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, 12 (12), e0190046

Wikipedia as a Gateway to Biomedical Research: The Relative Distribution and Use of Citations in the English Wikipedia


Wikipedia as a Gateway to Biomedical Research: The Relative Distribution and Use of Citations in the English Wikipedia

Lauren A Maggio et al. PLoS One.


Wikipedia is a gateway to knowledge. However, the extent to which this gateway ends at Wikipedia or continues via supporting citations is unknown. Wikipedia's gateway functionality has implications for information design and education, notably in medicine. This study aims to establish benchmarks for the relative distribution and referral (click) rate of citations-as indicated by presence of a Digital Object Identifier (DOI)-from Wikipedia, with a focus on medical citations. DOIs referred from the English Wikipedia in August 2016 were obtained from Next, based on a DOI's presence on a WikiProject Medicine page, all DOIs in Wikipedia were categorized as medical (WP:MED) or non-medical (non-WP:MED). Using this categorization, referred DOIs were classified as WP:MED, non-WP:MED, or BOTH, meaning the DOI may have been referred from either category. Data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics. Out of 5.2 million Wikipedia pages, 4.42% (n = 229,857) included at least one DOI. 68,870 were identified as WP:MED, with 22.14% (n = 15,250) featuring one or more DOIs. WP:MED pages featured on average 8.88 DOI citations per page, whereas non-WP:MED pages had on average 4.28 DOI citations. For DOIs only on WP:MED pages, a DOI was referred every 2,283 pageviews and for non-WP:MED pages every 2,467 pageviews. DOIs from BOTH pages accounted for 12% (n = 58,475). The referral of DOI citations found in BOTH could not be assigned to WP:MED or non-WP:MED, as the page from which the referral was made was not provided with the data. While these results cannot provide evidence of greater citation referral from WP:MED than non-WP:MED, they do provide benchmarks to assess strategies for changing referral patterns. These changes might include editors adopting new methods for designing and presenting citations or the introduction of teaching strategies that address the value of consulting citations as a tool for extending learning.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Fig 1
Fig 1. A citation with a DOI link from the references section of the Wikipedia page on Drug Prohibition Law to a scholarly article.
The “DOI” in the link acts as when referred (clicked).
Fig 2
Fig 2. The process of how a link is resolved.

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Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.