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Mark Bell’s Textual Analysis and Comparison Of The Encyclopedia Britanica and Wikipedia

Paul, · Categories: General

Mark’s thesis looks worth reading (see brief bit below) and his bibliography is very nice.

Methods

For my thesis, I took four articles and compared them; two from EB and two from Wikipedia. With the help of my committee, I choose “Communism” and “Dwight D. Eisenhower”. Since I wanted to compare similar things, I used the online version of the EB articles. After downloading the articles, I removed any auxiliary text that was not part of the article and compared the EB article to the WP article. I wanted to see what differences there were between EB and WP at the basic building block levels. Once I had the articles cleaned up, I ran a number of readability tests, word count tests and grammatical comparisons. Readability tests count things like the number of words in sentences and syllables per word to get an idea of the grade level needed to read the text. I also compared numbers of nouns and verbs in each article and noun and verb phrases. I wanted to see if either encyclopedia had a more nominal (definitional) or verbal (function) nature to the language. I was also interested in how EB and WP constructed statements of facts and values. I thought in these areas I may find significant differences.

Results

After comparing EB and WP with these measures, I really found no significant difference. The readability scores were less than a grade level apart. The numbers of nouns and verbs were roughly the same and the articles had similar statements of facts and values. Now, I would like to say this shows the collective system of WP writes in the same way as the expert-driven EB but looking at so few articles my results are a bit tainted. For these particular articles, I can say the collective writes in a similar way as the EB authors an editors.

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