Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cancer information on Wikipedia is accurate, but not very readable, study finds

Date:
June 2, 2010
Source:
Thomas Jefferson University
Summary:
It is a commonly held that information on Wikipedia should not be trusted, since it is written and edited by non-experts without professional oversight. But researchers have found differently, according to new data.

It is a commonly held that information on Wikipedia should not be trusted, since it is written and edited by non-experts without professional oversight. But researchers from the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson have found differently, according to data being presented at the 2010 ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Related Articles


Reassuringly, they found that cancer information found on a wiki was actually similar in accuracy and depth to the information on a peer-reviewed, patient-oriented cancer web site. There is one caveat, however: they found that the information on the peer-reviewed site was written in plainer English.

Researchers lead by Yaacov Lawrence M.D., assistant professor of Radiation Oncology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, compared the cancer information found on Wikipedia with the information found on the patient-oriented section of the National Cancer Institute's Physician Data Query (PDQ), a comprehensive peer-reviewed cancer database.

"There are a vast number of web sites where patients can obtain cancer information," Dr. Lawrence said. "The purpose of this study was to answer one question: Is the cancer information on Wikipedia correct? Reassuringly, we found that errors were extremely rare on Wikipedia. But the way information was presented on PDQ is more patient-friendly."

Dr. Lawrence and his colleague Malolan Rajagopalan, a medical student from the University of Pittsburgh, started by choosing ten cancer types and selecting key factual statements for each cancer from standard oncology textbooks. The material covered epidemiology, etiology, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and controversial topics in cancer care.

Medical student volunteers examined the PDQ and Wikipedia articles against the prepared statements. The web pages were printed out to ensure that each individual looked at the same version of the articles. Standard algorithms were used to calculate readability based upon word and sentence length.

For both web sites, inaccuracies were extremely rare: less than two percent of the information on either site was discordant with that presented in the textbooks. There was no difference between the sites in depth of coverage. Both sites poorly discussed controversial aspects of cancer care. But the PDQ site was notably more readable: whereas PDQ was written at a level suitable for a 9th grader, Wikipedia was written at a level suitable for a college student. This difference was highly statistically significant.

"PDQ's readability is doubtless due to the site's professional editing, whereas Wikipedia's lack of readability may reflect its varied origins and haphazard editing," Dr. Lawrence said. "Overall our results are reassuring: on the one hand Wikipedia appears to be extremely accurate, on the other, the resources invested in the creation and upkeep of the PDQ are clearly justified."

The next step is to repeat the study with cancer patients to truly determine how this difference in readability impacts upon patients' understanding and retention of information, Dr. Lawrence said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Thomas Jefferson University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Thomas Jefferson University. "Cancer information on Wikipedia is accurate, but not very readable, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 June 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100601114641.htm>.
Thomas Jefferson University. (2010, June 2). Cancer information on Wikipedia is accurate, but not very readable, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100601114641.htm
Thomas Jefferson University. "Cancer information on Wikipedia is accurate, but not very readable, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100601114641.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) It's hard to resist those delicious but fattening carbs we all crave during the winter months, but there are some ways to stay satisfied without consuming the extra calories. Vanessa Freeman (@VanessaFreeTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins