The readability of online health information for L1 and L2 Australians: text-based and user-focused research

Pam Peters*, Jan-Louis Kruger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The readability of online health information involves several factors in communication, including textual factors in verbal messaging and demographics relating to the readership, both of which impact on access to health information for first language (L1) and second language (L2) individuals in the Australian community. This research aims to identify the issues inherent in health texts as well as different readers' comprehension of the information in them. The paper focuses first on the readability of sample health texts, and the extent to which difficult elements can be identified by the standard readability measures (Flesch-Kincaid, SMOG), as well as psycholinguistically informed measures of reading ease developed by Co-Matrix for general (L1) and L2 readers: TERA and Coh-Metrix L2. Coh-Metrix L2 points to linguistic factors that particularly challenge L2 readers of health information. A complementary study using eye-tracking was carried out to investigate the reading behaviours of 30 L1 and L2 participants seeking information from a health website. Statistically significant differences were found between L1 and L2 participants in their reading patterns, with L2 readers working more slowly and less reliably through online information. The findings highlight the need for health communicators to embrace the greater reading challenges for L2 users of the Internet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)787–812
Number of pages26
JournalText and Talk
Volume41
Issue number5-6
Early online date13 Aug 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright de Gruyter 2021. Article originally published in Peters, P., & Kruger, J. L. (2021). The readability of online health information for L1 and L2 Australians: text-based and user-focused research. Text & Talk, Vol 41, Iss 5-6, pages 787–812. The original article can be found at https://doi.org/10.1515/text-2020-0041. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • eye-tracking
  • health information
  • L1 readers
  • L2 readers
  • psycholinguistic measures
  • readability measures
  • reading patterns

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