Why We Read Wikipedia

We are using qualitative and quantitative methods to learn why people read Wikipedia.

why we read wikipedia image

Project overview

Every second 6,000 people view Wikipedia pages. In this research, we aim to understand their motivations and needs.

To begin answering our question, we ran a series of surveys on English, Persian, and Spanish Wikipedias and built a taxonomy of Wikipedia readers based on their motivation, the depth of their information needs, and their prior familiarity with the topic read. Next, we ran a large-scale survey in English Wikipedia and studied the prevalence of readers' use cases using this taxonomy.

We then combined the results of the survey with Wikipedia’s HTTP webrequest logs to create a deeper characterization of Wikipedia's readers. You can learn more about the result of this study by reading our full paper or listening to one of our presentations.

More recently, we ran another survey using the original taxonomy we built—this time in 14 Wikipedia languages. We wanted to test the robustness of the results of the first study and to learn about Wikipedia readers across a broader spectrum of languages. More than 210,000 responses were submitted, and we are now analyzing the results.

Recent updates

  1. Dataset released for Why the World Reads Wikipedia

    We have released the dataset of reader motivations from many different countries accompanying our WSDM '19 paper: Why the World Reads Wikipedia.
  2. Why the World Reads Wikipedia: Beyond English Speakers

    Our WSDM '19 paper on Wikipedia reader motivations across many different language editions and countries is now available.
  3. Wikipedia explains how those late-night reading binges happen

    "Most people visit another link when they look up a topic on Wikipedia." Our study is featured in Engadget.
  4. An overview of “Why we read Wikipedia”

    A video of a presentation for the Wikimedia Foundation's Metrics and Activities Meeting, with an overview of our research, its takeaways and future directions
  5. Reader behavior and motivations across 14 languages

    We repeated the 2016 study, this time in 14 languages. We collected more than 210,000 responses that we are currently analyzing.
  6. Why we read Wikipedia: New paper

    We published a paper with the research methodology and the resulting taxonomy of use cases, and the associated behavioral patterns, of readers of English Wikipedia.

Project team

Leila Zia, Robert West, Isaac Johnson


Florian Lemmerich (GESIS), Jure Leskovec (Stanford University), Philipp Singer (GESIS), Markus Strohmaier (GESIS), Ellery Wulczyn (Wikimedia Foundation)


  • Philipp Singer, Florian Lemmerich, Robert West, Leila Zia, Ellery Wulczyn, Markus Strohmaier, and Jure Leskovec. 2017. Why We Read Wikipedia. In Proceedings of the 26th International Conference on World Wide Web (WWW '17). International World Wide Web Conferences Steering Committee, Republic and Canton of Geneva, Switzerland, 1591-1600. DOI:

Resources and links