Academic study: Wikipedia cancer information accurate but hard to read

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Academic study: Wikipedia cancer information accurate but hard to read

Tony Sidaway
It appears that a study by a team at the Medical School at Thomas Jefferson
University has found Wikipedia's cancer information to be very accurate and
updated more frequently than other sources. Compared to professional sources
such as PDQ, however, it's a bit of a trudge to read.

http://www.doctorslounge.com/index.php/news/hd/23109
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Re: Academic study: Wikipedia cancer information accurate but hard to read

Charles Matthews
On 16/09/2011 03:26, Tony Sidaway wrote:
> It appears that a study by a team at the Medical School at Thomas Jefferson
> University has found Wikipedia's cancer information to be very accurate and
> updated more frequently than other sources. Compared to professional sources
> such as PDQ, however, it's a bit of a trudge to read.
>
> http://www.doctorslounge.com/index.php/news/hd/23109
They "used standard algorithms based on word and sentence length to
calculate the information's readability". Fair enough, except that it
doesn't actually tell you about readability. The previous cancer-related
study we heard about indicated to me that WP articles used less inline
paraphrase ("renal failure - i.e. your kidney start shutting down"),
because putting [[renal failure]] allows concision. If we did more of
that paraphrasing, which comes naturally to doctors addressing patients,
the sentences would get longer ...

Anyway it is reassuring that the difference between us and other sources
is more about house style than content.

Charles


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Re: Academic study: Wikipedia cancer information accurate but hard to read

Fred Bauder-2
> On 16/09/2011 03:26, Tony Sidaway wrote:
>> It appears that a study by a team at the Medical School at Thomas
>> Jefferson
>> University has found Wikipedia's cancer information to be very accurate
>> and
>> updated more frequently than other sources. Compared to professional
>> sources
>> such as PDQ, however, it's a bit of a trudge to read.
>>
>> http://www.doctorslounge.com/index.php/news/hd/23109
> They "used standard algorithms based on word and sentence length to
> calculate the information's readability". Fair enough, except that it
> doesn't actually tell you about readability. The previous cancer-related
> study we heard about indicated to me that WP articles used less inline
> paraphrase ("renal failure - i.e. your kidney start shutting down"),
> because putting [[renal failure]] allows concision. If we did more of
> that paraphrasing, which comes naturally to doctors addressing patients,
> the sentences would get longer ...
>
> Anyway it is reassuring that the difference between us and other sources
> is more about house style than content.
>
> Charles

Our article is more complicated than the dumbed-down pablum offered up by
official sources to patients tailored for those who can read at a 9th
grade level.

Not that they are wrong to write plainly and simply.

Fred



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Re: Academic study: Wikipedia cancer information accurate but hard to read

WereSpielChequers-2
In reply to this post by Tony Sidaway
Nice to know we are as accurate and more up-to-date than the competition.
I'd love to see further work done on the 2% of information where we
currently differ from the textbooks, hopefully most of that will just be
that the textbooks are out of date. But it would be good to have that
confirmed and any errors fixed.

As for "The study authors recommend that patients use the PDQ site first so
they are not inundated by complex information and hyperlinks". I'm not sure
how dumbed down things have to be for ninth graders - but if I'm right in
assuming that ninth graders is American English for early teens
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninth_grade then I'm surprised they think
hyperlinks might be beyond them. Is it just possible that someone in the
medical profession is being patronising to the public here?

WSC

On 16 September 2011 03:26, Tony Sidaway <[hidden email]> wrote:

> It appears that a study by a team at the Medical School at Thomas Jefferson
> University has found Wikipedia's cancer information to be very accurate and
> updated more frequently than other sources. Compared to professional
> sources
> such as PDQ, however, it's a bit of a trudge to read.
>
> http://www.doctorslounge.com/index.php/news/hd/23109
> _______________________________________________
> WikiEN-l mailing list
> [hidden email]
> To unsubscribe from this mailing list, visit:
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Re: Academic study: Wikipedia cancer information accurate but hard to read

Fred Bauder-2
> Nice to know we are as accurate and more up-to-date than the competition.
> I'd love to see further work done on the 2% of information where we
> currently differ from the textbooks, hopefully most of that will just be
> that the textbooks are out of date. But it would be good to have that
> confirmed and any errors fixed.
>
> As for "The study authors recommend that patients use the PDQ site first
> so
> they are not inundated by complex information and hyperlinks". I'm not
> sure
> how dumbed down things have to be for ninth graders - but if I'm right in
> assuming that ninth graders is American English for early teens
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninth_grade then I'm surprised they think
> hyperlinks might be beyond them. Is it just possible that someone in the
> medical profession is being patronising to the public here?
>
> WSC

It is difficult to balance the needs of the general public, which reads
more at a 5th grade level than a 9th grade level, with the need to
present comprehensive information that would be of use to an oncologist.

