Crowdsourcing the OED

Research Question

Who were the hundreds of people around the world who helped create the Oxford English Dictionary in the nineteenth century? Most people think that Wikipedia was the first crowd-sourced project. But one hundred and fifty years earlier, the Oxford English Dictionary reached out to the public for help in its creation. This project researches the people around the world who helped create the world's largest English dictionary by reading their local books and sending in example sentences on small “slips” of 4x6-inch paper. We investigate how the expertise of professionals was harnessed, as well as the industry of keen autodidacts, especially women. We apply network analysis and data visualizations to archival material to answer questions about sharing, ownership, and dissemination of ideas and knowledge in the nineteenth century.


Some of the results of this research will be published in The Dictionary People by Sarah Ogilvie in September 2023.


Research Team

Sarah Ogilvie (Principal Investigator)

Gabe Previte

May Peterson

Sebastian Ahnert

Sandhini Argawal

Luz Tur-Sinai Gozal

Vihan Lakshman

Mirae Lee

Tyler Lemon

Isi Okojie

Kenny Smith

Riya Verma


At Oxford, we are grateful for the support of the Bodleian Libraries; Oxford University Press Archives; the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology, and Phonetics; Campion Hall; and Harris Manchester College.


At Stanford, we gratefully acknowledge generous funding and support from:

Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences

Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis

Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Research 

Office of the Provost

Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

Roberta Bowman Denning Fund for Humanities and Technology