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Research:Assessing the impacts of readability and the use of jargon in people's understanding of climate change on Wikipedia

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February 2023
Researcher: Theobrad, Theo Grundy, University of Exeter
Tatjana Baleta, Femke Nijsse
Duration:  2023-February – 2023-September
This page documents a completed research project.

This project seeks to assess the impacts of readability and the use of jargon on people's understanding of climate change articles on Wikipedia. This project was first proposed by Tatjana Baleta, who is the Wikimedia Visiting Fellow for climate at Wikimedia UK, and is currently working with University of Exeter's Global Systems Institute. The project started as a dissertation proposal to a master's student who was interested in researching how climate communication could be improved on Wikipedia. I took on this role as a master's student at Exeter, studying Global Sustainability Solutions. This has developed into researching the impacts of jargon and sentence length (which contribute to readability metrics) on people's understandings of climate leads.



Our hypothesis based on other research in the field of science communication is that reducing the use of jargon will improve people's understandings of climate communication. To test this, we are conducting a survey of 546 people to compare current versions of climate leads against edited versions, where the readability has been improved and jargon has been removed when possible/appropriate. This survey will test people's understanding of these leads to investigate how improving readability changes people's understandings, comprehension, and support for climate information on Wikipedia.



February 2023: Start of project and early research into what avenues of climate communication could be addressed.

March-April 2023: Project determines its focus on jargon and readability.

June 2023: Funding acquired for survey to be conducted with Qualtrics.

August 2023: Conducting survey.

September (Autumn) 2023: Project completion.

Policy, Ethics and Human Subjects Research


The ethics of this project was approved by the University of Exeter in May 2023.

Researching this project as someone who has not edited Wikipedia before, this research will not result in any immediate direct changes on climate Wikipedia pages. The research also does not seek to undermine the hard-work and time that editors put into improving Wikipedia leads and articles.



To be disclosed during the autumn.



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