If we addressed this problem in a systemic way we would present alternate
articles at differing levels of comprehensiveness and readability.

Perhaps in the future.

Fred


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Re: Academic study: Wikipedia cancer information accurate but hard to read

Ray Saintonge
On 09/16/11 10:35 AM, Fred Bauder wrote:

>> Nice to know we are as accurate and more up-to-date than the competition.
>> I'd love to see further work done on the 2% of information where we
>> currently differ from the textbooks, hopefully most of that will just be
>> that the textbooks are out of date. But it would be good to have that
>> confirmed and any errors fixed.
>>
>> As for "The study authors recommend that patients use the PDQ site first
>> so
>> they are not inundated by complex information and hyperlinks". I'm not
>> sure
>> how dumbed down things have to be for ninth graders - but if I'm right in
>> assuming that ninth graders is American English for early teens
>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninth_grade then I'm surprised they think
>> hyperlinks might be beyond them. Is it just possible that someone in the
>> medical profession is being patronising to the public here?
> It is difficult to balance the needs of the general public, which reads
> more at a 5th grade level than a 9th grade level, with the need to
> present comprehensive information that would be of use to an oncologist.
>
> If we addressed this problem in a systemic way we would present alternate
> articles at differing levels of comprehensiveness and readability.
>
> Perhaps in the future.
>
>
That could be a project for simple-wp to undertake.

Ray

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Re: Academic study: Wikipedia cancer information accurate but hard to read

Thomas Dalton
In reply to this post by Fred Bauder-2
On Sep 16, 2011 6:35 PM, "Fred Bauder" <[hidden email]> wrote:
> It is difficult to balance the needs of the general public, which reads
> more at a 5th grade level than a 9th grade level, with the need to
> present comprehensive information that would be of use to an oncologist.
>
> If we addressed this problem in a systemic way we would present alternate
> articles at differing levels of comprehensiveness and readability.
>
> Perhaps in the future.

If most people that have completed the ninth grade can't read at the ninth
grade level, you need to recalibrate your scale... Either that, or give up
on this nonsense that readability can be determined by word and sentence
length. It has far more to do with how engaging it is and how much prior
knowledge it assumes than how long the sentences are.

If people want something that doesn't require much language skill, we do
have Simple English Wikipedia. I haven't visited it in a while, so I'm not
sure how good it is these days.
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Re: Academic study: Wikipedia cancer information accurate but hard to read

Fred Bauder-2
> On Sep 16, 2011 6:35 PM, "Fred Bauder" <[hidden email]> wrote:
>> It is difficult to balance the needs of the general public, which reads
>> more at a 5th grade level than a 9th grade level, with the need to
>> present comprehensive information that would be of use to an
>> oncologist.
>>
>> If we addressed this problem in a systemic way we would present
>> alternate
>> articles at differing levels of comprehensiveness and readability.
>>
>> Perhaps in the future.
>
> If most people that have completed the ninth grade can't read at the
> ninth
> grade level, you need to recalibrate your scale... Either that, or give
> up
> on this nonsense that readability can be determined by word and sentence
> length. It has far more to do with how engaging it is and how much prior
> knowledge it assumes than how long the sentences are.
>
> If people want something that doesn't require much language skill, we do
> have Simple English Wikipedia. I haven't visited it in a while, so I'm
> not
> sure how good it is these days.
>

It doesn't have much detailed information on cancer.

Simple English serves those learning English who have a limited
vocabulary, not the general English speaking public, who are literate but
not skilled readers. Reaching that population, the masses, if you will,
requires specialized writing and editorial skills. Governmental and
medical organizations use those skills while crafting public information
documents. We could also learn and apply those skills in an appropriate
format.

Fred


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Re: Academic study: Wikipedia cancer information accurate but hard to read

WereSpielChequers-2
There is also the idea that the lead should be written for a more general
audience than the rest of the article. I don't know if our cancer articles
follow that style, but I find that in many articles in subjects where I'm an
ignoramus I can grasp the lead but get lost if I try to finish the page.

If the study was analyzing whole Wikipedia articles they won't have picked
up on that.

