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Study update: Cancer information on Wikipedia is accurate, but not very readable
Date:9/15/2011

resented on PDQ is more patient-friendly."

Dr. Lawrence and his colleague Malolan Rajagopalan, M.D.,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.

For example, they both scored poorly for coverage of options for prostate cancer, including watchful waiting versus radiation treatments. "The issues were not really dealt with in depth," said Dr. Lawrence.

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.

Researchers also found that Wikipedia ranked among the first 10 results for most search engines, including Google, for various medical terms and diseases tested, surpassing professionally maintained, government Web sites.

The research revealed that Wikipedia updates faster than PDQ; however, the hyperlinks embedded within Wikipedia take the user to more dense information. PDQ takes you to more simplified explanations on the content a user clicks on for more information.

"PDQ's readability is doubtless due to the site's pr
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Contact: Steve Graff
stephen.graff@jefferson.edu
215-955-5291
Thomas Jefferson University
Source:Eurekalert

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