Influencing public opinion from corn syrup to obesity: A longitudinal analysis of the references for nutritional entries on Wikipedia

  • Marcus Messner Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Marcia W. DiStaso Pennsylvania State University
  • Yan Jin Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Shana Meganck
  • Scott Sherman Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Sally Norton
Keywords: Wikipedia, Nutrition, References, Health, Communication

Abstract

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 development of the referencing as the basis for Wikipedia content on nutritional health topics over five years. 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 reliability of Wikipedia content.

Author Biographies

Marcus Messner, Virginia Commonwealth University

Marcus Messner (Ph.D., University of Miami) is an associate professor and coordinator for research and innovation at the Richard T. Robertson School of Media & Culture as well as executive director of the Center for Media+Health at Virginia Commonwealth University. His research interest is in new and social media and how they are adopted and used in journalism and public relations. He teaches social media, multimedia journalism and global communication.

Marcia W. DiStaso, Pennsylvania State University

Marcia W. DiStaso (Ph.D., University of Miami) is an associate professor in the College of Communications at Pennsylvania State University, senior research fellow with the Arthur W. Page Center and Chair-Elect of the Public Relations Society of America Educators Academy. Her research agenda, speaking engagements, and consulting focus on social media, financial communications, and investor relations.

Yan Jin, Virginia Commonwealth University

Yan Jin (Ph.D., University of Missouri-Columbia) is an associate professor in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and associate director of the Center for Health & Risk Communication at the University of Georgia. Her research interest is in the area of crisis communication and strategic conflict management, as well as how emotions influence public relations decision-making and public responses to crisis and risk information.

Shana Meganck

Shana Meganck (Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University) is an assistant professor in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture and an affiliate member of the Center for Media+Health at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her research interests focus on the intersections of health communication, new media and public relations.

Scott Sherman, Virginia Commonwealth University

Scott Sherman (M.A., Syracuse University) is an associate professor in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture and director for operations and outreach in the Center for Media+Health at Virginia Commonwealth University. He has been working in advertising for 20 years. For most of his career, he has guided strategies and design in the creative department of advertising agencies.

Sally Norton

Sally Norton (M.P.H., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) is a public health research consultant and wellness educator. Her career history includes public health service and education in academic health care. Previous employers include the Program on Integrative Medicine at the University of North Carolina and the Department of Social and Behavioral Health at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Published
2014-10-29
How to Cite
Messner, M., DiStaso, M. W., Jin, Y., Meganck, S., Sherman, S., & Norton, S. (2014). Influencing public opinion from corn syrup to obesity: A longitudinal analysis of the references for nutritional entries on Wikipedia. First Monday, 19(11). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v19i11.4823