-making (Routledge, 2020), co-authored with Karen J. Lunsford, and Making space: Writing instruction, infrastructure, and multiliteracies (University of Michigan Press, 2017), co-edited with Dànielle Nicole DeVoss.




How to Cite

Purdy, J. P. (2020). A decade of writing on Wikipedia: A comparative study of three articles. First Monday, 25(9). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v25i9.10857