Evaluating the readability of recruitment materials in veterinary clinical research

J Vet Intern Med. 2023 Nov-Dec;37(6):2125-2130. doi: 10.1111/jvim.16857. Epub 2023 Sep 27.


Background: Owner comprehension is vital to recruitment and study success, but limited information exists regarding the readability of public-facing veterinary clinical trial descriptions.

Objectives: The current study sought to evaluate the readability of public-facing online veterinary clinical trial descriptions from academic institutions and private referral practices.

Animals: None.

Methods: This prospective study assessed readability in a convenience sample of veterinary clinical trial study descriptions using 3 common methods: the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (F-K), Flesch Reading Ease Score (FRES), and online Automatic Readability Checker (ARC). Results were compared across specialties and between academic and private institutions.

Results: Grade level and readability consensus scores (RCSs) were obtained for 61 online clinical trial descriptions at universities (n = 49) and private practices (n = 12). Average grade-level RCS for study descriptions was 14.13 (range, 9-21). Using Microsoft Word, the FRES score was higher in descriptions from universities compared to private practices (P = .03), and F-K scores were lower in university compared to private practice descriptions (P = .03). FRES (P = .07), F-K (P = .12), and readability consensus (P = .17) scores obtained from ARC were not different between institution types. Forty-eight studies (79%) had RCSs over 12, equivalent to reading material at college or graduate school levels.

Conclusions and clinical importance: Similar to other areas in veterinary communication, the evaluated veterinary clinical trial descriptions used for advertising and recruitment far exceeded the recommended 6th-grade reading level for medical information. Readability assessments are straightforward to conduct, and ensuring health literacy should be a customary best practice in veterinary medicine and clinical research.

Keywords: Flesch Reading Ease Score; Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level; client-owned animal; clinical trials; companion animal.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Communication*
  • Comprehension*
  • Consensus
  • Head
  • Prospective Studies

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