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Wikipedia Accurate on Cancer Facts, But Hard to Read: Study
Date:9/15/2011

ntent on both sites were vetted for accuracy against textbooks.

The investigators also used standard algorithms based on word and sentence length to calculate the information's readability.

The study, released online in advance of print publication in the Journal of Oncology Practice, revealed that less than 2 percent of the information on either Wikipedia or PDQ did not coincide with the facts found in textbooks. The researchers found the information on the two websites were equally comprehensive. They also noted both sites discussed controversial aspects of cancer care poorly.

The main difference between Wikipedia and the PDQ site was their readability. Wikipedia was written at a college level, while PDQ was written so that a 9th grader could understand it.

"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," explained Lawrence. "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 study authors recommend that patients use the PDQ site first so they are not inundated by complex information and hyperlinks. They added that more research is needed to determine how the differences in readability of these sites affects patients' understanding and retention of information about the disease.

More information

The American Cancer Society provides more information on cancer.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Thomas Jefferson University, news release, Sept. 15, 2011


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