WSC

On 17 September 2011 13:48, Fred Bauder <[hidden email]> wrote:

> > On Sep 16, 2011 6:35 PM, "Fred Bauder" <[hidden email]> wrote:
> >> It is difficult to balance the needs of the general public, which reads
> >> more at a 5th grade level than a 9th grade level, with the need to
> >> present comprehensive information that would be of use to an
> >> oncologist.
> >>
> >> If we addressed this problem in a systemic way we would present
> >> alternate
> >> articles at differing levels of comprehensiveness and readability.
> >>
> >> Perhaps in the future.
> >
> > If most people that have completed the ninth grade can't read at the
> > ninth
> > grade level, you need to recalibrate your scale... Either that, or give
> > up
> > on this nonsense that readability can be determined by word and sentence
> > length. It has far more to do with how engaging it is and how much prior
> > knowledge it assumes than how long the sentences are.
> >
> > If people want something that doesn't require much language skill, we do
> > have Simple English Wikipedia. I haven't visited it in a while, so I'm
> > not
> > sure how good it is these days.
> >
>
> It doesn't have much detailed information on cancer.
>
> Simple English serves those learning English who have a limited
> vocabulary, not the general English speaking public, who are literate but
> not skilled readers. Reaching that population, the masses, if you will,
> requires specialized writing and editorial skills. Governmental and
> medical organizations use those skills while crafting public information
> documents. We could also learn and apply those skills in an appropriate
> format.
>
> Fred
>
>
> _______________________________________________
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Re: Academic study: Wikipedia cancer information accurate but hard to read

Ray Saintonge
In reply to this post by Fred Bauder-2
On 09/17/11 5:48 AM, Fred Bauder wrote:

>> On Sep 16, 2011 6:35 PM, "Fred Bauder"<[hidden email]>  wrote:
>>> It is difficult to balance the needs of the general public, which reads
>>> more at a 5th grade level than a 9th grade level, with the need to
>>> present comprehensive information that would be of use to an
>>> oncologist.
>>>
>>> If we addressed this problem in a systemic way we would present
>>> alternate
>>> articles at differing levels of comprehensiveness and readability.
>>>
>>> Perhaps in the future.
>> If most people that have completed the ninth grade can't read at the
>> ninth
>> grade level, you need to recalibrate your scale... Either that, or give
>> up
>> on this nonsense that readability can be determined by word and sentence
>> length. It has far more to do with how engaging it is and how much prior
>> knowledge it assumes than how long the sentences are.
>>
>> If people want something that doesn't require much language skill, we do
>> have Simple English Wikipedia. I haven't visited it in a while, so I'm
>> not sure how good it is these days.
>>
> It doesn't have much detailed information on cancer.
>
> Simple English serves those learning English who have a limited
> vocabulary, not the general English speaking public, who are literate but
> not skilled readers. Reaching that population, the masses, if you will,
> requires specialized writing and editorial skills. Governmental and
> medical organizations use those skills while crafting public information
> documents. We could also learn and apply those skills in an appropriate
> format.
>
I look at Simple more broadly to include adult native English  speakers
with generally poor reading skills for whatever reason.  Depending on
how you define "literate" your comment could be self-contradictory.

I just looked at the first sentence of [[en:Cancer]] which reads:

> *Cancer* /ˈkænsər/
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:IPA_for_English>(<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:En-us-cancer.ogg>
> listen
> <http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7b/En-us-cancer.ogg>)
> (medical term: malignant <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malignancy>
> neoplasm <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoplasm>) is a large,
> heterogeneous class of diseases <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disease>
> in which a group of cells
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cell_%28biology%29> display uncontrolled
> growth, invasion that intrudes upon and destroys adjacent tissues, and
> often metastasizes <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metastasis>, wherein
> the tumor cells spread to other locations in the body via the
> lymphatic system <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lymph> or through the
> bloodstream <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood>.

and the first few sentences of [[simple:Cancer]] which read:

> *Cancer* is a class of diseases
> <http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disease> or disorders. It is when
> the body has no control over cells that begin to split. In cancer
> <http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cancer_%28disambiguation%29>, body
> cells copy their contents. They then make new cells with these copies.
> These cells are able to go into other tissues
> <http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_tissue>. They go into
> other tissues by growing into them. They can also go into other
> tissues by putting themselves into far away places by metastasis
> <http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metastasis>.

I don't find either satisfactory. Both have grammatical problems.  I had
to pause to determine how "invasion" related to the beginning, and after
figuring that out came to the conclusion that "metastasizes" should
really have been a noun.

In the Simple version "is when..." is an incorrect introduction of an
adverb clause. Addressing an audience with limited language skills is no
excuse for our own bad grammar.  I don't know what is intended by "body
cells copy their contents." A few individual words need further
explanation, or, at least, links.

Both of these need serious help.

Ray

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