The following article appears in the September 2012 (Vol. 17 No.9) issue of First Monday.
University of Twente
Jan Maarten Schraagen
Senior Research Scientist at the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research TNO
Professor of Applied Cognitive Psychology at the University of Twente
Wikipedia is becoming widely acknowledged as a reliable source of encyclopedic information. However, concerns have been expressed about its readability. Wikipedia articles might be written in a language too difficult to be understood by most of its visitors. In this study, we apply the Flesch reading ease test to all available articles from the English Wikipedia to investigate these concerns. The results show that overall readability is poor, with 75 percent of all articles scoring below the desired readability score. The ‘Simple English’ Wikipedia scores better, but its readability is still insufficient for its target audience.
From the Article
An online tool has been created to demonstrate the methodology of applying Flesch reading ease tests to Wikipedia articles. Using this tool, the readability of live Wikipedia articles can be tested by entering their titles. Articles on both the English and Simple English Wikipedia can be tested. In addition to an absolute reading ease score for each article, the reading ease relative to the samples used in this study is given by means of a percentile score. Moreover, visitors may enter their own text to test readability. The online demo is accessible at http://www.readabilityofwikipedia.com.
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