Wikipedia health information greatly based on academic articles

Our latest study on Wikipedia explored the referencing of nutritional articles on the online encyclopedia. A content analysis of the references of nine nutritional articles over a five-year period showed that they greatly rely on academic publications. The findings of the study, which I conducted with Dr. Marcia DiStaso of Penn State as well with my VCU colleagues Dr. Yan Jin, Shana Meganck, Scott Sherman, and Sally Norton, were presented at the Conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in Chicago last week.

The following is the abstract of our study “Influencing public opinion from corn syrup to obesity: A longitudinal analysis of the references for nutritional entries on Wikipedia”:

The collaboratively edited online encyclopedia Wikipedia has continuously increased its reliability through a revised editing and referencing process. As the public increasingly turns to online resources for health information, this study analyzed the potential impact and the development of the referencing as the basis for Wikipedia content on nutritional health topics between 2007 and 2011. The study found that Wikipedia articles on nine selected nutrition topics do not only consistently rank among the top search results in major search engines, but have also been heavily edited and revised over time. A longitudinal content analysis of more than 3,000 references showed that the articles are greatly relying on academic publications as the sources for their information on nutrition, stressing the improved credibility of Wikipedia content.

Please e-mail me, if you are interested in the complete study. You can also download our conference handout.

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