Research:Using Campbell's fish-scale model to understand potentially gendered content coverage

Duration:  2014-October – January-2015
Noto Emoji Pie 1f4c6.svg

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

Key PersonnelEdit

Project SummaryEdit

Donald T. Campbell proposed that science does not advance in a "comprehensive, integrated" way due to ethnocentrism of disciplines. He suggested, instead, a fish-scale model of omniscience. We plan to test his theory by investigating whether content the English language Wikipedia community constructs as gendered (i.e., more "male" or more "female") is more or less likely to be created and developed in a "comprehensive, integrated" way. We will do this by asking the community to identify gendered articles (Survey 1). Once we have a set of articles identified by the community, we will ask participants outside of the community to respond to the articles (Survey 2). Then we will analyze the relationships between these articles and other Wikipedia content.


Survey 1Edit

Our first survey will ask editors to identify sets of articles (e.g., 10-20 articles) they consider: "male," "female," and "neutral."

Survey 2Edit

Our second survey will present non-Wikipedians with sets of articles the community has identified as "male," "female," and "neutral," and ask participants to use a Likert scale to respond to statements about the articles.

Recruitment of editors for both surveysEdit

Participants for the first survey will be recruited via existing mailing lists (e.g., Gendergap, Research, etc.), known contacts (i.e., snowball sampling), WikiProject talk pages, and local chapters.

Analysis of dataEdit

Data from Survey 1 will provide a set of articles for Survey 2. Data from Survey 2 will provide information for content--not editor--investigation and analysis.


Findings will be reported via this project page, open access outlets, and appropriate academic venues.

Wikimedia Policies, Ethics, and Human Subjects ProtectionEdit

All identifiable participant data will be redacted. Editors are not the focus of this study. This project is pending University of Washington Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval.

Benefits for the Wikimedia communityEdit

Some argue the gender gap should be addressed so that content coverage is more complete and representative. Outreach events such as Art and Feminism 2014 and the upcoming third annual Global Women Write In are designed, partly, to address what seem to be gendered gaps in content coverage. Asking the community to identify existing gendered articles and then analyzing the relationships between these articles and the rest of the English language Wikipedia will help to 1) determine how large these gaps may be and where they occur 2) which topics seem to serve as bridges 3) how potentially gendered content coverage may have changed over time and/or as a result of outreach events.


October 2014Edit

  • Seek University of Washington Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval
  • Seek RCom support
  • Draft Survey 1
  • Draft Survey 2

November 2014Edit

  • Recruit for and deploy Survey 1
  • Analyze responses to Survey 1

December 2014Edit

  • Recruit for and deploy Survey 2
  • Analyze responses to Survey 2
  • Conduct content analysis

January 2015Edit

  • Share findings


This research is supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, Enhancing Social Translucence in Systems to Support Virtual Teaming (#1162114).


  1. Bischoping, K. (1993). Gender differences in conversation topics, 1922-1990. Sex roles, 28:1/2, pp 1-18.
  2. Campbell, D.T. (1969). "Ethnocentrism of disciplines and the fish-scale model of omniscience." In Interdisciplinary relationships in the social sciences. Edited by Sherif, M., & Sherif, C. W. Chicago: Aldine.
  3. Charting diversity: Working together toward diversity in Wikipedia. (2014).
  4. Cohen, N. (2011, January 30). Define gender gap? Look up Wikipedia’s contributor list. The New York Times.
  5. Eckert, S. and Steiner, L. (2013). (Re)triggering backlash: Responses to news about Wikipedia’s gender gap. Journal of Communication Inquiry, 37: 284.
  6. Iosub, D., Laniado, D., Castillo, C., Fuster Morell, M., and Kaltenbrunner, A. (2014). Emotions under discussion: Gender, status and communication in online collaboration. PLoS ONE 9(8): e104880. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0104880
  7. Lam, S., Uduwage, A., Dong, Z., Sen, S., Musicant, D., Terveen, L., and Riedl, J. (2011). WP:Clubhouse?: An exploration of Wikipedia’s gender imbalance. In Proceedings WikiSym 2011, ACM Press (2011), 1-10.


Amanda Menking via or Mssemantics