Background: With the changes introduced to medical curricula, medical students use learning resources on the Internet such as Wikipedia. However, the credibility of the medical content of Wikipedia has been questioned and there is no evidence to respond to these concerns. The aim of this paper was to critically evaluate the accuracy and reliability of the gastroenterology and hepatology information that medical students retrieve from Wikipedia.
Methods: The Wikipedia website was searched for articles on gastroenterology and hepatology on 28 May 2013. Copies of these articles were evaluated by three assessors independently using an appraisal form modified from the DISCERN instrument. The articles were scored for accuracy of content, readability, frequency of updating, and quality of references.
Results: A total of 39 articles were evaluated. Although the articles appeared to be well cited and reviewed regularly, several problems were identified with regard to depth of discussion of mechanisms and pathogenesis of diseases, as well as poor elaboration on different investigations. Analysis of the content showed a score ranging from 15.6±0.6 to 43.6±3.2 (mean±SD). The total number of references in all articles was 1233, and the number of references varied from 4 to 144 (mean±SD, 31.6±27.3). The number of citations from peer-reviewed journals published in the last 5 years was 242 (28%); however, several problems were identified in the list of references and citations made. The readability of articles was in the range of -8.0±55.7 to 44.4±1.4; for all articles the readability was 26±9.0 (mean±SD). The concordance between the assessors on applying the criteria had mean κ scores in the range of 0.61 to 0.79.
Conclusion: Wikipedia is not a reliable source of information for medical students searching for gastroenterology and hepatology articles. Several limitations, deficiencies, and scientific errors have been identified in the articles examined.