Quality and clarity of health information on Q&A sites

Samuel Kai Wah Chu, Hong Huang, Wendy Nga Man Wong, Wouter F. van Ginneken, Kendra M. Wu, Miu Yan Hung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigated the quality and clarity of health information from a total of 238 (126 English and 112 Chinese) answers retrieved from Yahoo!Answers sites. Registered nurses and library professionals judged information quality based on 8 criteria: accuracy, completeness, relevance, readability, verifiability, professional advice, usefulness and non-commercialization. Writing clarity was assessed through rhetorical structure analysis. Results showed that 46% of answers were of poor quality. Furthermore, many Q&A site users were unable to distinguish adequately between high- and low-quality answers. Only 60% of their selected best-answers corresponded to those of the health professionals. These results indicate that the reliability of health information on Q&A sites is questionable. This unreliability may partially be due to the fact that Q&A site answers contain both medical information and social support. Although both are important, they are not always compatible. It may even be dangerous to mistakenly present social support as objective medical information. This research suggests that medical advice and social support should be separated. This has a further advantage in that medical advice could be subjected to stringent, necessary quality assurance measures, without interfering with social support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-244
Number of pages8
JournalLibrary and Information Science Research
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


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