Research:Investigating editing anxiety in new users

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This page documents a planned research project.
Information may be incomplete and change before the project starts.

Key PersonnelEdit

Dr Benjamin R. Cowan

Professor Russell Beale

Project SummaryEdit

The projects goal is to assess the anxiety and usability assessments of first time users and identify the effect anxiety during initial interaction has on further editing behaviours. It will also help further validate and develop the inventories devised to measure anxiety and usability in wiki editing by Cowan (2011). These measures plan to be made available for use by wikimedia researchers and further validation will ensure their quality.

Recent research has identified that negative emotions towards editing in terms of anxiety exist within the Higher Education wiki editing experience (Cowan, Vigentini & Jack, 2009; Cowan & Jack, 2011; Cowan & Jack, Under Review). Although students seem to hold some element of anxiety towards editing wikis very little is known about the negative emotions experienced by editors of more open and dynamic wiki environments such as Wikipedia. In fact very little quantitative research has been conducted looking at the wiki user experience in this area. Exploring users emotional reactions and satisfaction with wiki editing is likely to be an important component in exploring editor retention and encouraging further editing from existing editors. The wiki user experience has gathered recent attention both academically (Vora & Komura, 2010) and in the media (BBC, 2011). Tis research is based in this area but specifically looks at anxiety towards interaction in the editing experience.

This research would, rather than concentrating on system characteristic effects on anxiety as in my previous research (Cowan & Jack, 2011; Cowan, 2011), explore the difference in anxiety between first time editors who do not return to editing, edit infrequently afterwards and edit frequently after administration of the questionnaire. This would identify whether there is a difference in negative emotion in initial edit between those who continue to edit and those who do not. This is an important first step in identifying the existence of anxiety in Wikipedia users and in the identification of whether this anxiety is predictive of users future editing behaviour.


The project looks to test around 300 users. The research will be included as part of Wikimedia's proposed new moodbar with a link asking for volunteers to take part in research on user experiences of wikipedia. When completing the feedback mood bar the participants will also be asked if they would like to contribute to research on wiki user experience. the link will take them to a page asking for consent to take part in the research and then a set of online questionnaires looking at wiki anxiety during their edit of wikipedia (using the Wiki Anxiety Inventory- Editing) and the usability of their experience (using the Wiki Usability Inventory).

After completing the questionnaires participants will be asked at the end of the research to complete a short demographic questionnaire asking for information about their gender, age, experience with wikis and what made them want to edit wikipedia. Participants will also be asked for their wikipedia usernames so that editing activity can me analysed after questionnaire completion. When giving their username participants will be ensured of the security of this data and that only those in the research group will have access to their username data. The username data collected will be destroyed at the end of the project and only stored on our secure server at the University of Birmingham after the questionnaire part of the research has been completed.

At the end of the project participants will be informed of the motivations of the study, the findings of the study and again reminded of their ability to withdraw their data from the study if they wish. At the beginning and the end of the research they will be given an email address for the lead researcher so that they can remove themselves from the study at any point.


The results plan to be disseminated through journal and conferences as well as through Meta wiki.

Wikimedia Policies, Ethics, and Human Subjects ProtectionEdit

Approval from the University of Birmingham Research Ethics Committee is pending. Birmingham University Ethics Reference number ERN_11-0917.

Benefits for the Wikimedia communityEdit

The output of the research will mainly focus on scholarly publications. The research will offer knowledge in the user experience of wikipedia for new editors, specifically their anxiety towards contribution and how this impacts on retention and future contribution behaviour. The research will also allow the development of the Wiki Anxiety Inventory-Editing and Wiki Usability Inventory, with the data from this study leading to factor analysis and design improvements on the items. These inventories will also be made available to wikimedia for further research on anxiety towards editing. The research will also act as a validation measure for the mood toolbar and how effective it is in reflecting negative emotions and satisfaction with editing experience, through correlation of this data with the data from the questionnaire responses.

Time LineEdit

09/2011- 10/2011: Research planning, community and committee feedback on feasibility of project. Ethical review and redesgin on recommendations of ethics process. Research ready for delivery by 01/10/2011.

10/2011- 12/2011: Research link goes live on wikipedia mood bar.

12/2011- 01/2012: Questionnaire data analysed; Includes questionnaire factor analysis, sample data scores calculation and sample divided into high and low anxious.

01/2012-04/2012: Editing activity of users taking part in the study will be analysed for size of edit, amount of page starts, reverts etc.


The research is funded until 01/10/2011 by EPSRC PhD+ fellowship.


Cowan, B.R., & Jack, M.A. (Under Review). The effect of editing identity on anxiety during wiki editing. Submitted to Computers in Human Behavior.

Cowan, B.R., & Jack, M.A. (2011). Exploring the wiki user experience: The effects of training spaces on novice user usability and anxiety towards wiki editing. Interacting with Computers, 23 (2), 117-128.

Cowan, B.R. (2011). Causal effects of wiki site design on anxiety and usability. PhD thesis. University of Edinburgh

Vora, P., & Komura, N. (2010). The n00b Wikipedia Editing Experience. In Proceedings of WikiSym 2010.

Cowan, B.R., Vigentini, L., & Jack, M.A. (2009) Exploring the effects of experience on wiki anxiety and wiki usability: An online study. In Proceedings of BCS HCI 2009.

External linksEdit