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This guide is for external partners who have been involved in creating, expanding or overhauling Wikipedia articles, for example as part of an editathon, and who want some indicators of their work’s impact. Many of the same techniques can be used to evaluate contributions to sister sites such as Wikibooks or Wikiversity. The guide does not address the evaluation of larger programmes of activity.

All attempts to boil impact down to a number will be potentially misleading, and this guide notes those problems. Each measure should be treated with caution, and a variety of different measures should help to create a narrative.

References to screen locations, such as “bottom left”, apply to desktop computers: the information may be in a different place, or absent, on the mobile version of the same site.

What was added?

An article history

The "View history" button at the top of any Wikipedia article shows a table of edits, with the most recent at the top. Each line represents a different edit to the article, with the date and time it was made and how large (in bytes) the article was at that point. So if you improved an article over the 16th and 17th of June, you can read off how large the article was before and after the event.

As a rough guide, the word count of Wikipedia articles is about a tenth of the byte count. You can get a more accurate measure by copying text into a word processor.

The “View history” tab will also show how many times an article has been edited since being created or expanded.

Note: this procedure gives you a net change in article size. Articles generally grow as they improve, but quality can change greatly without an increase in size, for example when a long, turgid article is rewritten elegantly.

Who read the articles?

Wikipedia page view statistics

Go to any Wikipedia article, click the View History tab, and then on “Page view statistics” near the top. This brings up a tool that shows the number of page hits in a selectable month, and by mousing-over the bar chart you can find the number of hits on a given day.

Measuring readership by page views is notoriously subject to many biases, which pull in both directions. Caching may mean that all the users in one organisation, such as a university, share a small number of hits. On the other hand, hits can be generated by non-human readers such as search engine robots.

In the case of Wikipedia, there are many uses that don’t result in a page view. Wikimedia sites have an interface (an “API”) which allows other programs (including mobile apps or other web sites) to extract and use text. For instance, groups of articles can be exported to a PDF or to a print-on-demand book. If an educator creates a customised PDF and shares it with students through an online learning environment, those views will not be counted by Wikipedia’s stats tool.

Not every hit means that a Wikipedia article was read in its entirety. A large proportion of readers just consult the first few sentences, or scan through the article, to get an answer to a specific question. Hence if you added a section to an already large article, page view statistics do not say how many people read that material.

Who linked to or discussed the content?

Links to a digital media file

The Wikimedia Commons page for an image or other media file shows where that file is used across Wikimedia. If you have uploaded media to Commons yourself, there will be an “Uploads” link in the top right when you log in to Commons. If a file has been included in a Wikipedia article or other Wikimedia page, clicking on it in that context will take you to a larger view of the image. Underneath that will be a link to its description page on Commons.

Near the foot of that description page will be sections called “File usage on Commons” and “File usage on other wikis”.

This is a way to find uses within Wikimedia, but not on other sites. Search services such as Google Image Search or Tineye can help to identify uses of an image across the wider web.

Links to a group of digital media files

The GLAMorous tool shows overview statistics for all the files in a given category: how many there are, where in Wikimedia they have been used, and what proportion are used in Wikimedia pages. See the reports for images shared by State Library of Queensland or the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Links to articles within Wikipedia

Wikipedia articles, and other Wikimedia pages, have a "What links here" link, on the left sidebar under the heading "Toolbox". This will bring up a list of articles, navigational templates, discussions and other pages that link to that page.

Some of these links are from behind-the scenes discussion or other things that are not part of the encyclopedia itself. For instance, they may be from a user’s draft of an article which is not yet added to the encyclopedia.

Links to articles from the wider web

This image of a magnetically levitating frog, uploaded in 2005, is used in dozens of different pages across Wikipedia, Wikiversity and Wikinews, as listed on the Commons description page.

Google and other search engines can find links to a given URL. For example the following search query finds links to the article “Fan death” that are not on Wikipedia itself.

Google's “Search tools” feature can narrow these results down to new links in the past year, past month, or a custom time range.

These searches will underestimate the number of links to the article for a number of reasons.

  • They find links on the public, searchable web. Links from intranets or virtual learning environments are excluded, as well as most ephemeral links from social media.
  • If an article has changed its title over time, you will need a separate search for links to that name.
  • Some links may be to the mobile version of the site which has a slightly different address.

This technique can help to find discussion, reactions and commentary on the article in online forums.

Which resources were linked?

All Wikimedia wikis have an External Links Search tool which searches all links from that wiki to external sites. Here is the relevant page for English Wikipedia. Counting links to a domain before and after an activity is a way to measure the increased use of a research resource such as a repository of papers. The tool will show which articles are pointing to that domain as a citation or an external link.

Note that the sheer number of links to a domain will include links from drafts, discussions, user pages and other things that are not part of the encyclopaedia. It is more beneficial to both Wikipedia and the external site to use links in citations, rather than in the "External links" section which is less integral to the article. "Spamming" links onto articles where they are not relevant is counterproductive.

Were the articles reviewed?

As well as ongoing informal checking and verification, Wikipedia has a number of more formal review processes in which previously uninvolved editors assess articles. Only a minority of articles have been through these processes. The ones that have will have the date, type and outcome of each review listed near the top of the article’s Talk page.

If an article has been through multiple reviews, the list may be hidden to save space. In this case, find the phrase “Article milestones” and click on “[show]” next to it to make the list visible.

This table explains the article quality system in use on English Wikipedia. If you think an article should be reviewed, posting on the Talk page of the article is a recommended way to get an opinion from experienced Wikipedians interested in the topic.

Were the articles translated?

From any Wikipedia article, or any other Wikimedia project, the bottom of the left sidebar will show links to other language versions of the same page. These other language versions might have evolved entirely independently of the English version, or material might have been translated either way. It is not usually easy to tell which has happened, but if an article has been created in a short time by translation from another language, it is usually possible to discern this from article histories, by looking at dates of edits and by comparing structure.

For example, the article "Ten percent of brain myth" has links to fourteen other language versions. Clicking on "Bahasa Indonesia" ("Indonesian language") brings up an article with many of the same references. Accessing the article history, by pressing alt-shift-h, reveals that the article was created on 10 September 2010. Comparing against the article history of the English language version shows that the Indonesian version was created by translating English text.

This page has been created as part of the 2013-14 partnership between Jisc and Wikimedia UK
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